Friday, April 30, 2010

Quote of the Day: Myrna Loy

"I never enjoyed my work more than when I worked with William Powell. He was a brilliant actor, a delightful companion, a great friend and above all, a true gentleman."

-- Myrna Loy, actress

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Quote of the Day: Hedy Lamarr

"Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid."

-- Hedy Lamarr, actress, inventor


Life Magazine

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Quote of the Day: Lena Horne

"It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it."
-- Lena Horne, singer, actress

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Quote of the Day: Ingrid Bergman

"The best way to keep young is to keep going in whatever it is that keeps you going. With me that's work, and a lot of it. And when a job is finished, relax and have fun."

-- Ingrid Bergman, actress



Monday, April 26, 2010

Quote of the Day: George Burns

"Gracie was supposed to be the straight woman. The first night we had 40 people out front and they didn't laugh at one of my jokes, but every time Gracie asked me a question they fell out of their seats. So I made her the comic and the act was a hit from that moment on. That was the beginning of Burns and Allen."

--- George Burns [On how his act with Gracie Allen began in Vaudeville]



Sunday, April 25, 2010

Classic Movie Star Bios in the Thrift Store

Having too much stuff around makes me ill at ease, and yet I'm a pack rat. So I clean out my storage and buy something; it's a vicious cycle.

Yesterday I gave a box of goodies to the Salvation Army (spring cleaning, you know). While there I was inspired by the various vintage-loving blogs out there and browsed the thrift store part of the building.

They had a book section! No pack rat guilt there because I knew I'd read them, especially since the subject matter is Classic Movie Stars.

I found this:
1st edition from 1978

I confess, I have never read the notorious Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford, the apparently traumatized, adopted child of movie star Joan Crawford, but I do recall watching the Faye Dunaway film of the same name some time ago and laughing myself silly at the unintentionally funny parts of this tragic tale. ("No wire hangers!")

This was there as well:

1st edition, 1989

Elizabeth Takes Off: On Weight Gain, Weight Loss, Self-Image & Self-Esteem by Elizabeth Taylor. The late 20th century is what I call Elizabeth Taylor's White Diamonds era, so titled because of her famous perfume commercial,which is still aired once or twice per year.

During this time, Ms.Taylor was still very much in the limelight- she had played the famous Regina Giddens role from The Little Foxes on Broadway (early '80s); she was very visible in charity work; she would be seen publicly with the then-hottest pop star Michael Jackson; and she made lovely perfume commercials (late '80s/early '90s).

Usually when a famous person writes a book that capitalizes on her weight fluctuations, it is a subject that has been much publicized and has become synonymous with her name; so the star takes pen in hand to set the record straight (and make a few bucks on the subject. Why not?).

I'm looking forward to reading these two books.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Quote of the Day: Robert Wagner

“I sell soap; my wife sells tickets.”

-- Robert Wagner [On why he did not want his wife, Natalie Wood, to star opposite him on his Thin Man - inspired TV series "Hart to Hart"]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Film Fashion: This illustration inspired Minnelli. Who's the artist?

Update 3/28/2012: The mystery is finally solved. Read this post for the conclusion: http://javabeanrush.blogspot.com/2012/03/at-last-artist-who-inspired-judy.html


Alright art mavens, costume fans and movie buffs, tell me who created this portrait.


VintageFashionGuild.org describes it as "French illustration of hat maker, wearing a turban, c. 1829."

The hat looks like a Tam o'Shanter, not a turban.

The inscription looks like "E.B. Philipe" or "C. B. Philipe" I could not find any information of any French artists or milliners of those names or their variations.

I found this illustration while looking up details on hat fashions for a previous entry. I bring it up only because it seemed very familiar... and then it hit me; it's the inspiration for Judy Garland's first dress in The Pirate (1948).

Tom Keogh is listed as the costume designer for that film, however, Vincent Minnelli (the director & husband to Judy Garland) is well-known for contributing to the costume designs for his wife's film roles. As we know, Minnelli is very detail-oriented and includes certain people, things, props and costumes in his films for a reason.


What could be Minnelli's or Keogh's reason for choosing this pattern for Manuela (the character that Judy Garland is playing here)? Maybe they just wanted something unique. Perhaps Manuela, who gets absolutely ecstatic at the mere mention of Paris, has seen this French drawing and has made a copy of the outfit.

