Christmas movie time comes but once a year – and it seems to me that some of my favourite Christmas movies boast some very stylish characters, some of whom have influenced me over the, ahem, decades.. In The Bishop’s Wife (1947), Loretta Young (above) is not really a fashionplate, but I have always covetted her black ankle boots and, one year, my Christmas wish came true when I stumbled across a pair in the Office sale – immediately after seeing that lovely Christmas movie on the big screen at the Glasgow Film Theatre. Another festive favourite is The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942) which is not only gloriously funny, but also boasts some covetable ensembles sported by Ann Sheridan (below) who played a Hollywood movie star. I’ll be looking at her – and Bette Davis’s – wardrobe from that film in another post but here’s a publicity shot of one of her Orry-Kelly outfits.A movie which is often forgotten about in the festive film roll call is the deliciously stylish Bell, Book and Candle (1958) which shows off a modern day Manhattan witch’s simple, sexy and elegant wardrobe to delightful effect. Kim Novak slinks around memorably in a selection of Jean Louis clothes, while working her magic on unsuspecting James Stewart. Like Bell, Book and Candle, The Thin Man (1934) isn’t usually included in festive movie round-ups – its status as an influential screwball comedy, and as the first in one of the most successful series of Hollywood films of the 1930s, tends to take precedence – but it is set around the Christmas holidays. Myrna Loy appears in a number of wonderfully chic outfits by the British costume designer Dolly Tree. Her jaunty tartan get-up is immortalised in this lovely sketch.
Tag Archives: Jean Louis
Doris Day, whose wonderfully diverse career is currently being celebrated with a month-long retrospective at London’s BFI Southbank Centre, was not only a terrific singer, actress, comedienne and dancer; she was also a bit of a style icon. And an underrated one at that. Just in time for Sunday’s screening of Pillow Talk (1959), arguably the first and best of Day’s run of chic rom-coms, here’s a tribute to her distinctive pared-down style which flourished in the early 1960s – starting with this Jean Louis-designed ensemble from Pillow Talk.As the sassy, independent interior designer in Pillow Talk, Day works a fab wardrobe of simple, colourful suits, cocoon coats and natty hats. Sadly, decent photos of these outfits are rare on the internet – so on to the equally glorious Lover Come Back (1961), another “sex” comedy with Rock Hudson. Once more Day played a career gal (this time an ad exec) but this time it was Irene, one of the grande dames of Hollywood costume design, who kitted her out in such simple and elegant outfits as this:
White was very much the Doris Day signature colour – no doubt because of its wholeseome, virginal, connotations. She was often seen in white or cream or monochrome. Here’s the stand-out evening dress from Lover Come Back, a film which was clearly an inspiration for Mad Men both in terms of its Madison Avenue setting and its style .. Irene, who died not long afterwards – in 1962 – put pen to paper on only one other occasion for Doris Day: to design the generally impressive wardrobe for the Hitchockian thriller Midnight Lace (1960). Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a decent picture available of the very-now black lace top which Day wears during one of her scarier scenes but there is a collection of publicity shots of other highlights of her Midnight Lace wardrobe available online, including this next slinky addition to the list of her memorable white evening gowns. She must have loved this dress: she wore it to the 1960 Academy Awards, when she was nominated as Best Actress for her performance in Pillow Talk.Playing an American socialite living in London with her smooth-talking businessman husband (Rex Harrison), Day gets through quite an eclectic selection of kit in Midnight Lace – and is, unusually, seen in black twice in daytime scenes. There’s this streamlined, Jackie O-style, suit and pillbox hat combo
And this less formal outfit: And, finally, here’s Day looking more sophisticated than her character’s romantic naivete would suggest in That Touch of Mink (1962), alongside the most chic accessory a movie blonde in the early 1960s could have – Cary Grant.. This very DD evening outfit was designed by Rosemary Odell though she didn’t receive a credit.
And back to where the style heroism began – Pillow Talk.
This is arguably the most famous dress of the 1940s – and certainly the most iconic film noir frock -and it’s worn by the luminous Rita Hayworth in the 1946 noir melodrama Gilda which is currently enjoying a revival in British cinemas. However, it’s not the only gorgeous gown in the film: Rita gets through several wardrobes’ worth of Columbia Studios designer Jean Louis’s finest creations in the course of the movie, starting with the shimmering gown which her power-crazed husband has to help her in – and out – of.
