Fashion and style have forever been in bed with film, television and music, especially the moments that scream love.
We all have our top pop memories of romance, lust, marriage, heartbreak from those worlds and more, including the beauty industry and the world of advertising. In a new book, “The Looks of Love: 50 Moments in Fashion That Inspired Romance,” insider and designer Hal Rubenstein has rounded up some of his.
We asked him to illuminate his favorites from the book, which was released by Harper Design in plenty of time for Valentine’s Day:
Rubenstein calls 1970’s “Love Story” a “cheaply produced, poorly shot and badly edited” film of Erich Segal’s runaway best-selling book. Both had fans weeping by the millions. Among the reasons the film did well were the genetically blessed stars, Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal, but coming as it did in the ascendancy of Woodstock, with its bell-bottoms and beaded necklaces, “Love Story” ironically led the way for preppy style. Forever.
In his Harris Tweed blazers over Shetland sweaters and blue Oxford cloth shirts with collars out, O’Neal’s Ollie might well have been raised by the sales staff of Brooks Brothers, Rubenstein said. MacGraw’s Jenny, meanwhile, walked a protest-free campus in a peacoat, black turtleneck and plaid skirt with matching scarf once the book (thanks to a plug of gold from fan Barbara Walters) hit the big screen the year after the seismic Woodstock.
The film’s score had legs. Mick and Bianca, as in the Jaggers, were married twice in 1971 in St. Tropez, first in a civil ceremony, then in a Roman Catholic wedding where the Nicaraguan beauty and future rock wife walked down the aisle to a selection of sappy songs from “Love Story.” She requested the music.
Sonny And Cher
Her Bob Mackie gowns and long straight raven hair are legendary, as are his furry vests and Prince Valiant ’dos. But there’s something else, Rubenstein said, besides their breakout dueting that hit the Top 40 in 1965. They followed up with “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour” that premiered on CBS in 1971, ending in 1974.
The two fell out of love and divorced in 1975. Both had short-lived solo TV shows before CBS persuaded them in 1976 to reunite as a divorced couple in the same time slot, Sunday nights.
“They were the first high-profile couple ever to appear in public divorced and getting along,” Rubenstein said. “When I was a kid (he’s 65) you said the word divorce the same way everybody said the word cancer. And they basically said, ‘Here we are and we’re having a good time,’ and it changed people’s attitudes toward divorce.”
Then Cher got pregnant with Gregg Allman’s child. The larger she got, the more uneasy it was for Sonny and Cher to be onstage together.
“An uncomfortable audience felt the same way,” Rubenstein writes. “The reunion show barely lasted two years.”
You can thank director Adrian Lyne and costume designer Michael Kaplan for moving along the casualization of America’s dress code through this movie in 1983. It was high gloss and paper thin, Rubenstein writes, but it incorporated big shifts in youth culture, from sex to style.
With their curly manes, olive skin and dark brooding eyes, stars Jennifer Beals and Michael Nouri – who played her boss and her love interest, Nick – not only looked like they could be fraternal twins but wore interchangeable outfits in identical colors. That, Rubenstein said, helped neutralize clothing as a source of gender power as their courtship unfolds.
Alex was gutsy in love and style, stomping around in her welder’s boots by day and sliding up her short black leather skirt as she sat to slip off her lace bra under her torn sweatshirt after their first date. The scene had Nick bug-eyed in astonishment.
“This film is a time capsule, watershed moment of everything that was basically happening in pop culture, in fashion, in sexuality. It hits every single button,” Rubenstein said.
Chanel No. 5
Coco Chanel wasn’t fond of flowery scents. She considered perfumes that were too perfumey overly girly and oppressive, triggering memories of her years as a seamstress for wealthy women who reeked of musk and lavender to mask body odor, Rubenstein said. What she did recollect fondly, from her teen years at Aubazine Abbey’s convent, was how everyone smelled clean.
In 1921, Chanel commissioned perfumer Ernest Beaux to create an unusual fragrance that “reflected the scent of a woman,” Rubenstein writes. Beaux presented her with 10 options. Option No. 5 had floral notes, but Beaux included an experimental chemical called aldehyde, which extended the aroma of a perfume. On its own, aldehyde smells like soap. The No. 5 formulation was Chanel’s choice and an iconic perfume was born.
When filmmaker Baz Luhrmann created a short film aimed in 2004 at re-establishing No. 5 amid a crowded field of designer fragrances, he cast his “Moulin Rouge” star Nicole Kidman as a cross between Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. Marilyn Monroe once said all she wore to bed was “five drops of Chanel No. 5.”
At the 2006 Academy Awards, Sandra Bullock wore navy, Jennifer Lopez picked olive green, Amy Adams was in mocha brown and Meryl Streep donned taupe. And then there was Michelle Williams, on the arm of love Heath Ledger, in a Vera Wang chiffon and tulle gown of many folds declared one of the best Oscar dresses of all time.
It had delicate pleating along a low neckline and graceful folds, including a train that oozed sensuality with every step. But it was the standout color that killed, Rubenstein said. Wang called it “Bahamian yellow” and it was perfection against her pale skin, platinum swept-back hair and bright red lips.
“There’s something so beautiful and wonderful and tragic about that dress,” Rubenstein said. “They were the perfect new Hollywood couple.”
The two separated in late 2007 and Ledger died in January 2008 of an accidental drug overdose.
With Taylor Swiftian efficiency, Dean’s rise to teen idol started with his debut as the troubled Cal Trask in “East of Eden.” The film served as 1953 counterpart to the more macho stars of the previous generation – Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck and even Marlon Brando, just seven years Dean’s senior, Rubenstein writes.
Trask was followed in 1955 by Dean’s portrayal of the vulnerable, unsure Jim Stark, who wears his teen heart on the sleeve of a red nylon windbreaker in “Rebel Without a Cause.” It’s not easy looking that cool in a red zip windbreaker, but Dean pulls it off.
Offscreen, he was more closely associated with Schott NYC Perfecto black leather motorcycle jackets. He never wore one in a movie but Brando did and the Perfecto line of leather jackets lives on.
“There is not a leather jacket out there that is not stolen from that Schott jacket,” Rubenstein said.