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

Cinema Style Ep. 2

For our second round of Cinema Style, I’m going to take you guys into a very, very sad period piece. Seriously, I was sobbing in the theatre. But even through my tears, I took notice of the costuming.

You probably already have an idea of which movie I’m talking about, but I’ll tell you anyway: Atonement.

If you’ve never seen it, the movie is directed by Joe Wright and based off of the book by Ian McEwan. It stars Keira Knightley and James McAvoy as Cecelia and Robbie, two young lovers torn apart in 1935 by a lie Cecelia’s younger sister Briony tells. Because of this lie, Robbie is taken to prison and only released four years later under the condition he joins the army. Tragedy and pretty crying ensues.

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Gif via Tumblr

I felt a lot of emotions when I saw this guy in the cinema with my mom back when it came out in 2007 (10 years ago!!!) I was, in my core, sad. I was pissed at Briony, well actually, pissed at everyone in that movie because if you all just took a second to THINK THEN THEY COULD HAVE BEEN TOGETHER DO YOU THINK IT MAKES IT OKAY THAT YOU WROTE THEM INTO A HAPPY ENDING????

Anyway.

Through this roller coaster of emotions I, like many others, did take notice of the movie’s superb costuming. Or, to be specific, the dress. 

You can’t talk about Atonement without talking about Cecelia’s green dress. It’s an icon in and of itself, hugely memorable on its colour alone. Emerald Green.

 When you think of classic dress moments in movies, you think of a little black dress, maybe a red dress, maybe pink à la Marilyn in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. These are the Hollywood starlet/femme fatale looks. Green is a weird one. It’s barely used in cinema on account of it supposedly making audience members uncomfortable. Remember Tippi Hedren in The Birds?

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Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Source.

Keira Knightley is so stupidly beautiful and willowy that she could pull off anything, but this dress was a special case.

Costume designer Jacqueline Durran, nominated for an Oscar from her work on the film, created the dress from scratch based on Wright’s vision for Cecelia at the fateful dinner party. Durran and Wright had previously worked together in 2005 on Pride & Prejudice, which, incidentally, also starred Knightley.

The dress was tailored to fit Knightley perfectly and moved with her as she walked. The descriptions of the dress in the book were taken to heart when the dress was designed, and certain features of it, backless with a train, are in line with 1930s gowns. The dress fits into the setting perfectly yet completely stands out.

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Photo via Tumblr

When you look at the other costuming in the film, it is starkly different to this dress. Briony, also being only 13 in the early scenes, wears the shift-dress shape of the 1930s in light colours.

Cecelia too wears lighter colours and materials in the early scenes, then when we enter wartime, she don’s the nurse’s uniform. Her silhouettes become more practical, her colours more muted.

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Cecelia in 1935. Photo Source.

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Cecelia during wartime via Pinterest

The dress itself stands as more of a fantasy, made more bold through Briony’s recollection, perhaps. Like they’re supposed to in any movie, the costumes tell the story. You could break up the styles into before the dress and after the dress. Plot-wise, that refers to before the dinner and after the dinner.

A quick search online can reveal many people looking for replicas of the dress. Since it was a custom creation, the original now moves around museum to museum. Back in 2012, it was at the V&A in London.

If anyone does find an excellent replica, let me know. I’m definitely not Keira Knightley, and I definitely don’t have an affair with the handsome young gardner on at the moment. But, you never know. Maybe I’ll wear it grocery shopping and recreate the library scene in the frozen food aisle.

Sources

IMDb

Clothes on Film

The Costumer’s Guide

Fashion & Power