Great Movie Dress Makeovers

There are plenty of makeovers in films, from Agnes Gooch in Auntie Mame to Tai in Clueless, but those makeovers usually focus on a beauty treatment. My favourite makeovers involve a dress makeover. Here are the top five I can think of, if you have more let me know:

5) Pretty in Pink (1986): Problem is, the new dress is even more hideous than the original prom gown Iona (Annie Potts) gives Andie (Mollie Ringwald) to cut up.

4) Sound of Music (1965): Great makeover of bedroom drapes into play clothes, but #3’s curtain cut-up is even better

3) Gone With the Wind (1939): The drape dress… a memorable scene made even more memorable by Carol Burnett’s satirical 1976 version ‘Went With the Wind’, which retains the rod

2) Palm Beach Story (1942): When the train car with Geny’s (Claudette Colbert) clothes is rerouted, she has no alternative but to get creative with a pair of pyjamas and a towel…

1) True Lies (1994): Jamie Lee Curtis rips away the ruffles of her mom party dress, transforming it into the ultimate LBD, suitable for one of Robert Palmer’s back-up girls, or a high priced hooker.

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Iconic Television Fashion

While film fashions, from Dorothy Gale’s ruby slippers to Holly Go-Lightly’s black Givenchy gowns, are considered iconic, television fashions are not considered with the same reverence, even though they are far more influential. Television characters rarely introduce a new fashion – they usually wear a trend that viewers can recognize or relate to and help to push that trend into iconic status, such as these nine examples:

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Silver Factory New Year’s Eve

If you live in the Waterloo Region, consider joining us New Year’s Eve at the Button Factory in Waterloo for an Andy Warhol theme ‘Silver Factory’ evening. Kenn and I are going to be the guest judges for best costumes and I want to see lots of Candy Darlings and Edie Sedgwicks!


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So What was Fashion in 2014?


Normcore (aka dog-walking chic)

Maybe I haven’t been plugged into what has been happening, but I haven’t found anyone else with a similar perspective to what I felt made fashion news in 2014. Most fashion journalist reviews reference a revival of Katherine Hamnett style message T-shirts and un-techy looking Stan Smith sneakers, as well as more fur and hats — but I haven’t noticed any of these trends. And aside from teenagers wearing their pyjamas to school, I haven’t noticed any trend for ‘normcore’  – this year’s buzzword for everyday fashion, meaning a conspicuous dressed-down styling (we used to call it sloppy.)

15065632_5401What I have noticed trending is a nostalgia for the 90s: A smidgen of grunge with plaid shirts and knitted toques, a resurgence of the little black dress (at the Design Exchange opening this past September 90% of the women were wearing LBDs), the occasional peek-a-boo midriff, and plenty of smart looking trousers in every width, from legging tight to palazzo wide.

4c68e233184e429c26d6ce3444b62e96For men, slim cut pants and suits are still strong for those who can wear them (most can’t), but what really took off this year was facial hair in the form of Ozark-styled bushy beards (did any man grow a moustache for Movember this year? If so, I didn’t see any.) For women, I noticed more swept-to-the-side bangs, ala Taylor Swift.

Suki Waterhouse in Burberry ruffles

Suki Waterhouse in Burberry ruffles

For dress-up, women’s gala gowns (according to the red carpets I saw) have gone either ultra-feminine in soft chiffons with lots of ruffles, lace, floral prints, and trained skirts, often in a 30s bias-cut style; or alternatively, techno-contemporary in stiff, formal cuts in conspicuously modern palettes, and appliqués or beadwork that point towards the future. The retro-looking 1950s crinolined and corsetted satin glamour gown is on its way out, escorted by platform pumps to the exit.

Amal Alamuddin (Mrs. George Clooney) in Oscar de la Renta

Amal Alamuddin (Mrs. George Clooney) in Oscar de la Renta

The biggest fashion news for 2014 was the loss of one of it’s longest serving and brightest stars – Oscar de la Renta. But even without Oscar’s lead, fashion veered towards a ‘pretty’ aesthetic in 2014, displacing some of the less-than-subtle sex appeal that has permeated fashion the last decade. Maybe it’s because the world economy is improving and fashion can afford to be softer and more subtle, dropping the Lady Gaga hard sell glam.

