Telling Fashionable Tales: The Form and Function of the Non- Fiction British Fashion Film
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This thesis examines the promotion of the British fashion industry in the underexplored genre of non-fiction British fashion film. Whilst critical attention has been paid to the role of fashion within fiction film, and costume within historical drama, the significance of fashion in non-fiction, state-sponsored British film has passed largely without exploration. The threshold of fact and fiction is the site of investigation in this analysis of film and media materials, that draw on fairy tale narratives of transformation to produce fashion as the ‘integration of the two worlds of reality and imagination’ (Bettelheim, 1975). The main focus of my analysis is a body of texts ranging from the forties to the present day. The corpus of study consists of films produced by British Pathé and the Central Office of Information (COI), film, televisual, and DVD outputs of royal weddings, and the BBC’s live television broadcast of the 2012 Olympic Games. Fashion has a reputation for facilitating change and performing makeovers, and the texts studied here present three levels of transformation, powered by the magical fiction of fairy tales, the transformative potential of capitalism, and the renewing capabilities of the fashion industry. These texts demonstrate the way fashion stories are used to negotiate key historical junctures in British identity, finding in the structure of the fairy tale a way to articulate an economy of renewal that can be harnessed to a national, ideological state agenda aimed at women. This thesis argues that national events are commandeered as platforms for officially sponsored tales of Britain’s heritage, which testify to the importance of fashion to the British economy and its role in political strategy.
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