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Puttin’ on the Glitz at The British Library: A Look Back

A fortnight ago to the day, Clothes on Film creator and editor Christopher Laverty joined fashion historian Amber Jane Butchart to give one of two talks and a Q&A chat at The British Library in London. The subjects under discussion were, respectively, the unexpectedly colourful clothing of Prohibition era gangsters as portrayed in the HBO television series Boardwalk Empire, and the influence of movies and movie star style on fashion during The Jazz Age. After Christopher and Amber finished their talks to a delighted audience (they clapped), everyone reconvened to the elegant backdrop of the main library grounds to swig cocktails and dance the night away to Alex Mendham & His Orchestra.

Amber Butchart Hollywood_Puttin on the Glitz_British Library_Photograph by LUCA SAGE-001

Chrstopher Laverty Nucky_Puttin on the Glitz_British Library_Photograph by LUCA SAGE-001

The occasion itself was part of The British Library’s spring events list, here focusing on their generally overlooked and untapped resources. For example, Amber’s engrossing journey into Hollywood pre-costume designers – though conversely one that echoes the industry’s current trend for tie-in consumerism – drew strongly on fashion journals, images and texts most folk probably do not even realise still exist let alone are available to read. Christopher’s exploration of the so-called dandy gangster also drew on research materials easily obtainable at the library, in addition to several archive prints. Obviously the point of this evening from The British Library’s point of view was to promote their facilities and sheer overt beauty of the venue itself. But really this was a night out for anyone interested in vintage era fashion, male or female, dressing up, supping period cocktails, and chortling loudly about the demise of stiff collars and side lacers.

Highlights of the whole shebang can be seen in this video produced by The Vintage News below:

and this video of Christopher Laverty’s ENTIRE TALK (if you’ve got a spare half hour):

From Clothes on Film’s end we are not going to deconstruct either lecture because a) those that missed the event might get another chance to catch them both live in the future, and b) we were too busy doing our talk to take much notice of whether it was actually any good or not. We did watch Amber’s of course and, as already stated, it was utterly engrossing, so much so that we almost missed our cue. It was about the depravity and hedonism of Jazz Age Hollywood for goodness sake! Come on. Incidentally to those asking (and there have been a couple), Christopher was wearing a late 1970s era dark blue wide pinstripe 3 piece suit by Wellington. Shirt was a lightweight pink poplin with white broadcloth contrast collar and cuffs custom made by Deo Veritas. Shoes mid-70’s tan leather slip-ons by Lotus.

Fleur Vintage Mafia_Puttin on the Glitz_British Library_Photograph by LUCA SAGE-001

Dancing_Puttin on the Glitz_British Library_Photograph by LUCA SAGE-001

To sum up, The British Library, via unflappable gold-brogued overseer Kissley Leonor, put on a magnificent bash. Big pat on the back too to the exquisite Vintage Mafia ladies for staging one heck of an after party while floating around (literally it seemed at times) in equally exquisite frocks. Also Pretty Me Vintage for styling willing patrons’ hair in everything from beehives to victory rolls, Mr. Alex Mendham and orchestra for being seriously, seriously amazing, The Vintage News for recording all goings on in the most delightfully genial way, and finally all of those who managed to come watch, partake and enjoy themselves. You cannot beat a trip down fashion’s memory lane bolstered by a few cocktails and a Charleston or two. It is what Friday night was made for.

Puttin’ on the Glitz at the British Library took place on 28th March. Further event details and photographs are available HERE.

All images copyright Luca J Sage.

© 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.