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Costumes in the Musicals

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I caught a film earlier, "The Gay Divorcee'" and the gown Ginger Rogers was wearing had a certain flair to it that I don't see anymore. Although it was a black and white film, it might have been gold and purple for the gown at the end. It looked like an upside-down flower, the way the skirt flared at the bottom - while not designed with flounce.

I don't think this aspect of musicals has been covered much, so maybe a discussion can begin?

 

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This is a topic I'd love to follow along! Unfortunately, I cannot contribute b/c I know next to nothing about costumes and design. 

Good luck getting something going. Love to learn more.

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There are a couple of (in)famous stories about costumes in the Astaire/Rogers movies.

In Follow the Fleet, the gown that Ginger wore in "Let's Face the Music and Dance" was heavily beaded, and the sleeves often hit Fred in the face.  Nevertheless it is a stunning gown, with just enough see-through that you can see the outline of her legs as she dances.

In Top Hat, the gown she wore in "Cheek to Cheek" was loaded with feathers.  Feathers that flew off as she danced.

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I love Cyd Charisse's green flapper dress in Singin' in the Rain: 

c737e8006863ac22783a5e1997890a0e-695x350.jpg

Mitzi Gaynor's red strapless dress in There's No Business Like Show Business is amazing:

there_no_business_like_show.jpg

Not many people could carry off a strapless gown with an enormous bow on it, but Marilyn manages to in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes:

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSx2OfBC9FMQJ8lECy8lIu

I love all the costumes in Meet Me in St. Louis.  Judy's trolley outfit is one of my favorites:

meet-me-in-st-louis-trolley.png

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5 hours ago, speedracer5 said:

Not many people could carry off a strapless gown with an enormous bow on it, but Marilyn manages to in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes:

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSx2OfBC9FMQJ8lECy8lIu

 

Thanks for the topic, I love talking about costumes!!  

I was looking at the Monroe dress and that bow.   It looks to me like it was supposed to jazz up an otherwise plain dress  so the diamond jewelry would be dominant, and balance top heaviness.  Here's something I found on this costume: dresses and controversy in gentlemen prefer blondes

The bows and stripes on the Ascot dress in contrast are designed to direct attention in a different direction: 

Ascot3.jpg.2f7d69415d148b3350b5ac8c0dd2a53d.jpg

 

Here's a link I found interesting about vintage actress sizes: 

Vintage Sizing and Silhouettes

 

 

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I don't know anything about costumes either, but boy, do I love to see them! 😍

I'm glad you brought the subject up because women's gowns were truly important in musicals. Especially in the movies Fred and Ginger did, as Ginger wanted her clothes to flow and become part of the dance (which they actually did, as many of her gowns are iconic). I actually don't think those dance numbers would have been the same if it weren't for Ginger's beautiful gowns, because they did a great job emphasizing the emotions and the gracefulness of those two. 

And regarding the Continental dress (if that's the one you mean, maybe?), I always thought it was wonderful, and that the colors were silver and purple for some reason, so it's close enough to your prediction! I don't know what the actual colours were though, but I bet someone else does. I hope! 😃

 

continental.jpg

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On 6/7/2018 at 9:34 PM, Pastiche said:

Thanks for the topic, I love talking about costumes!!  

I was looking at the Monroe dress and that bow.   It looks to me like it was supposed to jazz up an otherwise plain dress  so the diamond jewelry would be dominant, and balance top heaviness.  Here's something I found on this costume: dresses and controversy in gentlemen prefer blondes

The bows and stripes on the Ascot dress in contrast are designed to direct attention in a different direction: 

Ascot3.jpg.2f7d69415d148b3350b5ac8c0dd2a53d.jpg

 

Here's a link I found interesting about vintage actress sizes: 

Vintage Sizing and Silhouettes

 

 

Interesting bit on the dresses from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and how they had to scrap one of her dresses for being too revealing. I have always been amazed that they got away with her dress in Some Like it Hot...I guess that was what the spotlight/shadow were for...

 

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On 6/7/2018 at 6:05 PM, Jim K said:

 

In Top Hat, the gown she wore in "Cheek to Cheek" was loaded with feathers.  Feathers that flew off as she danced.

Yes. If you look at the floor at the end of the number, it’s littered with feathers. And Ginger designed that dress. 

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Of course costumes are designed to make the dancers look even more beautiful, and for the most part they do. Especially the gowns. But there are two outfits I find myself thinking about from time to time, for no particular reason other than that they move so beautifully and are just knockouts for the dance sequences of which they are a part. 

One is the brightly gored skirt Jane Powell wears for “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I’ve Been A Liar All My Life” from Royal Wedding. That also happens to be one of my very favorite numbers. Cracks me up every single time. The skirt is bright to the point of garish, and that couples perfectly with the edgy attitude of the number. She’s a tough, and her loud skirt shouts it at the audience. Incidentally, notice that she gnoshes that gum through the entire number, even while she’s dancing! 

 

The other is the brown and orange dress Judy Garland wears to dance “The Portland Fancy” in Summer Stock. As she begins the dance, it’s a simple, demure Brown dress with a slim orange scarf. Then as she turns and the skirt begins to fly we see those blazes of orange down her back, and it’s stunning. It’s a longish dress and quite a sturdy fabric, moves as it’s likely a wool jersey, so it twirls low until Judy and Gene really get to swinging, then it twirls up to reveal the entirety of her legs, and at that point we know she’s going to be the star of the show. Positively knocks me out. 

