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

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Barbara Stanwyck in Meet John Doe (1941)

Everyone knows It’s a Wonderful Life, but no one knows Meet John Doe. Meet John Doe is a Frank Capra film released in 1941, five years before Capra did It’s a Wonderful Life. In my opinion, Meet John Doe is basically a dry-run for the more well known film. It includes similar themes: sacrifice/suicide, love-thy-neighbor, Christmas, the essential goodness of mankind, looking out for the little guy, etc: in short, all of Capra’s touchstone themes.

I find Meet John Doe to be much more interesting. The other film is popular because of its family focus. This film features at its center a washed up baseball player turned hobo (Gary Cooper) and a tough newspaperwoman who is working to support her aging mother and two younger sisters (Barbara Stanwyck). This film also seems to take a much more Depression-era slant and is thus more political and some would say – socialist in its message.

As always, Barbara Stanwyck is fabulous in this film, in the very beginning we get to see her dress for work as a reporter. Her attire balances the need to be respected in a mostly male workplace and femininity. Pictured above, she wears a strong shouldered chiffon blouse with a bow, a pencil skirt with a belt and waist detail and round toe pumps (not pictured).

Here is my interpretation:
Run-Down:Blouse: 7 for All Mankind, Tie Back Blouse in Crinkle Chiffon in Yellow, on sale for $49.00
Skirt: Tulle, French Terry Tulip Skirt in Black, on sale for $15
Shoes: Wild Diva Women's Girl-352 Pump in Black, $30 via Endless.com
Total: $94.00
I am excited about this look because it is not only part of my series called “Three Easy Pieces,” but it is also an office attire look for under $100. Trust me; it took some savvy virtual shopping to make those two things occur.

The blouse is a lovely pale yellow and though it does not have a bow detail on the front, it does on the back, which is a nice twist on Barbara’s look. This blouse was very much marked down and thus it looks a good deal more expensive than it is.

In order to get this to three pieces, I needed to find a skirt that had a belt incorporated into the design. I also wanted something with some detail at the waist. I saw this particular paper bag skirt (with a belt-like detail) featured on Kendi Everyday. It is marked down to only $15. Great find.

Lastly, I wanted some basic round toe pumps for this look. I had some for only $49 selected, but I realized that if I found a pair just a bit cheaper, this would be an under $100 look. So, I threw out the $49 pair and came up with these basic lovelies from a brand called Wild Diva.

I think this is a feminine and ladylike but serious office look. And this look proved to me that with some sale shopping, you can do business attire for under $100.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Top Ten Things I Have Learned About Fashion from Hollywood

I have been doing this blog now for two months. I have watched or re-watched so many great films and if I had learned nothing about fashion, I would at least be grateful for a good reason to watch old movie again. I thought I would reflect on what I have learned about fashion from doing this project and how it changed my mind about things over a mere 8 weeks and over 50 outfits.

10. Tuck in and belt it.

Looking put together is less about the clothes you wear and more about how you wear them. An outfit that would be boring with the shirttail out is notable with it tucked in and worn with a belt. Take for example, my first outfit from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Here are two examples (Maggie the Cat and Marilyn Monroe) of what these outfits would have looked like without the belt and with the shirttail out: Talk about going from fab to drab!

The entire late 1940s and 1950s “New Look” silhouette (tiny waist, full skirt) simply doesn’t work at all without tucking and belting. I sort of picked up from somewhere along the way that tucking in and belting makes you look chunky through the middle, but I have a new rule: When in doubt, tuck in and belt.

9. Use unexpected accessories.

I did not realize how much I relied on jewelry (particularly earrings) to accessorize until my daughter was born. She tries to pull them out of my ears so I have pretty much stopped wearing them altogether. At the same time, I was watching these films and realizing that jewelry isn’t used in most of these to accessorize. Jewelry just isn’t as important as hats, scarves, flower pins, gloves and brooches. These unexpected accessories (for today) are a great place to start building some retro/vintage appeal in your wardrobe because they are inexpensive and can allow you to experiment with the basics already in your closet.

Corollary: If you are going to wear jewelry, pearls are the most classic and versatile. They need not be frumpy or boring. Try a double strand or twisted multi strand. For evening, just remember two words: rhinestones rock.

