Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ann Miller in Easter Parade (1948)

Ann Miller was the dynamo of the MGM musical. She had spunk! A tap dancer by training, she also was an appealing all-around entertainer. It was rumored that she had a long-standing affair with Louis B Mayer, the head of the studio, but clearly that connection never got her anything except supporting roles. Despite that, her solos are some of the most memorable numbers in the history of the Hollywood musical.

One of her best, Shakin’ the Best Away, appears in Easter Parade from 1948. This film is really not about Easter at all and is a love quadrangle between three vaudeville review performers and their lawyer friend. The story takes place in the 1920s and features most of Irving Berlin’s best songs. It stars Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, but the male lead was supposed to be Gene Kelly before he broke his ankle playing sports. This number that Ann performs is a fantastic example of American tap dance at its best.

Of course, her costume, taken literally, is not wearable today. But I think there are elements that we can utilize to create an Ann Miller-inspired outfit that works for a variety of occasions. Here is what I was looking for going in to designing this look: yellow skirt, shiny black sleeveless halter top, strappy retro black shoes and tights with embellishments.

Here is my interpretation:

Shirt: Ann Taylor, Halter Top with Rosette Trim, on sale for $49.99
Skirt: Anthropologie, Painted Morning Skirt, $88
Tights: Hue, Ornamental Tights in Black, $20
Shoes: Ann Taylor, Megan T-Strap Peeptoe Pump, on sale for $47.99
Total: $205.98

I love the skirts from Anthropologie and this one reminds me of Vincent Van Gogh's paintings as well as Ann’s routine and the movement of her dancing. Once I found this lovely piece, the rest really fell into place. This halter top from Ann Taylor has some floral elements and shine, which really dress up this otherwise daytime skirt, but it is modest for a halter top and not too vampy.

Of course, tights with embroidery so far up on the thigh would be nearly impossible to find and not practical anyway, but these tights with the embellishments on the ankle/calf area are super-cute and continue making this outfit more dressy. The T-Straps here are really lovely and give a 1948-feel to the whole outfit.

I would wear this to a dinner function, reception or other evening event. The whole ensemble strikes the right balance between sexy and professional, daytime and nighttime, comfortable but elegant. I enjoyed this outfit because if I had started with a yellow skirt like this without a vision in mind, I would have styled this skirt for daytime office wear. But, following Anne’s model, I was able to put this skirt into a new context and create and interesting evening look.

Are there daytime items in your closet that you could put together with some shiny, embellished pieces to dress them up for nighttime?

1 comment:

  1. Never was Ann Miller more poetic than in Shakin The Blues Away; She owned this dance, and I have it qued to my disc opening here!



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