Anyway, who's the artist? Does anyone have details?



Quote of the Day: Martha Raye

"I didn't have to work till I was three. But after that, I never stopped.... I must have been hypnotized by the spotlight. I never realized I was being culturally deprived, that I was having a lousy upbringing. We were too busy making a living to worry about stuff like that."
-- Martha Raye, actress, singer


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Quote of the Day: Dorothy Jeakins

"I can put my world down to two words: Make beauty. It's my cue and my private passion."
-- Dorothy Jeakins, costume designer for stage and films, including The Sound of Music (1965)


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Film Fashion & Character Development: Maria in The Sound of Music (1965)

Movies, in part, rely on costumes to tell the story. Let’s discover what clothes tell us about Maria in the family-friendly classic musical Rodgers & Hammerstein's The Sound Of Music (1965).



The costumes for this film were designed by Dorothy Jeakins, a freelance designer who worked in theater and film for over 30 years. Some of her credits include those in The Music Man, Titanic (1953) & South Pacific. Her work in Sound was nominated for the Academy Award that year.

The Sound Of Music is set in 1930s Austria just before and during the Nazi invasion . But before that, the film follows the story of a young lady named Maria, played by Julie Andrews.



We first see Maria atop a mountain wearing a very functional black dress with a full skirt. The kind of dress you can run in or get soiled without much dirt showing. She’s wearing an apron with pockets which tells you she’s a lady who works with her hands. Does she work all day in her own house? Is she employed outside of her house? We don’t know yet.



The black stockings with black shoes tell you that this lady has a conservative sense of fashion. Trendy women had abandoned black stockings about 10 or 15 years earlier . As skirt hems rose, attention to stockings and shoes became fashionable, and stylish ladies wore flesh-toned leg coverings. Maria seems to be a person who is not concerned with the current fads.



She hears church bells chiming out the time, and suddenly remembers an appointment. Then she picks up her wimple, revealing her occupation - she is a postulate at a local abbey.



The sisters are concerned that this loquacious, absent-minded, young lady is not an asset to the organization, so the Mother Abbess gives her an assignment outside of the abbey walls; Maria will be a governess for the Von Trapp family. On her way to the new assignment, Maria again wears a casual look that emphasizes her socio-economic status as well as her child-like characteristics.

"The poor didn‘t want this one."

Our heroine is wearing neutral colors - a khaki jacket on top of a shapeless grey dress, with a pleated a-line skirt that is reminiscent of school girl uniforms . The black stockings and boots make their appearance again. These solid colors and coarse fabrics suggest thrift. The garments seem to have been cobbled together from different outfits, which is perfect for this unpretentious character who gets her worldly clothes from the poor box.



The only dash of color in the outfit is atop her head in what looks like a red leather Breton hat. It reminds one of Madeline, the French school girl of the popular book of the same name from 1939.
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

This style of hat is sometimes used in certain period movies to showcase a character’s innocence. Maybe it’s because it’s usually positioned at the back of the head like a halo.


Honestly, in this outfit her struggle with the Von Trapp’s entrance gate makes her look about 5 years old.

When Maria finally meets her 7 little charges, she looks like the 8th Von Trapp offspring -not the best impression to make when you’re trying to establish authority. Even the aloof captain Georg Von Trapp finds her outfit out of place and makes a few choice comments.

Brigitta:" I think your dress is the ugliest one I ever saw."

Maria mentions that she has no experience in her new job of keeping children and the kids take advantage of that fact. Of course, the wardrobe helps strip away any clout she has over them.


Later that evening, Maria is in her night gown trying to calm the children who are afraid of the storm outside.


You could say that the white night gown shows innocence, as they sing about cream-colored ponies and snow drops, but it’s also like a blank slate. Her rocky relationship with the children gets a reboot in this scene. And her journey away from childhood and towards adulthood gets a jolt of energy as well.


In the subsequent scenes where the children are free to play for the first time in ages, Maria has abandoned her black stockings and button-up boots, and instead sports skin-toned stockings and shoes.



We also start to see more color in her outfits.



At this point, Maria now wears a light scarf or nothing at all on her head instead of that childish halo hat. Taking care of the kids seems to make this governess less juvenile.

Meanwhile, the widowed Captain Von Trapp goes off to court the gorgeous and also widowed Baroness Schrader.

