Watching brief

It’s winter, and as you curl up in your woollies thinking about things to do with your stash while the weather is not conducive to outdoor pursuits (or enticing you to take up skywatching) you might like to note that The Great British Sewing Bee is back to warm up the heart’s cockles and perhaps provide inspiration. The GBSB is one of the fuzzier reality programmes available, in which nice wholesome people wholesomely meet a range of home-sewing challenges which really do go from seriously cool to oops my eyes have just fallen out. But perfect for an autumnal Friday, which is when episodes are landing on TVNZ+.

TV and films with strong sartorial content tend to come in waves and 2024 is turning into another bumper year. The first run of streaming tended to haute nostalgia. Disney started off with Balenciaga; the Master also has a few lines in The New Look, Apple’s series on Paris, couture and the war, centring on Christian Dior’s war and post-war experiences. The New Look stars Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn as Dior, and Maisie Williams as his resistance-heroine sister Catherine. Dior’s WWII story is pretty much on the side of the angels, but there’s a competing strand in the story of Coco Chanel’s much more ambiguous occupation experience. Chanel is Juliet Binoche, John Malkovich is couture elder statesman and Dior’s boss Lucien Lelong, The opening credits are just exquisite, the fashion gossip is a hoot and the history moving. There’s an entire episode on the Petite Theatre de la Mode, the post-war miniatures that gave the struggling industry a profile reboot – it’s interesting, if a bit odd. And the series finishes with the 1947 collection that made Dior a household name, so yes, you do get close time with the construction of the Bar Suit.

There is more Dior to be found in movies currently streaming. TVNZ+ has the contemporary French drama, Haute Couture, about a Dior seamstress who takes in a mugger, and Mrs Harris goes to Paris via Netflix from 25 May. On movie screening site Mubi, there’s a third Dior tie in, High and Low – John Galliano, which may yet hit a bigger screen here. As the title suggests, it covers the designer’s rise to the plum job of creative director at Dior, the shameful incident that ended it and how he’s worked towards redemption since.

Fashion gets to be larger than life in a number of films either around or imminent. The Resene Design and Architecture festival is delivering again with Fashion Reimagined, the story of designer Amy Powney’s work to create a sustainable collection. The festival brochure contains the national screening schedule.

Finally, through Exhibition on Screen the trans-Atlantic Sargent in Fashion exhibition. This exhibition, which showed in Boston last year, is at the Tate Britain until 7 July, and presents many of John Singer Sargent’s most renowned society portraits alongside the garments worn by their sitters, or similar garments. John Singer Sargent: Fashion & Swagger shows the exhibition larger than life, and also gives those involved the opportunity to explain the concept and context of the mixed media exhibition. Check out your local cinemas for screenings.

Leave a Reply