Gender Construction and Emancipation through Fashion. The impact of "Annie Hall"

Term Paper, 2019

17 Pages, Grade: 1.3




Cultural Studies Analysis
Fashion as indicative of Gender
Annie and Alvy meet (24:01 to 29:01)
The fight about adult education (50:27 to 54:19)



The influence of Annie Hall

Annie Hall marked Woody Allen’s start as a serious filmmaker in Hollywood, showing that he could not only make light comedies and slapstick but also touch on more deeper topics. Annie Hall was a turning point in his career, it catapulted him but also Diane Keaton into the mainstream of Hollywood. Many unknown actors that had small parts in the movie, went on and became famous like Jeff Goldblum or Sigourney Weaver, which had her debut on Annie Hall.

Diane Keaton as Annie Hall with her goofy nature and her fashion inspired millions after the film release and it is one of the most stylistically influential movies out there. The dandy style and later the boyfriends look became timeless trends and la did da a regularly used expression. The character Annie Hall became a synonym for a modern, emancipated women. But not only that, Woody Allen’s portrayal of the characters and their romance influenced movies and even tv-series like Friends where the relationship between Ross and Rachel picks up elements resembling Annie Hall.

The romcom genre revised

Annie Hall is often described as revolutionizing the romantic comedy genre (Solomon 34). It depicts a more in-depth and realistic take on relationships. Although Annie Hall fits into the genre of romcoms, with the focus on the romance between Annie and Alvy and Allen’s comedic talent for deadpan expressions and intellectual jokes, it is different from most movies in the genre: it does not have an happy end as in the characters living happily ever after, together. In the classic romantic comedy, the characters find each other, there is a crisis or difficulty which they overcome. But Annie and Alvy´s relationship is in the end a dead shark (counter: 1:19:11), and they both know it.

Still, the movie does not offer a pessimistic outlook on relationships and romance, although they can be difficult and painful, they are still worth all this because the result, the happy memories, the intimacy and just having known the person, is so much more. Alvy sums this sentiment up in his last few words to the audience at the end of the movie, calling relationships out on being irrational (counter: 1:31:02) but still people enter them because they need the eggs (counter: 1:31:12). The eggs being anything good that people get out of these relationships, such as simply having someone to share your life with.

The movie makes clear from the start that it is not very conventional in that sense, starting with a monologue from Wood Allen´s character declaring that he and Annie have broke up, seemingly squashing the expectations of viewers. The un-linear storytelling of the movies, in a stream-of-consciousness fashion adds to that. The movie also possesses a more serious nature, with two very insecure characters that try to find their way in life. Additionally, Woody Allen´s character is 40 years old, “balding slightly on top” (counter: 1:52), and has already two failed marriages, which also does not fit the mould of the typical male lead in a romcom, who is younger, mostly unmarried and conventionally attractive. But after Annie Hall more unconventional romantic comedies emerged and became more popular such as Marc Webb´s (500) days of summer from 2009 or Rob Reiner´s When Harry met Sally, both follow a similar plot to Annie Hall.

The real-life Annie and Alvy

Annie Hall is a very personal movie for Woody Allen, that includes many biographical elements, even though he denies this. His childhood, him as a stand-up comedian, his Jewish background, the city New York (where he was born and raised in Brooklyn just like Alvy) and his off-screen romantic relationship with Diane Keaton, born Hall, are all parallels to the movie. This seems to blur the lines between the characters in the movie and the real-life figures of Keaton and Allen. This is what also draws the audience in, the fact that the movies seem to be about Keaton and Allen and getting a deep personal look into their insecurities and lives. Keaton herself admits that the role of Annie Hall is very close to herself and the role was written for her.

The movie Annie Hall was the second filmic collaboration between Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, as they did a Broadway play names Play it again, Sam, together. This was their first-time meeting and also started their personal relationship in 1969. While their romantic involvement only lasted one year, although they also lived together for a brief period, the went on to do many more projects together and consider themselves close friends today. In total they did eight movies together and Allen himself names Keaton as a great inspiration.

