Clothes Make the Character

The Role of Wardrobe in Early Motion Pictures


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About the Book

“Clothes make the man” (or woman). This is especially true in early Hollywood silent films where a character’s appearance could show an immense number of different things about them. For example, Theda Bara’s role in A Fool There Was (1915) was known for her revealing clothing, seductive appearance, and being the first “Vamp.”

Wardrobe and costume design played a larger role in silent films than in modern movies. The character’s clothes told the audience who they were and what their role was in the movie. In this in-depth analysis, the author provides examples and explanations about noteworthy characters who used their appearance to further their fame.

About the Author(s)

Lora Ann Sigler is a professor emerita of art history at California State University. She is a portrait/landscape artist and designer living in San Pedro, California.

Bibliographic Details

Lora Ann Sigler
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 212
Bibliographic Info: 43 photos, appendices, glossary, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8185-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4216-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Preface 1
Introduction 5
1. We Flutter to the Flickers 9
2. The Look of Life 23
3. The Look of (Foreign) Life 37
4. Warner’s, We Have a Problem 52
5. Strangers in a Strange Land 85
6. We’re Funny That Way 96
7. Past Imperfect 109
8. That Sounds About Right! 117
9. Where Did You Get That Frock? 142
Epilogue: (Ad)dressing the Present 163
A: Busby Berkeley 167
B: The Thomas Mooney Case 170
C: The 1919 Entertainment Strike 172
D: On the Flip Side 174
E:  Photoplay (August 1925) 177
Glossary 179
Chapter Notes 181
Bibliography 191
Index 197

Book Reviews & Awards

Choice Outstanding Academic Title

• “A fascinating, in-depth analysis of the wardrobes designed and created for early motion pictures and their stars, and the influences of those wardrobes. …highly recommended”—Choice

• “Vibrant, evocative writing style…a comprehensive and much-needed addition to this genre…a useful resource for students or enthusiasts of film studies…Sigler’s witty commentary entertains from the outset, striking an ambitious balance between style and substance.”—The Journal of Dress History