Films and Fashion… How deeply do they affect us?

January 4, 2011

by Christi Borden

Sunday evening I got the chance to see the Coen brother’s version of True Grit. Well done! It was a terrific film and homage to both the original and the book by Charles Portis. (Now at number 6 on the NY Times Paperback Trade  Fiction list and well worth a read).

But in seeing the new version, I was taken back to my childhood when my Grandfather (a huge Duke fan) took me to see this and every other John Wayne Movie as well as numerous re-runs on television. (Yes, boys and girls, this was before Cable, Netflix and videos …).

One of things I remembered most was wanting to be Kim Darby, who originally played Mattie Ross. She was tough, cool, sassy, cute and really gave those “honery” adults a lesson or two. The fact that she was 20 and playing a 14-year-old only speaks to the gullibility of my youth but in my mind… we were kindred spirits.

As a middle class kid growing up in the Panhandle town of Plainview, Texas, the only way I could be like Kim or Mattie was through my feeble attempts at fashion. My poor mom had to hunt and scour through catalogs at J. C. Penny’s, Sear’s and Anthony’s to find the hottest ticket item for girls at that time…

Gauchos! (No, not the South American cowboy variety.) I am referring to that terrific western wear fusion between pants and a skirt. Nobody looked as cool in a pair of Gauchos as Kim did and I and every other young girl had to be just like her… a trend was born.

Thinking back, my wardrobe seems to have been influenced by Film/TV a few other times in my life  and not always in a flattering way:

Saturday Night Fever – Lycra bodysuit, wrap skirt and platforms. Hey, at least I had the body for it then and could dance!

Grease  – Candies pumps and leather.. yeah, we all thought we were Olivia Newton John and some of us were even foolish enough to try to carry off her hair.

Annie Hall  – Boyish vests, ties, baggie pants, loafers and hats. My mom’s favorite because almost everything came from garage sales and resale shops.

Dynasty – Hey, I loved the big shoulder pads, bigger hair and way out there jewelry. I am a Texan, after all.

Urban Cowboy – Need I say more? You know you fell for it, too.

Can you add to this list? Think back to when a film or television show’s influence actually transformed you into a fashion plate or victim.

My only complaint about the new version of True Grit is that the Wardrobe Designer missed a wonderful opportunity to nod at the fond memories of all the women who, like me, wanted to be “the coolest girl in the world.” Who knows, maybe Gauchos would be making another comeback.