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Fashion and cinema: “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Research Paper


Fashion especially in Hollywood films has become one of the most significant elements that have been used to draw more appealing features in cinema. One such example of fashion and its expression of character and practice have been clearly depicted in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany.

Fashion signals an individual’s status in a social group as it will be examined in this paper. In addition, fashion also depicts social mobility, describes the ability of a person to comfortably fit among the diverse social backgrounds in society and indexes social affluence as well. This paper analyses fashion and cinema in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s by applying various theories on fashion, social trends and structuralism in society.

A brief overview of the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The movie Breakfast at Tiffany of 1961 was directed by Blake Edwards. It starred Patricia Neal, George Peppard and Audrey Hepburn. In his review of the movie, Tiffany (2006, p.14) indicates that this heart wrenching and anguishing drama displays charm, romance, fashion and the influence of modernity.

He adds that the movie has major themes that have been used to depict mood, style and social lifestyles. The core theme in the movie is freedom versus stability that has been used to reflect conflicting relationship structures between Holly and the narrator. Other themes in the movie include fashion as commodity, nature versus culture as well as rebirth among others.

Theoretical perspectives

The character identified as Holly in Breakfast at Tiffany plays an identifiable and memorable role that displays modernity as a socially progressive thought which she uses to affirm her ability to use fashion, knowledge and practical experimentation to create, shape and improve her environment.

According to Pierre Bourdieu, modernity is an important phenomenon in the sense that it entails changes which may be influenced by economic and capital reasons. He adds that in the due process of pursuing and embracing modernity, the distribution of cultural and economic capital defines a structure that constitutes a dominant class.

His argument absolutely applies to the movie whereby Holly’s exaggerated love and infatuation to what is modern. The latter was also found to supersede the notion of modernity. This reflects how factors such as capital, fashion and wealth can impact on an individual’s practical choices and influence others at the same time.

The above view concurs with those of Scott (2011, p. 208) and Nayar (2011, p.176) who indicate that modernity relates to tendencies that manifest in different domains. According to Bourdon, this tendency has a discrete concept linked to capitalism, social relations, social science, existentialism, Marxism and secularization.

It is worth mentioning that modernity has been expressed through fashion with regards to the movie Breakfast at Tiffany and has not been united among all casts. Nevertheless, r it has been more or less radical depending on the likes and dislikes of a character like Holly. These are some of the intriguing features in the movie that makes it quite interesting and captivating to the audience.

Bourdieu also points out that fashion as a cultural good is a critical element used by film makers to communicate important messages to the targeted consumers. This concurs with Pugh (2002, p. 130) who argue that an effective understanding and use of cultural goods such as fashion in a movie creates a dyadic and interconnected relationship between consumers and actors.

The latter is also critical in influencing exchange of information. In the movie, the character depicted by Holly Golightly expounds nature and culture since she associates with entertainment and impressive aspects of life. In addition, Pugh notes that the aforementioned ties are part of a process where decoding and deciphering of information is done on behalf of consumers.

Nayar (2011, p.176) indicates that using actors in a film to endorse fashion pushes into the minds of the public novelties and innovation. As noted earlier, cinema has a powerful affect in the minds of the audience. It is worth noting that cinema has a unique tone and consciousness even as it is being relayed to the audience. Scholars like Scott (2011, p. 208) and Holbrook (1998, p. 32) use interactive perspective to link cultural good to the regular needs of consumers of various film products.

The purpose of Breakfast at Tiffany is deeply concerned with a shift in consumer culture. As such, it portrays Holly as novella’s symbol of art and fashion seen in her signature appearance and a self constructed persona. Her self-fashioning is a work of creation that curves a personal affection and captures the appeal and affection of consumers.

Simmel in his modernity theory points out that even though fashion is important in defining modernity and change of culture, it has a broader social phenomenon. The movie Breakfast at Tiffany displays Audrey Hepburn’s fashion and style as glamorous, classic and simple. Pugh (2002, p. 130) indicates that her looks expresses fashion in glamorous accessories and breathtaking pieces of outfit.

Unlike Maslow in his hierarchical theory, Simmel is of the view that clothes are merelyonly basic needs, but are part of fashion. They are used to decorate individuals and groups and also aid in giving identity. Pugh adds that human needs are arranged in a hierarchical mode with each set to meet some unique social and psychological requirement. Under this category, clothes which are used for fashion are basic for human survival and are particularly used to differentiate one social group from another.

The view above reflects the notion by Simmel that fashion is based on imitation, emulation and innovation and is an important element that differentiates classes. The feeling of belonging and self esteem that is brought about by fashion have greater connotation of modernity and the need for intimacy in an individual.

