I just got an invitation through the mails: “Your presence requested this evening – it’s formal. Top hat, white tie and tails …” Ah, it was so much easier for men like Irving Berlin, who wrote this, or Fred Astaire, who sang it. But for us gals, trying to decide what to wear on a night-out can be a nightmare – especially when there’s little to inspire in the shops. Perhaps it’s time to take a leaf out of such style-leaders as Sarah Jessica Parker (above, in Dior Couture hat), and turn to men’s formal wear for inspiration. Of course, she wasn’t the first:
Marlene Dietrich sported top hat, white tie and tails (plus corsage) at a Hollywood ball in 1929, and often returned to the look – giving it a feminine twist in sparkly white, and investing it with even more sex appeal and glamour in Blonde Venus in 1933. Just look at the effect on Cary Grant!
Dietrich was not the only 1930s style icon who cross-dressed in a memorable fashion.. Josephine Baker, the snake-hipped darling of La Revue Negre in Paris, may not have been French but she shared Dietrich’s continental sense of playing with expectations, and had a similarly daring fashion outlook:
One of the most stylish young women I’ve met is the wonderful jazz singer Melody Gardot who shares my passion for old movies . When she’s not channelling Lauren Bacall, Veronica Lake or another film noir heroine, she has something of a French look about her – check out the Breton stripes with the top hat:
By strange coincidence, Melody’s stablemate at Decca, Madeleine Peyroux (another old movie and old jazz fan) was photographed looking stunning in top hat and tails (like a sexy circus ringleader) for her last album, Bare Bones.