8. Create outfits.

Whenever I go shopping, I find an item I like and then stare perplexed at a table full of a rainbow of cardigans. Usually, I would end up selecting a neutral or a color that fit my mood. That’s one way to go about it, but doing this blog has shifted my focus from shopping for “tops” or “bottoms” to “outfits”.

This means you have a blueprint, a plan, a focus. You will never stare down that cardigan table again without knowing exactly which color you need. You will know what you have and don’t have for a particular look and you need not be tempted by other items that are merely a good price.

That said, most items do have to have a remix-ability to them. Core items should either be so simple you can get them at some place like Old Navy (for example, chinos or tee shirts) or very high quality and good material so that they can be re-utilized in a number of different outfits (for example, Nine West Nuncios in Black Leather or Gabardine Wide-Leg Black Pants from Ann Taylor).

7. Patterns

Our stores today are saturated with florals. Florals are lovely, but they are not the only patterns besides stripes. Take the time to find and experiment with gingham, checkerboard, houndstooth, plaid, argyle, Fair Isle, chevron stripes, paisley, geometric prints, and even fruit prints. All of these will add that little bit of extra appeal that makes your wardrobe unique.

Mixing patterns doesn’t have to be intimidating. I find that starting with stripes helps. Stripes are comfortable for most of us. Start there and add a different width stripe, or a different color stripe or a different direction stripe. Then try a stripe with a checkerboard pattern, keeping one large and one small or keep them far apart. Try a micro floral with a Fair Isle. Try two kinds of checkerboard together. Once you broaden your horizons to include the many types of patterns, you can experiment endlessly to find what looks good to you.

6. Budget

Once you are thinking on an outfit basis, you can budget per outfit. This helps you see the look as an organic whole. If you need an expensive dress, you can compensate for it by buying cheaper shoes. If you must have a certain accessory to make or break and outfit and purchasing it will put you over, try to find the pants at Old Navy rather than Banana Republic. I have found thar $150-$200 is a reasonable guesstimate for most outfits – head to toe. Mixing items from different budgetary categories can be fun too, as one piece elevates another and makes everything have more visual value.

5. Color

Black and white will always be classic, but I have also found that the movies had a fashion love affair with the primary triad – red, yellow, and blue. Red and yellow look cheeky and cheerful. Red and blue nautical and preppy. And blue and yellow, calming and happy. Most people today shy away from these combinations in fashion, feeling them too obvious and unsophisticated. But I feel that done properly (read: balanced with neutrals), these color combos can make you stand out in a crowd (in a good way).

I used to think that monochromatic meant matchy-matchy - the exact same color all the way. I now understand that monochromatic is really a very lovely and sophisticated wy to build a palette. Choose your dress or skirt and then build the rest of your outfit with items from different shades (read: lighter or darker) of that same color. Check outs these look for examples of peach and coral, and light grey and dark gray.

4. Learn to Layer

Again, I pretty much believed that layering clothes would make you look fat. I also believed that wearing “too many clothes” would make you look frumpy or old. These fabulous movie stars have taught me otherwise. Layering happens in a lot the outfits coming from these films. I think wearing jackets over vests over shirts (examples here and here) or trenches over sweaters over shirts give the look texture and visual interest.

Another area where this experiment has opened my eyes is layering shirts under dresses. This can include using the dress to serve as a pinafore or jumper or using the shirt to create a new and different collar for the dress.

Lastly, I find that I had a prejudice that I did not even know I had against high necks on shirts. I found I cringed when I saw a start with a high neck button up shirt or wearing a crew neck sweater or tee shirt. I automatically gravitated toward the v-necks or scoop necked looks. This prejudice included looks that required that the shirt be buttoned up all the way or required that I tie be worn. (For some reason, the turtleneck was a major exception to my prejudice.) But, as I went on, I found that these high neck looks were actually very attractive. I think modesty is something lost in today’s world and I think my own perspective on what is sexy may be changing to include looks such as these.

3. Take inspiration from menswear.

There is a wealth of inspiration out there from male movie stars. They were masters of layering in the business casual realm – something any woman who works in a cold air-conditioned office in the summertime is bound to appreciate. I think this is a great way to learn to use all of our blazers, cardigans and oxford shirts in a new way.

