TITLE: The Little Black Dress
PREMISE: The history of the Soviet Union illustrated through the story of one little black dress.
GENRE: Historical drama
TIME: 1910s through contemporary
SETTING: Russia, Soviet Union
MARKET: USA, International
WRITER: Alan Nafzger
OTHER INFORMATION: This is a compete and ready to shot screenplay.
LOGLINE – Long before Coco Chanel introduced and popularized her versions of the little black dress, there existed in Soviet society one similar dress.
Bolshevik ideology opposed Western fashion consumption as an intrinsically capitalist practice. Western fashion emphasized both economic status and gender differences under a system that sought to de-emphasize both.
This film is the history of the first “little black dress” in the Soviet Union.
True fashion designs were only available to the most privileged members of the intelligentsia, who ultimately preferred Western fashion to the production clothing produced in the factories. A certain amount of power was needed to wear such a dress.
During the first years after the October Revolution of 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist regime and led to the creation of the Soviet Union, many attempts to create Soviet fashion were undertaken. However, no one had a clear image of how a true communist should look. Attempts to create so-called clothes for workers did not work out. Thus fashion was proclaimed illegal from the communist tribunes. The ideology said that if you dress up, it means you work less than others. And not enough working makes you a sponger.
The now-natural desire to look good and possess beautiful things was then “studied” at the Communist Union of Youth and Communist Party of the Soviet Union meetings, and could cost one a career or even freedom. Dandies and women of fashion of those years faced lots of ridiculous charges – contraband, speculation and even marauding.
FILM’S MAJOR CHARACTERS
There are three female characters in the film.
- Elizabeth – Once part of the crème of pre-revolutionary St Petersburg society, Elizabeth was a dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty keenly sought by the young and fashionable men. The beautiful Elizabeth in the controversial black dress danced and flirted through her youth; gregarious, giggly, and was always the center of attention. With full pomp and ceremony she married and her husband was the first aristocrat pulled off his horse and killed in 1917. As she is to be relocated on the way out of the city she is offered money for the dress. She refuses at first; either she doesn’t know what is in store for her or it is an act of defiance. But in the end the dress is seized and ends up in the hands of the NKVD. Within two months, Elizabeth finds herself living with many others in a small shack in a peasant village in the far northeast of Russia. Her most prized memory is of her “little black dress.”
- Nina – The dress is given to the mistress of a high ranking security Commissar; her lover is responsible for deporting the people of the Baltic states to Siberia. The Commissar lures young women in then rapes and murders them. However the director is decent even chivalrous to two women – his wife and Nina (his mistress). Nina has the confidence to wear the dress because of her relationship to the Commissar. When he is questioned about the dress by “the leader”, he instructs Nina to sell the dress. She is argumentative but when it is phrased as a matter of survival she reluctantly agrees.
- Perl – Born to the family of a Jewish tailor in a small village, she joined the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party of Bolsheviks in 1917 and served as a propaganda commissar in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War. As the most beautiful communist, she is allowed to wear her black dress at night. During the day however she is strictly uniform in dress. In 1921, she marries a member of the Central Committee. Tears fill her eyes when she carefully folds the dress and stores it away.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE WOMEN?
- Elizabeth is exiled to Siberia.
- Nina survives but Commissar is executed.
- Perl survives.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DRESS?
When Perl dies in the 1980s her daughter opens the chest that contains the dress. She picks it up and it unfolds… she is embarrassed. She looks around to make sure she wasn’t seen and then quickly returns the dress to the chest.
When Perl’s grand-daughter discovers the dress in the 1990s. She wears it to a date with a very handsome man. And she turns many an eye.