Style on Film: Swing Time

Swing Time - bias cut dressIs this the most gorgeous dress in all of the Ginger Rogers-Fred Astaire films? Quite possibly. It’s certainly one of the most sublime of all the many evening gowns sported by Ginger in her various outings with Fred, from 1933 until 1939, at RKO Studios. Designed by Bernard Newman, who had already dressed Ginger in Top Hat and Follow the Fleet, it comes from the film regarded by many as the best of the Astaire-Rogers musicals – Swing Time (1936). Here’s Ginger in the outfit she’s wearing when her character, Penny, meets a rather overdressed Lucky Garnett (Astaire) for the first time.Swing Time - meet outfitLucky has just had a narrow escape from a wedding – his own – and meets Penny when he asks her for change on the street. Determined to get his lucky dime back from her, he follows her into her place of work – a dance academy – where the only way to get to meet her is to enrol as a student. Cue the classic Pick Yourself Up number in which Penny sports what is now an iconic day dress, black with a white peter pan collar.Swing Time - Pick Yourself Up dressIdeally matched as dance partners, Penny and Lucky are offered employment in the Silver Slipper nightclub, giving Penny the first chance to show off her slender figure in a fluid, flowing – though slightly fussy – evening dress with frou-frou sleeves and trim. Swing Time - frou frou dressNeedless to say, the couple fall in love on the dance floor but, quelle surprise, it’s complicated. On a trip to the countryside with friends, Penny prays for a chance to get Lucky alone, while Lucky  – who is still engaged to the woman he inadvertently jilted – does his damnedest to avoid any (non-dancing!) physical contact.  It’s all very silly, and very funny – and they both look stylish and cosy as they sing Dorothy Fields’s supremely witty lyrics to A Fine Romance.Swing Time - A Fine Romance outfitThe kiss finally happens – and Penny finally gets lucky (and Lucky) when he gets a load of her in THAT dress. (Her other admirer, smoothie bandleader Riccardo, has already seen it, prompting him  to say: “How can I keep my mind on the music when she’s dressed like that?”.) Swing Time - Never Gonna Dance dressBernard Newman, the creator of Ginger’s Swing Time wardrobe, had been a successful bespoke designer at Bergdorf Goodman in New York but came to Hollywood on the recommendation of the elegant RKO star Irene Dunne, having designed gowns for her to wear both onscreen and off. One of his Dunne films was Roberta (1935), which featured a fashion show sequence and also starred Astaire and Rogers.  After only two years in Hollywood, Newman returned to Bergdorf Goodman but continued to design for Ginger for a few more films. Swing Time - back of dressAnd in case the front view and the rear view of this divine dress aren’t enough, here it is in action – viewable from every side ….

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4 Comments

Filed under Movies, Style

4 responses to “Style on Film: Swing Time

  1. Megan

    these videos are fabulous!

  2. I’d have to take the one at the top!

  3. Pingback: Ginger Rogers, trips to the fabric store, and dress-dreams | Seashell Nell

  4. mwoac mwoac

    A friend I went to H.S. with, her mother’s father was a GreyHound bus driver. He would take her from SW Missouri to KC on his route for dance lessons. Ginger was in those lessons too.

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