 

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I think I remember reading somewhere that after Ginger wore the feather dress in Top Hat, Fred called her “Feathers” from then on. If not true, a good story!

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On 6/9/2018 at 9:50 PM, BunnyWhit said:

One is the brightly gored skirt Jane Powell wears for “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I’ve Been A Liar All My Life” from Royal Wedding. That also happens to be one of my very favorite numbers. Cracks me up every single time. The skirt is bright to the point of garish, and that couples perfectly with the edgy attitude of the number. She’s a tough, and her loud skirt shouts it at the audience.

Agree, great outfits for this number.   I think I read somewhere that the straw boater and some of Fred's moves were supposed to be a parody of Gene Kelly. 

One thing that bothers me about his zoot suit is that the jacket reads as dull brown in the wide shots, whereas the other parts of the costumes are bright colors, so it looks really off.   Maybe because she was so tiny if he'd worn anything brighter it would have upstaged her.  Or maybe it was intentional to show "all his taste was in his mouth".

The characters look and sound like they popped out of Guys and Dolls, which opened in November 1950 to audience acclaim. Royal Wedding was released March 1951. 

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Ah, costumes-my favorite.  I'm a costumer in the industry now, but I would have loved to have been around in the Golden Era. 

Fred hated that feather dress of Gingers some of you mentioned.  The feathers kept flying off-being a dancer myself I understand.

Slipping on a feather could be a career ending move. 

You all will HAVE to catch 'Silk Stockings' with Fred and Cyd on June 19. There is a number there where Cyd starts out wearing a skirt.

Near the end it suddenly becomes culottes then back to a skirt. It's scream!  They should have just used culottes from the beginning.

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I'm a big fan of Vera-Ellen, Betty Garrett and Ann Miller's main outfits in "On The Town".  I just love how well coordinated the colors are, especially with three different types of dresses.

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  • image.jpeg.d29eb649322218f2f91076b275057de8.jpeg
    • Ann Miller is stunning in yellow / black in Easter Parade
      image.jpeg.a17481bf91a2739db9a0aa49f5ca0ffd.jpeg
       
      The lovely Miss Doris Day in Love Me or Leave Me...
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I loved this topic. I like to study fashion history by myself, so these early movies are great, even if their main point it's to be useful for the dancing numbers.However, I can remember any favorites, so I look forward to pick some  favorites this month.

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starryeyzze-you pulled one of my favorite costumes-I love Doris Day in "Love Me or Leave Me".  She was amazing!  and that blue gown was perfection at it's best. 

Good choice!

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On 6/7/2018 at 7:05 PM, Jim K said:

There are a couple of (in)famous stories about costumes in the Astaire/Rogers movies.

In Follow the Fleet, the gown that Ginger wore in "Let's Face the Music and Dance" was heavily beaded, and the sleeves often hit Fred in the face.  Nevertheless it is a stunning gown, with just enough see-through that you can see the outline of her legs as she dances.

In Top Hat, the gown she wore in "Cheek to Cheek" was loaded with feathers.  Feathers that flew off as she danced.

That feathered gown was designed by Ginger!

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On 6/11/2018 at 8:06 AM, pbm said:

starryeyzze-you pulled one of my favorite costumes-I love Doris Day in "Love Me or Leave Me".  She was amazing!  and that blue gown was perfection at it's best. 

Good choice!

Very true! And the shade was perfect for Doris Day, too. That movie can make me sick because of the depiction of domestic violence in it, though I often tune it in anyway.

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I'm glad this is a popular topic! I did some costuming in the 1980s, and I loved it. I think dressing an actor in the B&W era would be hard because you only had the shades of gray on-screen when the clothing you made was actually so vibrant. 

I wish I'd been around earlier, to work in the studios designing some of those costumes - or even sewing them. The fabrics were amazing. Before the man-made fabrics we take for granted today, they had cotton, silk, or wool. Various weights, true, and a variety of weaves, but how did they get some of them to do what they did? Amazing stuff. I hope that the new TCM museum has a wing for some iconic costumes. 

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On 6/9/2018 at 5:37 PM, Oldsoul87 said:

Interesting bit on the dresses from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and how they had to scrap one of her dresses for being too revealing. I have always been amazed that they got away with her dress in Some Like it Hot...I guess that was what the spotlight/shadow were for... 

 

I don't know if it's been mentioned below, but there's a documentary on the costume designer Orry-Kelly, "Women He's Undressed" (available last I checked on Netflix) that discusses this dress he designed and more--for Auntie Mame, among other films. 

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11 hours ago, kmfriello said:

I don't know if it's been mentioned below, but there's a documentary on the costume designer Orry-Kelly, "Women He's Undressed" (available last I checked on Netflix) that discusses this dress he designed and more--for Auntie Mame, among other films. 

Thanks, kmfriello, just watched this.  It's primarily a biography about his life, but it did talk about some of the outfits he designed, and some of the actresses' figures he was working with.   I liked the part about the clothes he designed for Bette Davis, and the comments from the other designers about his strong design points... silhouette, color.  Also it was interesting to see how much of a roller coaster his career was, and his progression from the 1930's Warner's musicals we've seen to grander films and musicals and studios.

I wonder if there's some book (or maybe website now) that talks about individual actresses and how different designers worked to enhance their assets and hide their flaws.  I'm thinking of maybe a few pages for each actress with analysis and then photos of costumes.   Of course they have to work within the constraints of the character, but then how is the character projected in the costume? 

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