Recommended Reading: Disney, Fibershed and Francis Marshall

A mixture of great books have arrived from the library lately, all very different but so interesting.

The Art of Disney Costuming – Heroes, Villains and Spaces Between

by Jeff Kurtti and the Staff of the Walt Disney Archive (2019 Disney Enterprises Inc)

Everyone at home loved this book! It’s a big book, almost A3 size, with superb photography and fascinating insights into designing costumes.

The book shows an array of costumes used in Disney movies, some of which were originally animated but have been re-told as live action movies.

Interviews with the costume designers reveal the challenges for each costume.

From the beginning, the Disney studio made physical costumes for animated movies, which were worn by live models. It gave the animators something to study and refer to, and helped them define light and shadow, weight, movement and the nuance of texture.
This very old bodice was used for the animated Snow White (1934). The black line down the centre, on the puffed sleeves and around the edges was used for the animator’s reference.
A case study of Cinderella shows how the character’s look has evolved from an animated version (1950) to appearing in several live action movies (Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella 1997, Into the Woods 2014, Cinderella 2015, Once Upon a Time 2011-2016)
Both Mary Poppins movies are featured. This is the 1964 one with Julie Andrews, showing the costume alongside the designer’s sketch.
Mary Poppins Returns (2018) gave Poppins a new look with with a double cape coat, but still dressed her in blue with a hat and carpet bag. Both the 1964 and 2018 coats had flash of bright lining.
There were several costumes from Pirates of the Caribbean, including this one for Jack Sparrow. The designer strived for a flamboyant, outlandish, almost rock-star, outfit, yet which was weathered and rotting.
Belle from Beauty and the Beast (2017). Her yellow ball gown paid homage to the 1991 animated version, as well as satisfying the audience’s expectations of what she should look like. The Disney studio was also concerned that she not look too much like Cinderella, who wore a blue gown.
In the 2007 movie Enchanted, animated characters become real-life. Animated characters are typically exaggerated; the challenge for the designers was to re-create the animated costume in fabric, with proportions that looked good on an actor.
The costume discussion wasn’t limited to movies – Disney uses costumes in their theme parks too. In the US alone, they employ over 80,000 cast members for shows, characters and guides. These are 1960s Disneyland costumes.

Fibershed – Growing a Movement of Farmers, Fashion Activists, and Makers for a New Textile Economy

by Rebecca Burgess with Courtney White (2019 Chelsea Green Publishing)

In 2010 Rebecca Burgess, an environmental educator, weaver and natural dyer, determined to create and wear a wardrobe for one year of clothes made only from locally grown fibres and natural dyes, and produced by local labour.

The project arose from the growing realization that she was wearing clothes which were almost all plastic-based fibres dyed with the synthetic materials… the same time as she was teaching people to make textiles from natural fibres and dyes.

A Kickstarter campaign funded the cost of raw materials, artisan’s services and documenting the project’s process.

As she began to network with farmers and artisans (in North Central California), she discovered that even in her home community there was an abundance of raw material and human skill. There was cotton (organic, colour-grown), sheep’s wool, and wool from alpacas, llamas and guanacos. However, there was little equipment to turn the fibre into cloth, so they had to rely on human-powered equipment such as spinning wheels, knitting needles and floor looms. There was one remaining wool mill in her region.

One of the goals of the project was to create community connectivity, to make a social network of farmers, growers, spinners, weavers, sewers, natural dyers and designers.

Fibershed (the non-profit) was launched in 2012 and upholds a mission focused on local fibre and natural dye systems, similar to the role that local food systems have in communities. Fibershed now has 45 affiliate communities in other parts of the world (we had one in Australia, but sadly Fibershed Melbourne ceased at the start of the pandemic).

This book is a description of her own personal fibershed, with inspiration and tools for those who want to do the same thing in their own communities.

The book is also a call to action for a clean and healthy textile system, beginning with farms and soil, to textile mills, sewing and repairs, and eventually into compost.

I highly recommend reading this if you’re a fashion student, teaching people about fibres/clothes/environmental responsibility, or anyone who is concerned about the disconnect between our clothes and where they come from. This book has so much in it, all of it thought-provoking.

Listen to a podcast interview with Rebecca Burgess here.

Francis Marshall – Drawing Fashion

by Oriole Cullen (2018 V&A Publishing)

Englishman Francis Marshall (1901-1980) was an illustrator whose long career spanned the heyday and decline of magazine illustration.

As a young man, his family required that he join the navy. He was just young/old enough to enlist in both world wars.

He showed early talent with drawing, and after WW1 he joined the merchant navy and saved money so he could become an artist. A philanthropist sponsored his training at the Slade School of Fine Art.

Marshall was realistic: to be an artist and eat, he would need to be a commercial artist. He got a job at an advertising agency.
This led to a job at Vogue magazine, drawing fashion.
Magazines of that era relied heavily on illustrations, as printing technology wasn’t good enough to reproduce photos well.
The book shows pages from Marshall’s sketchbook.
It also shows finished, coloured, illustrations from magazine pages.
During WW2, his sketchbook records scenes of bombing raids.
He enlisted in the navy, but was soon invited to join the experimental “camofleurs”, who disguised key sites so they were invisible from the air.
In the 1950s, as magazine illustration was in decline, he moved into romantic fiction book covers. He did lots of these for Barbara Cartland.

After his and his wife’s deaths, his archive was bequeathed to the V&A.

There are some wonderful illustrations in this book, of fashion and other things, and a really interesting narrative of his life.


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