As the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s reflects, fashion plays an important role in social relations and forms a key element for generating the need of achieving a better and higher level in the hierarchy of needs. Fashion is also instrumental towards self actualization.

Historically, modernity is a body of concepts and tendencies that are believed to have emerged in the first half of the nineteenth century and contributes to social fragmentation and trends towards cinematic fashion and romanticism. According to the theory of leisure class by Veblen, the development of modernity was driven by numerous and diverse contemporary aspects and interrelated processes such as public consumption and capitalism.

One of the major developments of cinematic fashion as reflected in modernity is the creation of a process whereby knowledge on consumer needs and effective communication are cultivated to increase the ability of consumers to understand and interpret what they see. According to Veblen, the aforementioned perspective as displayed in the fashion aspects of the movie indicates that the leisurely class uses dressing to express their way of life and social phenomenon.

From an interactive perspective, Holbrook (1998, p. 36) indicates that fashion plays a critical role in the formation of classes and this impact on relationships. Veblen in his theory points out that different individuals vary in terms of status, power and class depending on the nature of prevailing fashion.

In reiterating the above, it is worth mentioning that fashion has become one of the significant elements that has been used to draw more appeal in cinema. As noted from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany, modernity is a socially progressive thought which has been brought out through fashion to affirm the ability to use style, knowledge and practical experimentation to create, shape and improve environment.

Using various modernity theories, the above portion of the analysis has clearly indicated that modernity is an important phenomenon that encompasses adjustments and which according to the theory by Pierre Bourdieu, may be influenced by economic and capital reasons. Besides, it has come out clearly that modernity and fashion enables the distribution of cultural and economic capital. These components may also define a structure that constitutes a dominant class.

In addition, it is imperative to highlight the relative contribution of Simmel’s theory who is quite emphatic that the value attached to clothes has already transcended a basic need. As a matter of fact, clothing forms forms an important part of fashion and lifestyle which are integral part of humanity especially in the current age of modernity. As depicted in the movie, clothes are largely used to decorate individuals and groups and are also useful in giving identity.

The 1960s and structuralism

The film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is set in the period during the Second World War in New York (Capote 2000, p. 2). The film is narrated in the first person point of view. In the scene, we find a young lady, Holly Golightly who the author uses to demonstrate how style and fashion has influenced people’s choices in life (Capote 2000, p. 12).

It is against this backdrop that structuralism has also been expounded in this section as the paper an important theory that is linked to fashion and genera social life. Structuralism theory by Jean Baudrillard and Roland Barthes has been used to analyze how the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s influences the fashion and people’s choice.

It is imperative to note that Holly Golithly is the major icon and the novella in the film. For this case, the image she portrays in the scene is more of a reflection of real life, a factor that makes the cinema more appealing. The appearance and roles she plays in the scene has significantly influenced the fashion, film making and sex life in America. According to Davis (1992, p.72), most films such as the Sex and the City owe much gratitude to this movie since it has acted as a major cultural touchstone for decades.

From a careful review of literature, Jean Baudrillard explains through his theory that every good thing has a social significance and hence can tell more about the users (Davis 1992, p, 72). For instance, in the film ,Holly is very conscious in her dressing in order to protect her public image (Capote 2000, p. 34). Notably, the author presents Holly with a little but descent black dress, a factor that indicates that she struggles to play a role as a classic movies star and a mother too.

In addition, Baudrillard argues that there are many ways in which one can access the value and significance of an object in the modern world (Davis 1992, p.195). The function, sign, symbolic and exchange value are important features to consider. For this reason, the author in the film has portrayed specific objects to depict a particular value, symbolism or even sign. For instance, the author portrays the novella with elegant dressing styles to denote her position in the scene and in the society.

In line with this, Barthe Ronald argues that fashion is a system due to the fact that it has a set of elements that are related to each other (Davis 1992, p.7). Additionally, he complements that the whole part can be defined by looking at the relation that exist between the composite parts.

For instance, in order to understand the fashion style used in the film, it is important to consider the dressing style, houses and make ups used by the characters. To emphasize on this, the dressing style and make ups used by Holly have been embraced by designers in 21st century.

Notably, Holly being the most quintessential fashion model in the film mostly wore black dresses that made her clean lines to stand out. Moreover, they also have shapes that emphasized her gamine and slender physique (Capote 2000, p. 72). Moreover, she wore simple styles but was classic and glamorous. In this case, the choice of style, dress colour and shape defined her fashion.

