Inspired by... blog

33 posts categorized "Spring Festival"

21 March 2014

Costumes in film: dark Hollywood glitz, that green Atonement dress, Barbarella's PVC bodysuit

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Dear Readers,

Spring Festival is only a week away - don’t miss our Inspiring Filmmakers event with screenwriter/director Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), art department researcher Celia Barnett (all eight Harry Potter films!), production designer Tony Noble (Moon) and up and coming director Jamie Stone (Orbit Ever After). More info and tickets here

Today’s guest blog on film costumes is written by students from Central Saint Martins Fashion History and Theory course.

Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard (1950) was one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the 20th century. Directed by Billy Wilder, it tells the tragic come-back story of fading silent movie star, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and the troubled companionship she finds in Joe Gillis (William Holden), a struggling screenwriter. The costumes were designed by Academy Award winner Edith Head.

A real icon of the silent-film era, Swanson fit the role of Norma perfectly. References to Swanson’s film career are dotted throughout the film and her personal photographs decorate Norma’s fictional mansion. Head later said that she had drawn on Swanson’s expertise and authenticity when designing her costumes.

The costumes epitomise the darker side of mid-century Hollywood glitz. Head’s designs for Norma resembled Christian Dior’s New Look of the late 1940s, combined with hints of Jazz Age glamour. Norma's signature look is leopard print. The first time we meet Norma, she is dressed in a sweeping house gown trimmed with leopard and topped with a leopard turban. Later, we see her dressed head-to-toe in leopard fabric whilst lounging by the pool.

The dramatic final scene reveals Norma dressed in what is arguably her most significant costume: an off the shoulder glittering evening gown with a jewelled snake bracelet coiled around her arm and sequins sprinkled over her bare shoulder.  - Jihane Dyer 



Ian McEwan’s Atonement, tells the tale of forbidden love and family conflict before, during, and after World War II. The novel, published in 2001, was adapted into a film in 2007 by director Joe Wright. Both works harmoniously introduce us to the confident aristocrat Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley), her sister and aspiring writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) and their housekeeper's promising son, Robbie Turner (James McAvoy).

Nearly a character itself is Cecilia's iconic, green silk gown. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran, (Pride & Prejudice, 2005 and Anna Karenina, 2012) created the provocative dress with a flowing bias cut that transforms within different scenes. Durran added slits to allow for movement in that intense sex scene. The knot that decorated the front of the dress is a nod to a classic 1930s design and was used to symbolise Cecilia's virginity. In 2008 Durran won a Bafta for Best Costume Design.  - Angelina Todd



The 1968 cult classic Barbarella starring Jane Fonda takes us on a futuristic fantasy journey in her shag pile spaceship to seek out missing scientist Durand Durand. While the plot remains a fairly simplistic sequence of Fonda getting herself into danger, it does lead to a showcase of incredible outfits.

Based on a comic book tale, Barbarella required costumes that embody a glamorous vision of the future and also represent a sense of comic surrealism. French costume designer Jacques Fonteray, took influence from the work of Spanish fashion designer Paco Rabanne who was known for his of use innovative materials. As a result, costumes were made from PVC, Perspex and chain mail. Rabanne was personally involved in creating a green dress made of linked plastic tiles, which gave Fonda an almost reptilian-like appearance while still carrying a 1960s silhouette.  - Hannah Beach


For a full line-up of Spring Festival events visit: 


06 March 2014

Amber Jane Butchart and Christopher Laverty's favourite accessories

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When I first met fashion historian Amber Jane Butchart and blogger Christopher Laverty at the British Library I felt a little under-dressed and under-accessorised. (My workwear consists of a basic skater dress, Adidas trainers and sometimes a bracelet.)  These two KNOW HOW TO DRESS. They are also film costume experts. You can hear them wax lyrical about their favourite fashion pieces from 1920s-30s films at our Spring Festival event Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion & Film in the Jazz Age. Here they kindly share their favourite accessories. 

Amber's favourite accessories

Mine would have to be the turban! (OBVS) My favourite stockists are: Akhu Designs for incredible prints and West African vibrance, Alice Edgeley for high-octane glamour and Silken Favours who mainly do blouses but also sometimes turbans in amazing prints. 

Amber Jane Butchart wears Akhu Designs
Amber in Akhu Design 

Gloria Swanson wore great turbans and head wraps in the 1920s.

Gloria Swanson
Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard 1950

Another favourite accessory would be the skeleton! As modelled brilliantly by Theda Bara below.

Theda Bara

Lastly, Josephine Baker's banana skirt. I love it so much that a friend and I made one along with a Carmen Miranda fruit headdress.

