Exhibition: A Story of Fashion Short Film

2019 | Early Cinema's Costume Attractions

30 January – 2 February 2019

CPH Foodspace


This selection of hand coloured and stencilled early ‘costume’ films stresses the key role that costume played in early cinema, showcasing some mesmerising dress manipulations and magical transformations. While cinema in its first decade rarely presented clothing as fashion, it nevertheless exhibited a profound fascination with costume, which is significant for an understanding of the later affiliations between fashion and film. Costume was frequently embraced as a spectacular device, an inherently kinetic and expressive entity with a strong potential to enchant the senses.


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.