In Bright Star, a new film about the poet John Keats, the opening shot is of a needle being threaded and then plunged into a piece of fabric. You don’t see hands, so there’s no sense of scale to the enormous close-ups, which make the needle look like a spear, the thread like heavy cable.
Director Jane Campion is letting you know that Fanny Brawne — the poet’s muse, who made a point of designing and making her own clothes in 1818 — took her sewing seriously.
Fanny is part of a sort of on-screen sewing circle at the multiplex right now. The title character in Coco Before Chanel is the little-black-dress designer who came along a century after Brawne. The editors of Vogue spend their screen time accessorizing their annual fashion bible in September Issue, and a celebrated designer gets celebrated all over again in Valentino: The Last Emperor.
Hollywood’s always had a way of falling for couture, of course, but the falls this fall feel a little different — more process-oriented, more about the business and people of fashion than about the name-dropping and look-dropping that extends back from the Jimmy Choo-crazed gals in Sex and the City to their great-grand-aunts in The Women, way back in 1939.