I also think that this is a huge area of opportunity for women with respect to evening wear. I think most women automatically default to “I need a dress” whenever a special occasion arises. But, if you already have a great pair of suit pants and a nice button up shirt for work, you just need a dressy black jacket, some fabulous shoes and maybe a flower pin and you have a feminine tuxedo ready to go.

Incorporating the male tie into the feminine wardrobe is a gutsy and edgy thing to do. I like the idea, even though I haven’t tried it yet myself, but this blog has opened my mind to the possibilities.

2. Have fun!

Be cheeky with your attire. Go ahead and create an homage with your clothes. Probably no one will notice that you look like Dorothy Gale from Kansas, but those who do will laugh and appreciate the basket tote and the red shoes. Have some fun and add some wink-wink elements to your daily attire. Buy a yellow raincoat. Wear some seamed stockings. Put some teacup earrings on. Buy a faux fur wrap and wear it. Wear a cloche hat or even a fedora, even it is just from your car into your office building. Have fun!

1. Simplicity + Comfort + Attitude = Elegance

Coco Chanel was absolutely right: over-accessorizing is a real problem. Simplicity is key to having style. Incidentally, keeping outfits simple also keeps your budget in check. Simple outfits keep you comfortable help you to be who you really are. That is what those movie stars were really selling: their own personalities. Yours should show through your clothing choices, but not have to compete with your clothes. Some outfits are simple in their color palette. Others are simple because they are comfortable. But my favorite are the outfits that are simple because they can be worn to so many different places and thus, are incredibly versatile, for what is simpler than going to three or four events throughout your day and not having to change your attire.

Carrying yourself well (like a movie star) is the most important thing to style. Here is my simple formula that I have learned: simplicity + comfort + your attitude = elegance.

Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve (1941)

This will be my fourth post in my “Three Easy Pieces” series and my seventh total outfit that falls into that category. Since most of these outfits have been casual or office looks, I wanted to try my hand at something more formal in only three pieces.

I love Barbara Stanwyck. I think she is terrifically sassy and unique and wry. She is very funny but very dry and witty. I got The Lady E from the library, which I had never seen before and I think this is a very fine film. It includes a very young Henry Fonda as Barbara’s love interest. The plot is very interesting and not quite like anything I have seen before. My favorite scene is the poker game with both Barbara and her character’s father cheating up a storm.


Fashion-wise, the costumes were designed by the illustrious Edith Head. In researching her for this post, I found out that Edith Head has more Oscars that any other woman in history – eight of them to be exact. She was not nominated for The Lady Eve but the clothes are memorable and lovely. I think that Edith Head had a knack for dressing whatever particular actress she was working with. She not only dresses the character but the actress as well. This is something that is lacking in films today. They generally dress solely for the character and you don’t get a feel for the star’s particular style. This is a great example of Barbara’s particular brand of 1940s flair.

The outfit I chose to recreate (pictured above) is the final costume in the film for Barbara. It is an evening gown with a lame bodice worn with a cropped jacket or bolero with long sleeves.

Here is my interpretation:

Run-Down:Jacket: ASOS Cropped Pleat Shoulder Blazer, $67.64

Dress: ModCloth, Last Chance Dress, $127.99
Shoes: Nine West, Every Pump in Bronze Leather, on sale for $39.99
Total: $235.62

Three simple pie

ces: jacket, dress, shoes. I selected a shorter dress because this one most closely matched the feeling of Barbara’s dress but also because I feel that shorter cocktail-length dresses can be worn more often to more locations these days. I also love the bronze lame instead of gold or silver. I think gold or silver look a bit tacky and too flashy, but this bronze looks sophisticated and glamorous. There is a belt built into the dress, which makes it look very finished and the silhouette is very 1940s.

To match the bronze in the dress, I selected this gorgeous shoe from Nine West. This shoe has the glamour of a D’Orsay pump but the support of a normal pump. The heel is a good height, higher than everyday work pumps but not so high that you feel unstable. I love that the peep-toe has some detail to it but it is not an all-out cutesy bow. The bronze color is lovely.

