Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fashion in Film - The Lady Eve

Preston Sturges' 1941 film The Lady Eve is showing on Comcast on Demand for free through November 22. Starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda, this madcap romance/comedy is well worth seeking out. Edith Head designed the costumes, and this is the film which finally brought her the recognition she deserved after eighteen years in the industry.

Early in the film, Stanwyck begins to seduce Fonda by wearing an evening gown that is actually two pieces - a long black skirt with a slit up the front and a short beaded top, exposing her bare midriff.

Stanwyck had a good figure, but she was long-waisted and had a low-slung derriere. Prior to this film, most costume designers had tried to hide this by putting Stanwyck in full skirts. Head was able to work with Stanwyck's figure by making costumes with self-belts that were wider in the back. She also added fullness over the bust and sleeves to draw the viewer's attention up. We see this to great effect in several of the costumes used in the film, including the white suit shown above.

Paramount realized that Edith Head had transformed Stanwyck into a box office princess and gave the gowns full publicity. This film cemented a working relationship between Head and Stanwyck that caused Stanwyck to insist that Head design all her costumes for future films, as well as her off-screen wardrobe. Shown above: the silk charmeuse and chiffon negligee Stanwyck wears in the wedding night scene which takes place on a train. The scene is one of the funniest in the film, and, even though the movie is 67 years old, I found myself laughing out loud in delight.

Here's a dress available at Couture Allure that would have fit right in to Lady Eve's wardrobe. Click the picture for details!