FILM COSTUME - WOMEN IN FILM NOIR
Series in 5 parts
5 - The good one: ANNE BAXTER in THE BLUE GARDENIA
The ideal image of a good woman is embodied by the GOOD GIRL in Fritz Lang’s THE BLUE GARDENIA , 1953. This womanly image is gentle, good-natured, romantic and unspoiled - simply for getting married. To counter-act the implicit boredom, the GOOD GIRL has to be stylized as a femme fatale, temporarily and ostensibly.
ANNE BAXTER’s working-girl-outfits by the costume designers MARIA DONOVAN and IZZY BERNE are fashionably up-to-date and follow the modification of the silhouette, beginning already in 1947. Trend-setter Christian Dior fixed the new form of femininity with his collection „New Look“. The reduction of the masculine shoulder accentuation is remarkable. Bosom, waist, and hips now move into the foreground shaping the silhouette strongly swinging out or narrow straight.
Three of the ten costumes of the GOOD GIRL are vestmentally sexualized by using the variant of an erotic formation - „enlarged neckline“ - on a hyper-feminine black evening dress and on a romantic white night-dress. A sheet, winded narrowly around the body, erotizes by the total uncovering of the shoulders. The sheet and the night-dress do homage to the powerful stereotype of the innocent blonde in a fragile white clothing.
FORMS AND MATERIALS
The clothing combinations are designed as it was a common practice in the 50s and generally more cut on figure. The narrow straight dress dominates: knee-length, high-necked, and combined with small collars, mostly in black with a white color accent.
Woolen cloths, jersey, cotton, and viscose are the conventional basic materials, all in uni-colors. Only the institutional frock shows a fine linear design. In general, simplicity and inconspicuousness are the characteristics of the dress code.
AN EVENING DRESS IN FOCUS
The central clothing element of the „femme fatale-transformation“ of the GOOD GIRL is a trendy evening dress of black taffeta. Dramatic black is the one most concentrated. In combination with the elegance of the clothing and the extravagance of the fabric it suggests power and is extremely sophisticated. In doing so it has overtones of danger and evil - the exciting conflict between desire and fear is actualized.
Even a dialogue certifies the fashionable up-to-dateness of the dress:
The blind woman:
„... oh yes, her clothing of taffeta. Taffeta has a very special rustle, like no other material.“
„Probably in black. That’s in fashion this year.“
In a nightly action of combustion, GOOD GIRL Norah Larkin annihilates the notorious garment, and strips off again the vestmental simulated identity of a femme fatale.
The fashionable women of the 50s wear a typical crop, as ANNE BAXTER does, besides in attractive blonde. Delicate decent jewelry accentuates femininity in a decent way, as well as the black high-heel court shoes and the skin-color stockings.
Photos: THE BLUE GARDENIA, Fritz Lang, Warner Brothers 1953, 90 min
© Rosa Burger, MA 1997
Tel. +43 1 535 94 09
FILM COSTUME - WOMEN IN FILM NOIR
Master’s thesis, University of Vienna, 1993.
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