Iconic white and blue vintage dresses
Aug 18, 2021 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
We’ve been on a journey through color with some of our recent posts – from finding your vintage color palette to Autumn inspired color schemes. Perfect timing to add to our series on iconic vintage dresses. Join me as we review these memorable white and blue hues.
Blue is a versatile tone – eliciting feelings of tranquility, but in more vibrant tints, generating excitement. Blue covers a range of emotions (and you’ll see this play out in our dress selections). The color white is usually associated with innocence, but it also represents the hope of new beginnings. With the recent rise in COVID cases we could all do with a fresh dose of hope. Feast your eyes on these iconic white and blue vintage dresses and let the colors sweep over you. Tell us which ones are your favorites in the comments!
Our first blue dress was worn by the incomparable Grace Kelly on the set of To Catch A Thief. This 1955 Hitchcock classic combined the star power of Cary Grant and Kelly, with the allure of the French Riviera. Grant, cast as a retired jewel thief, was on a quest to clear his name while romancing the beautiful Kelly. The marvelous Edith Head was the film’s costume designer. One of her super powers was pairing costume with character. Edith’s approach to fit, color, and details meant that her clothes weren’t just tailormade for the actor or actress, they were a perfect fit for the character they were embodying.
The flowing blue gown Kelly wears during her meet cute with Grant leaves quite the impression. It’s both elegant yet distant, matching Kelly’s personality. The ethereal chiffon accents her figure, and without the distraction of jewelry, makes Kelly statuesque. The contrast of a jewelry-free woman in the presence of an infamous jewel thief serves as a great plot device. As the story develops, the costumes evolve culminating in the gold lamé stunner Kelly wears in the final scene. Does this ultra-luxurious ensemble mean she has now become his most prized treasure? Perhaps a stretch, perhaps not. But it’s fun to watch the transformation from that blue number to the sparkling finale!
The next selection is my personal favorite and burst onto the screen a year before To Catch A Thief. I’m talking about the electrifying blue duo of Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen singing “Sisters” in White Christmas. The bright tones nearly jump out of the screen thanks to VistaVision. And if you’re a fan of the film and can’t get enough of the clothing, you won’t be surprised to learn Edith Head was at the helm. Just like she did with Grace Kelly, Head highlighted character development with her designs. The vibrant, matching blue gowns (with those amazing fans) are worn by the sisters during their last Florida performance. The hue perfectly mirrors the idyllic coastal waters and the strength of their partnership, providing a time capsule before the gang heads North to Vermont. The way the gowns move and the choice of accessories foreshadow the fun ahead – wearing these dresses it’s obvious these are two ladies on the precipice of an adventure…
Floating on a cloud
Arguably the photo of Marilyn Monroe seductively perched atop a NYC subway vent is her most memorable Hollywood moment. The billowing white fabric challenged all original perceptions about this innocent hue. While there is some controversy around this point, most agree that long-time collaborator William Travilla designed the gown for Monroe. Travilla was an expert in movement (specifically in Monroe’s movements) as our earlier feature outlined, so it’s not surprising he was able to craft a piece that glided so effortlessly while hugging every curve. The halter design with a tiny bow in the front gave the gown a carefree attitude – a joie de vivre – that perfectly matched Monroe’s character.
Our next gown also set the stage for its wearer’s journey. The 1964 production of My Fair Lady is awash with color. The bold opening credits announce that this movie isn’t just a regular flick, but an event. There are two white gowns in this movie that provide the perfect bookends for Eliza Doolittle’s transformation. First there is the arresting gown worn at Ascot. It’s loud, it’s brash and on the border of garish with its bows and layers of lace (not to mention the massive hat). While it’s on par with the other outlandish looks, it’s a gown for someone trying desperately to show they fit in. Of course, Eliza’s scream at the end of the race is the perfect exclamation point to the over-the-top scene! But as we fast-forward, the looks become more demure and refined, ending with the embassy ball gown.
If there was ever an outfit that announced “I’ve made it” this is it. The liquid chic dazzles and shows the world that she’s a true lady before she’s even uttered a single word. Cecil Beaton was the visionary behind the costumes for the film. I’d like to think it was his background in photography that made his looks particularly cinematic, as there are moments when you see Audrey framed in a scene and everything just clicks. The scenes with the ballgown are some of the best examples.
I hope you’ve enjoyed traveling back in time and visiting these classic movies and looks. In my humble opinion, films from the 1950s-1960s took the most delightful risks with color. Perhaps this is because color was just getting its footing in the industry and the newness of it all inspired bold ideas. Maybe it’s because WWII had ended and people sought fantastic escapes. Possibly it’s because the world was brimming with hope and the desire to express it. (Artists have always risen to the occasion in moments such as these.) Most likely it’s a combination of those forces. Dear reader, I invite you to look at fashion with a fresh perspective. As you ponder what color can convey, please consider these iconic vintage dresses…