Cinema Style Ep. 6

Annnnnd we’re back, with the third instalment of Cinema Style ~Christmas Edition~!

I’m thinking I will actually end this mini-series off here (the best things always come in trilogies, right?) but there will, of course, be other non-festive episodes to come.

What better way to finish off here than with the classic Christmas movie – It’s A Wonderful Life.

Thing is, this is not my favourite movie. It’s not even my favourite Christmas movie, especially since I don’t particularly count it as such. To me, this film is a story about life, about all the human experiences tied into it. It just happens to have an abundance of scenes that take place at Christmastime.

Released in 1946 and directed by Frank Capra, It’s A Wonderful Life stars James Stewart as George Bailey who one day wishes he had never been born. Upon hearing this wish, an angel names Clarence (played by the wonderful Henry Travers) shows George what would happen if he had never been born, and how many lives he has impacted for the better. Ultimately, the film is a celebration of life and being thankful for what we have.

By now, the film has been spoofed so many times that the plot is awful familiar even if you’ve never seen it. (A specific Sabrina The Teenage Witch novel comes to mind.)

Costume design for the film was done by Edward Stevenson, known for his work on a complete different movie about life, Citizen Kane. Stevenson’s eye for well-tailored suits and All-American style is clearly shown in Wonderful Life.

Remember the scene where George shows up to Mary’s house, where the “lasso you the moon scene” occurs? Mary’s white bathrobe and George’s collegiate finery are pretty iconic.

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“You want the moon, Mary?” Image source.

In fact, Mary (played by Donna Reed) is one of the stars of the show with her wardrobe choices. Her outfit at the dance, her Christmas finery and always-impeccable hair leave a lasting on-screen impression.

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The Charleston scene. Bot Mary’s amazing ruffles and white shoe combo. Image Source.

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George and Mary. Now THIS is dressing for dinner. Image Source.

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Check that cap and coat combination! Image Source.

A special shoutout needs to be given to Violet, played by the beautiful Gloria Grahame and who has one of the best outfit moments in the entire film.

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Need I even say more? If I had this ensemble, I would wear it all summer long and strut like there is no tomorrow.

And we shall not forget the hat, either.

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Never forget the hat. Image Source.

Violet is dressed for her role as good-time gal and socialite perfectly. But as with many classic movies, a love of fashion and outlandish outfits is a characteristic of a person who cannot be taken seriously. Obviously, I disagree, but it’s a trope as old as cinema itself.

Other than Violet, and Clarence with his angel-eseque white shift, little of the characters is said through their wardrobe.

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Clarence and George. Image Source.

The clothes are situational, and instead build more towards the dream-like feel of George’s whole trip through his life. It’s less about a specific character expressing themselves as it is about the world built around George, both in his real life and in the what-if alternate reality. The clothes are timely,. Each outfit Mary wears is tied to a moment in her life with George. The robe when he comes to see her. The dress when they dance the Charleston, and so on. The clothes become markers of events in George’s life.

This resonates with me, because when I do look back on certain moments in my life, the memory may be triggered by what I was wearing. I’ll see a photograph of myself in a certain top and recall a day I wore it when I was a teenager, when I went out with friends or had my heart broken for the 100th time.

While clothes aren’t our whole lives, we do live our lives in them and therefore they become inexorably linked to the events that have shaped the people we’ve become. For George Bailey, it’s a wonderful life wearing Edward Stevenson’s suits.

 

Cinema Style Ep. 5

On this episode of Cinema Style, we’re looking at another classic Christmas flick, this time without the Technicolor.

It was one fateful Christmas a few years back when I discovered Christmas in Connecticut with my mom. That began a love affair with the 1945 film that has lasted to this day. It’s a holiday rom-com with great comedic chops and a dashing sailor as the leading man. What’s not to like?

Dennis Morgan plays the sailor, Jefferson Jones. Peter Godfrey directed the picture. Our leading lady is none other than the gorgeous Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane, a single New Yorker who can’t cook, pretending to be a Connecticut housewife for the sake of her wildly popular column, “Diary of a Housewife.” She gets into trouble when her publisher, who knows none of her deception, plans to have a young war hero stay on Elizabeth’s Connecticut farm for Christmas. And as with any 1940s rom-com, hijinks and misunderstandings ensue.

The film itself is delightful. Sydney Greenstreet and S.Z. Sakall are note perfect in their supporting roles, not to mention a cameo from Dick Elliott as the jolliest judge you’ve ever encountered.

But instead of going into plot details, let’s get right to it with the costuming. Or more specifically, Elizabeth Lane’s to-die-for wardrobe.

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Reginald Gardiner as John Sloane and Stanwyck as Elizabeth Lane. Image via Pinterest.

Her “Connecticut farming” attire is honestly me if I had to wear farming attire.

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Stanwyck and Morgan as Elizabeth and Jefferson. Image Source.

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Stanwyck as Elizabeth. Image via Pinterest.

Billowing skirts, fitted jackets that show off an unfairly tiny waist and the infamous mink coat are just a few of the characteristics of Elizabeth’s style. (Of course now you can obtain a faux fur coat that is just as glam.)

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The infamous mink coat. Image Source.

Bear with me here while I give a few pictures of the mink coat scene to note the incredible high-waisted trouser and white blouse combination Elizabeth is sporting, as well as the most beautiful, best-dressed delivery woman ever seen in the history of cinema.

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This look is CRUCIAL and ideal and difficult to get a good image of. Image Source.

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One more for the pants. Image Source.

