Christian D. Bruun’s Calendar Girl is a documentary revolving around the fashion industry. So, the uphill battle Bruun must win is to figure out how to best appeal to audience members who do not have an interest in fashion. When that fails, the viewer is left bored to tears, such as the case with Dior and I (one of the most boring movies I have ever seen). While Bruun lacks style, he does have an ace up his sleeve in the form of his subject, Ruth Finley.
Finley was born on January 14, 1920. Growing up, she hoped to be a model, though she majored in journalism at Simmons College. However, in the 1940s, Finley noticed the disarray of the United States fashion industry and resolved to do something about it. To that end, in 1945, she created the Fashion Calendar. This weekly, and later bi-weekly, magazine centralized the wheres and whens of all the shows happening in New York City.
While a seemingly small thing to do, it revolutionized the fashion industry in the United States by making the shows accessible. It is also credited with helping to turn New York Fashion Week into must-attend events. The calendar quickly became a must-have item for managers, designers, and PR people alike. For close to seven decades, Finley would keep publishing the Fashion Calendar. When new hopeful designers would try to enter the arena, the first bit of advice they were always given was to “go talk to Ruth.”
“…it revolutionized the fashion industry in the United States by making the shows accessible.”
Calendar Girl assembles quite the array of people to talk about Ruth Finley’s impact. Of course, her three sons are on hand, as are the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Nanette Lepore, Andrew Bolton, and even Kathleen Turner shows up for an appearance. Just the sheer number of luminaries present speaks volumes to Finley’s lifework and legacy. Bruun does the usual talking-head style, making for a somewhat conventional presentation. However, he is smart enough to let Finley do most of her own talking.
Even at 95 (which she turned while filming this movie), Ruth Finley is a sweet, good-natured person whose continuous workload might seem overwhelming, but she managed it. All while being a divorcee, widow, and single mother of three at a time being any one of those meant society might look down on you. But it did not, and she preserved the best she could. When new faces would try to break into the industry, Finley would list their first show for free on occasion, as she realized that money might be tight at the moment. Such an act made these people feel like they had one friend in the industry. In the interviews with Finley, that personable, charming personality is on full display.
What Calendar Girl lacks in flair, it makes up for in personality. Ruth Finley was a true hero: business owner, mom, widow, divorcee, trailblazer. While most audience members may not know about her, Bruun’s documentary is the perfect encapsulation of her work. It’s jubilant, fun, down-to-earth, and absolutely endearing, despite its issues.
"…Ruth Finley is a sweet, good-natured person..."