Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Feud for thought

 So, terrifyingly, I’ve finally seen someone on telly other than the Queen who dresses the way I do instinctively. You know: matchy-matchy, not too flamboyant in shape, blingy bit of jewellery on top. Unfortunately, it’s Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford in Feud.

Have you seen Feud? I do find myself wondering whether Feud-Joan bore much resemblance to real Joan; she comes across as a bit of a monster, but also quite a sad monster. I find myself admiring the sheer grit and effort it took to go from being a poor girl to a star, and then to continue that fight even as the roles dried up. But look at what the effort has cost her. She’s got few friends, because Hollywood’s a man’s world, and the execs still look down on her (probably look down on her more now she’s ageing), but she won’t make many female friends because there’s only room for one Queen in Joan’s world, and that’s Queen Joan. As sorry as I feel for her, you can bet your hat I’m on #teambette. Susan Sarandon’s Bette Davis comes across as so much more relatable.
Getting older myself, I also find the talk of ‘hag pictures’ and ‘hagsploitation’ annoying. Davis was about 56, Crawford anywhere between 56 and 60, depending on which of her birthdates you think is most likely. But hags? What a horrible term. You wouldn’t get men of the same age being described the same way – I’m not even sure there is a male equivalent. I’ve appreciated the parts of the show that address the way ‘women’s pictures’ were underrated and women’s careers held back. Things have changed a little, but they could still do with changing more.
Anyway, enough about the show’s version of Joan being a monster in a monstrous world; let’s talk about her outfits. I've noticed a few things: when Joan needs to assert herself, such as when meeting studio bigwigs or when she goes to persuade Bette Davis to make Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, she wears fur, and plenty of jewellery. She even wears fur to visit her brother in hospital - he's been claiming to have an old smut film of her, from her early days in Hollywood, that he's prepared to sell. Fur is Joan's armour.
Bette wears trousers. Joan never, ever wears trousers. Bette wears full-skirted styles sometimes, Joan never does - her silhouette is always fitted. In fact, it's always a dress. No separates! Bette wears separates, and her style actually looks younger and more approachable. There's a scene later in the series on the set of Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte where Joan, in green gown for her scene, argues with Bette, and Bette is dressed in the same style and colours as the crew. She belongs, her outfit says.
Joan's garments are almost always monochromatic: dress and jackets match. (Queen Elizabeth II does the same thing so she can be seen from a distance. But Joan's not attracting any crowds at this point in her career...) As well as being distinctive, they're also isolating. Neither colour nor silhouette bleed into her surroundings. Joan is complete in herself, but also part of very little around her. It's telling that in the scenes where she's relaxing at home she wears kaftan-type garments, not as uptight, not as controlled.
Her jewellery is always big. Go big or go home - and no-one sends Joan home. The more important the occasion, the more she piles on the sparkle. She who sparkles most is the biggest star, right? Maybe not – but she's doing her darndest make people think that.

Finally, let's take time to hail the hats of Hedda, for they are gooood. And she clearly never met a necklace she didn't like either.

19 comments :

  1. I really enjoyed Feud and yes that was a pretty true depiction of Joan. I've read biographies of her and Bette, the book Feud (The Divine Feud) is based on and the books by both daughters (Bette's daughter did a nasty warts and all book too) Joan certainly wasn't the monster her eldest daughter made her out to be but she wasn't particularly nice either.

    As you may have gathered I am a HUGE fan of biographies!

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    1. I read The Divine Feud years ago - of course, thinking I wouldn't read it again I gave it to a chazza and I'm now regretting that. This is why books should be hoarded... Ah, what a monster!

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  2. I was hoping someone would do a fashion roundup from this show - thank you!! I loved Feud, best thing that's been on in ages. Though it's set in the 60s/70s it was so current in terms of the issues about women still so pertinent (and unresolved!) today. Great to see two non-teenage female leads. I have books on both stars, must read them this year! X

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    1. It's a great show, isn't it? I read somewhere that the next Feud will be Charles/Di; count me out for that one.

      Hmm, now you're making me wonder if I should do some of the other outfits.

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  3. I find it frightening, looking at these photos that I could easily recreate most of Joan's outfits from pieces I have in my wardrobe. Haven't watched Feud yet. I liked how Bette dressed late in life when she'd turn up dressed in Patrick Kelly.

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    1. If you've got that green/turquoise brocade suit, prepare to be burgled...

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    2. I have the skirt and a long waistcoat/sleeveless jacket in the identical fabric.
      One more reason you need to visit so you can steal my clothes ;)

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  4. I actually made a point of watching this over the Christmas hols whilst at home after your recommendation. Boy, was I not disappointed. It was magnificent. I loved the whole bitchfest and watched the whole thing in one sitting, ably abetted by a bottle of Christmas cheer. I even watched "Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte" as well. It was so hammy and over the top. Olivia de Havallind was great. You are right about the costumes. I thought that they did a great job of adding to the characters and story. Also the sets for the Bette and Joan's respective houses.Thanks for letting me know about this. It really made my hols. Xx

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    1. Apparently the real Olivia is suing for libel!

      My hen party consisted of me and a few goth chums drinking absinthe and watching Baby Jane and Sweet Charlotte. It was ace. Those films always go down better with a bottle...

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  5. Joan was horrid from all I've read. This was a great mini-series. I love Bette's style.
    Kim

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    1. Bette's style definitely seems easier to live with every day. Less of the star, more of an artist.

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  6. I dress monochromatically as I'm so short waisted & large busted I tend to look lollipop-shaped if I wear different colors on the top & bottom. Wearing long Indian tunics helps avoid the lollipop look too.
    A few large statement pieces of jewelry is more my style also- things that dangle look like they're bouncing on my ample figure!
    From what I've read neither Bette nor Joan were particularly nice nor happy people. I'd watch anything with such brilliant actors as Sarandon & Lange though.

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    1. The flow of desi clothing is definitely much kinder to a wider range of figures - western clothing seems very much designed around the slender and perky.

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  7. I would very happily wear most of these outfits! I haven't watched this yet but it is on my catch up list as everything I have heard about it is great.

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    1. Oh, do watch it! It's very, very good. There's plenty of substance behind the eye candy.

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  8. I didn't watch Feud, but I keep hearing it was goods, so now I'm regretting not having recorded it. I've heard it said that Joan was quite horrid, and I guess there must be some truth in it. I'm drooling over the outfits, and I'm especially taken with that pale green suit with the fur collar. The turquoise brocade one is quite covetable too. Thanks for all the eye candy! xxx

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    1. I'd love that brocade suit.

      I do wonder how much of her awfulness was a reaction to how she'd scraped her way up from nothing. In the show her furniture's all covered in plastic, and she really did that because after her scrappy childhood she couldn't bear dirt. There probably was a core part of her that would always have been horrid, though. Perhaps she'd never have become a star without it.

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  9. I haven't watched it yet but will do if for nothing else but the costumes! They look stunning.

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  10. I've got one episode to go on the first series of Feud and I have absolutely loved it so far. Both Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon are just brilliant and the best episode, Abandoned, was directed by the fantastic Helen Hunt. It's great to see female actors, who aren't the same old stick thin 22 year olds, making such good TV. We need more of it!

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