The Collection (2017) is an Amazon series that should be right up most Frock Flicks fans’ alley — it’s set in a just-post-World-War-II haute couture fashion house. The year is 1947, and brothers Paul and Claude Sabine are struggling to keep their couture atelier afloat, when the opportunity arises to take the lead in returning Paris to its central role in the fashion world. Also in the mix are the employees and clients of the fashion house, most notably young, troubled seamstress Nina, and the brothers’ family, like Paul’s American wife Helen (played by Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep).
So far, I’ve only caught two episodes, but what I saw, I enjoyed! It’s a British production, so the accents threw me a little — specifically Paul’s (Richard Coyle) English accent that was more working class than most of the other cast (I spent a good part of the first episode thinking, “Is he supposed to be FRENCH?” Which, yes).
The characters and stories that are being set up are interesting: Paul is the determined brains behind the business, Claude is the artistic genius, but their lives are complicated by some currently-unspecified-wartime-misdeeds on Paul’s part, and the fact that Claude is gay in an era where that Wasn’t Done. Their mother, Yvette (played by the fabulous Frances de la Tour), is a strong force in both of their lives. Meanwhile, young seamstress Nina has some skeletons in her closet that she is wrestling, plus she is being pursued by eager American photographer Billy for both artistic and amorous purposes. And there are other interesting characters who are clearly going to be developed.
I would like to see a bit more of the design/making process, but of course, that’s because I’m a sewer myself. There’s been a bit of it, most especially when designer Claude has a medication-induced dream in which he imagines his next collection — but not much in the way of sewing. Yet? I’m hopeful!
But let’s get to the important stuff, eh?
Costumes in The Collection
The costume designers are a French team who go by Chattoune + Fab, both of whom also designed Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (2009). The two told The Telegraph that they wanted to show the specifics of post-war fashion, avoiding the 1940s/1950s dichotomy and instead focusing specifically on 1947 — but avoiding making direct references to famed fashion designer Christian Dior (Inside The Collection, possibly the most glamorous series on TV).
The I-think-translated-from-Dutch-language-and-not-very-well site Hoholok.com has a detailed interview with the two, where they talk about balancing accuracy with the dreaded need-to-connect-with-a-contemporary-audience (all weird wordings are from this site, not typos!):
“We are both, however, if not historically accurate. We try to be as good as possible in the spirit of the time, but we are, of course, not in 1947, and have other materials, tools, and bodies available. The drawings are based on drawings from that time. We are in the archives of Palais Galliera, the modebibliotheek in Paris, go, go. For days we have all the fashion magazines from the forties studied. Was delicious that. The New Look of Christian Dior saw that year was born, and that is nicely documented in these archives… [Creator] Oliver [Goldstick] wanted to, of course, also that the clothes the contemporary audience. So not only we tried historically accurate, we also tried looks to create that contemporary feel. The old and the new combine to a certain degree of recognition. We want the public surprised about the beautiful haute couture. Fortunately, the New Look continued to be popular. Oliver is American, and you can see that the aesthetics of the show. Everything is a bit over the top. Because it’s a television show, and not real life, everything just got a little bigger, heavier and overdadiger’” (In the costume department of the television drama The Collection).
In general, I like what I’ve seen on screen! They’re definitely bringing the glamour, showing class and character differences, and hitting that just-post-war, just-barely-New-Look style of the late 1940s:
Have you caught The Collection yet? How well do you think they captured Parisian fashion in 1947?