We are guessing that many of you have seen X-Men: First Class by now, or at the very least have heard that the film took fantastic strides to realistically transport audiences back to the 1960s.
We certainly commend Matthew Vaughn and his design teams for their efforts. After all, some of us watching the film remember the ‘60s quite well. We even had magazines around that documented those wonderful times for future generations.
With that said, we will admit that the film seemed to get quite a lot wrong about fashion in 1962, and we dug through some iconic images and brought in our favorite retro-fashion expert, Kater, to get to the bottom of this.
Here are five things X-Men: First Class got wrong about women in the 1960s.
5. Body Types
While X-Men: First Class delivered its promised x-pounds of flesh, particularly when it came to the mental mutant sex-goddess Emma Frost/White Queen.
We noticed on more than one occasion during the film that its women appeared surprisingly, well… thin for the Kennedy era. In 1962 your average Playboy playmate was 5’4″ and 115 lbs., among them Merle Pertile, Miss January…
Pamela Anne Gordon, Miss March…
And just in time for the Cuban Missile Crisis, Laura Young, Miss October…
When placed alongside January Jones, Rose Byrne, or for that matter any of the women from X-Men: First Class, these playmates almost appear Rubenesque in comparison. What gives?
Well, it turns out that the “ideal feminine body type starts to get really complicated and change in the 60s because of the curvy/siren next to thin/gamine thing going on at much the same time.” It was a decade of transition, which explains why 1962 had a relatively equal portion of curvy and petite Playboy playmates. However, if you were to attend a hotspot like the Hellfire Club in 1962, your entertainment was more likely to look like Avis Kimble, Miss November, than January Jones.
For this one, we defer to our interviewee Kater: “First, Rose Byrne’s Moira MacTaggert has sad hair. It’s sad, because it’s exactly the right shape to channel Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde–which comes out later in the ‘60s anyway–but lies flat on her head. Where is the volume? Her hair hasn’t been teased to within an inch of its life, there is no little bump at the crown, no spit curls, no funny little bang.”
”The hair doesn’t really get better on anyone else either. Raven/Mystique’s hair is much longer than most were in the period. If they wanted her to have floaty cotton-candy locks, wouldn’t it have been exciting if her volume was pumped up a bit? Could have been Bridgette Bardot pre-weirdo rants. On the other hand, her red Mystique hair could probably pass for a more vintage style, even though she’s blue.”
“January Jones’s hair is definitely more voluminous, but somehow it doesn’t seem to fit. I suppose this is a effort to get away from her Grace-Kelly-Ice-Princess-Senator’s-Wife getup she sports on Mad Men, but the result is less 1960s and more 1990s Sparkle Barbie.”
And lastly, “Zoe Kravitz as Angel/Tempest looks like they just plunked her into the movie wearing whatever she came in with that day plus some wings. Which is funny, considering her hair styles at the movie’s premier looked much more ‘60s than what she ended up with in the film itself.”
“There was such potential for eyeliner! Instead we got some heavy but not particularly retro-looking lids, and a few meek attempts at a cat-eye.” Also, “there was a lot of lip-gloss a-poppin’ for the ‘60s, but I suppose they could have been wearing really melted chapstick.”
In short, we were had by 20th Century Fox. X-Men: First Class was significantly lacking what you see in the above photo. Hopefully we don’t need to tell you that’s Brigitte Bardot.
Okay, so the film may have skipped a bit when it came to vintage hair, makeup and female body-types, but at least they nailed the costume design, right? I mean, we’re talking about period filmmaking in the era of Mad Men here!
K: “By having January Jones in there, they’re asking for the comparison. I don’t know what’s going on there. Moira MacTaggert is supposed to be a female CIA agent, generally the only female one in the room at any given time, and yet her skirts are really barely work-appropriate these days. Mini skirts were happening, but they certainly weren’t embraced with open arms by the world at large, and I highly doubt anyone professional would wear a mini skirt in an office environment in the ‘60s. Somehow the answer seems to be, throw a trench coat on it, never mind if it doesn’t look retro.
And while I’m on the topic of Moira’s work attire, I’m not really sure why she’s wearing a feminine version of a men’s suit. A woman’s suit in the ‘60s was not a nipped-in, hiked up version of a man’s suit. A pencil skirt and a blouse, maybe with some kind of jacket makes more sense, sheath dresses, that sort of thing, would have made more sense. Instead it looks like she went to the mall and grabbed a suit set from Express.”
“Raven and Angel suffer much the same problems with their costumes. I can’t remember anything either of them wore that reminded me at all that this was set in the ‘60s. At one point, Raven wears a scarf, and some knee high boots with a mini skirt that is both too tight, too short, and the wrong shape over-all. Angel ends up in a leather romper, which is inexplicably supposed to evoke the ‘60s, but I’m not sure why.”
We’re going to be frank here: you see a lot of women in their underwear in this picture. Vintage underwear. Like, Rose Byrne stripping to her panties and garter in order to go undercover in a nightclub.
How does the film fare?
“Her underwear would exist, but it was a little too shaped. 1960s underwear wasn’t very comfortable. Not to create a natural shape, but something artificial like the bullet bra. In 1962, people were still wearing what they were wearing in the late ‘50s. No lingerie to work.”
“Lingerie and undergarments/foundation garments are two separate things. Once again I’ll reference Mad Men: Trudy Campbell has a really great repertoire of 1960s lingerie and peignoirs (haha) that show what I’m talking about. Lingerie tended to look, not always but probably most of the time, not too unlike what the Fembots are wearing in Austin Powers movies. Underwear and all that, was instead used to mould and enhance the figure under clothing. It was really about making everything flat, so that no piece of flesh moved or jiggled… Which is what makes the CIA agent’s underwear somewhat improbably. Yes, she’s a younger generation that would be wearing a newer kind of underwear, but really in 1961 she would be wearing very body-conscious clothing that would require the kinds of girdles etc., that would not have fit in at Hellfire club. Lingerie was really a costume, while underwear was about shape.
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