The Annie Hall style

Keaton is often described as one of Woody Allen muses. For her role, he gave her very little notes, trusting in her talent and she could wear what she wanted. The famous costume designer Ruth Morley after many reassurances from Woody Allen, based Diane Keaton wardrobe for the movie together with the actress on Keaton’s personal style and likes.

The style was largely thrifted and consisted of vintage clothing with a huge influence from 30s men’s fashion. The 30s saw most prominently wide, high wasted pants, the polo shirt and felt hats worn all-year around. The colour and patterns were subtle, favouring medium blue, beige and cream. These elements that are almost always present in the character of Annie Hall. Her pants when singing in the club, her iconic look when first meeting Alvy and her beige ensemble when attending Tony´s party in LA.

Many ascribe Keaton’s wardrobe to the US designer Ralph Lauren and this name is even included in the credits. He certainly inspired it, with some pieces like Annie’s famous Grammy Hall (counter: 28:20) male tie from one of his collections. He and Diane Keaton both are in a love with more androgynous looks and especially tailored suits. Ralph Lauren was one of the first designers to do a pant suit for women, completed with a tie. Although this all together is not a newly created look, as it can be seen in Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich. But Ralph Laurens collection inspired Diane Keaton as well as many other women at the time. Diane Keaton can often be seen wearing Ralph Lauren and they know each other personally. This is not surprising as his suits fit perfectly in Diane Keaton´s style profile, a suit with tie and hat included.

That Annie Hall style is unmistakably also the Diane Keaton style to a part. As can be seen on her red carpet or talk shows appearances. She also showcases her styles on her Instagram profile, almost including one of her iconic bowler hats, some baggy dress pants and a sort of blazer. But Keaton´s outfits are characterized by the use of black, her favourite colour, other than in Annie Hall, but she also includes neutral tones like white and beige and is rarely very colourfully or brightly dressed.

But women dressing in traditional male fashion items is not a new phenomenon in the 70s. As early as the rowing twenties when corsets came out of fashion, hairstyles got shorter and Coco Chanel creates the first skirt suite, mixing masculine and female ideals. A boyish or at least androgynous look was en vogue. Women emancipate themselves through the use of fashion, taking on male fashion not only in clothing items but also in manner, with smoking and car driving. The 70s women fashion during which period Annie Hall was produced saw the popularity of mini dresses, bright colours, colour blocking, flowers and paisley. But one-piece dresses with a more modest neckline and length, a tie for a belt had a more masculine fit and became a trend together with shirtwaist dress which looked like a men’s long white dress shirt. Women tried cloths that hid their figure, taking the focus of gender and demanding the same authority and seriousness men received, especially in a business context. This again fits nicely with Annie Hall and its style, making it all more popular.

Cultural Studies Analysis

Fashion as indicative of Gender

Fashion always seemed to be an expression of gender, therefore constructing a bipolar image of society of male and female. Women clothing is usually very form fitting, with deep necklines and tailored waists, sexualizing them and presenting them as female.

After the French revolution male fashion became simpler and more reserved and less flashy. The man was clearly situated in the working environment as an active being (König 155). The male uniform since then seems to be the business suite (Kaiser et al. 190). But since the 70s there are more women than ever before part of the labour force, and this can also be seen in fashion. More masculine tailored clothing was put on the market and gained consumers, examples are broad shoulder pads, dropped waistlines and dress shirt collars on tops. They gave a more masculine figure and especially pants gave women more movement, being useful attributes in the working world.

Even earlier in the 20s there emerged a new kind of femininity with the Garçon haircut and a more confident behaviour, seen in the Flappers. Women seemed to emulate men by the adoption of counter sexual aspects in female fashion like in the skirt suit. This was an important step in emancipation, in the sense that equality here means being just like the men, even in fashion. Taking it a step further is to wear original male fashion, which brought further equality to women. This can be observed in Annie Hall, where Annie herself often wears male dress shirts, hats and ties and draws inspiration from male fashion.

