Fashion in Film: ‪Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo?‬

- By Loren Olson -

The opening sequence of Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? is one of the most perfect catwalk scenes ever captured on film.  Play it through and be awed. Pause it and study every detail. You won’t be disappointed.

It opens with a frantic backstage as models are literally bolted into sheets of aluminum. While director William Klein (a photographer of Vogue fame) intended the movie as a satire in 1966, their geometric get-ups look like Gareth Pugh’s next step.

The show begins with the arrival of Miss Maxwell, the fictional head of the fashion world (and a ringer for Klein’s editor, Diana Vreeland.) Her coterie descends on their reserved seats. The first model turns slowly and the editors lean in until they hear the word, “Magnifique.” Angelic music breaks out as Miss M approves the look.

Using wild camera angels, Klein shows us the models through the holes cut in their aluminum couture. Others are impossibly elongated, or deified as they rise into the air holding a pole for support. On the catwalk, the models are serene. Backstage, one screams and fights the assistants as she is cut by the sharp edges of her dress.

The fashionable crowd perches on wooden scaffolding around the catwalk. The space itself–a bizarre white brick church filled with little caves and arches–plays off the reflective surface of the metal. It’s impossibly chic.

Hair is pulled back in a tight bun, putting all the focus on the dark eye and brow created for the show. The deepest black shadow sweeps across the lid and almost to the temples with thick liner and lashes too heavy to lift. Almond shaped metallic nails look totally contemporary.

The camera celebrates each graceful head tilt, parting of lips, and arrangement of the hands. Models carry the number of their look before tossing it aside, their arms float beautifully.

No piece is left undone. The crowd is a sea of leggy trenches. The models emerge from the show in matching white shirt dresses, smiling into the crush of photographers. Did I mention it’s in French? That it’s the 1960s in all their black-and-white glory? Go watch it now!

A cult favorite amongst fashion lovers, Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? is a montage of stylish scenes. Dorothy McGowan (a model for Klein in real life) plays American supermodel Polly Maggoo as she adventures though France.

Costume designer:  Janine Klein, Hair by Carita.

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Loren Olson studies art and humanities at Yale.   She spends her free time 
working on Le Magazine, an independent fashion publication.

 

 

 

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