The Culture Hustler

Musing for modern minds.

City of Angels and Artifacts: Part 2

Hollywood costumes have long been a piece of a larger commercial enterprise. Whether well or poorly constructed, whether expensive or cheap, whether iconic or forgettable, film costumes are production assets.  From a commercial point of view, a costume that can deliver many times over is a worthwhile investment.  Hence, costumes are used, re-used, and reconfigured for maximum value.

City of Angels and Artifacts: Part 1

Hollywood Costume is a museum exhibition curated by Deborah Nadoolman Landis for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  Since the exhibit first opened in 2012, it has traveled to Australia, Virginia, Arizona, and, on October 2, 2014, to Los Angeles, California where it will be until March 2, 2015.

Terminology is a Drag, or Sometimes a Dress is a Costume

The annual Costume Institute Benefit Gala has come and gone with only the jpg social media detritus to let the great unwashed know what we have missed.  Online photos reveal that few men heeded Anna Wintour’s dress admonition for this to be a white tie affair.  Whether the broad spectrum of men’s dress reflected rebelliousness, ignorance, or a simple lack of concern, we may never know.  More pressing is why the Costume Institute – as of May 8, 2014, the Anna Wintour Costume Center – is so named.  Costume?

Be Your Own Designer

Recently I wrote about the strictly coded gender practices associated with the cocktail party in postwar America.  I talked about how mixing drinks was the purview of men and shared pages from Playboy magazine that included tips for the urbane bachelor on how to mix drinks and which tools he needed to be successful.  Before Playboy there was Esquire, which in 1949 published a Handbook for Hosts, providing an invaluable resource for single men on what kind of food to serve, drinks to make, games to play, what to wear, and how to behave.  Esquire’s

Shaken Not Jiggled

"The Gentleman's Home Bar" from Playboy, February, 1960 (author's collection).

"It even has a bar!"

This past November the Special Collections Reading Room at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had a small exhibition assembled by British film scholar, Tamar Jeffers McDonald.  The small display included fan magazine reproductions of periodicals from the collection accompanied by exhibit text.  ‘Girl-next-door’ Doris Day’s fashion influence was the display’s subject.  I was surprised to learn that in the 1950s Doris Day was the most featured figure for fashion in film fan magazines of the day.  According to Jeffers McDonald, Day was regarded as a

Lift and Separate to Achieve that Desirable ‘New Look’

There is a great deal of literature – popular and academic – on what women wore in the US during World War II and how styles were influenced by goods rationing, no European fashion imports, and women’s increased entry into the workforce.  There has also been a great deal written about what happened after the war ended and how Paris positioned itself once again as a fashion center.  The Parisian couturier, Christian Dior, took the world by storm in spring 1947 when he introduced for autumn what came to be called the ‘New Look.’  Skirts were made fuller, hemlines dropped, waists were corseted

Waxing Brazilian about Twenties Beach Culture


Labor Day has come and gone.  For many the holiday marks a transition to autumn regardless of the thermometer’s temperature reading.  Time to breathe a sigh of relief and put away the swimsuit until next summer season. 

On the other side of the equator, however, spring is just arriving.  While North Americans sweat in their fall fashions, others frolic on some of the world’s best-known beaches – Ipanema and Copacabana – in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

The "Big Top" Exhibit

In the US we often think of museums as rarefied places brimming with all that a culture values.  Perhaps even the museum space itself is an impressive Beaux Arts beast of a building or, better still, a symphonic Frank Gehry structure singing its siren song to passersby.  Though the architecture may be seductive, increasingly pricey museum tickets are not typically spontaneous purchases like chewing gum at the grocery checkout.