Needless to say, most of the youths in the modern world have embraced the elegant fashion style and more designers have also epitomized it. Furthermore, it has been noted that in the scene, Holly wore cinch-waistcoats on cold weather that made her appear more romantic and classy. That notwithstanding, in the scene the novella appears fond of belted waist, collared and long-sleeved blouses.

Needless to say, Holly embraced to wear oversized sunglasses, stripped scarf, elbow-length cloves, boots and floppy hats that made her appear like a party girl (Capote 2000, p. 80). Certainly, all these features define her fashion choice and have therefore continued to influence global fashion.

Notably, Holly knew what was good for her and hence she attracted her audience’s attention due to her smartness. According to Bruzzi and Gibson (2000, p. 12) most of the people’s choice of clothes, hats, shoes and other accessories have similar designs to that of the characters in the film scene.

Besides, Barthe asserts that fashion system becomes the sum total of social relations and activities done by a group of people (Davis 1992, p.6). This implies that people must interact and share something in common for fashion to come into existence. Therefore, fashion is not about an individual person neither a single element. Instead numerous elements that define or distinguished a group of people can be regarded to cause fashion to exist (Davies 1992, p.132).

However, one can argue that Holly in the scene represents a certain group of people and the distinct feature of her fashion style is the sum total of the preference by the group. Moreover, taking Barthe’s argument, the current generation has constituent features in their fashion style and choices that have their origin in the film (Davis 1992, p.5).

Nevertheless, in regards to fashion, Barthes comprehends that people should understand that there is rich meaning and symbolism on the choice of person which people adopt. For instance, Holly is determined to stand out as an artificial object in the stage despite the fact that most people have a negative attitude towards her outfit. Research has revealed that people’s choice of fashion has been greatly influenced without considering the real implication it has on their social life.

In this case, it is important that people should positively consider the implication of some physical attributes in fashions they adopt. In addition it is worthy to appreciate the purpose and the body physique before one indulges in copying any fashion. Needless to say, the fact remains that since fashion is a social drive, acceptance is quite important.

It is vital to mention that the film has highly influenced the choice people make in life. From the film, Holly is able to understand her body physique and hence goes for what is best for her, a factor that makes the audience to admire her fashion style. In connection to this, it is important to mention that most people have their choices of fashion influenced by the movie star due to her elegance and beauty even though it all depends with their personal purpose.

Post modernism

Postmodernism is based on the modern culture in which folks believe that lifestyles have already been set and that all they need is to appropriate their choices. Fashion has been developing over the years. In reference to Blumer’s argument, fashion takes an extremely extensive domain.

As a matter of fact, fashion entails more than people’s adornment of costumes (Horl 2012, p. 102). One of the major concerns of many individuals is the relationship between fashion styles and post modernism. Although the era of postmodernism has proved to a very transient one, Evans (2007, p. 75) points out that it is a flexible period in which art forms are highly dynamic. In this case postmodernism and fashion preferences are viewed as pivotal points from which people draw their art choices.

On a street in New York early in the morning a cab pulls in front of the Tiffany & Co. To a set of highly melodic violin tunes, in a lengthy Givenchy gown, noticeable pearls and heels, a majestic lady comes out of the cab. Her exposed shoulders smoothly argue with her sunglasses.

Nevertheless, the perfect outfits successfully depict her high status (Smith 2011, p.24). Indeed, this lady gets up for the occasion and takes her Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This is one remarkable scene in the phenomenal movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It has been one of the well known original movies for many years. Evans (2007, p. 154) indicates that the movie and cinema changed the way people looked at body accessories, general appearances and most remarkably, their fashion choices.

Blumer is keen to account for this intrinsic power of fashion which influences every person (Horl 2012, p. 96). Like Blumer, Lipovetsky observes that fashion spreads even when close attention is not paid to it. He notes that fashion productions and consumptions are not discrete (Horl 2012, p. 99). They keep on shifting from one style to another.

This was a great inspiration to the already transformed women and has still been influential to many individuals today. Many people refer to the occurrences of this classical movie as one of the authentic American ways of presenting one’s self (Welters & Lillethun 2011, p. 300).

This has been a motivation to several of independent stylish folks. Being romantic at heart, many have aspired to create highly romantic wardrobes. Studies reveal that majority of couples across the globe invested in personalizing their wardrobes. This was associated with the luxurious but fashionable picture of the film production.

It is worth noting that the transition experienced in progresses of fashion in post-modernism is controversial. Given that a reconstruction of the style of this movie is necessary for it to be understood, it is clear that post modernism can exist without strife in order to authenticate truth.