Josephine Baker banana dress

Christopher's favourite accessories 

Clothes on Film blogger Christopher Laverty via Vogue Shot


What the Americans call ‘suspenders’. Belts were more of a utility garment during the 1920s, so you would often see them combined with braces on manual workers, which of course is considered a big no-no nowadays. For me it’s all about comfort. Braces combined with a natural waist (read high) trouser hang better, don’t pinch, and arguably look more masculine. Clip-on braces are a bit naff with trousers but work fine with jeans. Once you’ve tried braces you won’t go back. Gentlemen, your crotch will thank you.

Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes 

African dandies photographed by Hanif Abdur-Rahim

Pocket Square:

Basically the generic name for a handkerchief stuffed in the top pocket of your suit jacket. You see this look all over Boardwalk Empire. The idea of the handkerchief is that it is supposed to represent a flower. This is why the folded over, angular shape seen in Mad Men and the like can seem a bit, well, square. Just hold a (silk) handkerchief between your thumb and forefinger, pull the fabric through the clenched fist of your other hand – a bit like a magician, fold over, stick it in your jacket pocket and you’re done. This is the British ‘tucked in’ style which is far easier to manage throughout the day. Avoid matching your pocket square to your tie though, unless you’re going for a very specific, and perhaps ironic, look. 

Michael K Williams in Boardwalk Empire

I prefer the simple swivel bar type, but with as gaudier a jewel as possible. I think because you do not see the end of the shirt cuff, and as such the cufflink, all the time it gives licence to be ostentatious. After all if you are not going to have fun with your cufflinks, why wear them at all? Buttons are certainly easier to fasten and a lot less fuss when you want to roll your shirt sleeves up. Incidentally, while I’m on the subject, always roll your shirt sleeves up if warm, never ever wear a short sleeve shirt and tie. To be honest if you ever take off your suit jacket, rolling up your sleeves is a good idea. The jacket is made to be worn at all times, not removed when the central heating is too high; if you must remove it, rolling the sleeves kind of embraces the casualness.

Now back to cufflinks: for my own personal taste I avoid any cufflinks with words, logos, or god forbid, jokes. Keep it gold, ensure the stone is large (onyx if you’re not that brave), and pop ‘em with pride.

Michael-Caine-in-Get-Carter_front-big-cufflinks_for-Inspired-by-blogMichael Caine in Get Carter, 1971

Meet Amber and Christopher at Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age on Friday, 28 March at the British Library - tickets here

04 March 2014

A focus on film: Spring Festival 2014 line up

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I'm very happy to announce the line up of events in our third Spring Festival at the British Library. A celebration of fashion, film and design - we invite you to play in our building, explore our collections and find inspiration for your next creative project. I hope to see you there! #BLSpring 

Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age
Friday, 28 March 18.30 - 22.00

Join fashion extraordinaire Amber Jane Butchart and the ever dapper Clothes on Film blogger Christopher Laverty in this illustrated talk about the glitz and glamour of Jazz Age Hollywood. Ruffled gowns, sequined hats and zoot suits - this stuff never goes out of style darlings! 

Followed by a cocktail party hosted by The Vintage Mafia - the first round of 'Prohibition Era' drinks are on us. 

British Library Images Online


Hanif Kureishi - My Beautiful Film Career
Saturday, 29 March 13.30 - 18.00

Double bill of acclaimed screenwriter Hanif Kureishi's  My Beautiful Laundrette and Le Week-End. In between screenings Kureishi will talk about his work with fellow writer Rachel Holmes. Plus you get an exclusive viewing of material from his personal archive, acquired by the Library this year. 



History Relived - Storytelling Worshop
Monday, 31 March 10.00 - 16.00 

Twitter in the 1890s - what would it look like? What events would people tweet about? Find inspiration in our massive British Newspaper Archive - over six million digitised, searchable pages you can play with. Create characters, bring them to life and share your stories on social media. Hosted by our friends Sheffield Doc/Fest and Crossover Labs

Above - Illustrated Police News, 1892 - The British Newspaper Archive

Inspiring Filmmakers with Tony Grisoni
Monday, 31 March 18.30 - 20.30 

Whether you're looking for inspiration or on a fact-finding mission for your film project - there's something for you in the Library. Award-winning screenwriter and director Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Kingsland #1, Southcliffe) and art department researcher Celia Barnett (Harry Potter, Quantum of Solace, Gosford Park) talk about how they've used the Library to do research - joined by production designer Tony Noble (Moon).

Followed by Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival screenings - including the winning entry of our short film competition inspired by British accents and dialects. Co-hosted by Cinema Jam. 



