Is 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.Lucky 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.Ideally 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. Needless 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.The 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?”.) Bernard 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. And 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 ….
Tag Archives: Ginger Rogers
So, the last ten days have been spent managing my dodgy back. This has involved – at the start of the bout of back pain – an embarrassing amount of bad TV (who knew an addiction to the Real Housewives TV series was a side-effect of painkillers?) watched from a prostrate position, and then the challenges of trying to negotiate things like washing very long hair while in the bath as I couldn’t manage to do it any other way without help. That took me straight back to childhood.
Still, the hair-washing challenges did inspire me to try a hair product that I’ve been meaning to experiment with for a while. DHC After Bath Hair Emulsion ( £12; www.dhcuk.co.uk) is a light cream, infused with nourishing olive oil, which is a godsend for coloured hair prone to split ends and dryness. Often, leave-in conditioners can weigh down fine hair like mine but I have nothing negative to report about this fab product which leaves locks looking luscious and feeling lovely. Oh, actually there is one negative aspect: the bottle! Pink and phallic – like some sort of retro vibrator.. kind of sticks out like a sore, erm, thumb on one’s bathroom shelf ..
Thankfully, I was fit to leave the settee – and to quit the Real Housewives, for one afternoon anyway – to keep an appointment at the PURE Spa at the Silverburn shopping mall, on Glasgow’s southside, for an Elemis facial. I’ve passed this discreetly located spa – it’s upstairs in the shopping centre, on the floor between the shops and the car park – many times but never been inside. However, I shall definitely be back as it’s so handy, and was such a pleasurable experience. Who knew that behind its shop front there was such a vast space dedicated to relaxation, beauty and pampering?
PURE Spa – which also has outposts in Edinburgh, Leith and Aberdeen – offers a wide range of spa treatments as well as all the basics of beauty upkeep. I had an Elemis Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Facial ( £79 for 75 minutes), the first full-length Elemis facial I’ve had in ages – I’ve only had the very effective Power Booster facials (which last 45 minutes) in recent times. Super-relaxing, and including two masks plus a terrific, toxin-draining and tightening, massage, the Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift Facial was just what the doctor ordered. Tension evaporated as my therapist, Siobhan, administered a neck, shoulder and scalp massage – and my chilling-out session continued afterwards in the large, cocoon-like, relaxation room.
My back may be feeling much better now but hair-washing is still a challenge. I’ve now graduated to doing it over the sink a la Ginger Rogers:
Ginger Rogers was one of the most popular stars of the 1930s and early 1940s – and she appeared in an astonishing number of films, five of which are being screened at the Glasgow Film Festival, which starts next Thursday. What was particularly striking about Ginger was her hair, which seldom looked the same twice and which set one trend after another. She was best known as a blonde, with curls or waves – this was the look she sported in most of the eight wonderful musicals she made with Fred Astaire in the 1930s.
For the most glamorous dances in the Astaire-Rogers musicals, the ones where Fred donned tails, Ginger complemented her evening gowns with a series of much-copied up-do’s, including this pleated style – one of my very favourites – which she wore to dance Cheek to Cheek in the classic 1935 musical Top Hat (showing at the Glasgow Film Festival). It’s still inspirational – and fashionable again – over seven decades later..
The Astaire-Rogers films were made virtually back-to-back though Ginger often crammed in other movies in-between. This meant that the same styles were in vogue from one film to the next. The following photo was taken in 1935, during the filming of Follow the Fleet (showing in the Glasgow Film Festival), which was released less than six months after Top Hat. The picture shows a style which RKO Studios’ hair and make-up department christened “The Golden Plaque”, and Ginger sported it during the big romantic number Let’s Face the Music and Dance (complete with fur-trimmed gown).
By the late 1930s, Ginger had begun experimenting with a sleeker, straighter bob, which can be seen in two 1938 films – the Astaire-Rogers musical Carefree and the romantic comedy Vivacious Lady (showing at the GFF).
A bit like Meryl Streep – who, coincidentally, is the subject of the main retrospective at the Glasgow Film Festival – Ginger received the most critical acclaim and was taken most seriously when she dramatically changed her appearance for a part. In Kitty Foyle (showing at the GFF), the 1940 melodrama about an unwed mother which won Ginger her Oscar, the blonde bombshell wore her hair long and brunette.
