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Oct 4, 2012

"I Love Lucy" Fashion Love

When it came to fashion, my mother's interest stopped at lipstick and cologne.  A widowed elementary school librarian with two kids to raise, she didn't aspire to be a stylish woman.

When I think back on how I became interested in glamorous women's clothes, I know it came via our black and white Zenith television set.  My boyhood idea of high fashion came from three women:  Lisa ("The stores!") Douglas (Eva Gabor) on Green Acres, Ginger Grant (Tina Louise) on Gilligan's Island, and first and foremost, Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) on I Love Lucy.

Lucy just adored clothes and some of her most memorable adventures were about acquiring -- or simply modeling -- them, be it a Paris frock, a Don Loper Original, or a mink stole -- generally with hilarious results.

Or she might find herself dancing with Van Johnson and wearing a gorgeous cocktail dress festooned with marabou: real wish fulfillment!

Or she'd do herself up as Marilyn Monroe to impress a talent scout interested in Ricky (up top).  And let's not forget the famous twin tulle gowns that get torn to shreds during the "Friendship" number!

It helped that Lucille Ball herself -- a former Hattie Carnegie model -- wore clothes so well and was both funny and beautiful.  But what really made it work was the character's desperate longing to be something more than she was: more visible, more alluring, and definitely center stage.  Who can't identify with that?

Audiences never knew what crazy get-up they'd see Lucy in next, but even her day-to-day outfits -- the hostess pants ensembles, the housecoats, the shirtwaist dresses, the maternity smocks -- were flattering (and accessible), and today are an inspiration to vintage sewers (just search under "vintage Lucy dress pattern" on Etsy to see how much) and Fifties-style aficionados alike.


In closing, readers, what was your very first taste of real fashion (as opposed to just clothing)? Was it someone in your family, a character from a film or TV show, or a fairy tale you were read?

If you love Lucy like I do, are there any other fashion-focused episodes or classic outfits I've missed?

Jump in!



  1. My first taste of glamorous fashion was my mom, who I always thought was the most beautiful woman out there - she was tall and had auburn hair (and actually had more than a passing resemblance to Lucille Ball in her youth). She also made most of her own clothing and my most vivid memory was her knocking off a cocktail dress she saw in New York City when I was about 5. It was a vivid light colored floral sheath, which had an overdress of navy blue chiffon. Slim skirt, slim sleeves, deep square neck; my memory was that she looked like a movie star in that when she and my dad went out to parties (and I'm sure my father thought so, too).

  2. My Mom is a huge I Love Lucy fan, and having watched all the shows growing up so am I. My Mom's favorite dress is actually one that Ethel wears. It it a regular house dress but has arrows around the collar and on the sleeve. I promised to make it for her one day.

  3. I Love Lucy is the best! Even my 16-yr old daughter loves to see the re-runs!

    My mom was the most fashionable person I knew - especially evident in the small town where I grew up. She is taller than me with long legs, so always looks great. She surely cringed at my "fashion" choices of the 70's and 80's. I wish I had her fashion sense - she did teach me to select a few classics that will last years instead of cheap trendy clothes.

  4. We just need to move in together. This could be your country home and your apartment could be my city home...Just like Green Acres.

    My mother was a very fashionable dresser and still is (despite the fact that she broke her knee and her hand this past Sunday... damn high heels on an 80 year old...should be against the law. My mother also had the money to buy nice clothing and events to wear them to. I on the other hand. Make my clothes and make up events to go to.hahahahaha!!!

    I loved watching Cinderellla...loved that dress. Marlo Thomas in "That Girl". I used to LOVEEEEEEEEEEEE what Rhoda wore on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. My preference ran toward hippie chic Betty and Veronica. Twiggy. I did not start falling in love with Hollywood glamor until much later.

  5. I remember being very young,very little (4 or 5 years old)watching late night old black and white movies. Seeing Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire dancing on highly polished floors. The glamorous costumes. Ginger Rogers was the first actress I remember being able to recognize from movie to movie. It wasn't until I was an adult and read her autobiography that I came away thinking what a pill she was. A kill joy, know-it-all downer. I trace my interest in clothing back to the old movies.

  6. I don't think I had one major influence. My mother is a no-makeup, sensible-shoes, stretchy-pants woman and, while we were expected to look nice for special occasions, clothing was never a big deal in our house. I was such a terrible dresser as a teenager that--I'm not joking about this--my younger brother picked out a lot of my clothes. No "Queer Eye" going on there, either; it was just that I dressed so badly that even teenaged boys looked better.