Inspired by... vinyl records
Monday, 31 March 18.30 - 20.00

Our vinyl collection is enormous. It's also largely unknown and we want to change that. Our curator of popular music Andy Linehan looks at the history of vinyl and digs into the archive to bring you cool record sleeve art and unique album titles including some rare bootleg records.  A perfect event for graphic designers and music lovers.

"If ever there's a nuclear war, I'm coming here with a portable record deck." - Radio presenter Tom Ravenscroft.  


Protecting the big picture

Thursday, 27 March  10.00 - 12.00

Intellectual property can be a boring subject but an understanding of it is absolutely vital for anyone producing creative works - whether it's film, fashion or design. This is a practical and informative event where you can ask questions to a panel of  IP specialists. In partnership with ACID, Anti Copying in Design


Book tickets here. Press release here

20 February 2014

Fashion & Film - Sequins, lamé and plunging necklines in American Hustle

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From now until the end of March I’ll be posting a series of guest blogs written by students from Central Saint Martins Fashion History and Theory course. They’ve taken the theme behind our upcoming Spring Festival event Puttin’ on the Glitz – Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age to spotlight fashion in films from the recent American Hustle to classics like Breakfast at Tiffany’s. 

Today’s guest blog is from Osman Ahmed on the Bafta-winning American Hustle.


Sequins, lamé, plunging necklines – if you’ve seen American Hustle, the mere thought of Oscar-nominated actors Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, Cooper, and Jeremy Renner in glamorous ‘70s getups is enough to re-consider your hair curlers and towering heels.

Set in New York City and New Jersey, the film is laden with the sexed-up silhouettes and unapologetic glamour that emerged as a reaction to the counter-cultural hippie styles of the previous decade. A distinct whiff of aspiration is achieved by the furs, gowns, gold chains and velvet suits worn by the con men attempting to convince the world of their success and sophistication.

“We wanted the actors to use their costumes as a part of their hustle,” the film’s costume designer Michael Wilkinson told The New York Times. “They dress as the person they aspire to be. Characters playing characters.”

There’s a clear dialogue in the costume that contributes as much to the characterisation as the stellar acting performances. Bradley Cooper’s F.B.I. officer, Richie DiMaso, starts the film in ill-fitting polyester suits and nylon shirts but shifts to three-piece wool suits and silk shirts when he becomes accustomed to the luxurious lifestyles of New York City fraud duo Sydney Prosser, played by Amy Adams, and Irving Rosenfeld, played by Christian Bale.

As for the girls, the inspiration varied from mail-order catalogues and Helmut Newton’s Vogue editorials to Playboy and Cosmopolitan covers and documentary photographs taken at Studio 54 by Allan Tannenbaum. It seemed fitting that Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress featured prominently as the film’s release coincides with the 40th anniversary of the iconic design. The streamlined quality of the dress with the bold prints embodies a moment that continues to hold significance for countless women and an era in New York that will forever be embedded in history.

As Wilkinson puts it, “American women at that time were enjoying new freedoms in fashion: less underpinnings, less structure and bold, streamlined shapes. It was an era for clothes when ideas were big, people lived large, took risks and didn't give a damn.”

Lots of plunging necklines in the American Vogue archive - available digitally in our British Library Reading Rooms. It features every issue from 1892 to the present day, spanning over 400,000 pages. 


13 February 2014

Craft Central's FASHIONED exhibition for London Fashion Week

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It's always a pleasure visiting Craft Central. The staff are friendly and there's a great buzz of creativity - designers and makers are definitely flourishing at this Clerkenwell spot.

Craft Central's latest exhibition FASHIONED - features fashion, jewellery and accessories made in the UK. Here are my highlights including inspiring British Library collections. 

If you're  thinking about starting a creative business or if you're already established, the Library has loads of resources to both inspire your next designs and help your business grow. Visit our Business & IP Centre for more information and follow me on Twitter @BL_Creative for updates.

Grace Hamilton

Grace's inspirations are derived from looking at the boundaries of beauty and disgust. Creating three dimensional objects, conceptual and wearable jewellery.  

Grace Hamilton

Grace Hamilton - Kefal necklace 


Southern water snake, hand-coloured copperplate engraving from George Shaw and Frederick Nodder's The Naturalist's Miscellany, 1796 


Great boa, hand-coloured copperplate engraving from George Shaw and Frederick Nodder's The Naturalist's Miscellany, 1796

Hetty Rose

Hetty set up the company in 2007 and was selected to exhibit at London Fashion Week in her first season. You can learn how to make your own pair of kicks at her shoemaking workshops


These were the shoes Hetty had on at the launch. So pretty. 


