Let's face it - we all want Ginger Rogers' cinematic wardrobe, ja?
Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat. Y’all are awesome. This means that at least 250 people out there care as much about old-timey sartorial film studies as we do! Amazing! We have the best niche interest ever, guys. (We know this is probably a relatively small number Tumblr-wise, but for us, it is HUGE. Thank you all for your readership.)
Ginger Rogers as Ellie May, with Joel McCrea and Henry Travers in Primrose Path (1940).
Primrose Path is a perfect case of a movie using a restrained and simple wardrobe to BREAK YOUR DAMN HEART. Our heroine has temporarily escaped her painful poverty! She is married and wearing a cute dress! A really cute dress – it actually fits, and seems like something a young woman would choose to wear (instead of her alcoholic father and prostitute mother’s hand-me-down’s).
But the very cuteness of the dress also serves to highlight our heroine’s vulnerability. The simple sweetness of it, with the lace at sleeves and collar, the polka dots – this is a girl’s dress. There is an open innocence to it (polka dots! I think there are even polka dots on the lace) that suggests happiness and contentment, but in NO WAY suggests self-sufficiency or self-protection. This is especially highlighted when she is surrounded by her new husband and father-in-law clad in straightforward working clothes. We know they’ll be okay. But her?
Also (tenuous movie connection because I just saw Catching Fire): You know what movie also utilizes the sweet little sleeves and collars for maximum heartbreak? THE HUNGER GAMES. Specifically, the character PRIMROSE EVERDEEN, obviously (tenuous name connection!). For real, when Prim’s name is called, she is wearing an outfit like G’s here to showcase her vulnerability and tenuous grasp on happiness. And so even though the first movie isn’t super great, as soon as Prim’s name is called, you take one look at the sweet little girl in the sweet little outfit and: cue the waterworks! Works for the 1940’s, works for dystopian future America.
Ginger Rogers as Polly Rockwell in Queen High (1930).
So Ginger here is in her first full-length movie with lead billing. She plays the ingénue, the cute love interest to balance the absurd Charles Ruggles/Frank Morgan hijinks (so many hijinks). With only approximately a bajillion other cute girls in Hollywood as her competition, how will she distinguish herself?
The answer, wonderfully, is: by playing a live action version of Betty Boop. She’s got the hair, she bops around energetically, and she even does the voice. At first I thought it was a problem with the early sound system and that was why her voice was weird. But nope! Charles Ruggles and Frank Morgan sound exactly like themselves. This was a purposeful decision!
And sure enough, the wardrobe backs Ginger’s masterful plan up. Her outfit here is especially flapper-like. I mean, it is not quiiiite as short as the Betty Boop look, but let’s not forget Betty was a caricature of a flapper. G’s feminine little dress is definitely shorter than the outfits the grown women in this movie wear. And it looks…red? I know, fine, it is a black and white movie. But the print and the kind of smudgy gray of it communicates red. Betty wears red, and that is also communicated in smudgy gray. Point is, there is at least a clothing REFERENCE to Miss Boop, to the fact that our girl is playing the part of an (THE) archetypal flapper.
Anyway, PROPS to Baby G for coming up with this particular acting strategy. Betty Boop was hugely popular at the time, one of the first successes of the early talkie period. Before Hollywood had entirely figured out this crazy sound thing, Betty was boop-booping her way into people’s hearts. Only steal from the best!
Ginger Rogers as Thelma “Teddy” Shaw in Having Wonderful Time (1938).
Teddy is clearly not having (a?) wonderful time in this moment. It must be supremely awkward to run into your doofy, quasi-stalkerish ex whom you have NO interest in while wearing perhaps the flirtiest and most feminine day dress in your wardrobe. OOPS. A dress which was in fact intended to spite / attract the gorgeous Douglas Fairbanks Jr. has now been inappropriately employed in engaging this character named…Elmer. Not Elmer. Emile? Eeyore? Eomer, son of Eomund? What the hell was this guy’s name? It doesn’t matter — he doesn’t get the girl, obviously. Look at them! He’s all fuddy-duddy ill-fitted suits and she’s all primness and fleurs. This is not a very good match in attire, and therefore it will not be a good match in life. (This is a very important rule to live by). I think we all know who Miss Teddy belongs with:
HELLO, GOOD SIR. I simply like to call this shot the “Teach Me How to Dougie” — meaning I would like Ginger to TEACH ME HOW TO GET INTO DOUGIE FAIRBANKS JR.’S PANTS.*
Ahem. Excuse me. Yes. Sweet, genteel love. You can tell that these pretty people are truly meant to be together because they are both wearing similar neck and waist adornments. That flower-decked collar on Ginger’s dress is such a perfect shape-match to Dougie’s little black bowtie, isn’t it? Coupled with her waist-wreath of daisies against his ever-so-slightly askew belt? And these two kids/actors have the charm and chemistry to back up the excellent sartorial coordination that all renders this movie equal parts sexy and delightful.
(It is also no secret that this movie is responsible for our tiny bit of a GIANT CRUSH on Cinematic Hot Toddy Douglas Fairbanks Jr. — his screen presence here has done nothing to discourage our somewhat shallow initial approach to evaluating Old Hollywood Men. How did this beautiful hombre manage to have anything but an illustrious, everlasting film career? (We already looked up the answer. The answer is the war. War ruins everything.))
*But seriously, look at Teach Me How to Dougie’s pants. How did this take manage to slip past the Hays Code?
virginiamccath asked: dear girls from whatgingerwore, i just found you guys a few days ago and am absolutely delighted to have found you. as a new ginger rogers admirer, i am moved to even create a new tumblr in her spirit. just want to spread the ginger love. <3
And what a lovely spirit your message evokes! Welcome to the Ginger Tumblrverse, my dear!
Ginger Rogers as Irene and Fred Astaire as Vernon in The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939).
We don’t talk much about The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, mostly because (HISTORY DOES NOT GET A SPOILER ALERT) it is SAD, and biopics are stupid. But, the clothes here are fantastic! As they should be - half the gowns are based on Irene Castle’s actual wardrobe which was an utterly tremendous wardrobe. She was so stylin’! And interesting – way more than the movie gives her credit for (story for another day, kids).
Because the story for THIS day is that when Ginger isn’t wearing Irene Castle’s actual gowns, there is wonderful costuming going on. The meet-cute between Irene and Vernon is particularly great – they’re both in stripes! Destiny. Plus, her outfit is the perfect combination of girlish and seductive. It is all tight and short and bathing-suit appropriate (really, it might be a little too tight to be a swimsuit for the era? Those things looked pretty silly, generally). But still girly! The sweet lacy collar and slightly puffed sleeves, plus a charming matching hairband – it is all accessorized for maximal cutesy. It would be a little sickly, but the diagonal stripe pattern keeps the outfit on the playful side of sweet. Isn’t she just the ULTIMATE girl next door?
Also, the real star of this movie is: THE DOG. It is so little and fluffy yet still fundamentally doggish.