At the same time does the movie itself depict the dichotomy of gender with Alvy being portrayed the more educated and serious one and Annie as childlike at times and less of an intellectual. Alvy also is the more sexual and hormone-driven one, as he describes sex three times as “hardly ever” (counter: 1:09:34) but Annie as “constantly” (counter: 1:09:37). Alvy is very frustrated over Annie´s sexual problems, as Annie needs drugs to sleep with him.

Annie and Alvy meet (24:01 to 29:01)

The first time of Annie and Alvy meeting includes the most iconic outfit of the movie. They both meet through friends as they play a match of tennis together. This sequence is set during daytime in a tennis club in a 70s Manhattan, NYC. Later Annie drives Alvy with her to the upper west side, inviting him into her apartment.

Before the sequence the movie shows Annie and Alvy already together, in bed at their apartment after a date. In this sequence Annie brings up Alvy´s failed two marriages. This triggers a flashback to Alvy´s second marriage with a New Yorker writer and intellectual. The couple is in bed, unable to have sex and Alvy gets up from bed, frustrated, saying he needs a series of cold showers.

The first meeting sequence then starts abruptly with Alvy and his friend Rob, also known as Max (as part of an inside joke) coming out of the locker room of the tennis club. Rob implies he will beat Alvy in the match and “send (him) to the shower early” (counter: 24.02). The use of the word shower links the previous sequence to this one, acting as a verbal transition. This sequence can be seen as a flashback itself but jumping into the future from the last flashback. The film tells the story of their relationship in non-linear fashion. Other movies by Woody Allen can also be characterized by the constant switch between past and present, having no clear distinguishable timeline (Solomon 22).

As the topic before the flashbacks was Alvy´s failed relationships, this could be a foreboding message, hinting at the fact that Alvy´s relationship with Annie will also fail. The audience already knows this through Alvy´s monologue at the beginning.

Right from the beginning Alvy is portrayed as a stereotypical intellectual Jewish New Yorker, like a caricature that makes fun of itself. The sequence picks up the topic of Antisemitism, a topic that besides Death Alvy concerns himself with regularly and mentions several times. He holds one of his rants as they enter the court and we see Annie as well as her female friend for the first time. There is a notable difference in appearance between the two women. Annie’s tennis outfit is a stark contrast to that of Janet’s. Janet seems to wear a classic female tennis uniform, with a short tennis skirt and a neck halter top with a deep, revealing neckline. Annie however wears shorts, very similar to those worn by Rob and Alvy. She also wears a shirt mimicking the one Robs wears; it is a pale purple dress-shirt with a more conservative neckline and a collar. Annie also wears socks that are a bit higher than Janet’s and like the male characters. Only the colour seems to be more traditionally feminine.

After they play tennis, Annie and Alvy run into each other when they are about to go home. Diane Keaton´s character wears a black wide rimed felt floppy hat, under which she hides most of her hair, except for a few strands framing her face. Although the hat looks more feminine, the absence of her long hair gives a very masculine or at least androgynous image, fitting in with the rest of her outfit. She wears a long-sleeved white dress shirt, buttoned up to the very top. With that, Annie pairs a long, blue polka dotted tie and over it a black suit vest, only buttoned up top and open the rest of the way.

On the bottom she wears very loose fitting almost baggy beige chinos with a small black belt. As additional accessories she can be seen carrying a stripped, beige toned beach bag and later round sunglasses. Alvy compliments and acknowledges her outfit, which stands out when compared to him and when compared to pedestrians, later.

Alvy himself wears an all-white outfit with a similar to Annie’s dress shirt over a beige t-shirt, leaving the top button undone with his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, giving his outfit a more relaxed and léger fit. He wears white, more tight-fitting white jeans or dress pants with a brown belt and his signature black, square glasses.

