Fashion on the Ice and Snow (1940), Prelinger Archive
As this promotional film for Sacony, ‘America’s Number One Name in Sportswear’ attests, winter fashions have long been a preoccupation. And as those of us who are lucky enough to work at Somerset House know, the ice rink makes a dynamic addition to our everyday landscape, its shining surface and the perpetual movement of its visitors, a stark contrast to the regimented architecture and grey skies above. While most of us probably reach for jeans when we go skating, the 1940s fashions shown in the film suggest a more self-conscious approach to dressing, in terms of both style and practicality. I thought it would be interesting to watch the film as part of our series of ‘Winter Mode’ posts, which reflect on the research and ideas generated from our display for Fashioning Winter.
The film glides – literally and figuratively – from black and white scenes of skiers shooting down snow-clad mountains, to a full-colour show of skating and related fashions. The breathless commentary reflects the speed of the winter sports, and gives a sense of urgency to the images. Movement and landscape are used to entice consumers to associate Sacony – a brand that developed in the 1920s – with garments that work with the body, enhancing skill, while remaining stylish.
The narrator conflates wearer, activity and dress, stating that the clothes are ‘just as strong as the American girl.’ And the outfits shown celebrate adaptability and attention to detail – they are designed and manufactured to fit closely, protecting wearers from the cold and wet, ensuring they stay in place, even during a fall in the snow.
The first section mimics documentary film, its stark black and white footage mirroring sports coverage of the time and adding to the sense of professionalism. Whereas the later section focuses on fashion expertise, with models presenting Sacony’s range outside, against a backdrop of chalets and other après ski scenes. This colour section leans on spectacle – first a skating display of women in identical, ultra feminine outfits that speak of the ballet dancer, rather than the workwear inspirations that dominate the styles shown next. These comprise neat bomber jackets and trousers, tucked into sturdy boots. Tops are reversible, pockets edged with colours, as primaries and darker shades are combined to provide a sense of dynamic layers. Practicality is paramount – we are told that ‘no snow sneaks inside’ the special inner cuffs used to keep the wearer completely warm and dry. There is a continual sense of optimism – the film is edited to give viewers the sense of move seamlessly from rink or ski slope to ‘Winter Wonderland’ resort. We are encouraged to imagine the feel of the clothes, as models slide gauntlet gloves off and on, squeeze them into pockets and the rich colours allow us to think of the experience of wearing soft wool sweaters under fitted jackets.
The mix of masculine/unisex separates is again quite different from the skating ensembles shown. These retain the limited but striking colour range, while bringing focus to the women’s legs, with full, knee-length skirts that have bright linings. These would spool out from the body while skating, adding vivid reds to the monochrome of the ice rink.
The film’s final shot reinforces Sacony’s message. A line up of models wear the full spectrum of its range – from the skiwear shown, to swimsuits and ‘spectator’ sportswear, the casual, but smart separates for everyday wear that would become a defining feature of American fashion. We are also reminded of ready-to-wear’s promise: Sacony boasts that its garments are both good quality and reasonably priced, and, the final sleight of hand of mass-manufactured fashion, ‘Very Exclusively Yours.’