Classic styles are new again as designers find inspiration in movies

06/27/2011 12:00 AM

06/27/2011 10:40 AM

If you've ever doubted that fashion trends come and go and come and go again — and yet again — take a look at the fashion in movies from days gone by. You can reference costumes from a play or TV show that is set in another period. Those who are followers of fashion are many times fans of old movies and period plays. Whether it's the slinky, cut-on-the-bias unforgiving satin gown that Jean Harlow slid into or the man-tailored looks favored by Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich, many others (in many seasons) have worn a style since then.

For example, when the empire waist came back strong, "Pride and Prejudice" came to mind.

Jumpsuits are back and remind us of all those wacky movies in the '60s and '70s that had movie stars running around with their bellbottoms flapping.

"I've always liked jumpsuits," said Gay Muenchrath, who has been in the fashion retail business for 26 years. "They cover stuff up. And they move."

Muenchrath, GM Clotheshorse owner, says she remembers wearing jumpsuits in the '60s and putting them in her store in the '80s. And she has some in stock right now.

Debbie Roberts of Los Angeles has worked as a costume designer, costume shop manager and everything else having to do with costumes since the late '90s. She's in Wichita this summer working for Music Theatre of Wichita.

"They say there is nothing new under the sun. And it's so true. In fashion, it just comes around again," she said. "Look at dresses that are so in fashion now. There was a long period of time that no one made dresses. You couldn't find a dress to buy. But now they're back, even maxi dresses."

Roberts is a fan of old movies and loves to study the clothes — and that includes the fabrics.

"A lot of the clothes in the '30s and '40s were made out of crepe, and you can't get the real crepe anymore. It would drape so beautifully. And when you want that look for a costume and can't get it, it's very frustrating," Roberts said.

This summer, little dresses of voile or polyester chiffon are reminiscent of the dresses of the '20s that were topped off with a cloche.

Today's maxi dresses take us back to the '60s and '70s.

The deluge of spring and summer sheath dresses reminds us of Doris Day and the movies and television shows of the '50s and '60s that always ended happily.

Some things, however, are best used only as costumes, and many hope they appear only on stage and screen and not on the runway or on the racks in a clothing store.

"Stirrup pants. Two or three times a company has tried to get us to buy stirrup pants," said Lisa Reiter, owner of Ann's Fashions. She has been around fashion retail since she was a child.

"The salesman keeps saying they're buying them in Canada. We keep telling him to leave them in Canada. Stirrup pants. Those should have stayed buried."

For Roberts, she hopes the enormous shoulder pads worn in the '80s will never make a return in mainstream fashion.

"My favorite era personally would be the beautiful suits and dresses from the '40s," she said.

She says she's seen many suits for spring and summer that remind her of the '40s clothes.

"A perfect fit and a lot of detail," she said. "That's when you're glad designers get inspiration from other decades."

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