Lastly, I selected this cropped blazer to wear over the dress. I absolutely love the strong shoulders on this one from ASOS. It is a great price too and I think this item could be worn again and again with other looks both for the office and in evening wear.

This look is a bit expensive because the dress is over $100, but this is a special occasion look and I feel like $36 extra dollars is well worth it for this much glamour. I think anyone would feel like a million bucks in this ensemble. You could wear this to the symphony or ballet and be the center of attention. This is exactly the kind of inspiration this blog is about – finding glamorous old looks (like a lame bodice gown) and adapting it (bronze, shortening the dress) to make a unique, wearable, eye-catching and sophisticated look for today!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lauren Bacall in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) (Take 3)

To continue my series of outfits with only “three easy pieces,” I have one more look from Lauren Bacall in How to Marry a Millionaire. Here is the inspiration look:

And here is my interpretation:
Run-Down:Dress: Marc New York, Grey Woven Belted Shift Dress, $99 via Bluefly.com
Shirt: Signature Washed Linen Collection: Billow-Sleeve Shirt, $34 via Spiegel
Shoes: Payless, Kimberly Mary Jane Pump, $19.99
Total: $152.99

This is the same poet sleeve blouse that I used in my last post on Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford. I was very surprised when a blouse like this could be utilized again in a very different kind of look. I would have thought that the billowy sleeves would make this impractical and hard to incorporate into many different looks.

Lauren wears a grey shift dress with a belt over this billowy blouse, but I found a dress that comes with a belt as part of it from Marc New York. I like that this grey shift has some volume from the waist down and thus should be a bit more forgiving to most figures. (I always have trouble getting shift dresses to fit nicely.) Again, I love the idea of layering a shirt under a dress, since it is something that I would not think to do on my own. But this looks lovely and take a shirt that is potentially only business casual and makes it look significantly more polished.

I wanted a slightly more curvaceous Mary Jane to go with this look, taking my cue from the slightly more curvaceous shift dress and slightly more curvaceous white button down shirt. I found this very cute pair from Payless. Can you believe this shoe is only $20?

I love that this is yet another innovative take on business wear for a little over $150 and it mixes expensive and inexpensive elements for a simply elegant office look.

Katharine Hepburn in Woman of the Year (1942) and Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce (1945)

I couldn’t believe that I saw almost exactly the same outfit in two very different films on two vastly different actresses: in 1942, with Kate Hepburn in Woman of the Year and then in 1945, Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce. I debated as to whether to make this one post or two, but the outfits are only different in the shoe choice, so it didn’t make sense to separate them.

Here are the two inspiration outfits:

Here is my interpretation for Kate:
Run-Down: KateShirt: Signature Washed Linen Collection: Billow-Sleeve Shirt, $34 via Spiegel
Skirt: Sonia Rykiel, Black Skirt with Suspenders, on sale for $70.80 via Milk
Shoes: Alex Marie "Miro" Pump, on sale for $20.99 via Dillard’s
Total: $125.79
Kate Hepburn in Woman of the Year (1942)Fashion Trends & Styles - Polyvore

Kate Hepburn in Woman of the Year (1942) by hollywoodfashionvault on Polyvore.com

And here is my interpretation for Joan:
Run-Down: Joan
Shirt: Signature Washed Linen Collection: Billow-Sleeve Shirt, $34 via Spiegel
Skirt: Sonia Rykiel, Black Skirt with Suspenders, on sale for $70.80 via Milk
Shoes: Michael Antonio Women's Shaw Sandal in Black, $27.47 via Endless.com
Total: $132.27
Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce (1945)Fashion Trends & Styles - Polyvore

Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce (1945) by hollywoodfashionvault featuring Michael Antonio shoes
milk - Dresses, $71
Signature Washed Linen Collection: Billow-Sleeve Shirt at Spiegel.com, $34
Michael Antonio Women's Shaw Sandal, $20
Martha Stewart Living 8 oz. Eiderdown Interior Paint Tester #MSL074 -..., $1,000
New York - La Daily Musto - Mommie Dearest's Vehicle Comes To TV

You can see that they are exactly the same except I changed out the shoe. The shoe choices come directly from the two films. Kate wears a no nonsense black peep toe pump and Joan wears a slinky wide strappy sandal. I think the difference originates with their characters. Kate’s character is an accomplished woman who already has everything she wants. Joan is playing a woman who upwardly mobile and needs every leg up she can, including a bit of sex appeal.

