Tag Archives: 1930s

The Way W./E. Were

We’re not exactly Madonna fans here at theSkinnyStiletto.  After viewing the more realistic “love story” between Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII in last year’s Best Picture winner, The King’s Speech, and how much pain and embarrassment he caused his younger brother with a speech impediment, who would have to take the throne following his abdication, this romance certainly lost any allure that Elaine was yammering on about when she made herself sick on a piece of their wedding cake on Seinfeld.  Considering those two facts (and that this film opened to horrible reviews), W./E. wasn’t exactly on our must-see list of 2011.  But, the photos of the costumes are so delicious, we’re quite tempted to rent this flick!  English actress Andrea Riseborough plays the American socialite that throws the line of British royalty out of whack, when King Edward decides to leave the throne, in order to marry the twice-divorced American.  (Riseborough was fantastic in 2010’s Made in Dagenham, if you’re looking for a good movie to see her in.)  Even though W./E. didn’t get positive reviews, Riseborough looks pitch-perfect as Wallis Simpson.  In fact, she actually even reminded us of Madonna herself, when she played a 1940s dark brunette in A League of their Own (the only film associated with the Material Girl that has a good reputation.)  James D’Arcy was also exceptionally well-cast as the young, slender blonde king.  Some of the film’s stills look so real, they could pass for actual historical photos.  Madonna hired costume designer Arianne Phillips to create the outfits for the film, and was nominated for an Academy Award for her stunning work.  (We think she deserves this Oscar!)  Phillips began work on the film a year prior to filming even began, studying costumes at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York and Musée de la Mode et du Textile in Paris.  Many of Simpson’s original dresses have been kept in museum archives, which were unavailable for Madonna’s production.  Many couture houses offered to recreate outfits for W./E., including Christian Dior, Elsa Schiaparelli and Balenciaga.  (Fun Fact: Madonna asked for a wedding dress from one of Phillips’ competitors for the Oscar this year, Michael O’Connor.  The gown was on display at the National Museum of Costume in Scotland, whose general manager agreed to lend Madonna the dress.)  Co-stars of the film also looked fabulous in their various looks.  Abbie Cornish (pictured, above left) plays a modern girl researching Wallis, and looked wonderful in an all black shift with a matching cardigan, purse and pumps.  Natalie Dormer (pictured, above right) looks fantastic as a young Queen Mother.  In the above scene, she’s being fitted for a hat by the famous milliner Stephen Jones, which is Elizabeth and her daughter’s go-to accessory.  Phillips told W Magazine, “To me, Wallis Simpson was a style icon, but I didn’t know she was a couture client well before she met Edward.  She was also a hungry whore for jewelry.  Edward gave Wallis jewelry to make her feel royal.  My first task was figuring out how to re-create those famous gifts.”  Phillips contacted Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels to replicate several pieces from Simpson’s jewelry collection, including a famous emerald cross bracelet Edward gave to her.  Phillips also got in touch with luxury goods company Alfred Dunhill and Savile Row to get original fabrics and wool from the mills that actually created clothing for King Edward.  Phillips’ work and research on the film was not only thorough, but absolutely gorgeous.  Any one of Wallis Simpson’s beautiful outfits is inspiring today, even 80 years later.  We’re rooting for Arianne this year!


