Since I missed last week's post, for which I feel so horrible about, I am making up for this week by posting three films, Designing Women (1957), Roberta (1935), and Neptune's Daughter (1949). All of these films have fashion shows that are very similar and function in similar ways. Since next Friday is the last one in February, I will be doing three posts as well, two on films that are available on DVD and a post on some of the films that are not available on DVD that show on TCM frequently, but showcase fashion shows and are really wonderful! I will be offering copies for anyone who is interested. So, without further ado, here is Designing Woman. (Just as a side note, I cropped the screen shots to make them fit better with my formatting here on my blog).
Lauren Bacall.....Marilla Brown Hagen
Gregory Peck.....Mike Hagen
Dolores Gray.....Lori Shannon
Sam Levene.....Ned Hammerstein
Gown By Helen Rose
Directed By Vincent Minnelli
Mike meets Marilla on vacation and after a whirlwind romance, marry before returning to New York. Once back in "real life" the two realize that they have little in common: Marilla is a fashion designer who lives a fancy lifestyle, spending her time with actors and the elite, while Mike is a sports writer, lives a simple life. When Mike gets intertwined with the mob, mayhem ensues, causing Mike to go into hiding. How will the couple's relationship fair? Will the two end up together at the end or divided by their different lifestyles?
While I have only included screen shots from the fashion show sequence, the entire film is packed full of drool worthy outfits, which is a trend we will see throughout this whole series. One would assume that the clothing designer in the film must be the model of example of the latest trends and what was to be considered the most fashionable, ergo all the beautiful pieces we can see Lauren Bacall wearing. The casting of Bacall is utterly fitting, being the trendsetter that she was in the 40s with the suit from To Have and Have Not (1944) being recreating by numerous department stores and sported by many young ladies. In this film, Bacall's clothing exudes elegance and showcases the height of 50s fashions, something many of us vintage gals strive to look like on a daily basis. Many times, Bacall looks as though she stepped out of a VOUGE or MCCALLS magazine, really bringing to looks that these fashion magazines present to females to the screen.
Helen Rose was the costumer for this film and no doubt, did a FANTASTIC job. If I could steal a movie's wardrobe, this would be among one of the films I would select. Rose is among some of the designers of Classical Hollywood that I wish got more recognition. Her work can been seen in many different genres of film and was able to dress some of Hollywood's most lovely leading ladies, including Lana Turner, Betty Grable, and of course Lauren Bacall. She worked with some of the greats in Hollywood, such as Walter Plunkett, and worked exclusively for one studio (MGM) for most of her career. Rose studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts before she moved to L.A. in 1929. Her first professional job designing clothes was for Fanchon and Marco. F & M supervised the costumes for selected musical numbers at Fox and they allowed Rose to do the designs for three of their films. After her work with Fox and F & M, in 1942 Rose moved to MGM where she stayed until her retirement, working pretty much only for them. In the 60s, Rose opened her own design business and staged traveling fashion shows, which is helpful to consider when thinking about her work here. Rose also had quite the wedding gown client list, creating gowns for Grace Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Elizabeth Taylor to wear on their big days.
Fashion Show Evaluation: Fashion Show as Promotion
The sequence itself is placed into the film in a very organic way, integrated into the plot as so it wouldn't disrupt viewers. The show is staged and filmed in a way that showcase the model's routines as promotion for the articles of clothing. The set is a lavish boutique set up with a runway and on either side chairs and tables for prospective customers to take a ganger at the latest designs. Each time a model comes out from behind stage, we are presented with a close up of her outfit, followed by long shots of her walking around, showing off the garment. There are also two audiences to contend with, the one on screen and the one off. The camera shows us the customers sitting, viewing the garments. We even get reaction shots of their opinions. However, the audience of the film itself is the second audience, as we too are viewing the fashion show much like the characters on screen are. The close ups and establishing shots of the model as she emerges from backstage is the "sales pitch" to the audience, the model is addressing the audience directly. This is where audience has the illusion or may feel like they are attending a fashion show, thus the styles are being promoted within the film.
In my next post, I will cover another aspect of how fashion shows function within the film, where the sequence is done in a similar manner. Check the post underneath this one for more on this.
Designing Woman is available on DVD and is widely available to rent.