Other than the shoes, this outfit was very simple. Both outfits are only three easy pieces: shoes, a white billowy sleeved shirt and a pinafore/skirt with suspenders. This look is very classic but also fashion-forward since no one really wears pinafores anymore, unless they are a candy striper. The skirt with suspenders that I found is a steal at only $70, all of the other ones I saw were much more expensive. I think this one is very cute but also professional.

The shirt had to have some huge balloon sleeves, otherwise known as poet sleeves or billowy sleeves. I think this is the key to the retro feel of this outfit. Most women who bought the pinafore would put a tee shirt or something similar underneath it, but by putting a button-down white shirt with some interesting sleeves, you immediately dress this up and play down the cuteness of the pinafore for an interesting tension in the look. This shirt from Spiegel is a great price and has the sleeves. Neither Kate nor Joan’s shirt had a collar (as my choice does) but I think it actually helps the look in the end.

This look is a very interesting and unique take on office appropriate. You could even go farther and layer a blazer over it to make it even more professional and in the winter you could wear this with tights and closed toe pumps. The suspender-skirt/pinafore is a retro item that I think should make a comeback in modern wardrobes.

Ginger Rogers in Follow the Fleet (1936)

Top Hat is hailed as the best of the Astaire-Rogers musicals. Personally, of the ones I have seen, Swing Time is my favorite. But, honestly I watched Follow the Fleet and Top Hat back to back and I liked Follow the Fleet so much better. Top Hat was overwrought with an erudite storyline of too many mistaken identities and double-meanings. And, all of the outfits were so hyper-formal and overdone that I didn’t get any fashion inspiration from it.

Enter, Follow the Fleet. This was Fred Astaire’s chance to try and give himself some working class credibility. He smokes and does everything he can to smash that Top Hat persona. He doesn’t entirely succeed but it is a nice effort. Unlike Top Hat, Follow the Fleet had lots of good style ideas.

Ginger Rogers is – as usual – extremely cute and sassy in this movie. I saw a suit that she wore that I have seen time and again in these old movies – the checkered suit. I decided to take some inspiration from this by layering checkerboard print with another checkerboard print.

Here is my interpretation:

Dress: French Riviera Dress, ModCloth, on sale for $29.99
Blazer: Anthropologie, Checks and Balances Blazer, on sale for $49.99
Shoes: Hush Puppies Women's Lilianna Bow Pump in Dark Red Suede, $52.22 via Endless.com
Total: $132.20

For this and the next five posts, I will be posting outfits that are only 3 easy pieces to create a finished look. Since all outfits have to have shoes of some sort, this is much harder than it seems. This one is a great one to start with.

I started this look with the blazer. I like the different sizes of checkerboard in this jacket and it is what makes this look hang together with going bonkers. It is on sale at Anthropologie for a great price.

Next, instead of doing a jacket/skirt combo to recreate Ginger’s matching look, I decided to put a dress underneath the jacket and accomplish the same type of thing. This cute dress from Modcloth has that ruffle detail which makes it look like a dress shirt with the jacket over it. And the checkerboard is a different size than both the large and small checkerboard print on the jacket.

Then Ginger has on a chunky heel loafer with some sort of bow or flower on top. I decided to make it a contrasting color (in this case red) to make the outfit a bit more colorful. This one I found has much the same shape as Gingers and it is only $52.

Altogether, this look is only 3 pieces and totals to just over $132. This would be a great day-to-evening look because you could wear this to the office during the day with the jacket and then just remove the jacket to go out at night. The dress could be made more summery by adding sandals rather than heels. The jacket could be mixed into your work wardrobe in a number of ways.

I am very timid when it comes to pattern mixing. Studying these old films is teaching me a lot about how to do right and this blog gives me a comfortable space to experiment and see what I like without dropping tons of money. I would never have thought to put checkered with checkered but I think this really works.

However, I realize that this might not be a reasonable look for most people. To that end, I have collected a number of checkered style dress and scarves so that you can get some of that 1930s-1940s checkered dress/suit feel without going all the way like I did with this look.