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Sixth annual Fashion Bulletin Board

It’s time again to share some of those pics of things I save over the year that appeal to me for various reasons — jokes, things I should have bought, things I wish I could buy, ideas that inspire, oddities…

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As Seen In – Fishnet undies, c. 1970

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Frugal vintage – Little Edie style…

I recently came across these photos of Little Edie (of Grey Gardens fame), wearing the same two piece dress. In 1937 when the dress was new, she wears the blouse tucked into the skirt. In the second photo taken in the mid 1940s, Edie is wearing the skirt underneath the blouse, which has had the sleeves reworked. Finally, in what is probably the mid 1960s, the hem of the skirt is crooked because she has hiked the waistband up to underneath her bosom, probably because it won’t close over her thicker waist, and the top has now had the sleeves removed.

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3D printed dress

It will be interesting to see if this ever becomes a viable method of fashion production or if its just an expensive technological novelty:

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Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Serena Schaffer

pyjama trousers by-serena-shaffer-at-electric-fittings, Nova, May 1975

Pyjama trousers and dress by Serena Schaffer of Electric Fittings, Nova magazine, May 1975

In a 2013 New York Times article about New York caterer/ Chelsea Hotel club owner/aunt of Minnie Driver/Anna Wintour’s first husband’s first wife, Serena Bass, there is a reference to how Bass ran a London boutique in the early 1970s. I have managed to find out more of the story.

Likely conceived at a VE celebration and born in 1946, Serena Millington met her future (decade older) husband Dr. David Schaffer when she was 16, and married him when she was twenty. After completing a degree at St. Martin’s College, her thesis was on Native American costume, Serena Schaffer went into business with a friend by the name of Frances. I could not find exact operation dates of their boutique ‘Electric Fittings’, but the shop was definitely in business from 1971 to 1975.

In 1977 David Schaffer accepted a position in New York, and Serena joined him, closing her London shop if she had not already. Her marriage to Schaffer ended in 1984 and David went on to marry Anna Wintour, while Serena married (decade younger) clothing manufacturer Curt Bass. However, Serena didn’t return to the field of fashion, instead choosing a career in catering and later running a trendy club in the famous Chelsea Hotel which you can read more about here.

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Off-the-rack Calvin Curtis

July 25, 1938 article from Life, showing history of brace styles and fancy braces made by Calvin Curtis

July 25, 1938 article from Life, showing history of brace styles and fancy braces made by Calvin Curtis

In an article that appeared in the July 25, 1938 issue of Life magazine, 60% of men were reported as preferring belts over braces. The article also points out a trend, popularized by president Roosevelt, for fancy suspenders that began the previous Christmas. The style revived a fashion for silk patterned braces that Victorian fashion leaders like Oscar Wilde and Benjamin Disraeli enjoyed. The English-made braces, reportedly from antique French silk ribbon stock, were by Calvin Curtis ‘Cravateur’ – a fancy name for a haberdasher (supplier of men’s accessories – belts, handkerchiefs, ties…) From his 55th street shop in New York, Calvin Curtis imported the braces, with matching sock garters, to sell directly from his own shop, and distribute them through high-end men’s retailers such as Brooks Brothers as well as shops frequented by women, like Elizabeth Hawes in New York, where they were purchased as gifts.

Benny Goodman wearing naked lady braces by Calvin  Curtis, c. 1940

Benny Goodman wearing naked lady braces by Calvin Curtis, c. 1940

World War II interrupted imports, but by 1950 the same designs were again being offered. The braces showed up in films: on Broderick Crawford in Born Yesterday, William Holden in Sabrina, and Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind.

Advertisement for Calvin Curtis, 1950, showing some of the same designs available in 1938

Advertisement for Calvin Curtis, 1950, showing some of the same designs available in 1938

Calvin Curtis faded into obscurity at the same time belts won the battle of the waist. Waistbands slipped from the waist to the top of the hips in the 1960s and suspender buttons disappeared from the inside of waistbands. Suspenders with teeth that latched onto the tops of waistbands, a style that had been in use since the 1930s, continued to be made for the shrinking demographic of older men who insisted upon wearing suspenders. Then a wave of nostalgia for prewar styles swept through fashion in the early 1970s and brought suspenders back as novelty items. At the same time, Trafalgar Ltd. was founded in 1972 by Marley Hodgson – a haberdasher who began to supply suspenders for the growing demand.

In 1986 Trafalgar acquired the rights to   Calvin Curtis designs, reproducing the brocade ribbon on historic French looms, and making limited runs of 1000 pairs of braces in each pattern (matching sock garters were no longer being offered.) Yuppie Wall Street bankers and Republican politicians especially took to the style, making Trafalgar braces a success and Marley Hodgson a wealthy haberdasher who has since retired and now lives on a ranch in Colorado.

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