Friday, July 30, 2010

Ladies Prefer Beautiful Clothes

I popped in one of my favorite movies the other day, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Twentieth Century Fox, 1953), and decided to pick out my top three favorite outfits from the film (I won't include Marilyn Monroe's pink satin number, since I already covered it in a previous post, although this time around I noticed she is wearing beautiful black rhinestone heels that I adore). 

My first favorite outfit is the black pant suit and jacket worn by Jane Russell's character, Dorothy Shaw during their voyage to Europe. I especially love the shoes she is wearing, the design is timeless. During the scene Dorothy Shaw leaves Lorelei Lee (played by Marilyn Monroe) scheming with the passenger list of the ship to peruse the pool and work out area where she finds the Olympic athletes that are traveling overseas on the ship. She begins a choreographed singing and dancing number called "Ain't there anyone here for love?" (which by the way ends with Jane Russell in the pool, which was purportedly an accident that the director liked and included in the final cut). The pant suit looks to be a two piece with a corseted halter top and a matching swing coat that has a black and white checkered pattern with a striking yellow lining. It caught my eye immediately. I noticed that Jane Russell wore a lot of black in this movie, but I think it goes really well with her hair, skin tone, and makeup. Plus, I love her quote "I like a man who can run faster than I can".

Another outfit I love is Jane Russell's black lace cocktail dress that she wears one of the nights for dinner and dancing. At this point Dorothy Shaw is being wooed by the private investigator who is on board trying to get incriminating information on Lorelei Lee (he is hired by the father of Lorelei Lee's rich fiance). The dress is in a tea-length ballgown style with long sleeves and a matching black lace shawl that she uses to cover her head once they walk near the ship's railing and the wind and cold are kicking up. I think it is very indicative of the styles during this time period, but at the same time it's a classic look that could very easily be pulled off today.

Finally, the dress suit Marilyn Monroe's character wears when they arrive in Paris is very chic. It appears to be a navy blue color with a white collar, matching navy beret, white gloves, and fur stole. I think the combination of navy blue and white works really well. The suit is both sexy and classy on Marilyn. This is another example of how well the wardrobe was matched with the scenes, plot and pace of the movie, and I liked how both Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe played off each other with their outfits.

More than anything what I admire about all of the clothing in this movie is the attention to detail. All of the accessories are immaculate - from the earrings to the nail polish, shoes, shawls, stoles, hair styles and everything in between. For this, and for many other reasons, this is one of my favorite movies.

Photograph of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell taken on set of the movie
(Photograph: Edward Clark; LIFE Photo Archive)
"If we can't empty his pockets between us, then we're not worthy of the name Woman".
(Quote from the movie)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mad for Hats

Last weekend I attended an Alice in Wonderland-themed party where I finally got to wear one of my vintage hats. I only have three of them and I bought them a few years back, but I had yet to have the opportunity to wear one out. The one I wore is made out of black felt wool with a feather adornment on the front and a black birdcage veil. I took some pictures of the inside label. I have no idea when the hat was made, but I'd like to think it was maybe the 1940's.


I added the jeweled brooch and feather for an added touch of madness. The party itself was a lot of fun. They had the requisite 'Eat Me' and 'Drink Me' opportunities, in addition to several games and a tea party feel with a vodka-infused brew for the adults and lots of very yummy food for all. Take a look at these fun party invitations inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

1. 2. 3.

Also, I was surprised to find out:
  • Lewis Carroll is a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.
  • Although the riddle "Why is a raven like a writing desk" was not intended to have an answer, Lewis Carroll did include several possible answers in the preface for the 1896 edition of the book.
  • Kathryn Beaumont provided the voice for both Alice in Disney's Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney Productions, 1951) and Wendy in Peter Pan (Walt Disney Productions, 1953).
  • There is another cat in the story besides the Cheshire Cat: Alice's cat Dinah.
  • Alice Liddell (pronounced "little") is said to have been the inspiration for the character of Alice. Her family actually did have a cat named Dinah in real life. Alice Liddell passed away in November of 1934.
  • The term "Alice Band" refers to the wide hair bands that Alice wears in illustrations of her done by John Tenniel in Through the Looking-Glass.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Book Review: Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

The Dial Press, 2009; 435 pages; ISBN 0385342020
My Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