Retro Theme: Checkered
Run-Down (from Left to Right):

Dress: ModCloth, Tastemaker Dress, $129
Scarf: Nordstrom 'Ice Crack' Print Scarf in Grey Green, $17.90
Dress: Jones New York, Cube Print Wrap Dress, on sale for $59.99
Scarf: Nordstrom Reversible Check Scarf in Multi Berry, $24.90
Dress: Alex Marie "Diane" Dress, $129 via Dillard’s
Dress: ModCloth, Squared Away Dress, $49.99

Friday, June 18, 2010

Norma Shearer in The Women (1939) (Take 2)

This is the second of three outfits that I will be posting based on Norma Shearer’s attire from the film The Women. Here is my commentary on this film which can be found in my first post on Norma and one on Joan Crawford.

Norma Shearer wears some fabulous skirt suits in this movie. She is playing a pampered but genuine woman who you assume does not work. So, I don’t know why she wears suits but I am glad she does. They are a great example of 1930s women’s suiting taken together. One really caught my eye: it is a matching skirt and jacket with a rounded collar and strong but rounded shoulders. The shirt under the jacket is white with a peter pan collar and she wears a pearl brooch on the jacket. She also wears a fedora and simple black pumps.

Here is my interpretation:

Run-Down:Shirt: Anthropologie, On and Off Hours Blouse, on sale for $29.95
Blazer: The Proverbial Blazer, $44.99 via ModCloth.com
Skirt: Office Hours Skirt, $39.99 via Mod Cloth.com
Hat: Woven Fedora with Two-Tone Band, $9.99 via Urban Outfitters
Brooch: White Freshwater Pearl Pin, $15 via Newport News
Shoes: Madden Girl Bluebery in Black Fabric, $49.99 via Zappos.com
Total: $189.91

I thought this would look best as a monochromatic grey look, even though this suit could have been any color really – it is hard to tell with a black and white movie. I utilized the blouse and shoes from my Claudette Colbert post again for this look. They both work flawlessly and I always try to re-use as appropriate to show how these items could work within an actual wardrobe. (But, I don’t want to always use the same item over and over so much that this blog gets boring.)

With the shirt and shoes covered, I need some retro suiting pieces. I wasn’t tied to finding a suit set or items that matched hers too closely. I knew that probably would not happen. I did find two really interesting pieces from ModCloth that I think work well together and capture the feeling of Norma’s suit. Both are different shades of grey and have a slight tweed texture to them. Both are priced nicely around $40-$50 each. I love that the blazer is a one-button blazer. Norma’s doesn’t have a button but it comes together in only one place, so it looks as though it could have only one. I also like the black trim on this blazer; it gives it visual interest and makes the shoes make a bit more sense. The skirt is really a nice shape. It has a couple of box pleats on the side to give it some volume but not so much that it looks like it was from the 1940s or 1950s.
I found a very cute pearl brooch that reminds me very much of Norma’s for only $15 at Newport News. I think that adds just the right amount of jewelry for a pretty serious look. Lastly, I love this hat. It’s a black fedora but has a two-toned grey band around it, which will make it go with the rest of this suit set nicely. And it was only $9.99.

This entire suit with accessories was well under $200. That’s fantastic. All of these pieces could be remixed and you could get lots of mileage out of them. Here are five quick ideas for how to use these same pieces.

On & Off Hours Blouse - Anthropologie.com, $30
Old Navy Womens Shirred V-Neck Tees, $8
Women's Clothing: Women's Clothing: The silk-blend V-neck: Sweaters ..., $15
The Proverbial Blazer, $45
C&C California Official Store - luxe fleece cropped blazer, $70
Office Hours Skirt, $40
Tall Curvy Cotton Poplin Trousers, $50
Max Studio Designer Women’s Clothing Ladies Fashion
Classic Clothing at Talbots - Double-weave skirt, $49
V is for Vixen Tights, $20
Hush Puppies Women's Impression Mary Jane Pump - Free Overnight...
Amazon.com: Steven By Steve Madden Women's Shirly Pointed Toe Loafer:..., $56
Nine West Nuncio NWNUNCIO BLACK LEATHER 140 M (BLACK), Wide Width, $69
Woven Fedora with Two-Tone Band, $20
Forever21.com - Accessories - Hats & Hair, $6.80
Green Thumb Belt, $28
Madden Girl Bluebery at Zappos.com, $50
White Freshwater Pearl Pin at Newport-News.com, $15
Anthology Semiprecious Stone Necklace - - Nordstrom, $45
Women's Mary Jane Spectator Pumps/Shoes Black & Baby Pink