Hetty Rose Kimono Collection 4 - Left - Bella, right - Rosa


British Library Olga Hirsch collection of decorated papers, Japanese blockprint,  J.3409b via ImagesOnline


British Library Olga Hirsch collection of decorated papers,  Japanese blockprint,  J.3409c via  ImagesOnline

Bridget Harvey

Bridget designs and makes adornments for body and space. Specialising in mixed media and exploring material possibilities, she makes wearable sculptures using mostly hand made multiples. Her work investigates ideas about time and play in design, making and mending.



Bridget Harvey - The Geometrics Volume 1


From the British Library's Flickr Commons, Atlas historique et etnographique du Royaume de Serbie ..., 1885

Yelena Loguiiko

Yelena’s collection draws inspiration from history, art, the cultural heritage of European nations and contemporary influences.

Yelena Loguiiko_SS14

Yelena-Loguiiko_SS14_2    Yelena-Loguiiko_SS14_1

Yelena Loguiiko SS13 collection


Gazette du Bon Ton, George Barbier, 1921 via ImagesOnline 

For those of you interested in fashion, I'm hosting Puttin on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age as part of our Spring Festival celebration of fashion, film and design. Click here for more info. 

14 January 2014

Shortlist - Accents and dialects short film competition with IdeasTap

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Back in September we set creatives the brief to write a short film treatment inspired by the British Library’s VoiceBank collection.  We wanted films to challenge stereotypes, focus on local identity or embrace day-to-day lives.  

We are very happy to announce this shortlist of ten, whose ideas spoke to us loud and clear. Each will receive £500 from our wonderful partners IdeasTap to make his/her film. We will announce the winner the week of 10 March. The winner will receive a £1,000 prize from the British Library and a screening at our Spring Festival.

Thank you to all who applied. We hope you are all inspired to explore the British Library’s collection for your next creative project!

James Spinney – Honeycomb

The word plodge, meaning to wade through water, is an entry in our VoiceBank collection. Building on the sense of play that 'plodge' conveys - as well as its suggestion of water in motion, of splashing in the surf - each frame of this experimental short incorporates forty angles on the same subject.

James is a freelance editor. His film Wavelengths won Best Film at the 2012 Short Cuts Film Festival.


Eloise Stevens - Speaking of Home

Eloise explores the theme of migration and its role in contributing to the cosmopolitan soundscape of British accents.  She will interview three generations of one family, all with different accents and explore how the way they speak forms their overlapping but distinct identities.

Eloise is a linguist, radio producer and travel writer.

Tom Franz – Dialects

Tom explores dialect with typography.  His  is a video editor for BJL Advertising Manchester.


Ed Hancox - Whatever happened to the Geordie Girls? 

Ed revisits five 18-year old Geordie girls who were recorded talking about their accents for the BBC’s Millennium Voices in 1999. Today they are scattered round the country: so why have some of them lost their Tyneside twang, while others sound like they’ve just come off the stands at The Toon?  

Ed has worked as an assistant producer/director for the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV.

Rob St John - Snickets and Ginnels

A short film inspired by the VoiceBank recording of  a man from West Yorkshire talking about snickets and ginnels – the often narrow, overgrown and hidden routes through many northern towns.  He will explore historic routes and the blurring of the urban and the rural; known and unknown; safe and dangerous in these spaces.

Ginnel_Hebden Bridge
Ginnel, Hebden Bridge. Image from  

Nick Jogden - Geordie Version

A visual poem and an ode to the Geordie language and its idiosyncrasies, inspired by the VoiceBank recording of ‘toon’. It aims to challenge stereotypes about the so-called "desolate North East" and its inhabitants. It will invite the viewer, through montage of sound and image to dig a little deeper behind a local dialect that is celebrated, misunderstood and ridiculed.

Nick is a filmmaker at High Six Media.

Josh Branson - Counting Sheep

An old shepherd. A bleak rural landscape set in the Yorkshire Dales. He counts his sheep using the traditional Swaledale method (yan, tan, tether, mether, pip). The film will be a celebration of archaic dialect, exploring the relationship between language, landscape and vocation, as well as the passing of oral traditions from one generation to the next.

Josh is a scriptwriter. Check out his 2013 short film The Ogre Hunters, inspired by the British Library’s collection of wildlife sounds. 


Zoe Aiano - Dialects in Your Hand

It’s possible to sign in a recognisably Bristolian “accent.” Just as spoken dialect consists of not only different ways of saying commonly understood terms but also expressions that have been invented locally, sign language is the same. A film focusing on linguistic variations.

Zoe is a filmmaker and editor.