And, that same year, she sported curls and an updo in the comedy Once Upon a Honeymoon. She was only 31 at the time but Ginger’s movie career had clearly peaked: most of the roles she played after that were inferior to her earlier parts – and the memorable hair-do’s became a thing of the past.
* The Glasgow Film Festival runs from February 17-27. Visit www.glasgowfilm.org/festival for more info.
I grew up on a diet of old movies and I love to style-watch them – to play at spot the fabulous frock or the ace accessory. Recently I’ve been a bit obsessed with some of the ridiculous – but wonderful – hats that popped up in 1930s films. And they don’t come much more wonderfully ridiculous than Greta Garbo’s in the 1939 comedy Ninotchka.
The Ninotchka hat was much more than a fashion accessory; it was symbolic of the fact that its wearer had succumbed to the romance of Paris and was shaking off the shackles of communism…. Irene Dunne’s crazy black heatgear in the priceless 1937 screwball comedy The Awful Truth, on the other hand, was representative of nothing more than high fashion – though her newly ex-husband (Cary Grant) doesn’t look convinced…
Cary Grant looks much more at ease in the next picture, from the 1938 romantic comedy-drama, Holiday – maybe because he’s just resigned himself to the fact that he’s outnumbered (by Doris Nolan, left, and Katharine Hepburn) on the silly hat front..
I don’t know if Linda Darnell wore this next hat in a movie, but, given that it seems to be Saturn-inspired in design, it’s way ahead of its time: after all, the sci-fi movie genre didn’t take off until the 1950s!
Similarly, I don’t recall ever seeing Ginger Rogers wearing this next natty hat – by celebrated hat designer Lily Dache – in any of her 1930s films. Maybe the stars circling the pointy peak of the hat was too much like Paramount Studios’ logo for RKO’s (her home studio’s) liking..
And finally, my favourite daft hat of the 1930s – worn, as only she could, by the inimitable Rosalind Russell (pictured here with Joan Crawford) in the gloriously funny and stylish 1939 movie The Women..
Today is the birthday of the late, great Katharine Hepburn, a movie star who refused to bow to convention and who evolved an androgynous look that is still inspirational today. Whether the above, early 1940s, photo is Hepburn in her own kit or in one of her characters’, it nevertheless reflects the distinctive Hepburn style: simple, mannish tailoring (and brogues) combined with loose, feminine hair. She was photographed in 1937 wearing similar gear, on the set of Stage Door (that’s Ginger Rogers on the left).
I love Hepburn’s look in The Philadelphia Story (1940) – apart from the intentionally OTT flouncy gingham number she wears during the performance she puts on for the reporters from Spy Magazine. Here she is with James Stewart in the scene in the library. Love the Wee Willie Winky hat …
Designed by Adrian, this is the stand-out gown in the film, appropriately classical because Hepburn’s character, Tracy Lord, is seen (not least, by herself) as something of a goddess..
The gown she had worn when she played Tracy in the original stage production of The Philadelphia Story was even more overt in its nod to Greek influences.
My other favourite Hepburn movie is the one she made after The Philadelphia Story. Woman of the Year (1942) is another stylish and very funny comedy – about the love affair that develops between two writers on the same newspaper: Tess (Hepburn), the world-renowned political columnist, and Sam (Spencer Tracy), the top sports reporter. Here they are at Tess’s first-ever baseball game.
Tess and Sam get married – not at the end of the film, but maybe halfway through. Here’s Hepburn looking elegant(and radiant – she had just fallen in love with her co-star, after all – in the wedding dress which Adrian designed for her.
Sadly, I couldn’t find a photo of Tess in the stripy Adrian suit she memorably wears in the film, but here she is in the film’s most celebrated scene, trying unsuccessfully to be the kind of wife who cooks breakfast for her husband. The straps on her pinafore-style dress were not purely decorative: they provided some of the comedy as they continuously got in the way of her attempts to get to grips with unfamiliar kitchen gadgets.