And this outfit put together in this way is office appropriate and could (sans hat) be worn to a job interview too. The grey monochrome and lack of jewelry keeps it serious but the retro cut of the pieces definitely make it unique and memorable.

Lauren Bacall in How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) (Take 2)

This is my second of three posts on Lauren Bacall from How to Marry a Millionaire. The color combination and the way she is wearing the scarf caught my eye with this outfit. Yellow and red seem to pop up a lot together in old movies and the way she ties (or rather drapes) her scarf seems very glamorous and unique.

Here is my interpretation:

Run-Down:Sweater: Gap, The Silk Blend V-Neck in Country Yellow, on sale for $14.99
Skirt: Tweed Shirred Skirt by Robert Rodriguez, on sale for $75 via Style Q
Scarf: Debut Red glitter pashminetta scarf, $22.11 (15 GBP) via Debenham’s
Shoes: Nine West, Nuncio in Red Leather, on sale for $39.99
Total: $152.09
Lauren’s skirt was tweed and very wide and swingy and pleated. This one is gathered in such a way as to make it look and feel wide and pleated, but it is a more modern silhouette.

Next, this look needed a bright yellow sweater. Since it is summertime, I found this one on sale for a song - $15. To accent the yellow sweater, I found a gorgeous red scarf.

I can’t remember what shoes Lauren wore with this but I chose to do a red shoe that matches the scarf. I selected my favorite shoe, the Nuncio pump by Nine West. The red leather is on sale right now for $39.99.

This outfit is very simple and more about the way you wear it than the actual putting these pieces together. You could do a look like this with many different colors in your closet. This outfit is work appropriate but still punchy and unique because of the bold color combination. The entire ensemble is only a little over $150. Excellent.

Ruby Keeler in Dames (1934)

After taking on my first bridal look (from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), I wondered how many other bridal ensembles I could come up with from classic movies. (I think if I were really honest with myself about what I like to do, I would be a wedding planner for a living.) I had rented Dames with Ruby Keller and Dick Powell from the library and immediately thought that this dress from the number “I Only Have Eyes for You” would make a great bridal gown.

I rented Dames mostly because the dance numbers were directed by the legendary Busby Berkeley. Berkeley is famous for his kaleidoscopic overhead shots of showgirls artfully arranged. Here are a couple of examples from Dames:
So, before I even get to the outfit, I would like to suggest a wedding favor idea. What about giving away little personalized kaleidoscopes to the guests? There are a number of websites out there that will do personalized paper kaleidoscopes from about $3 to $6 each. Kaleioscopestoyou.com had the best selection I could find. What an interesting tribute to classic films and Busby Berkeley.

Back to attire: Ruby Keeler has on a satin and organza gown with a skirt full of ruffles. Here is what I came up with as a modern interpretation:

Run-Down:Dress: Decode 1.8 Cap-Sleeved Satin & Mesh Ruffled Gown, on sale for $156.99 via Lord & Taylor
Wrap: The Limited, Pull Thru Flower Wrap in Ivory, $49.50
Headband: Asymmetrical Poppy Headband in Ivory Made to Order, $78 via Etsy seller sweetpeaandfawn
Jewelry: Reproduction Art Deco Style Necklace and Earrings, $65 VintageWedding.com
Shoes: Caparros Elope Pump in Ivory, $49.95 via DSW
Total: $399.44
The dress was pretty easy to find. The ivory in the gown feels more antique than a white gown to me. I love the floor length ruffles and the sheer bits over the shoulder that remind me of Ruby’s dress. The price was fantastic too. With a gown for less than $200, this look was set to be a good deal more affordable than my last bridal look.

