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AlisonB

Need some help from "White Christmas" experts

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Hi!  I'm new here, but hoping for some assistance.  I have been looking online for still shots or a detailed description of the evening gown designed by Edith Head for the production of White Christmas.  The gown was worn by Rosemary Clooney for the Carousel Club scenes.  I have a seamstress willing to reproduce the gown, but cannot find anything on the internet.  All the photos I have found seem to be "captured" shots from the film, and aren't very clear.  Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you!

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Somewhat off topic, but I recall in the commentary track by Rosemary Clooney for the White Christmas dvd, she mentions the fancy pin that Edith Head added to break up the back of the black dress (shown below, thanks Fred), and how heavy and awkward the rhinestone-covered gloves were.

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Since I have done my share of sewing, maybe I can be of help.  

 

The images of the dress, in black velvet, was a pieced bodice with skirt attached.  It was made for the movie camera (which is why Edith Head was a genius at this).  The shoulders are custom cut with a Lightning Bolt style for interest,  and the skirt itself is a straight cut, but with a exaggerated flare at the knees in front and angled up to the derriere in back.   If I were the dressmaker, I would design it with princess seaming in the dress bodice-upper skirt portion- since it will not be for the camera alone but for wearing in public and give a smoother outline for the figure.

 

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Since I have done my share of sewing, maybe I can be of help.  

 

The images of the dress, in black velvet, was a pieced bodice with skirt attached.  It was made for the movie camera (which is why Edith Head was a genius at this). 

 

Can a lady walk normally in this type of dress? It seems too tight at the knees for the legs to swing freely. She doesn't walk much in this entire segment.

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Can a lady walk normally in this type of dress? It seems too tight at the knees for the legs to swing freely. She doesn't walk much in this entire segment.

Nah, a dress like this isn't just designed -- it's engineered to look the way it does on her.  The skirt is fuller in the back, and anyways she's actually wearing it for attracting attention - not running for a streetcar.  

 

LOL-- sorry I couldn't help myself with the streetcar reference; I think May West used that one some time ago.

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Nah, a dress like this isn't just designed -- it's engineered to look the way it does on her.  The skirt is fuller in the back, and anyways she's actually wearing it for attracting attention - not running for a streetcar.  

 

LOL-- sorry I couldn't help myself with the streetcar reference; I think May West used that one some time ago.

 

Thanks. That's what I thought.

 

I guess it wouldn't work for AlisonB (in her original post) to make a copy of the dress for herself to wear, unless she planned to just stand around in it and not walk.

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Thanks. That's what I thought.

 

I guess it wouldn't work for AlisonB (in her original post) to make a copy of the dress for herself to wear, unless she planned to just stand around in it and not walk.

 

And you have just described what a woman would wear on her most important occasions.  On my most important occasions needing a gown, I did a lot of standing, very little walking, and the dancing I did was perfect for the dress I was wearing. :)

 

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Can a lady walk normally in this type of dress? It seems too tight at the knees for the legs to swing freely. She doesn't walk much in this entire segment.

All of the designers employed by the studios had to adjust to design for the cameras. They had to plan ahead with contemporary wear, and try to anticipate trends, since the lag.time from design to released film.might be more than a year. At least twice all designers were caught off guard, and women appeared in outfits that looked suddenly dated. Ths first time was at the end of 1929, when the knee length of skirts fashionable in the 1920s suddenly dropped way down (to the calf area?), thereby ushering in the early to mid1930s look. The waist also returned to a more normal position. A very similar thing happened when Dior introduced his New Look in 1947, and skirt lengths again dropped from the knee area of the war years to mid calf. The silhouette also changed radically with voluminous skirts and yards of material, for a.more femenine look to counter wartime austerity. In both instances, for the better part of a year, women stars were not happy to be seen in the suddenly unhip look. Movies in production might have a revamping of the clothes to be worn.

 

Another time, at the time of the introduction of Cinemascope and other widescreen processes @ 1953, many outfits had to be resewn, as the seams were found to be visible on the suddenly expanded.screen.

 

EDIT (for clarification)....Sorry Fred, I don't know how it happened, but I thought I was quoting Casablanca 100views, specifically thr comment about Edith Head being a genius,.designing for the camera.

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One of the most stunning gowns in the movies.  Could it be made with stretch velvet, I wonder, to allow the wearer to move more freely?

 

Best of luck with your project, AlisonB.

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I found this. Several of our people have posted information about these leaning boards, which were used by actresses who could not sit down in their tight dresses:

 

 

http://misslindsaylane.blogspot.com/2013/03/how-hollywood-inspired-1930s-fashion.html

 

For the screen, clothing above all, had to be photogenic. There was little concern for comfort and practicality. The dresses were too tight for the actresses to sit in. This meant that between the takes, it required them to recline on leaning boards.

 

 

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Can a lady walk normally in this type of dress? It seems too tight at the knees for the legs to swing freely. She doesn't walk much in this entire segment.

I know when I was wedding dress shopping a few years ago, I tried on a "mermaid" style dress (which is what Rosemary Clooney's dress is) and not only was it horribly unflattering; but it was very uncomfortable.  I could walk, but only by shuffling my feet in small, forward motions.  It was ridiculous.  This dress looks good on someone who is tall and curvy.  I have the latter, but unfortunately, at only 5'2, I'm lacking in the height needed for this style of dress.

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I found this. Several of our people have posted information about these leaning boards, which were used by actresses who could not sit down in their tight dresses:

 

 

http://misslindsaylane.blogspot.com/2013/03/how-hollywood-inspired-1930s-fashion.html

 

For the screen, clothing above all, had to be photogenic. There was little concern for comfort and practicality. The dresses were too tight for the actresses to sit in. This meant that between the takes, it required them to recline on leaning boards.

 

 

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Harlow's dress doesn't seem too tight; maybe it was in the torso and they were afraid she'd rip it or wrinkle the silk. 

 

In Singin' in the Rain, Jean Hagen is shown reclining on a leaning board during Gene Kelly's story for the press on how he and Lina met and "fell in love." 

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Have you looked on pinterest?  I saw some pics and a sketch of the dress by Edith Head..not sure if there is anything else.  It is a stunning dress, definitely a wiggle dress and not a walking dress. :)

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Thanks for the additional photos, FCD.  And also the link you provided confirms that's the dress Jean Harlow knocked me out with Thursday night when I was watching Dinner at Eight during Lee Tracy day.  Sometimes it's a small movie world!

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Thanks for all of the input.  I believe I might be over thinking this.  The princess seams for the bodice would be an excellent choice, and stretch velvet would be a great fabric.  I'm just afraid that for an event at the end of September velvet would be much too hot.  So, I'll still have the dress made, but save it for winter.  I've decided to go with a 1920's fishtail design for Sept.  from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library (a terrific website, by the way).  Thanks again, everyone.  (Maybe I'll get my husband to build me a leaning board to take along when I decide to wear the White Christmas dress :D ).

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