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Perhaps best-loved for showcasing Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn’s jovial on-screen presence, classic beauty and wonderful sense of comic timing, ‘Funny Face’ is a light-hearted musical take on the clash between capitalist consumerism and the counterculture of the late 1950s. Ricocheting between the cafés of Greenwich Village and Montmartre, high-modern Manhattan offices and Parisian ateliers, the film is awash in both costume and fashion.
In a new marketing ploy, New York City fashion-mag executive Maggie Prescott decides to present to the world the Quality Woman, who will embody everything fashionable about the women of today. Naturally, this calls for a photo shoot in Paris, so Maggie, photographer Dick Avery and beatnik-turned-model Jo Stockton hop on a plane for an extravagant production featuring outfits and situations one more sensational than the next.
As Dick puts Jo through her paces, she takes on personae from jilted lover to bride-to-be, debutante to bereaved wife. Together, these sequences provide interesting insight into the intersection of costume and cinema. Like cinema, fashion is an exciting spectacle, but within that spectacle, costume can be used as a powerful tool to indicate time, place and character. In particular, Hepburn’s costumes in ‘Funny Face’ are intricately organised to signify the various elements of Jo’s personality ¬– from serious intellectual to top model and, most touchingly, young woman in love.