Recently, I’ve found myself slightly obsessed with fashion’s recurring tendency to reference earlier decades. Different from today’s mishmash of nostalgia, Instead, I’m thinking of those brief moments (in the past) that romanticize and riff off of the idea of a different, slightly older past. What it says about human nature, about creativity, and about how we want to dress. The 1960s returning to the lean boyish dress silhouettes of the 1920s, or the iconic 1980s powersuits – referencing women’s suits of the 1940s. On Pins and Needles published a great series, Uniformed Individuality: Military-Inspired Fashion of the 1980s, which does a phenomenal job highlighting some examples of this.
This doesn’t only happen in fashion, of course. One example in the world of illustration is Guido Crepax’s hommage to Louise Brooks.
From my first encounter with the Italian illustrator’s work nearly a decade ago, I had always been intrigued. But the raw eroticism was a little on the shocking side for me when I was younger, and it wasn’t until I came across one of his books when I worked at a used bookstore in 2010 that I began to seek out his work more actively.
Soon after, I met his fresh young character, Valentina, and was hooked.
It wasn’t surprising to quickly discover that this modern sixties character, a sexually liberated intellectual fashion photographer, was directly inspired by (my favourite silent film actress) Louise Brooks. Not only that, but Guido Crepax wrote letters to her, and – much to his surprise – she wrote back! They corresponded up until her death, in 1985.
Here are a handful of my favourite drawings of his, mostly done between 1963-1973. Before you scroll down, heads up, NSFW (unless you work in a really cool place).
Are you feeling the Fernand Fonssagrives vibes there?
I spent a bit of time trying to find out whether or not Crepax’s drawings made any interesting forays into fashion, but aside from cheesy tote bags and awful flip-flops, there isn’t much to speak of. I was disappointed, since I had come across this image in a copy of Russian Vogue I skimmed through (as much as one can skim a Russian fashion magazine when you do not read/speak Russian) while waiting at my seamstress’ atelier.
But when I looked it up online? Very 1980s sweaters. Odd that 1960s drawings, paying homage to a 1920s silent film star can look so gaudily 1980s on a runway… in 2012.
This is all the more disappointing because of how stylish and well-dressed Valentina always is, whether she be in full-on Louise Brooks mode or modern 1960s babe.
Let’s end with something that feels like a drawing of my dream life, a perfect image of Brooks in her later days. Here’s a drawing that quotes Brooks’ letters verbatim.
You have brought peace to my last years. For 69 years I have been frantically searching for myself. And now you tell me that I am a “myth.” What a blessing. Henceforth I shall disintegrate in bed with my books, cigarettes, coffee, bread, cheese and apricot jam.
Regards, Louise Brooks.
You said it, Louise. Preach.
- Guido Crepax: Valentina Movie @ Rome’s Palazzo Incontro (June 7th, 2012)
- The Louise Brooks Society Blog (posts tagged Guido Crepax)
- Valentina in Rome – Italian Vogue (May 29, 2012)
- The Eponymous Bobster by Joana Avillez
- Evie Blake: Valentina’s World
- Cart Gallery, Ciak: Valentina (Italian)