Film Noir was produced and distributed by Hollywood in the 1940s and early 1950s. Inspired by detective novels and short fiction, the black/white films were directed and designed to look like real life, reflecting the clothing choices of the audience. The Hollywood studio designers, who created coats, suits, skirts and blouses, and gowns for women characters, were in sympathy with the innovators of American sportswear; some, like Bonnie Cashin, spanned both worlds. In the 1940s, they complied with the restrictions of clothing and fabric rationing and showed the audience how to do it with style. As always in film, directors and performers used their costumes to convey character but (Spoiler Alert), in film noir, the clothing could often aid in deception and disguise. The images of women presented in the film stills, lobby cards, posters and designs from the The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts reveal the continuing influence of film noir fashion on the clothing of today.
At New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center