The costume design for the film came from two talented individuals. Elizabeth’s gowns were created by costume designer Milo Anderson and, once again, EDITH HEAD.

This series of Christmas-inspired blog posts is quickly turning into an ode to Edith, but can I help it if she styled every old Christmas movie I like? Let me sing to you of Edith, folks. If the costuming is worth taking note of, you know she was probably behind it.

Milo Anderson does also deserve to be sung about, for his designs in this film and for his work on other films such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and High Sierra. The gowns he created for Stanwyck in this film are stunning.

Once again, we see a wardrobe that reflects the character’s self. At the beginning of the film, we see Elizabeth as the hotshot New Yorker she is, with her stylish power suits and luxe details.

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Elizabeth and John. Image Source.

 

Throughout the movie, she holds onto her glam persona, clearly ill-suited to the role she is pretending to play. Occasionally a more causal look seeps into the mix, but ultimately that’s what Elizabeth is doing: playing a role.

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Stanwyck as Elizabeth. Note the necessary velvet bow. Image Source.

She is not the amazing mother and chef her column makes her out to be, but she also doesn’t need to be those things in order to be valid or successful, despite what some of the men in the film say. (She does find love at the end of the movie, sure, but who doesn’t like a cute sailor, anyway?) As we get to know Jefferson Jones, we learn that he is a decent cook, the one who’s good with babies, the one more competent in stereotypically “female” roles in the household. What the two characters find together is balance, once they’re able to be honest with each other.

And in my opinion, living as a writer in New York, wearing some great high-waisted pants? That’s the ideal life.

Cinema Style Ep. 4

Hello and welcome to another episode of Cinema Style, but this time, it’s the ~Christmas Edition~.

For the month of December, I’ll be posting a few special festive editions of Cinema Style, exploring all things fur-trimmed and turtlenecked.

I figured we should start with a classic, and what could be more classic than White Christmas? (The film, not the Black Mirror episode.)

Now, the film itself is… questionable at times, from the occasionally stiff performances to the rah-rah-WWII numbers. Like any good Christmas flick, there’s a healthy dose of camp served with a side of cheese. But what really sticks in my mind about White Christmas, and what we’re going to discuss today, is the incredible Christmas costuming.

Released in 1954, White Christmas stars Bing Crosby (the King of Christmas) and Danny Kaye as performing friends who join up with a sister act (Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen) to perform at a failing country inn in rural Vermont, which is owned by their former commander in WWII. Hijinks and extravagant musical numbers ensue.

The film received a mixed bag of reviews from critics, but was a hit with audiences. It was, by a wide margin, the top-grossing film of the year. The film was especially notable for being the first filmed in VistaVision, a new technology from Paramount that enabled them to shoot a wider surface area than 35mm. Think of what a big deal it was when we first began releasing features films in 3D.

Now, the costuming in the film was done by the incomparable Edith Head, who I have mentioned in this blog before, specifically in the piece on Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

I’m not going to spend this entire post waxing poetic about Edith Head but just know: she’s a genius, she’s iconic and when I grow up I want to be her.

With Head on the team, it’s a guarantee we’ll have some incredible costuming moments, especially with the sisters Betty and Judy.

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Vera Ellen as Judy Haynes (left) and Rosemary Clooney as Betty Haynes. Image Source.

Whether it’s their “everyday” clothes or their stage outfits, Betty and Judy deliver look after look throughout the film.

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Betty (L) and Judy performing “Sisters” . Image Source.

Of course, the musical performances allow for all the best high-drama costuming moments. I’m talking specifically about that black dress Rosemary Clooney wears in the “Love, You Didn’t Do Me Right” performance.

The neckline. The fit. The rhinestone-encrusted gloves. The pink curtain. The drama.

Not to mention it’s super effective, when you’re performing a passionate, sorrowful song about a broken heart, to have men dressed in all black dance slowly around you. I’ve yet to try it myself but I’m sure it’s foolproof.

This particular dress also marks a turn for Betty in the film. Prior to this moment, she is the more modestly dressed compared to her outgoing sister, who is always sporting tight-fitting brightly-coloured clothing. However, as Betty emerges as Bob’s love interest and a diva in her own right, her wardrobe begins to reflect that. This can be considered a signature of Head’s skills – the emotional arc of characters being reflected in their wardrobe. (Though, Judy doesn’t really go through the character development Betty does, but she does come into herself.)

Certainly, Judy’s performances give some memorable wardrobe moments, including the Mistral Number scene, where Judy’s dance skills are showcased as much as her ridiculously beautiful legs.

Bob and Phil (Crosby and Kaye, respectively) are onstage in this sequence too, rocking some classic top hats and coattails.

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Phil, Judy and Bob. Image Source.

In the nature of full disclosure, the colouring of this scene actually makes me slightly uncomfortable, but that’s Technicolor for ya.

But of course, the most iconic scene and costumes come from the final musical number, where all four characters don variations of a Santa Claus-esque look.

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Image via Pinterest.

That red satin and white trim makes for a fairly literal interpretation of Christmas, but is also a classic for a reason. This is my ideal Christmas season aesthetic, and obviously is applicable to everyday life. 10/10 would wear this to the mall.

White Christmas is many things: a big-budget musical, a holiday classic, a campy, cheesy romp and a whirlwind of technicolored finery. For me, it’s full of lush, dreamy costumes that provide endless inspiration for this time of year. Also, it’s pretty great to have on in the background when wrapping presents.

Sources

IMDb

Wikipedia

Screen Prism