It seems that just about every movie I see these days has at least one scene featuring formal wear. The latest example is Hugo, Martin Scorsese’s beautifully shot (if ambiguously titled) homage to French film pioneer Georges Méliès. (Although it’s available on video it is still in theatres and if you don’t see it in 3-D then you’re missing one of the most brilliant examples of that effect ever made.)
In one scene the camera very slowly dollies in on Méliès standing on a spotlit stage and dressed in white tie and tails. I know I was supposed to be captivated by the character’s heartfelt emotion (wonderfully portrayed by Ben Kingsley) but I just couldn’t take my eyes off his glorious outfit partly because the skillful 3-D effect virtually brought the character right into the audience.
Unfortunately the ensemble was marred by the protrusion of the shirt’s collar wings over the bow tie. This is not necessarily an error by the wardrobe stylist as men often wore their collar tabs this way in the 1920s when the wings had not yet become very broad. However, it does illustrate why it became standard to tuck the tabs behind the tie beginning in the following decade. Whereas the bow tie provides a tidy exclamation point to the wearer’s face – the focal point of the ensemble – the jutting wings clutter that effect and distract the eye. You can see what I mean in this digitally altered closeup: