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.

 

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