    I finally saw the light when my lifelong love of crafts and vintage-everything collided with my also-lifelong frustration over fitting issues with commercial clothing. Mom had never been able to make me take an interest in sewing before, but at some point I got so fed up with the cost and lousiness that I had to sew or wear pajama pants for the rest of my life. (Actually, now that I think about it, not being able to afford scrubs for my veterinary assistant job might have been the turning point. Scrubs are easy to sew, and my stingy bosses wouldn't supply them even though they were ridiculously picky about the condition ours were expected to be in.)

    I always kind of liked geometry even though I stink at arithmetic, so pattern alteration is a fun puzzle, and not having to fight with how my clothes fit any more totally won me over. Now I get positive attention for looking nice instead of getting called "sir" because I look like a homeless guy (I'm a girl).

  7. I never took much notice of clothes, it was costumes that got me every time. The Slipper and the Rose came out here in 1976 and I went to that damn movie 3 times. 18C OTT - fantastic! The costumes from the Wives of Henry *th BBC production came over on tour and they were so fabulous - had bits of watches and hardware on them for texture that you woould never pick up on the small screen. These experiences with historical costuming influenced my fashion sense
    (mostly grounded in hisotrical menswear) and my love of costumes and other Big Frocks like wedding and deb dresses. Such fun!

  8. Just watched the episode where Lucy "sews" her own dress and gave herself a home permanent to cut back on expenses. Needless to say the dress was a disaster as was her hair, she had to rent a sewing machine and didn't own scissors so used a razor blade to cut out the material on top of the carpet, of course cutting out the carpet as well. Hilarious!

  9. I love Lucy, too. Just last weekend I watched Easy to Wed and she wore some stunning garments in that. This weekend the Long, Long Trailer is on TV and I have an afternoon of sewing planned so I can watch it. My first fashion wake up is one I've told you about before: Doris Day in Do Not Disturb wearing a stunning orange lame full length gown with a lovely white coat lined in the same fabric as the dress. It still inspires me today!

  10. Lucy is a favourite of mine - but my first memories of fashion come from the dress-up box at my grandmothers. Nan had a huge trunk filled with her cast off clothes - a fox wrap with head and tail intact, trillions of stiff petticoats, pill box hats, a feather boa, slinky evening gowns and satin pyjamas - not to mention some truly astounding sunglasses. At the bottom were 'old' movie books full of black and white images of Hollywood glamour. As a child in the early '70's, playing dress-up at Nan's was great fun and a glimpse of another world where women and men seemed to dress up all the time.

  11. First fashionable memory was of the old ladies in church. They had great hats, mink stoles, gloves, print crepe de chine dresses, and very strong perfume. They were glorious wrinklies with too much jewelry. In my family, it was my fathers sister. She was single,worked in cosmetology, bought expensive clothes in the 50's and gave many of them to my tall slender mom with three kids and no clothing budget to speak about. The raw silk dress, linen suits, silk organza cocktail dress, and the gold satin quilted circle skirt all stand out in my memory. Today I like to look at the clothes on Lawrence Welk. There is so much to see, good and bad.

  12. I adore clothes, and always have. Most of my ideas came from history of costume books. I did love the British Carnaby Street like (Mary Quant, etc.). I loved the style on my neighbour when I was about 3 to 4, a retired ballet dancer, with a child, living in a rented falling down house. With very few clothes, great posture, simple ballet flats, she really impressed me, and her interest in talking to me, and lovely smile. Also, window shopping as a young teen to older teen - looking into very, very expensive boutiques, all silks, etc. Cathie, in Quebec.

  13. My very first memories of noticing fashion and style were reading the Dick and Jane books when I was very young. Oddly enough, it was baby sister Sally's short dresses that made the biggest impression on me. I never had a girl (managed to produce 4 handsome boys), but to this day I'm drawn to 1940's and early '50's antique little girl dress patterns.

    When I was a young teen, I fell in love with the movie 'White Christmas': oh the glamour! From the frothy blue matching dresses worn during the 'Sister' duet, the beautiful chiffon that floated around Vera Allen during the 'Dancing' number with Danny Kaye, the scandalous bride's outfit she wore during 'Mandy', the glamorous black gown that Rosemary Clooney wore while lamenting about how Mr. Love had done her wrong, and who could ever forget the red velvet Mrs. Claus costumes with the white fur trim in the finale? Still my very favorite movie to this day. It just isn't Christmas without at least one viewing of WC!

  14. Auntie Mame. I adore Rosalind Russell. She was the perfect role model for a tall, skinny girl with attitude. Katherine Hepburn: also tallish and skinny. Both smart as whips. They used to dress Hepburn in the same colours I can wear and in the simple with a twist clothes I like. But my favs are still the 30s fashions of Myrna Loy in the Thin Man series.

  15. There is that episode where Ricky tells her to economize and she has to make her own dress and do her own permanent. It's pretty great!


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