I stumbled upon this lovely ivory wrap from The Limited and really wanted to use it. Did you know that The Limited has an entire bridal division. I had no idea. I imagined that this wrap could be for an outdoor wedding in autumn and could be worn for the ceremony outside and then removed for the reception indoors.

When I was recently a bridesmaid, we were allowed to pick our own footwear and I picked a satin D’orsay pump much like this one I have selected for this post. It was supportive and comfortable but felt very formal and feminine. This one in ivory from DSW is a great price too.

And the finishing touches: headpiece and jewelry. I wanted to find some jewelry that evoked the 1930s and this great site VintageWedding.com had some lovely Art Deco pieces. I like that you get matching earrings to go with the necklace for only $65. I think this would be particularly lovely if one of the wedding colors was a bronze or copper.

I went with a headpiece instead of a veil. This poppy mimics the flower of the wrap and feels very antique and retro because it is off to one side. Since it is in place of a veil, the price seemed reasonable.

Altogether, I managed to pull off an entire bridal ensemble for under $400. This look is formal and uber-feminine. It would be appropriate (sans-wrap) for any season, but I am imagining it as a autumn wedding with bronze/copper and perhaps mauve and pale pink accents with the ivory. Here are a few ideas for how this antique theme might play out:

Run-Down:Bridesmaid Dress: Venetian Lace Taffeta Dress , on sale for $39 via Newport News
Bridesmaid Shawl: Target, Adi Designs Pashmina Luxury Shawl in Pink, $14.99
Bridesmaid Shoe: Caparros Elope Pump in Pink, $49.95 via DSW
Total: $103.94

The bridesmaids’ attire would be just over $100. That’s a great deal. They would appreciate that. I didn’t find prices on the flowers or the cake but just added that to illustrate how you could expand the colors and antique 1930s feel to all aspects of the event.

Imagine all of this inspiration coming from one dress in one number in one movie! Oh! And what if the bride and groom had their first dance to “I Only Have Eyes for You”? Wouldn’t that be so sweet? I wouldn’t use the version from the movie Dames, but this cover of it by the Flamingos is perfect for a dreamy slow dance.

Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail (1998)

You’ve Got Mail has a great film pedigree. It based on a 1940 film called The Shop Around the Corner with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan, which was also made in to the musical In the Good Old Summertime in 1949 with Judy Garland and Van Johnson.

You’ve Got Mail is also written and directed by the multi-talented Nora Ephron. (Ephron also wrote and directed Sleepless in Seattle, Michael and the more recent Julie & Julia. She is also the writer responsible for When Harry Met Sally and My Blue Heaven.) Ephron also draws in aspects of Pride and Prejudice into the story, which pretty much makes this film romantic comedy royalty.

Aside from that, Meg Ryan is absolutely adorable in this movie. (I maintain Meg Ryan during this period is a modern day Ginger Rogers.) Her attire in this film is very classic and lovely. She sports a lot of twinsets, turtlenecks, shift dresses over button up shirts, all in classic muted colors.

All of this was enough to make this film qualify as a modern classic, in my opinion. I selected Meg’s final look from the film to recreate. Meg’s outfit her is a beige and blue dress and vest with some comfy and simple beige loafers.

Here is my interpretation:

Run-Down:Dress: Urban Outfitters, Fletcher by Lyell 3/4 Sleeve Knit Dress, on sale for $19.99
Vest: Delia’s Megan Cascade Vest in Blue Shore, $19.50
Shoes: Roxy, Pixie Shoes in Natural, $44
Total: $86.49

I am pleased to say that this look is my least expensive thus far. This is the only look to come in at under $100. This look is significantly less dressy looking than Meg’s but this is what was available. If you could find similar pieces in linen rather than knit, it would make this look quite a bit more lux.

This dress from Urban Outfitters has the right color and the right length on the sleeves. I wish the skirt of this dress flared out a bit, but for the great price it is a good stand in. The blue vest from Delia’s is very cute and I love the color combination of the blue with the beige. It has a much more mellow feel than blue and white. These loafers are very cute with the beige-white gingham look, which is an interesting innovation on Meg’s look.

What a simple and easy casual look with only three pieces! You could wear this on a casual Friday to work or out running errands or to the movies. This was an interesting exercise in dressing down an inspiration look and making it even cheaper than you thought possible.


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