Portrait of The Artist as a Movie

The Artist is a silent black and white movie that is sweeping this year’s award season!  The French movie features Jean Dujardin as a famous silent film star named George Valentin in the late 1920s, and Berenice Bejo plays Peppy Miller, who becomes an overnight “it” girl.  Both actors have been nominated for Oscars this year, along with Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and, of course, Costume Design!  The designer of this film, Mark Bridges, is celebrating his first Oscar nomination for The Artist, but has had an interesting and varied career that seems to have gone unnoticed by the Academy.  Some of Bridges’ prior work includes Boogie Nights, The Fighter, Blow, The Italian Job, and There Will Be Blood.  Not exactly sweeping romances that demand big ball gowns, but they are definitely films that demand particular looks and eras, which Bridges perfectly captured from oil fields to 1970s porn.  The Artist begins in the late 1920s and proceeds through the early 1930s.  Dujardin is so handsome, he looks like he could be Gene Kelly’s French brother, and Bejo is so creative and easy to watch, she makes dancing with a hanger look like there’s a person under that suit jacket (pictured, above left)!  While the roaring 20s and old Hollywood glamor are always favored time periods to celebrate, Bridges had the extra hurdle of making the costumes look apropos without having colored film to show the stunning outfits of the movie.  Bridges discussed this difficulty with CNN, “Without the color to communicate the language of telling the story, I was trying to tell the story through textures, whether it be lamé, sequins and beads for Hollywood, or very flat rough textured wools to communicate down-on-your-heels, or the elegance of satin lapels for evening wear, or the shimmer of a beautiful nightgown.  It became a story of textures telling the story.”  Bejo certainly looks adorable in delicate white gloves and loose-fitting garments of the 1920s, as an ordinary citizen, but she looks right at home as a Hollywood starlet in minks, diamonds, satins, silks, pearls and evening gowns, after finding success in Los Angeles.  Peppy Miller’s headgear definitely matches her first name, adding whimsy to Bejo’s head of curls and firmly cements the film’s era.  Dujardin’s wardrobe is just as dashing as he is, as he sports three-piece tuxedos and suits, white bow-ties, black studs and one hell of a moustache.  This editor kept wishing to see the film’s wardrobe in color, but was actually disappointed once I saw the real-life versions on mannequins, which are now currently on display at FIDM Museum & Galleries in Los Angeles (pictured, bottom).  Guess the black and white film really created charm and magic for me!  Congrats Mark!


Costume designer Sandy Powell is nominated this year for her work on Hugo, and won her second Academy Award for the 2004 film The Aviator.  Singer Gwen Stefani made her screen debut as platinum blonde actress Jean Harlow in the Martin Scorsese movie.  Stefani looked right at home as a young starlet attending a film premiere with Howard Hughes (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) in this shimmering white gown with art-deco diamonds and a fur-lined cream-colored satin opera coat that’s adorned with orchids and pearls.  It’s simply divine. No wonder Powell won!

Hugo Is Boss

Costume designer Sandy Powell celebrated her 10th Academy Award nomination with Hugo.  The Brit has done some extraordinary work on several period films, including The Other Boleyn Girl, The Aviator, The Young Victoria and Shakespeare in Love, and is already in possession of three Oscar statuettes!  Our editors have not seen Hugo yet, but it’s sets and stills look as mysterious and whimsical as the plot, including Emily Mortimer (pictured, top) as a lovely street florist, and Jude Law with his onscreen son (pictured, left).  It doesn’t look like many of the characters have many costume changes, so we’re assuming the film takes place over a day or two.  Hugo takes place during the early 1930s in Paris and stars child actors Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz (pictured, below left and bottom).  Butterfield plays Hugo Cabret, who lives in a train station and tries to escape Inspector Gustave (played by Sacha Baron Cohen, pictured, below right).  Powell certainly had nice things to say about her competition this year; she told Stylelist, “Arianne [Phillips] I’ve always liked. I think, her work on ‘W.E.’ is just incredible, it’s beautiful.  The thing is, actually, we all really like each other.  Michael O’Connor had really beautiful, understated costumes for ‘Jane Eyre’ that were absolutely perfect for the theme. ‘Anonymous’ — Lisy Christl is a German designer, who did all those hundreds of Elizabethan costumes for Shakespeare.  I mean really, they’re all extraordinary.  They are all worthy of that prize.”  With such lovely things to say about her “rivals,” it’s obvious why Powell has had a successful and sustaining career in Hollywood.  Best of luck Sandy!

