Nicole Truscinski, author of today's post, is currently a graduate student in the Costume Studies MA program at NYU. Prior to her internship at the FIDM Museum, she worked for six years in a designer vintage showroom in New York City. Her research focuses on costume design, media, and their relationship to fashion. Read on to learn what Nicole discovered when she delved into our vast 20th century clothing label collection!
As someone who obsesses over costume design - how it fits the character and the story, or how it might influence fashion designers and the masses - I was especially excited to join the team at the FIDM Museum this summer while they prepared for the 11th Annual Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design exhibition. In the weeks that we spent dressing the mannequins with costumes from shows like The Crown, Westworld, The Handmaid’s Tale and Stranger Things, it was incredible not only to see the construction and craftsmanship behind the pieces, but to feel a connection to the characters and the fictional worlds in which they reside.
Since the advent of moving pictures, audiences have connected with film and television costume design, the characters’ ensembles influencing fashion in a multitude of ways. The relationship between fashion and costume design might manifest itself in direct partnerships - like that of Banana Republic and Mad Men or The Limited and Scandal - or in aesthetic details that fashion designers, retail buyers, and consumers alike have culled from their favorite costumes. Costume design continues to inspire audiences, as the public’s recent response to a certain dragon queen’s winter look might suggest!
And yet, there is another way in which a fashion brand might capitalize on the public’s love for film and television: through the names of the brands themselves. During my first week interning, curator Kevin Jones introduced me to a collection of labels acquired by the museum, with names such as “Funny Girl” and “Paper Moon.” Upon looking through the labels, I wondered what the relationship between the original media and these companies might be.
A selection of the vintage fashion labels in the FIDM Museum’s collection.
After Funny Girl was released on Broadway (1964) and in film (1968), the movie’s title and costumes influenced a number of manufacturers. In 1968, Mr. Roberts Fashions acquired an exclusive license to manufacture tops based on the film’s costumes, while in January of 1969, the film’s producers granted another company, Phyllis Inc., the ability to use the name “Funny Girl” for its new line of girls’ sportswear.
Funny Girl label, FIDM Museum collection.
This label in the FIDM Museum’s collection (above) corresponds to a later iteration of the “Funny Girl” name, a junior denim and sportswear line owned by Salant & Salant. As one can see from the advertisement originally published in Seventeen below, the designs do not correspond to Irene Sharaff’s period costumes for the film; however, the “Funny Girl” name and its association with the Broadway show are capitalized in the marketing of the brand in an earlier ad in Women’s Wear Daily.
Left: Funny Girl advertisement, Seventeen, March 1981. ProQuest. Right: Funny Girl advertisement, Women’s Wear Daily, April 12, 1978. ProQuest.
Salant & Salant’s Funny Girl division was announced in 1978 and had a showroom in New York’s garment district, though the label closed prior to September 1983.
Another junior fashion line appears to have participated in the trend of using a film’s title as its brand name: Paper Moon. Following the release of Paper Moon in 1973, the “budget junior and misses’ dress operation” by Yvette Stelzer and Dyke Kolbert was announced in July of 1974. Below is the brand’s label, included in the collection here at the FIDM Museum.
Paper Moon label, FIDM Museum collection.
Like Funny Girl, Paper Moon was based in New York City’s garment district, though there is little information regarding the true origin of the brand’s name or if there was any sort of arrangement with the film’s producers.
This Charlie’s Angels label (below left), with its use of the television show’s logo, corresponds to the denim line in this advertisement from Women’s Wear Daily in April of 1979.
Top: Charlie’s Angels denim label, FIDM Museum collection. Bottom: Charlie Angel’s designer jeans advertisement. Women’s Wear Daily, April 17, 1979. ProQuest.
When I initially examined the following two labels, for Charlie’s Girls and Charlie’s Mustache, I imagined that they were also direct responses to the Charlie’s Angels television show.
Charlie’s Girls and Charlie’s Mustache labels, FIDM Museum collection.
However, I was surprised to discover that Charlie's Girls was announced in 1966, 10 years before Charlie's Angels premiered on television! The label was a junior sportswear brand under the parent company Helen Harper, Inc., and in 1971 Charlie's Mustache was developed as a dress offshoot of Charlie's Girls. Curiously, some advertising for Charlie's Girls featured a man with three women - not unlike the composition of Charlie and his "Angels" in the late '70s.
Charlie’s Girls advertisement. New York Times, February 2, 1969. ProQuest.
The labels discussed here are a small highlight of the collection at the FIDM Museum. As pictured at the beginning of this post, there are additional labels that appear to tie in with film and television, though more research is necessary to determine the relationships.
In researching the labels, it was fascinating to discover how film and television might influence fashion in a way that is not in the clothing aesthetic itself. Will we see brand names inspired by current film and television in the future? One wonders!
 "'Funny Girl' Blouses." Women’s Wear Daily, August 12, 1968; "The Sportswear & Leisure Living: Phyllis Adding Funny Girl Unit." Women’s Wear Daily, January 2, 1969.
 "Sportswear Briefs." Women’s Wear Daily, March 27, 1978.
 "Sportswear Briefs." Women’s Wear Daily, March 27, 1978 ; "Stanwood Ends Pact on Supam Commission." Women’s Wear Daily, September 1, 1983.
 "A Look in-Store: Rtw Briefs." Women’s Wear Daily, July 30, 1974.
 "The Sportswear & Leisure Living: Helen Harper, Inc., Adds Jr. Division." Women’s Wear Daily, September 13, 1966; Charlie’s Girls Inc. advertisement. Women’s Wear Daily, June 8, 1971.