Kimberly Truhler's fascination with vintage fashion has influenced more than her wardrobe; it has become her life. The stylish platinum blonde, whose elegant and graceful good looks and polished chic give her the aura of having stepped off the silver screen herself — definitely a Hitchcock picture like Rear Window or To Catch a Thief — is a historian and authority on vintage clothing and film who's made a career out of documenting movie costuming. Exploring how individual films throughout the decades have influenced style choices in the general population (more than even designer runways), her monthly seven-part “Fashion & Film” lecture series at the Egyptian Theatre breaks down each decade, from the 1920s to the 1980s, and this Saturday, she delves into one of the most fabulous fashion eras: the 1940s.
Truhler's slideshow presentation and discussion of how costume design in film influenced mainstream fashion at its time, and still influences fashion today, is followed by a classic film screening; this month it's the exquisite noir The Postman Always Rings Twice.
The presentation features historical and sociological perspective, spiced up with anecdotal stories about the film's stars and onscreen images for deeper understanding. Truhler explains, “I talk about the context of where we were in American history, where we were in the evolution of the studio system, the films themselves and their backstories. I also have a section I call the 'Cinema Connection,' which shows the costumes alongside images from current fashion so people can see these movies really do live on today. We're wearing them now, whether we know it or not.”
A transplanted Angeleno born in Minnesota, Truhler first became interested in classic film via her police officer father. “He would come home late at night and put on Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep, giving me a personal passion for film noir,” she recalls.
Her obsession grew after she relocated to Los Angeles, more than half her life ago. She became even more enthralled with film history, specifically the fashion aspect of it living here, which led her to create the website GlamAmor.com to share her inspiration in photos and articles she's written about the subject.
After much consideration, she narrowed down her favorite classic films to create “The Style Essentials,” a list of the 50 most iconic motion pictures based on costume design. These are movies that created a fashion impact at the time they were released and are still influencing the way people dress today. One of the most clicked sections of her website is a chart of famous classic film actors and actresses that gives their heights, measurements and sizes. Veronica Lake was only 4 feet 11 inches tall and often needed extra help from costume designers to appear more statuesque. “I can't think of even one of those stars who didn't have this type of costume designer assistance in some way or another,” Truhler says.
“As soon as the world had movies, that was it,” says the fashionista scholar, who's taught classes about the subject at Woodbury College, lectured at FIDM and hosted a discussion at the Turner Classic Movies film festival. “Movies became the driving force of style, trends and more.”
Many of the most dedicated followers of fashion have fun showing up for the Fashion & Film series in wardrobe from each film's time period, making the event even more memorable. The first screening, celebrating the 1920s, featured the 1927 silent film It, starring Clara Bow, while the 1930s event spotlighted Top Hat, starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Both saw audience members — many members of the Los Angeles Art Deco Society — dressed in period styles.
Next month the Egyptian will screen Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for the 1950s, hopefully bringing out a bevy of bodacious Marilyn Monroe look-alikes. As for this month, Truhler says assuredly, “The Egyptian couldn't be more of a perfect place for the 1940s because The Postman Always Rings Twice actually premiered there. This particular film really aligned.”
Fashion & Film: The 1940s and The Postman Always Rings Twice; Sat, May 26, 2 p.m. Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; americancinemathequecalendar.com.