Glamour and Post Modern Style

An important feature of post-modern questioning of deep-seated values was the revival of 1930s Hollywood glamour. Just as Wolfe observed the customizers' identification with streamlining, so glamour was revived and celebrated in fine art, interior decoration and fashion. Its revival also informed the development of post-modern architectural criticism. Just as the traditional structures and personalities of the world's most powerful film industry had disintegrated and were superseded by a younger, independent clutch of film-makers, so the Hollywood of the past was reconstructed as a self-conscious parody of glamour. For example, the boutique Biba, established as a mail-order company in 1963, recreated the luxury and glamour of pre-war department store shopping and Hollywood film stars (Figure 48). At the time when Andy Warhol produced the Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley screenprint series, Barbara Hulanicki created a dark and mysterious environment with fake leopard-skin seats and moderne styling. The clothes Biba produced also drew on the dress of 1930s Hollywood stars. Cream silk, bias-cut dresses, feather boas, ankle-strapped shoes, turbans, double-breasted suits for men with matching trilbies, wide ties, two-tone shoes, dark, vamp eye make-up all revived the 1930s look. Biba moved into the Derry and Toms department store building in 1973. This huge shop on Kensington Church Street, complete with roof garden, was originally designed by Bernard George in moderne style and had opened in 1933. Since its glamorous heyday it had been neglected, and was acquired by Biba in the romantic hope of reviving its past ambience. A total of £5 million was lavished on the project, which was co-ordinated by the firm of Whitmore-Thomas with help from the John Grasemark Film design studio. There were glamorous Hollywood touches: for example in the Mistress Room fake leopard skin was used to decorate storage boxes, cushions and the chaise longue. Other fashion designers also drew on the inspiration of camp Hollywood in Britain, including Ossie Clark, with heavy crêpe, floor-length clinging dresses. Ken Russell, the British film director, in 1971 made The Boy Friend, which featured the model Twiggy in 1930s revival Hollywood glamour against the backdrop of Busby Berkeley routines. The revival of classical Hollywood glamour was also evident in popular music of the 1970s, with British bands like Roxy Music and T-Rex manipulating the images of male and female stars. Bryan Ferry the lounge lizard slicked his hair back with brylcreem and wore fake leopard skin, while Marc Bolan wore black eye make-up, feather boas and satin. This revival also affected aspects of mainstream interior decoration, including floor-coverings, with an advertisement for Nairn Cushion-floor from House and Garden September 1977 announcing 'Our floors say something about you.' On one side of the double-page spread is a Victorian revival bathroom with draped curtains, claw-footed bath with brass fittings and heavy, oak furniture. The copy for this image reads


Figure 48 Interior of Biba Store

'I'd like to have a maid to look after me.' Juxtaposed with this on the opposite page is a glamorous, 1930s revival bathroom adorned with the quote 'I wish I were a Hollywood film star' (p. 187). This bathroom features a sunken bath, a sweeping staircase with moderne handrail, a mirrored sink unit and rising sun mirrors (Figure 49). The range of revivalist styles on offer affords a characteristic example of post-modern plundering of the past.

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