A couple of gorgeous, well-dressed adults

Unlike Maria, the Baroness always looks put together, elegant, and consistently sports perfectly -coiffed hair. She is a self-possessed adult and has a most fabulous, to-die-for wardrobe.


However, Baroness Schrader does not seem to like children , and the Von Trapp children do not like her.


Well, maybe a little.

Her heels and delicate fabrics prevent her from doing all the things she would need to do to play with the kids.


When the children put on a puppet show, Maria wears light-weight fabric that helps her move along with the kids as they manipulate the marionettes. The dress compliments her thin frame and is in a greenish blue that contrasts well with her coloring and her strawberry blonde hair.

However, the fact that the dress has fluttery handkerchief sleeves and is tea-length like the girls’ dresses, instead of floor length like Baroness Schrader’s lovely frock, clothes-wise Maria is aligned with the juvenile crowd and not the adults. You’ll see that a lot in this film.

Maria's hemline mirrors that of the children.

When Captain Von Trapp throws a party for the baroness, the blonde bombshell is dressed to the nines in a golden floor-length sheath that suits the elegant ballroom of the Von Trapp house.


A sophisticated candy floss of a dress. Simply gorgeous.

This gown is the stuff that fairy tales are made of. If King Midas married the Queen of Spun Sugar, their kid would weave the material for this dress. The Baroness belongs among the splendor with the Captain, who looks handsome and distinguished in his tuxedo and medals.

They belong together. Or do they?

They represent refinement. Maria, on the other hand, is out in the gardens looking in with the kids. She wears a very practical light weight day dress and seems to represent raw, natural or innocent things. Here Maria emerges from the greenery.


The captain comes out of his ballroom.


They meet on the patio - where indoors and out of doors, refined and raw, intertwine. And they dance,


and dance


and dance.



Well, this complicates things! Will Maria and the Captain marry? Or will the Captain go back to the Baroness?


Choosing between nature woman and refined lady

Back to the ball, the Captain’s best friend invites Maria to the party as a guest after the children have gone to bed. And there is comment on her wardrobe again.

In a Cinderella -like bit, Maria goes to her room but cannot find a dress for the ball. The real problem in this scene is what to do now that she’s discovered her attraction for an (almost) engaged man.

The Baroness - " Now where is that lovely little thing that you were wearing the other evening ... when the Captain couldn't keep his eyes off you?"

More than her slip is showing in the Baroness’ presence here. So, like a fairytale princess, she runs away from the ball.

After a brief stint at the abbey, our heroine is sent back to the Von Trapps, where we see a more mature Maria and a more mature outfit. Maria wears a traveling dress that a recent postulate has just given up. The outfit is a form-fitting sheath with matching belt. No halo hat.


Mature Maria!

This is definitely a more age-appropriate look for Maria, with a simple design that still fits the character’s unpretentious sensibilities. The verdant outfit is a lovely contrast with her hair, and seems almost as if our leading lady has plucked herself right out of the vibrant greenery around her.

Nature woman!

Maria ’s wardrobe will continue to show her poise throughout the rest of the film, as the Baroness, knowing she’s licked, goes home, and Maria and the Captain declare their mutual love, finally.

Then. Comes. The Wedding.



This is Maria’s butterfly moment fashion-wise and in terms of character development. She’s no longer the awkward girl-like figure prancing into the Von Trapp family’s world. Here, she is solemn, graceful, she is in command and she’s clearly a woman. The wedding gown’s cathedral train compliments the setting. It’s a grand dress without being ostentatious. It’s subtle and its simplicity matches Maria’s straightforward personality.

An absolutely stunning outfit

Had the story allowed her to wear an elegant gown at the Captain’s party, this wedding scene, might not have been as powerful, and her transition into complete adulthood perhaps not as noticeable.

Walking through the gate, Maria steps into another role in life.

By the end of the film, Maria is a fullfledged adult, who winds up with the love of her life, the respect of the children and a decent wardrobe.


Funny that some of the things that cause trouble for her at the beginning - running around on a mountain, enjoying nature, and not really caring much about clothes - help save their lives at the end of the film. I mean, can you see the Baroness escaping from Nazis over a mountain into Switzerland on foot? Not in those heels. Maria is exactly where she can be of the greatest help, and she has the proper clothes with which to handle life's challenges.

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