Making Fashion

Originally shot under the title Design for Spring

UK 1938/1939. Dir Humphrey Jennings.

Jennings’s Making Fashion documents the preparation of Norman Hartnell’s Spring/Summer 1938 collection, interspersing shots of the couturier and his studio at work with images indicating his inspiration (the brilliantly clichéd mix of classical sculptures, spring flowers and nineteenth-century fashion plates leaves little to desire for). It is an intimate yet highly idealised portrayal of the behind-the-scenes of one of England’s grandest and most successful fashion salons, showing a perfectly coordinated ‘body’ of busy skilled workers demonstrating a range of design processes, from draping on a dummy to the execution of a sample, to fitting on a model and encrusting with sequins and jewels.  Shot in Dufaycolor, a colour process especially suitable for enhancing pastels tones, and with colour harmony make-up by Max Factor, the sumptuous film culminates in two substantial modelling sequences – one internal, the other a fashion show staged for a small audience. Somewhere between a documentary and an extended commercial (Hartnell was the film’s co-producer), Making Fashion is a rare example of its kind in British pre-war cinema.