I have to start off by saying that the Confessions of a Shopaholic
books are some of my favorite reads. Yes, I admit that I love "Chick Lit" and sometimes the cornier and sappier, the better. I would say that it is one of my guilty pleasures, but I actually don't feel guilty about it, so there goes that. With that said I do love me some Sophie Kinsella (aka: Madeleine Wickham, her real name). I'm counting down to her newest Shopaholic installment, Mini Shopaholic, which comes out in September. I also adore Jennifer Weiner and Emily Giffin. This time around Kinsella offers up a book about a twenty-something girl who can suddenly see (and hear) the ghost of her great-aunt Sadie. Sadie is the "Twenties Girl", and honestly, after reading this I did have the urge to wear a flapper dress, drink a sidecar and dance the Charleston. At the very least the book was a fun romp with some sentimentality thrown in. There is also some romance and of course some mix-ups and situations that the living protagonist, Lara, has to resolve. Sadie's ghost becomes a real character that can't rest until Lara finds a missing necklace (well, real to Lara anyways). This leads to Lara coming to terms with some of the other things going on in her life, like her business, her friendships, and her love life. Although I did enjoy the story, I do feel that the Shopaholic series is more enjoyable. But if you are a fan of any of these authors, I think Twenties Girl should go on your to-read list, especially if you are into vintage or even just the twenties in particular.

Photo: From website

Friday, July 9, 2010

I'll Have a Pink Lady with My Prime Rib Please

Every once in a while on Saturday mornings I listen to "The Swingin' Years" radio show with Chuck Cecil who re-broadcasts big band and swing music from the likes of Glenn Miller, The Dorseys, Artie Shaw, and Count Basie, to name a few. Some of these recordings are from performances that took place at nightclubs and supper clubs of the forties and fifties. The performances were recorded and aired on the radio as shows for people listening in at home. Those were the days when couples got all gussied up for a night out on the town. Drinks. Dinner. Dancing. The nightclub or supper club was an all-night destination where you could grab a drink, a bite to eat, and dance a few rounds on the dance floor serenaded by a live orchestra or a big band. Some of the more famous ones were The Mocambo and The Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles and the Stork Club and the Copacabana in New York City. The food was simple, most of the drinks were gin, rum, brandy or whiskey based, and many places had themes (the "Latin" theme seems to be one of the more popular ones). The most well-known clubs were hot spots for celebrities of the time, and it seems that many of these establishments were formerly speakeasies or prohibition roadhouses. There are still a few places like this around, and some cropping up (in Los Angeles The Cicada Club and First and Hope), so we have at least an inkling as to what this experience was like. I always get nostalgic for these when I watch old movies or I Love Lucy episodes because it just looks so classy and sophisticated - the perfect night out if you ask me. 

The Cocoanut Grove Night Club and Restaurant at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles
(The club opened in 1921 and it was the location of the first Academy Awards ceremonies in 1930; from The USC Digital Library)

The Stork Club, New York City 1944
(Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt; LIFE Photo Archive)

Conversations and cocktails at the bar, a nightclub in New York City 1945
(Photographer: Allan Grant; LIFE Photo Archive)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Life is Just a Bowl of Jello-O

A 4th of July Birthday Party, 1942
(Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt; LIFE Photo Archive)

With the 4th of July upon us I had an urge to make a special, patriotic dessert with a touch of nostalgia. So I made a red, white, and blue Jell-O parfait. You can find lots of recipes on the Kraft website just by searching for Jell-O as an ingredient. For my dessert I used raspberry Jell-O as the bottom layer, fresh whipped cream as the middle layer and fresh blueberries as the top layer. It came out pretty good if I do say so myself:

My Red, White & Blue Parfait
(It was a cinch! Raspberry Jell-O with an added package of gelatin for firmness, fresh whipped cream from heavy whipping cream with a few dollops of simple syrup for sweetness, and fresh blueberries sprinkled with Splenda for even more sweetness.)

The history of Jell-O goes back to the early twentieth century, but the patent for powdered gelatin was obtained in 1845. It wasn't until the Genesee Pure Food Company (they were the first to market the product under the name Jell-O) sent out salesmen to distribute free Jell-O cookbooks that Jell-O really took off. From there it went forth all the way from those famous Jell-O salads of the fifties to the vodka-infused Jello-O shots we enjoy today. Other Jello-O products include Jell-O No-Bake desserts, Jello-O Pops and Jell-O Jigglers. It's pretty unbelievable that there was once a celery flavor, or even worse an Italian salad flavor (they were introduced when the savory Jell-O salads were popular). Other discontinued flavors include root beer, bubble gum, maple syrup and cola. I kind of wish they would bring back passion fruit or raspberry mango to tell the truth. Here's a pretty nifty Jell-O commercial from the fifties that features Alice In Wonderland characters:

Note: The title of the post refers to a line in the song "Cockeyed Optimist" from the musical South Pacific (Rodgers and Hammerstein, 1949).