Bill Cunningham and Fashion History

Since the release of Bill Cunningham, New York in 2010, the photographer has become something of a celebrity himself.  Bill started documenting what the people in the streets of New York were wearing way back in the 1960s, and by 1978 his photos became a regular feature in the New York Times.  Today he still does his weekly photo journalism piece, “On the Streets”, for the paper, and for the online Times he tapes a slideshow version.

To me, what really makes Bill important is that he has been a witness to a lot of fashion history.  On top of that, he is very well-read in fashion.  He can see a trend on the runways of 2014 and tell what from the past has been referenced by the designer.

I know that many people who love vintage clothing and who study fashion history are not particularly interested in today’s fashion.  But I find it fascinating to try and imitate Bill, and guess where the designer might have gotten the idea for the latest thing on the runway.

If you are not doing so already, I suggest that you watch Bill’s weekly online piece.  His delight in fashion is infectious, and sometime you might just learn something.  I love how in this week’s work he was able to trace a work from Dior’s show last fall to a feature on a dress from 1949.

Bill wrote a little about himself for the Times in 2002, and if you want to learn even more, the movie is a so much fun.   You can stream it from Netflix.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “Bill Cunningham and Fashion History

  1. Diana Coleman

    The movie is great. You can still cut his Boston accent with a knife. A true character!

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  2. I always look for Bill Cunningham’s column in the Times. He has such a good eye and a knack for coming up with interesting themes to show what people are wearing. I do miss being part of the fashion parade in NYC, my home in my 20s.
    Thanks for the link to the movie. I can’t wait to shoo the guys out of the house and watch it!

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  3. Thanks for the link! It was fun watching the vivid Dior outfits parading in front of a mostly black-clad audience in his video. Do you think that next year the audience will be blooming in primrose hues?
    P.S. I can’t help thinking how easy it is to make a silver brocade skirt….

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  4. I just watched this Lizzie and I loved it! He sounds just like my people and I researched him and he grew up right near my grandmother. I adore him. Last summer I was on Bellevue Ave in Newport and saw him whiz by on his bike. I believe he was on his way to the Newport Flower Show. I thought it was so endearing that his meager little abode is filled with fashion books. He and I have some of the same and they are my passion. I would rather read about Lanvin, Chanel, et al than a novel. Love him and hope he can keep going and going and going.

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