The standards and ideals of Breakfast at Tiffany’s do not seek to substitute the norms of culture. It should be noted that fashion is about emulation of innovations. According to postmodernism, this is an illustration of how human experiences borrow life styles without efforts to get to full understanding of what they entail. A recommendation which will finish the strains of postmodernism is the principle of allowing modernism culture to become a rightful element of the society.

Over the years, pearls have been worn with dresses. Ladies opt to use the afore mentioned style which went forth to show their status in society. This is a result of the influence of the cinema which induces feelings of closeness with its quirky panache (Evans 2007, p. 106). Many could not contain their excitement in response to the hilarious movie. It is evident that a wave of imitating the lifestyle was (then) aroused (Smith 2011, p.46).

Lousy attempts to live according to the standards of the movie have been observed across all American states. The elbow length gloves have their publicity from the time of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. People began to explore the Tiffany exposed meaning of fashion. This exploration was highly supported by the emergence of postmodern styles. As a matter of fact, it was and has been a unique way of making the appearance of persons.

The creations are made to follow the preferences of specific people. The principal of using clothing to represent class in the society is no longer the major motivation (Welters & Lillethun 2011, p. 300). The choices of fashion made have an inherent function of showing the freedom of people as depicted in this movie.

Movies have an inseparable inter relationship with fashion (Smith 2011, p. 102). They have to be closely related due to their informative nature. Welters and Lillethun (2011, p. 405) point out that film makers ensure that they communicate social contexts, identities, personalities and character. This makes them an invaluable media which enables people to have fashion experiences. The movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s is an icon which gave the state a long lasting and perfect experience.

It influenced the world by setting an iconic trend. This was a trend which could not be repelled by a highly dynamic postmodern culture. Moments in this global set of cinematic movie gave it the full authority and command to influence generations. It has been possible to challenge the social frame works of the current world given that things do not seem to be too controversial in familiarizing with postmodernism.

One may also desire to buy Lipovetsky’s findings that fashion has a climax stage (Horl 2012, p. 97). A point comes in the development of fashion when everyone wants to have it. This is observed in the case of the Breakfast at Tiffany’s outfits. Their widespread imitation comes as the optimum attraction. It is true to note that the movie is just a vessel which communicates the fashion styles therein.

In reference to the impact of the hilarious cinema piece, it should be noted that viewing the pictures in the movie cannot raise controversy like the case was in earlier years. I agree with Evans (2007, p. 140), when he feels that human bodies are not viewed as objects any more.

There has come an influential empowerment of peoples’ freedom of choice. Postmodernism has enabled societies to embrace different opinions without faultfinding. Such movies have successfully given powerful explanations which rationalize the existence of a variety of fashion styles.

It will therefore be an act of utter ignorance if it is not noted that the movie is a true fashion icon which displayed the power of dressing. People from all scores of life have been able to experiment the culture of the cinema. From hats and hair makes, pigtails have become common features in the society. There are many eventful observations to make in regard to how this movie impacted American fashion.

The post modern American lady is out to rock the world with the brimmed hats which have a camouflage effect (Tiffany 2006, p. 5). This has been handy just like it is in the movie where it comes with colorful headscarf placed gently under the chin. Button earrings and subtle necklaces are highly admonished.

The movie has presented a new fashion choice for people to adore before they hit forty. Due credit has to be given to the dress of the cinema which has happened to become a convenient staple protective blanket for Americans. It is given a confirmation of authenticity by the way it flooded the american market (Welters & Lillethun 2011, p. 601). Many women developed a pursuit of the fancy look of Holly and Audrey in the Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

In addition to other potential factors, the cinema movie boosted the universal publicity of Tiffany & Co. The popularity of buying jewels at this particular firm in a modern capitalist market can only be explained using the general fashion transition experienced in the American population. It was not easy to hold people back.

They had to gain the iconic outfits to cure a resonating effect in the bottom of their hearts. Smith (2011, p. 121) finds the movie quite powerful when he posits that it does not require a review or strategic trailers for it to maintain its highly felt and wanting legacy of influencing fashion preferences (Smith 2011, p. 121). The impeccable style presented by Holly will definitely continue to inspire the glamour of women of this generation.

In wrapping up this discussion, it is important to note that in regards to the era of postmodernism, there is much to deduce from fashion and style. It should be understood that fashion in itself, is an element of postmodernism. Fashion builds on the major events of human culture. Although it deconstructs several meanings of the intentions of different authors, every single detail can be attached to a given scenario such as the case of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.


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