Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (1941)

I had never heard of this movie, but checked it out at the library because I am on a bit of a Barbara Stanwyck kick lately. Even though the library marked this movie as “Drama” it is actually a comedy and a riotously hilarious one at that. This film was directed by Howard Hawks who also did such comedies as His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby, and later Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. 

This is the story of Sugarpuss O’Shea, a sassy burlesque dancer played by Barbara Stanwyck and a professor who is working on an article about slang for the encyclopedia (Gary Cooper). He seeks out Sugarpuss for his research and she willingly helps out because she is hiding from the cops who want her to testify against her mob boss fiancĂ©. But there are seven other adorable professors in the home where Sugarpuss ends up staying and she wins their hearts teaching them to do the conga, among other things.

The movie is loosely based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1939) and there are some really cute and funny moments that are clearly tributes to the Disney version of the film, which of course would have been very fresh in the mind of filmmakers in 1941.

I have wanted to do a shirtdress for a while, but couldn’t find a really original version that would be worth featuring. This is the shirtdress that Barbara wears when Sugarpuss is teaching the professors to do the conga. She wears this shirtdress with a metallic belt and peep-toe shoes with a bow/flower detail on them.

Here is my interpretation:

Run-Down:Dress: Coldwater Creek, Safari Shirt Dress, $80
Belt: Arden B, Multi Stud Chain Stretch Belt, $12.50
Shoes: Dillard’s, Gianni Bini "Charleson", on sale for $59.99
Total: $152.49

I’ll be honest. I generally think of items from Coldwater Creek as being inherently frumpy. But, I am learning to be open-minded. This shirtdress is perfectly retro. The strong tailored shoulders, the turned up cuffs on the sleeves, and the broad swingy skirt are all reminiscent of the 1940s. The short sleeves and cuffs on the sleeves are different from Barbara’s but still in keeping with the spirit of this outfit. I selected the brown color of this dress because I feel it would feel a bit more subtle up against the metallic belt than a black dress would have.

The idea of course is to remove the belt that the dress comes with and replace it with a metallic belt. I considered various chain belts but they were all lacking the structure necessary to complement the shirtdress and really create a waist. This one from Arden B has a chain like look to it with the studs but it is wide and structured enough to cinch your waist in and give you that 1940s silhouette.

Lastly, I wanted to get some metallic shoes to play up the metallic details in a daytime look, which I think is sometimes hard to do. This shoe is a very soft gold which I think could work for a daytime or office look. I really like the bow on the top and how it has some studs or rivet details which echo the belt.

I think that using metallic details for a daytime look takes this brown and potentially boring shirtdress and turns it into something really interesting and innovative in office attire. It also fits nicely into my series on “Three Easy Pieces”. That’s what I love about shirtdresses: you can grab one, some pumps and one other accessory and look completely put together. For instance, with a simple dress like this you could work many variations before this dress becomes boring. Shirtdresses are a vintage Hollywood staple, so you can be sure it is glamorous.

On that note, here are 10 more lovely retro shirtdresses all under $100 and I think each has its own Hollywood style possibilities.

Retro Theme: Shirtdresses

From Left to Right:

Pepe Jeans London Floral Shirt Dress, $93 via ASOS.com
Kohl’s, Dana Buchman Brushstroke Shirtdress, on sale for $24.99
On the Homefront Dress, $54.99 via ModCloth.com
Beach Picnic Dress in Afternoon, $99.99 via ModCloth.com
Baba-blue Dress, $99.99 via ModCloth.com

From Left to Right:
Boden, Cotton Shirt Dress, $98
Brooks Brothers, Luxury Striped Shirt Dress, on sale for $84
Target, Merona Petites Pintuck Shirt Dress in Bonjour Brown, $24.99
Dillard’s, Robbie Bee Woman Shirtdress, on sale for $47.40
Jones New York, The Must Have Shirt Dress in Turquoise Lagoon, on sale for $94.99


  1. I love your blog!! You put so much effort into it, it's fab. I've just set up a vintage blog too, drop by sometime x

  2. Thanks Lady Cherry! I love your blog too! Please come back often and tell your friends because I have lots of plans for new and expanded content.



Related Posts with Thumbnails