The colour scheme of the cloths is very neutral, mostly consisting of browns, beige and whites. A colour palate also used in other Woody Allen movies like Hanna and her sisters and Midnight in Paris (Solomon 22). Diane Keaton´s fashion in the movie became popular and knows as the “Annie Hall style”. It not only exerted its influence in the 70s but seems to be timeless with blogs and website today creating her style and influencers like It-Girl and model Alexa Chung that did a series of inspired looks for the movies 40th anniversary. The iconic outfit in this sequence takes inspiration from the mentioned 30s men´s fashion, as seen in the baggy beige pants, the tie and the hat.

Apart from their appearances, their nonverbal communication is also very significant. It is marked by a series of nervous fidgets, nods and upper body movement (Cowie 32/33). When Alvy and Rob meet up with their two female tennis partners, Annie seems very nervous and insecure about meeting the two men, expressed by her giggling, somewhat hiding behind her friend and an exclamation of “Egads” (counter: 24:38) She has a childlike and quirky quality to her.

After the match a rather award conversations between Annie and Alvy ensues. Annie keeps a distance to Alvy, as can be seen by people walking between them. She moves closer to the door, having a quick escape route. Noticeable is the continued movement of her arms, as a nervous gesture. She kneads her hands and clenches her fists. She often looks at the ground or away rather than at Alvy. Their exit is also very uncomfortable to watch, Alvy accidently bumps into Annie with his tennis racket and they try to both squeeze through the door.

In the car the situation seems to switch. Alvy is noticeably nervous, hunching his shoulders and running his fingers through his hair. This clearly shows Alvy´s neurotic character, his most identifying feature. In their communication both are somewhat awkward and insecure, making their interaction and the idea as the as a couple as very endearing and likable. Alvy starts their first proper conversation, as Annie does not seem to gather the courage to start it and almost leave only saying Hi and Bye.

The sequence introduces the first time of Annie catchphrase of “La de da” (counter 25:47), a filler phrase she uses when she said something stupid and embarrassed herself. This phrase emphasises her giggly and goofy nature, contrasting to Alvy neurotic and at times very serious nature.

Their conversation is going slow and there are many misunderstandings and miscommunication, for example who drives who and to where. Alvy is very open about his personal experiences and his quirks, telling Annie when they first meet about his hatred for driving, his visits to the analyst and his Jewish family history (Cowie 50). In the car Alvy states that Annie is not from New York, and she replies that she is from Chippewa Falls. Alvy has to ask: “where?” (counter: 27:01), showing that everything that is not Manhattan or at least New York City is negligible and insignificant to him. Later he picks this topic up again several times, for instance mocking Annie for her Chippewa Falls expression when arguing. For Alvy New York, although he earlier in the sequence complains about the deteriorating state, it is the greatest city on earth for him. He constantly knocks down California and the LA lifestyle and also has a distain for the countryside.

This sequence as well as the whole movie includes several, sometimes very period-appropriate cultural references. An intresting reference includes Norman Rockwell, a famous American painter of the early 20. centaury, known for his idealistic and romanticised portrays of domestic American life. He was widely dismissed by art critics in his time and described tacky. Here Alvy mocks Annie’s use of the word “Grammy” for her Grandmother, as she tells him her tie was a gift from her. He looks down on Annie for her more rural or countryside background, establishing a disparity between them early on that remains through the movie.

Concerning the Lighting used in the sequence, it has a grey tone to it. This might symbolize the climate in New York/Manhattan, as more cloudy and colder than the warmer LA, which is veiled in yellow tones in the movie.


Excerpt out of 17 pages


Gender Construction and Emancipation through Fashion. The impact of "Annie Hall"
University of Passau
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Comment by professor: Very good response to assignment. Interesting, demonstrates sophistication of thought. Central idea/thesis is clearly communicated and accurately placed within the appropriate socio-cultural context.
Gender Fashion Film Woody Allen Annie Hall
Quote paper
Nina Schänzel (Author), 2019, Gender Construction and Emancipation through Fashion. The impact of "Annie Hall", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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