Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Birds, the suit and the fan

The films of Alfred Hitchcock are as well known for their stylish leading ladies as they are for their innovative cinematography and suspenseful storylines.  Many of the iconic looks of Hitch's 'icy blondes' are the work of one woman, Edith Head, a titan in the costume design world and 8 time Oscar winner.  For The Birds her task was relatively simple, insofar as the female lead, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren in her film debut) wears only three outfits throughout the movie, most famously a simple green suit for the majority of the film.  The simple wool crepe dress and jacket were the epitome of the classic silhouettes and uncluttered lines Head was famous for.

Anyone lucky enough to attend the Hollywood Costume exhibition at the V&A (2012) would have been mesmerised by a whole section devoted to the relationship between Hitchcock and Head, a collaboration that spanned 11 films (The Birds being the 7th).  The first time they worked together was in 1946 when Ingrid Bergman suggested her as the costume designer of Notorious.  Head took over from Travis Banton as head of the costume department at Paramount, a role she held from 1938 to 1967, before moving to Universal until her death in 1981.

Head with her eight Academy Awards

Edith Head's original sketch

The Hollywood Costume display included the original outfit and explained that it was in fact Hitchcock that chose the colour, Head having expressed that green was a colour the audience would not get bored of seeing.  Eight identical copies of the suit were made, most of which were in various states of disrepair for the scene of Hedren trapped in the room, where she was being attacked by real birds rather than the animatronic birds used for most of the film.

The 1963 film was based on an earlier short story by Daphne Du Maurier.  Published in 1952, the story was featured in the collection The Apple Tree (later renamed The Birds due to the popularity of the film).  The 42 page story with only the device of sudden and unexplained bird attacks in common with the film.  Du Maurier is a personal favourite of mine and across those few short pages, she is able to create such suspense that I actually shouted 'no!' at the climax of the story, turning the page frantically because it couldn't have possibly ended where it did!  If you haven't already, I urge you to both read the book and see the film, they are both brilliant and you'll get something different from each of them.

"It ends how?!"
I have always loved the film and when I was thinking of some new designs for a one-off fan for The VanityCase, I suddenly had a fully formed image in my mind.  Once it was finished, I decided to take the new fan for a little photoshoot and luckily, as I hold dominion over the avian population, I was able to grab a few shots with frenzied birds swopping in the background.
This fan, along with other custom one-off fans will be for sale on The Vanity Case facebook page.  There is only one of these in existence so if you love it, make sure you snap it up!

Also, this giant magpie.