Deception, mistaken identity, the battle of the sexes are all wrapped up with a fashionable bow when a Seventh Avenue buyer named Samantha (Woodward) dons a wig and pretends to be a demimondaine to exact revenge on a New York columnist (Newman) who, before the disguise, thinks she's a man.
Bosley Crowther of the New York Times is spot on in his review when he counters that Samantha, "looks fetching even in cap, raincoat and trousers." Exactly. She doesn't need a makeover, but you know she'll have one.
Samantha and company are in the clothing business, after all, so everyone looks great in the film from start to finish. With fashion and Chevalier, you know we're going to Paris before "The End." And we're going to see actual Paris gowns.
Although, Edith Head has the sole costume credit in the film, the Paris fashion show sequences with models might be designs from real French houses, including Christian Dior.
However, we might be safe in assuming that most of the gowns on the actors are pure Edith Head. Once setting foot in Paris, the characters don dresses that are stunning, but uniform - wide shoulder, short sleeve or sleeveless, nipped-in waist, full skirt and knee-length hem- suggesting a very busy designer is using mostly one silhouette.*
Samantha, then, has three separate wardrobes- androgynous (which she drops in Paris), full skirt silhouette and the party girl.
Her wild demimondaine disguise consists of voluminous capes that take up too much space, that horrible helmet of a blonde wig and a beauty spot that seems to skip around more often than a flea on a hot stove.
When she's not pretending to be an overly-dramatic, high-priced prostitute, Samantha -and everyone else- wears perfectly serviceable clothes. This movie might contain one of the best movie makeovers because -forgetting her party girl disguises (if you can)- the clothing style change is refreshingly not drastic. It's merely as if everyone spruces up a bit when crossing the Atlantic.
The makeover is so wonderfully lacking in drama that Samantha's boss (George Tobias) doesn't notice the change until he looks into Sam's hair for a pencil -another of her New York accessories- but no longer finds one. Instead of writing implements, Sam now has a bow in her hair to match her full skirt. (Meh. Bring back the pencils.)
Eva Gabor - playing a European fashion consultant named Felicienne who has a thing for Samantha's boss - wears only the full skirt silhouette, and looks gorgeous in it, of course. Through her clothes, she is the epitome of everything the movie wants for its characters - to loosen up a bit.
Thelma Ritter -who plays a buyer at the store- copies Felicienne's style. She starts off in tailored tweed in New York then winds up in silks and satins in Paris -fabric that catches the night lights.
She also moves from pencil skirts (relatively restrictive) to the full skirt look that Felicienne sports, suggesting she has become more free and easy. She's also competing against Felicienne for the boss' affections.
A New Kind of Love is a romantic comedy between Newman and Woodward, but you'll fall in love with the fashions and what they mean for the characters.
* Edith Head was very busy putting the finishing touches on costumes for an epic comedy that would be released the following year -What a Way to Go!- which boasted seventy-three costumes for the leading lady alone. The designer's packed schedule might account for the lack of variety given to the ladies in A New Kind of Love.