For her second outing to her husband’s Buenos Aires casino, Gilda glides around in a Grecian-style gown – very now-looking, with its belt and matching cuff. And she carries her cigarettes in a teeny clutch bag..
The first time we see Gilda in daywear, she’s singing her signature song – Put the Blame on Mame. Her chic outfit is – like her (or rather singer Anita Ellis’s) performance of that bluesy and witty song – extremely simple yet effective. The plain, slightly toga-esque, dress is accessorised with a studded belt and a deep, gladiator-style cuff. As a fan of cuffs (if you have skinny wrists they’re a godsend), I recommend this film as a source of inspiration! They’re definitely a running theme.
For her wedding to Johnny, about two minutes after her husband has apparently died in a plane crash, Gilda sports a chic black satin skirt suit – just the right touch for a widow-turned-bride, n’est-ce pas?
For her visit to her new husband’s office (it used to be her old husband’s), Gilda smoulders in a pale-coloured satin column gown; fur coat draped casually over one shoulder or held in front of her. Indeed, she never puts it down – even though she walks about the office smoking a cigarette. Was Rita perhaps sporting a baby bump? The positioning of the coat over that part of her dress makes you wonder..
Returning to Buenos Aires to file for divorce, Gilda is very business-like in a pinstripe suit not dissimilar to (though not as sharp as) Rosalind Russell’s in His Girl Friday or Bette Davis’s in Now Voyager.
I don’t know that Gilda saves the best dress for last – but it’s certainly the one that is best remembered. Rita Hayworth was asked later what had held up the black satin column dress during the nightclub performance of Put the Blame on Mame – it comes dangerously close to slipping down as the song goes on. She replied: “Two things.” Here’s the number, followed by my preferred version of it (the day dress one) and the other song from the film, Amado Mio.
It’s not a Christmas classic of anything like the calibre of It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, but Bell, Book and Candle – the 1958 romantic comedy about a Manhattan witch who falls in love on December 25th – is one of my favourite festive season films. It may have been James Stewart who attracted me to the movie in the first place, but nowadays I love it not just for his performance as the publisher who falls under the spell of a sultry sorceress – but also for the stylish, beatnik wardrobe slinkily worn by Kim Novak – and designed by Jean Louis. Here’s how she looks when we first see her, in her character Gill’s primitive art shop – wearing her black polo neck and trousers and red tunic.
The film begins on Christmas Eve when Gill tells her cat Pyewacket how she yearns for a man – before she knows it she’s falling in love with new neighbour Shep Henderson (James Stewart). Later that evening, at the Zodiac Club where she and the rest of the Greenwich Village chapter of the sorceress sisterhood hang out, she discovers that Shep is about to marry her old school nemesis – and suddenly, using witchcraft to get the guy doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Here she is coming home in her velvet hooded cloak, scarlet muffler and bright red gloves which match the red satin shoes she showed off in the club.
Later that evening, as if by magic, Shep stops by Gill’s place – and they get to know each other.. The romance begins on the settee where Shep gets an eyeful of Gill, whose slashed-neck, long-sleeved maroon evening gown looks fairly conservative – until she turns round to reveal that, like many of the dresses that Kim Novak was photographed in during this period, it has no back.
After the spell has been cast, the couple spend an enchanted night which climaxes with a swoonsome love scene at the top of the Flatiron Building on a snowy Christmas morning. Admittedly, some of the colours in the film are a little dreary (including Kim Novak’s hair which looks slightly pinkish on my DVD) but the simplicity of the clothes and the fact that they all work together makes it super-stylish. Easily the best outfit in Gill’s wardrobe of blacks, maroons and reds is the one which features a tomato-red snood and matching gloves, plus a show-stopping leopard-print cape which is just as fashionable now as in 1958.
Snoods, hoods and cowl necks are Gill’s signature shapes and when she visits Shep at work , she ditches the sexy leopard-print cape in favour of a black one. Or does she? Look closely at the outfit she’s wearing as she enters his office ..
The leopard print is the most obvious example of why this film is so very now, and such a treasure trove for those of us who like to pinch ideas from the past. There’s also the matter of the make-up: red lips and nails (see the first picture) are the height of chic this Christmas. If you’ve never seen the movie and feel like some festive romance, check it out – there’s lots to enjoy.