Arun Sahadeo - The Menagerie of Sound

A film following various characters’ every day lives and exploring their reasons for seeing an elocution coach:  a woman wishing to improve her own social standing, a City professional having trouble communicating to his colleagues, a primary school teacher asked to change his accent after an inspection.

Arun is a scriptwriter.

Katie Lambert - Blinker Blonk

‘Blinker Blonk’, ‘Doofy’, ‘Zapper’- every family has a different word for the television remote control. Most people have also experienced a feeling of bafflement when faced with another family’s word for something. A film exploring shared languages within families, specifically a family in York & London and their word for a television remote control.

Katie is a director, playwright and producer. She currently works for Tomboy Films



27 September 2013

Enter our short film competition on British accents and dialects with IdeasTap

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The British Library has one of the largest sound collections in the world, covering the entire range of recorded sound from music, drama and literature, to oral history, accents and dialects and wildlife sounds. 

We are opening up these collections for filmmakers to play with as part of our annual Spring Festival short film competition. 

In partnership with the wonderful people over at IdeasTap, we'll be launching The Sound Edit: British Accents and Dialects short film competition at the London Film Festival on 16 October at the BFI. You are welcome to attend!


 The brief:

Calling filmmakers, photographers and animators!  

We are offering you the exclusive opportunity to write a treatment for a film or multimedia photostory, working with a selection of sounds from the British Library's accents and dialects sound collection – with cash prizes for the best project ideas. 

The VoiceBank was created between November 2010 and April 2011 as a result of the British Library exhibition, Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices. During the exhibition visitors to the gallery were encouraged to make a sound recording to help the Library capture contemporary English voices.

Contributors recorded  a word or expression they felt was special in their variety of English (the ‘WordBank’) and/or reflections on their relationship with their accent (the ‘VoiceBank’). In total 15,000 recordings were made and  the Library is now in the process of cataloguing and making these sounds available for research. 

You will have exclusive access to a selection of 24 downloadable sound recordings. From a Pakistani/Yorkshire accent to saying "code" for "cold" in Nottingham to the word "meekin", defined by a small group of friends as being indecisive, there is a wide variety of accents and words to play with. 

We want you to use the sounds to create a new short film celebrating Britain’s rich landscape of regional accents and dialects. Challenge stereotypes, focus on local  identity or our present day-to-day lives. Force us to listen, concentrate and connect meaning to voices. You can use the sounds directly in your film or as inspiration for your narrative. Your film cannot be longer than three minutes. 

A shortlist of 10 IdeasTap members will be awarded £500 each to create their film. The final 10 films or multimedia photostories will go before a panel of industry experts, who will select one overall winner to receive £1,000 and a screening at the British Library Spring Festival.

You can download the sounds and find out more on the IdeasTap website. The deadline is Friday 29 November 2013.


Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices British Library exhibition

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16 September 2013

London Fashion Week Highlights - Yulia Kondranina

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The British Library would be a great venue for London Fashion Week. The walkway on the first floor, with the soaring King's Library Tower in the backdrop, is a natural catwalk. It's really the area to be seen at the Library. Lined with comfy sofa seats, the area is swarmed every morning and is full until closing time. Getting a seat is as rare as getting a front row seat at any Fashion Week show. I exaggerate, but stay with me.

We've hosted fashion shows at the Library in the past.  At our Spring Festival models glided up and down our escalators and marble staircases in paper dresses inspired by our collections and designed by Central Saint Martins students. It looked wonderful and guests had a blast dancing to DJ Princess Julia afterwards.

But I think we can try something bigger. I envision a full Chanel-like show. Grand and dramatic. Karl Lagerfeld, have your people call my people.

In celebration of London Fashion Week I'll be highlighting my favourite designs and connecting them to our fabulous collections... starting with Yulia Kondranina. 


Images via

Yulia Kondranina, graduate of Central Saint Martins, has been all over "Ones to Watch" lists and won Fashion Scout's spring/summer 2014 Fashion Merit award. I love all things symmetrical so I was naturally oohing over her designs. They look a bit like cross-stitch, don't you think? 

Her designs made me think of our Hebrew collections, in particular these poems formed into shapes called carmina figurata


Via British Library catalogue of Illuminated Hebrew Manuscripts
If you're in the business of fashion there are loads of practical workshops and inspirational collections for you at the Library: 

This Friday 20 September Geraldine Wharry of leading trend forecasting company WGSN will be revealing trends for 2014/15 at our Fashion Forecasting workshop. Tickets are limited so book now! 

One Wednesday, 25 September I'm hosting a FREE  show and tell of Exotic Prints & Drawings where you can find the perfect image to transfer onto a dress or shape into a necklace.


Video highlights from our Spring Festival