Friday, November 27, 2015

Fashion Friday #5: A Yank At Oxford

In 1938, Vivien Leigh co-starred in A Yank At Oxford with Robert Taylor and Maureen O'Sullivan. Vivien, as the second female lead, played the very flirtatious wife of the local (and older than her) book-seller at Oxford. As Elsa Craddock, Vivien stirs things up for the local collegians, which includes Robert Taylor's character, Lee Sheridan. Lee is a brash, cocky, young American who triumphs sportswise over the other young men at Oxford. Maureen O'Sullivan plays Molly Beaumont, Robert Taylor's love interest and sister of his athletic rival.

The clothes for A Yank At Oxford were designed by Swiss designer, Rene Hubert. Ultimately, Rene would work as costume designer on four of Vivien's movies, Fire Over England, Dark Journey, Yank and That Hamilton Woman. He designed costumes for well over a hundred movies during his long career and received two Oscar nominations for his work. His first nomination was in 1954 for Desiree (color) and his second came ten years later in 1964 for The Visit (black & white). In addition to movies, Mr. Hubert also designed stage sets and costumes for plays and revues.

The first outfit we'll look at today is this lovely three-piece, plaid ensemble. The jacket is black tweed with the lapels and pockets trimmed in a black and yellow plaid design. The skirt is also made from tweed with the same plaid pattern as the jacket's trimmings in black and yellow. Even the gloves didn't escape Rene's attention with their plaid undersides.

One of the perks of playing 'the other woman,' in a movie from the 1930s, is that the actress usually gets to wear flashier clothes than the film's good girl. We can see that's the case with Vivien's character, Elsa, in her fur-trimmed ensemble, pictured below.

Vivien wears a smart, green, wool outfit that coordinates perfectly with her gloves and chin-strapped hat . The dress features ocelot fur-covered lapels and cuffs at the sleeves' end. The fur travels from the lapels up to the shoulders, then down the dress' backside to the waist as pictured below. One magazine referred to this as a cape effect. (Side note: Seriously, ocelots are so cute that I can't even believe anyone would use them for their fur. Even though they're part of the leopard family, they're only slightly bigger than domesticated house cats.)

Next up is this lovely cream coat, made from twilled fabric. The coat is stitched in dark brown silk and fastened with three wood grained buttons in the same shade. The coat is worn over an underdress of brown crepe de chine, tied at the neck with a bow. Bags, gloves and shoes are in the same shade of brown, the suede shoes trimmed with corded silk. The hat is cream felt to match the coat with dark brown stitching for trimming (San Bernardino County Paper). Crepe de Chine is a light material, usually made from silk.

Maureen O'Sullivan played the main female lead in A Yank At Oxford. Rene Hubert created fourteen costumes for her to wear in the movie. From the MGM publicity department: Here is Maureen in a neat, practical ensemble for the young undergraduette about Oxford. Skirt and coatee are in fine brown wool, with an attractive masculine feature in the brown check tweed waistcoat; imitation pockets are piped in brown wool and buttons are covered in brown wool. Shirt, collar, tie and cuffs are in an off-white pique, with shoes in brown suede.

Below, Maureen wears a two-piece outfit designed for her character, Molly, when she's off campus. The fitted, slender skirt features three inch slits on each side and is made from medium blue, wool cloque. Cloque is a woven material with a textured or quilted look, which came into popularity in the late 1930s.

The form-fitting jacket zips up in the front and is also made from wool cloque, with front and back panels of dark blue velvet. The jacket's pockets are trimmed in a medium blue, while the collar, tie and zipper covering are of pale blue pique.

I don't have any close-up pictures of Vivien and Maureen's shoes as they all come out too blurry when I enlarge them. I do have these two vintage ads for shoes from 1938, which I absolutely love since they're in color.

The shoes in the bottom right, with the eight open-holes, are similar to a pair that Vivien wears in the movie, minus the buckle straps. Other shoes from the movie feature ties and bows. If any of today's shoemakers were to produce a vintage line of shoes like these from 1938, I'd be first in line for them.

Thanks for joining me for today's Fashion Friday post!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Fashion Friday #4: Shakespeare's 400th Birthday

To mark William Shakespeare's 400th birthday in 1964, Vivien Leigh and her good friend, Robert Helpmann, attended an outdoor celebration for the Bard. The party took place on an overcast day at the partially finished Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford.

In addition to Robert Helpmann, Vivien was joined by Michael Redgrave (who would star in the theater's opening play,  A Month In The Country with Ingrid Bergman, in 1965) and Diana Wynyard, (who sadly passed away from kidney failure three weeks after this picture was taken).

For this special occasion, Vivien chose to wear a hot pink, two piece outfit. The boxy shaped jacket featured five buttons down the front, pocket flaps and side buttons. Vivien accented her outfit with a fur stole around her neck, gloves and a black velvet hair band a la Alice In Wonderland.

Michael Redgrave and  Vivien Leigh
For their part of the celebration, Vivien and Helpmann recreated one of their scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream, titled Ill Met by Moonlight.  The two had co-starred in the play twenty-six years earlier in late 1937 to early 1938, as Titania and Oberon, respectively.

Vivien Leigh and Robert Helpmann as Titania and Oberon
Here's part of that scene:
Oberon: Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.
Titania: What, jealous Oberon! Fairies, skip hence:
            I have forsworn his bed and company.
Oberon: Tarry, rash wanton: am not I thy lord?
Titania: Then I must be thy lady: but I know
            When thou hast stolen away from fairy land,
            And in the shape of Corin sat all day,
            Playing on pipes of corn and versing love
            To amorous Phillida.

Vivien Leigh and Robert Helpmann
Then Vivien recited the Quality of Mercy speech by Portia from The Merchant of Venice. Since the theater wasn't completed yet, they stood on a platform built into the scaffolding.

The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthron├Ęd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence ‘gainst the merchant there.

This next picture of Vivien was taken at another event. She's wearing the same outfit, but this time we get to see her ensemble in color. Note how vibrant the pink would have been in person.

A side view of Vivien, at the theater, with Helpmann looking on:

Members of the audience included several swans, from the River Wey, who came ashore to enjoy the tribute to Shakespeare :)

Thanks for joining me for this Fashion Friday post!