Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Style Essentials--Elizabeth Taylor Calls on Helen Rose Style in 1960's BUTTERFIELD 8


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



5 comments:

Kay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kay said...

Well, a pitch-perfect review, Kimberly...well done! I learned that the actress chosen to play the long-suffering girlfriend of Liz's childhood pal (Eddie Fisher) was selected because she resembled Debbie Reynolds. Audiences at the time were rabidly following the tabloid coverage of the raging marry-go-round, when Liz stole Eddie from Debbie! Being Liz, she was already in the process of discarding Eddie for the next Mr. Taylor! Oh, the drama! Good thing she has wonderful clothes for such affairs. Thanks for this terrific, mink-collared wrap-up! Warmly,
Kay at http://moviestarmakeover.blogspot.com/

MC said...

Hi Kimberly!

I watched this movie for the first time this weekend, and while I wasn't over the moon about the story itself (Liggett was unworthy of both the women - what a creep), I was totally smitten with the style of it. All those gorgeous coats! I always feel a bit guilty about it, animal lover that I am, but I really do love vintage fur. Even a simple fur collar adds such luxurious elegance to a coat. And don't get me started on that full length mink. Swoon!

Of all the beautiful things Elizabeth Taylor wears in the movie, I think my favorite may be the olive sweater, bright blue necklace, and orange swing coat ensemble, simply because of the odd color combination that looks so surprisingly good together. That's the kind of thing that so inspires me about vintage fashion - I get so many ideas about color, accessories, and silhouette. It's fun trying to work those ideas into my modern day wardrobe.

Melissa

Kimberly said...

I totally agree with you, Melissa, about both the movie itself and its glorious costumes. It took me some time to warm to BUTTERFIELD 8 and it really was the wardrobe that helped me do it. lol I also agree about the fur--vintage fur is extraordinary. I have one of my own (despite being an animal lover myself) and it is fabulous on. It's a 1960s short leopard coat a la THE GRADUATE that somehow works with jeans and cocktail attire. I'll never let it go. I love it so much. It's art.

And LOVE that particular color combo you describe. Inspiration from colors such as these is why I turn to classic cinema as well. Love being able to celebrate the creativity and thought that went behind choosing these unique color combinations. Helen Rose is a designer who is a master at this skill and why I turn to her again and again.

Glad you checked out the movie, Melissa...it's a good one to watch in the winter, too. ;)

Kimberly said...

And thanks for the additional backstory on the movie, Kay! Always fascinating. Yes, the drama...doesn't surprise me at all that they'd work that angle for publicity, especially when the picture isn't really that good to begin with. And yet she still won the Oscar for it! lol

She would be on to my favorite husband, Richard Burton, soon enough. Love him.

But the furs...oh the furs in this movie...thank you, Helen Rose.

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