Walking Down Lois Lane

“It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!”  No, it’s Lois Lane.  She’s the only girl we’ve featured this week that doesn’t have some enormous secret identity, costume or superhuman strength, but she’s one of the most recognizable comic book characters of all-time.  Lois Joanne Lane is the love of Superman’s life.  She was created in 1938 in Action Comics #1 by Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.  Lois was based on a model named Joanne Carter (just like her middle namesake) who would later marry Siegel!  Carter went on to work as a ship builder during World War II and unfortunately died earlier this year, but that is one romantic tribute!  It’s no surprise Lois Lane is such a strong-willed lady, considering she’s based a real-life wonder woman!  Lois was born to Sam and Ellen Lane who were originally farmers from Pittsdale, and in later comics were depicted as a military couple who taught Lois hand-to-hand combat.  They also have another daughter named Lucy Lane.  Lois works as a reporter at Metropolis’s Daily Planet, just like Superman’s alter-ego, Clark Kent.  She is tough, intelligent, hard-working, and the top reporter in town!  Although, for being an extremely bright writer, she’s a poor speller and… well, she hasn’t noticed that the love of her life also works with her everyday, despite a pair of glasses.  After Clark admits who he truly is, he proposes and he and Lois are married, although she keeps her maiden name.  (Can’t imagine why this was my ideal when I wanted to grow up and become a writer… a well-dressed, dark-haired feminist whose sister has the same initials as she, and dates the strongest and best-looking man on Earth!  Gee, I wonder why I wanted to be her…)  Onscreen, Lane has been portrayed by a bevy of different ladies, including Margot Kidder and Teri Hatcher, but her best clothes were in the 2006 Bryan Singer version Superman Returns.  Played by Kate Bosworth (who probably wasn’t the best choice – she looks far more comfortable surfing the shores of Hawaii…), but still had a fantastic look.  Costumed by Louise Mingenbach, who has alsoworked on the X-Men films, The Hangover and The Usual Suspects, she did a gorgeous job of maintaining the classic look of 1930s and 1940s Metropolis without looking too costumed.  Mingenbach stated that she wanted to incorporate the prime decades that Lois Lane was around for.  Her go-to items in this version are strings of white pearls, sophisticated leather handbags, a camel-haired trenchcoat, tailored skirted suits, black stiletto pumps, high-waisted pinstripe pants and the most stunning silk blouses.  Our favorite item is the beautiful gown Lois gets to wear during the story arch (pictured, above left), which was today’s “Look-of-the-Day.” Bosworth got poor reviews for her performance as the most famous fictional reporter in modern history, but at least she got to dress well while doing so.  The new reboot is set to premiere in 2013 with British hunk Henry Cavill as the Man of Steel with the perky Amy Adams playing another girl with an alliteration for initials – Lois Lane!  Let’s hope she gets a wardrobe as accurate and fabulous as Mingenbach’s terrific job on this 2006 film!  Lois Lane is one of the most popular pop culture characters of all-time and definitely our favorite human comic book girl!  We can’t wait to see her reappearance in two years on the silver screen!


We’ve named some well-dressed ladies of the comic underworld this week, but none have donned a dress more glamorous than this!  Here is Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane in 2006’s Superman Returns.  On the night she’s supposed to win her Pulitzer Prize for her article “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman,” Lois puts on this gorgeous black silk gown to collect the award – but of course, irony strikes and her article’s truthfulness is destroyed when Clark Kent has to come save his favorite girl while she’s in this get-up!  Costume designer Louise Mingenbach described this look as “pure Art Deco 30s.”  The intricate beading and a touch of burnt orange in the surprise under layer of this gown is just stunning.  Lois doesn’t make it to the Award Show, but at least she looks good in her pursuit of another story!  Classic Miss Lane!


Looks like Angelina Jolie just doesn’t steal husbands in real life – she does it in her film roles, too!  In CIA epic The Good Shepherd, Matt Damon plays Edward Wilson, an intelligence officer based on James Jesus Angleton.  Jolie plays Clover, the sister of a fellow Secret Society member when Wilson is at Yale.  She looks lovely in this virginal capped-sleeve 1930s gathered cream dress with a beaded bodice – but she’s anything but… One night of seduction in this outfit changes the entire futures of Edward, Clover and Edward’s unknowing girlfriend, Laura.  This 2006 drama actually had an enormous costume department, but Jolie was personally outfitted by Iris Horta Lemos.  She ruins everything, but at least she looks good doing it!