Early Cinema’s Costume Attractions, presented by the Fashion in Film Festival, is a programme focusing on the emergence of costume as a form of moving image spectacle at the turn of the 20th century. Featuring French and Italian works by cinema pioneers such as Georges Méliès, Gaston Velle, Segundo de Chomón, Ferdinand Zecca and Alice Guy-Blaché, the selection stresses the vital role dress has played in film from its very beginnings. While in its first-decade cinema rarely presented clothing as ‘fashion’, it nevertheless exhibited a profound fascination with costume, which was embraced for its highly kinetic, expressive or metamorphic capacity. These qualities then significantly informed the later ‘fashion films’ as they began to be regularly distributed by companies like Pathé Frères and Gaumont in the 1910s.

Curated by Marketa Uhlirova, Co-founder and Director of the Fashion in Film Festival, Senior Research Fellow at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, and member of this year’s jury.

Top Photo: Still from The Butterflies (Le Farfalle). Italy, 1907. Dir. Unknown. Società Anonima Cines. Tinted and hand-coloured.

LISTING

Danse du papillon

France, 1900. Dir. Alice Guy-Blaché, Gaumont. Hand-coloured.

A Loïe Fuller imitator performs in a butterfly-painted costume in this beautifully coloured film.

The Pillar of Fire (La Danse du feu)

France, 1899. Dir. Georges Méliès, Star Films. Hand-coloured.

Based on H. Rider Haggard’s novel She, a demon conjures a woman wearing a voluminous white dress who performs a dance à la Loïe Fuller.

The Rajah’s Casket (L’écrin du rajah)

France, 1906. Dir. Gaston Velle, Pathé Frères. Stencil-coloured.

A trick film with an Orientalist theme. A conjurer summons, from a treasure chest, a beautiful queen and several attendants who perform a dance in bewitching costume.

The Butterflies (Le Farfalle)

Italy, 1907. Dir. Unknown. Società Anonima Cines. Tinted and hand-coloured.

Geishas dance and play with a butterfly woman whom they have imprisoned within a cage. Her lover comes to rescue her, only to find himself defeated by the group. A butterfly revenge ensues.

The Pearl Fisher (Le Pêcheur de perles)

France, 1907. Dir. Ferdinand Zecca, Pathé Frères. Hand-coloured.

A diver encounters strange and marvellous creatures in an underwater kingdom. The film is remarkable for its opulently decorated sets.

Tit for Tat (La Peine du talion)

France, 1906. Dir. Gaston Velle, Pathé Frères. Stencil-coloured.

Sumptuously winged insects seek revenge for the injustices brought about by the practice of lepidoptery: the catching of species of butterflies and moths for the purposes of observation.

The Red Spectre (Le Spectre rouge)

France, 1907. Dir. Segundo de Chomón, Pathé Frères. Stencil-coloured.

In a dark cavern a devil-like magician performs a series of tricks putting to great use his spectacular cloak.

The Troubadour (Le Troubadour)

France, 1906. Dir. Segundo de Chomón, Pathé Frères. Stencil-coloured.

On stage a troubadour performs a series of illusions for the audience in this trick film.

Les Papillons japonais (Mariposas japonesas)

France, 1908. Dir. Segundo de Chomón, Pathé Frères. Hand-coloured.

A magician’s botanical drawings come to life. A butterfly woman displays her costume before morphing into a serpentine dancer.

Transformations (Métempsycose)

France, 1907. Dir. Segundo de Chomón, Pathé Frères. Stencil-coloured.

Based on a famous 19th century stage illusion, a statue comes to life to display a number of dazzling costume transformations.

A Butterfly’s Changes (La Métamorphose du papillon)

France, 1904. Dir. Gaston Velle, Pathé Frères. Hand-coloured.

A caterpillar transforms into a butterfly woman whose fluttering wings change colour.