Turner Classic Movies is saying "hello, gorgeous" to the Met.
While fashion holds its sway in our culture, many of us take our inspiration from pop culture, particularly movies. With that in mind TCM is launching a new limited series, Follow the Thread in which the network and host Alicia Malone will explore the synergies between fashion and film inspired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute's new exhibition, In America: An Anthology of Fashion.
The series will trace their influence across the past, present, and future of culture, beginning on TCM on June 4 and HBO Max June 17.
EW has your exclusive first look at the Follow the Thread trailer in the clip above.
Courtesy Everett Collection; Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images; Mary Evans/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection
TCM General Manager Pola Changnon reveals that the network first reached out to the Met with the notion of collaborating, and it grew from there. "We saw this as such a big conversation and a growing conversation, and why not step into it, being able to really craft it around the classic movies that we all know and love?" she tells EW. "We reached out to the Met with an eye to, 'Is there a way for us to elevate it for TCM and ground it in something that is speaking to the culture currently?' There's probably no bigger event than the Met Gala."
"They loved the idea of us extending what they do to our audience and taking what they do in the museum to a broader swath of people," adds Changnon. "One of their key goals is getting people to come to that incredible exhibit. They knew that we would be a great megaphone for that."
The exhibition, In America: An Anthology of Fashion, which was launched earlier this month at the Met Gala features approximately 100 examples of men's and women's dress dating from the 19th to the mid-late 20th century that reveal unfinished stories about American fashion. But what makes it such a natural pairing for TCM is the fact that nine film directors have curated the space, creating fictional concepts, aka "freeze frames," to share new perspectives on American fashion through their own aesthetics.
"American fashion can encompass so many different ideas," says series host Alicia Malone. "In America: An Anthology of Fashion is more about the way in which fashion and architecture and film work together. It gives opportunities to filmmakers to show more of their perspective — and the majority of the directors chosen are women and women of color. That's wonderful because part of this exhibit speaks to overlooked fashion designers that have been either written out of history or been forgotten through time, so the filmmakers are able to bring their histories to life."
While the series will discuss the intersection of fashion and film and the ways in which costume has shaped contemporary fashion across films such as Sabrina, Bonnie and Clyde, Jackie Brown, and more, it will also distinguish between fashion and costume design as art forms.
"Something that I didn't expect to focus on was the idea of communication," says Malone. "No matter what we put on our bodies, whether we think we're trying to speak to fashion trends or not, we are communicating something about ourselves to the world when we walk down the streets. That's exactly what costume designers do as well. They're communicating ideas about character without using dialogue. But while fashion and films have always had this conversation with each other, the actual practices of fashion design and costume design are very, very different. The costume designers I spoke to, such as Deborah Nadoolman Landis, who worked on films like Indiana Jones, were very adamant about that fact that they are doing something completely different. They are serving the stories. They're not trying to sell clothes or try to create fashion trends."
Still, that doesn't mean that they don't inadvertently create fashion trends, whether it be that year's most popular Halloween costume or something more subtle. "Film has long loomed large over fashion," adds Malone. "And vice versa because through film, we can see a time capsule of what was in vogue at the time."
Follow the Thread was filmed in part on location at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it features in-depth conversations with a broad swath of fashion and costume experts, including including Tim Gunn; designers Bob Mackie, Zac Posen, Jeremy Scott, and B Michael; costume designers Sandy Powell, Zaldy, Isis Mussenden, Mark Bridges, and Deborah Nadoolman Landis; film and fashion historians Kimberly Truhler and Raissa Bretaña; and The Met's Andrew Bolton (Wendy Yu Curator of The Costume Institute) and Sylvia Yount (Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator of The American Wing).
Changnon was blown away to discover how much cinema had shaped the careers of each of their experts, most particularly the designers. "Zac Posen knows so much about movies he could be a film expert, as well as a fashion expert," she gushes. "That was what was intriguing and exciting for us too — how people brought their own passion for movies to bear as inspiration for how they had worked."
One designer, who has straddled both fashion and costume, in particular says he owes his career to the movies — fashion icon Bob Mackie. Mackie tells EW of his childhood, spent going to the movies with his sister and mother. "They said, 'Well, he'll fall asleep,' and most of the time I didn't. That's all I wanted to do is go to the movies to see these films, Technicolor and musicals and all these crazy things that were so popular in the '40s and '50s, were my favorite my favorite things to do," he remembers. "One day I saw An American in Paris, and the ballet was so amazing looking. It was 20 minutes long at the end of the movie, and I thought, 'I could do that.'"
Mackie also notes that when he was growing up cinema had an even more direct influence on fashion, with many department stores buying the rights to a look onscreen and manufacturing a cheaper version to sell to consumers. "Everybody watched what people wore in films," he says. "And it wasn't necessarily things they went out and bought, but once in a while it would happen that way."
Ultimately, that's what Follow the Thread seeks to dissect and unpack for viewers, while providing visual evidence in the form of over 70 featured films.
"Movies influence the world," reflects Changnon. "They shape how we see our world, and fashion is a wearable expression of identity influenced by culture. The fashion [of cinema] is iconic and goes beyond the movies. People want to associate themselves with that."
Watch the clip above for more.