May 29, 2010
I'm a big old movie buff.
In early April we talked about glamour, the good the bad, was it still around and did we even care. For me, if there's one garment that epitomizes what glamour is all about, it's the evening gown.
In old movies, they're everywhere, in almost every film genre barring Westerns. Gown designers often got their own screen credit (back when screen credits were brief) -- i.e., "Miss So-and-so's gowns by _______."
It's amazing how prevalent gowns still are on the fashion runway, at "red carpet" pseudo events, and in films like Sex and the City. Apart from the odd wedding, when does a woman wear a gown anymore? It's like we're not ready to let them go. I'd argue that gowns are more popular today than say, forty years ago.
There still are formal affairs like fundraisers and galas where women wear gowns, primarily in big cities. But it's rare to see a woman who isn't wealthy or a celebrity wearing a gown. Not good not bad, just the way things are.
I decided to choose my all-time favorite movie gown. You've no doubt seen it before. It's the feathered gown Ginger Rogers wore in the Cheek to Cheek number in Top Hat. It was designed by Bernard Newman, apparently with a lot of input from Ms. Rogers herself.
I actually got to see the original at a Hollywood costume design exhibit Diana Vreeland organized at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the mid-Seventies, a wonderful, wonderful show. Let me tell you, Ginger Rogers was petite and Astaire wasn't much bigger.
The gown truly seems to come from another world: it floats, it's white (on screen at least; I think the real thing was pale blue so as to photograph better); it shines (on the satin mid section); it's fragile but also sturdy. It bounces to the music and supports the mood of the lyrics.
You've probably heard the old story that Astaire hated the dress because the feathers had a tendency to fly off and stick to his tailcoat and in the film you can see a few feathers aloft. Rogers was adamant about wearing it and I'm glad she stood her ground.
If you've never seen it in motion, you must. The dance itself starts at 2:10.
It's hard to separate a famous costume from the actor who wears it. In this case, it was a perfect pairing. No one wore -- or danced in -- a gown in quite the same way as Ginger Rogers. Breathtaking.
As long as there's video, kids, glamour lives on!