Daniel Mann's Butterfield 8 is one of the films that I recently discussed during a Turner Classic Movies podcast with Scott McGee when looking at the career of one of my favorite costume designers, Helen Rose. Because we weren't able to indulge in all of its wonderful wardrobe, I wanted to make sure to include it here on GlamAmor. These clothes are all representative of Helen's classic style, which is highlighted by clever uses of color, clean lines, and perfectly tailored sophisticated yet sexy shapes. Luxurious fabrications are another quality found in Helen's work and Butterfield 8 has them throughout, namely in the incredible coats she puts on both the actors and actresses in the picture.
Helen and Elizabeth Taylor had a special connection, considered one another the closest of friends, and you can see that the resulting collaboration on costumes was quite magical. Interestingly, much of the foundation for Butterfield 8's wardrobe came from their time on 1958's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Whether intentional or not, the white silk slip and black chiffon dress in Butterfield 8 have clear connections to the white silk slip and white chiffon dress in the earlier film. Copies of both cocktail dresses actually went on to become best-sellers in stores--not surprisingly, the black dress became known as "The Butterfield 8" and the white dress became known as "The Cat." They were so popular that Helen even included both designs in her own couture collection when she segued from her career at MGM.
Elizabeth is dressed in nothing but the best in Butterfield 8 as Gloria Wandrous, a woman who is often considered a high-class call girl due to her dangerous dating life. She unfortunately falls for Weston Liggett (Lawrence Harvey), a seemingly successful businessman who lost his own original ambitions when he married a wealthy woman (Dina Merrill). The story opens with Gloria waking up alone in Liggett's New York City apartment with a hangover and a dress destroyed in the heat of passion the night before. Trouble starts when she finds Liggett has gone and left her $250 rather than waiting and giving her his love.
Elizabeth won an Oscar for this risky role, though many considered it more for her body of work at the time of the award. Regardless of your opinion on the performance, though, there is an absolute consensus that she and everyone in the film looked magnificent in Helen Rose's costumes. Even more than simply being stylish at the time--over 50 years ago, no less--these clothes are so timeless and classic they would still be chic if they were recreated again today. Take a look.
Even in a torn dress, you see hallmarks of Helen Rose--
the colorful and luxurious fabrication of the cantelope metallic silk brocade dress (and matching heels)
The first official outfit of the film--
silk slip reminscent of the one in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof two years before
The first coat of the film really sets the bar high for the rest--
fur-trimmed and cream cashmere
Angered by Liggett, she decides instead to take "something spiteful and elegant" from the apartment--
the mink coat of the missus
Helen Rose's penchant for color on display in Norma's red dress
along with the perfect tailoring in the suit that Gloria borrows from her
A little preppy skeet shooting in the East Coast countryside with Emily
before heading back to the city to be with Gloria
The famous black chiffon "Butterfield 8" dress was copied afterward for thousands of women to buy,
including from Helen's own couture collection
The love affair really begins...Gloria in a romantic fur-trimmed tweed cape and Liggett cozy in camelhair
Shopping in a brown belted fur-trimmed tweed
Even the accessories are luxurious from Helen--an alligator purse, leather gloves,
and a love scene played out surrounded by the best leather bags that money can buy
Helen Rose sometimes used shades of gray in costumes to
help beautiful co-stars pale in comparison to Gloria
Orange wool swing coat (look at those buttons), black leather pumps,
black leather handbag, and black leather gloves
A signature "unusual color combination" from Helen--
the orange swing coat paired with an olive sweater and bright blue necklace
Gloria slowly remembers the stolen mink...
...and returns the one fur while wearing yet another
These two women make the mistake of loving Liggett when he can't even respect himself
Gloria looks lovely even while trying to escape her fate