Sky movies and Instyle magazine's list of the 10 most iconic movie costumes has had me pondering what I consider the best and the most iconic. Most of their list I agree with, but I definitely don't think that Atonement and Moulin Rouge should be on there. The green dress from atonement is amazingly gorgeous, but the movie is too new, too fresh. For something to be iconic it must be "an important and enduring symbol" - the key word being enduring. We'll have to wait and see if Keira's green dress stands the test of time- I have yet to see the movie so I really have no idea if the movie will be remembered as fondly as some of the other movies on the list.
I haven't had time to decide on my absolute favourite costumes or the ones I consider most iconic, but I figured I should write about a classic film that has some great outfits worn by one of the most beautiful stars ever (and some absolutely smashing dialogue). Sullivan's Travels is a very witty and sharp comedy from 1941 starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake. Joel McCrea stars as John Sullivan, a top Hollywood director who is being pushed by his studio to make Ants in Your Pants 1939, a sequel to his hit Ants in Your Pants. Sullivan desires to make a more socially responsible film, something highlighting the dispossessed in Depression era America, as he believes comedies have no place in an America overwhelmed by poverty. He sets off across America dressed as a hobo with no money in his pocket. Along the way he meets the gorgeous Veronica Lake, who knows much more the hardness of life than he does. Sullivan learns quite a few lessons about life over the course of the film, and the film includes quite amazingly realistic images of chain gangs and the poverty of the time. The script is fantastically funny, full of verbal jousting matches between Lake and McCrea. One of the best parts is after the hobo Sullivan encounters the Girl in a rundown cafe in Hollywood and takes her out in a car he's "borrowed from a director friend named Sullivan"...
Sullivan: Don’t you think with the world in its present condition, with Death snarling at you from every street corner, people are a little allergic to comedies? The Girl: No. Sullivan: Perhaps I don’t make myself clear. The Girl: Say, how come you know a picture director well enough to borrow his car? Sullivan: Well, as a matter of fact, I used to know most of those boys. But naturally, I don’t like to mention it in a suit like this. As a matter of fact, I used to be a picture director. The Girl: Why you poor kid! Sullivan: Don’t get emotional. I’ll be all right. The Girl: What kind of pictures did you make? Sullivan: More along educational lines. The Girl: No wonder. There’s nothing like a deep-dish movie to drive you out in the open. Sullivan: What are you talking about? Film is the greatest educational medium the world has even known. You take a picture like Hold Back Tomorrow . . . The Girl: You hold it . . .
The gorgeous cream wool coat and silk dress she is wearing when she meets him suit her perfectly, and highlight her fantastically shimmering blonde locks. This is a total aspirational outfit- a struggling actress who can't pay her rent, she has this one outfit that makes her appear as if she has already achieved all of her goals- quite a change from the poor boy's clothes she takes on later in the film. I'm posting a video of the scene where they meet below- while the script is hilarious on paper, on film Lake's sassy comebacks and sweet looks make it the best scene in the film.
Another great outfit from the film is Lake's matching hat and suit at the news conference after Sullivan's sudden re-appearence. The fur pompoms on the tie of the light coloured, sharply cut suit are a great addition to an already cute outfit. The matching velvet beanie perches exquisitely on Lake's famous hair- my grandmother gave me a hat very similar, which I will definitely have to start wearing after watching this film again last week.
And just look how well-cut her robe is! If only I could find one with bell sleeves, wide lapels and rounded shoulders! The platform peeptoes make it even better... Veronica Lake was actually 6-7 months pregnant during the filming, and her pregnancy is definitely the most obvious in this scene- the robe has one button right on top of her belly but Edith Head expertly cut the robe so that it falls elegantly around the belly without emphasizing it.
Veronica Lake was one of the great film beauties, but its interesting to find that the look that she is known for, the look that made her famous- that of the witchy gowns and peekaboo locks- was all created and wasn't her at all. Edith Head wrote in her autobiography, The Dress Doctor, "Veronica was a girl who actually wore tweeds, flat heels, bulky sweaters, her hair pulled back into a hairnet. And this was the girl we transformed with a hair-do (long, blonde, floating over one eye) and clothes (long, floaty, unearthly chiffon) into a glamorous nymph, half witch. Veronica got a kick out of the transformation. 'Pardon me while I put on my other head,' she'd say. We'd created a personality that didn't exist…It was an experiment that proved what clothes could do. Once Veronica was through with work, changed into her own clothes and went out into the world, no one recognized her, ever." The peekaboo hair that became her earmark was a hugely popular hairstyle in the early 1940s, but during WWII she changed it to encourage women to take safer hairstyles while working in the factories. The US government put out this rather fantastic period safety video with her: