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The New Mexican's Weekly Magazine of Arts, Entertainment & Culture Friday, July 25, 2014

Clothes reading: Jonathan Faiers dissects fashion in film

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Posted: Friday, February 28, 2014 5:00 am

Jonathan Faiers opens his probing and often wry inquiry into the connection between fashion and film with a few questions: In movies, why are raincoats more frequently carried than worn? When is it acceptable to wear an all-white suit? And why should bloodstains be removed as quickly as possible?

The last question seems to have the most obvious answer, but the earlier two hint at the thesis of Faiers’ newest book — in mainstream English-language film, from talkies to today, clothing and accessories commonly serve the opposite of their intended function. Faiers is a reader (akin to a lecturer or professor) at England’s Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, and his previous published works include Tartan, a book on the symbolism and traditions of textiles. The occasionally dense Dressing Dangerously is something of an academic coffee-table book. Given its cinematic scope, it is satisfyingly heavy on the visuals, mainly in the form of arresting movie stills that range from the classic — Humphrey Bogart smoking a cigarette in a trenchcoat, circa the 1940s — to the not-quite-as-classic — the magic scarf of legendary dodgeball champion Patches O’Houlihan (Rip Torn) in the 2004 film Dodgeball. Given the book’s emphasis on how garments can drive plot, there are also plenty of images of bloody coats, shoes, and gloves.

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