Every year I love sharing examples of Classic Holidays--the photographs, radio programs, vintage video, and films of holidays past 1920s to 1970s. These include GlamAmor-ous Holiday Moments from It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and Meet me in St. Louis (1944). Or Cinema Style Files on films like The Desk Set (1957) and The Thin Man (1934). Then there are photographs of holidays in Hollywood in 1939 and 1950. There's also an entire Classic Holidays playlist on GlamAmor's YouTube channel. Just some of my way of celebrating the season in style.
I couldn't think of a better way to kick off this holiday season than with 1954's White Christmas. There's so much to love about this movie. For one, that soundtrack filled with catchy song after song...all written by super sophisticate Irving Berlin and sung by the likes of legends Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. Though the song "White Christmas" was originally written for World War II's Holiday Inn (1942), this is the movie where it found itself the center of a "slam bang finish" to become a standard for the ages. All the songs are tied together brilliantly to make up the story of White Christmas, which was told by none other than director Michael Curtiz. Curtiz was responsible for directing Warner Brothers masterpieces such as Casablanca (1942, oft declared the Best Movie of all Time) and film noir classic Mildred Pierce (1945). White Christmas itself was the industry's biggest money maker of 1954...taking advantage of the holidays, Technicolor, and being the first movie screened in VistaVision to bring in the audiences and away from their new televisions.
But perhaps the biggest reason for me to love White Christmas is its costume designer--Edith Head. As many know, Edith is practically my patron saint...a designing dynamo whose talent and ambition first inspired me some 20 years ago. Seeing Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) was an experience that would forever impact my life. I almost felt my brain chemistry change when looking at those costumes for the first time. "That," I remember thinking, "is how everyone should dress." Grace Kelly's fashionable Rear Window wardrobe was actually created the same year as White Christmas, showing how the mid-1950s were arguably the peak of Ms. Head's career. Edith would go on to design for Hitchcock once again the following year in To Catch a Thief (1955), which she considered her best work ever.
From a style standpoint, Edith's signature is everywhere in White Christmas. That bold use of color, for one. I always remember loving how the movie moves from an outdoor club in Florida to a cozy lodge in Vermont. Thus, the girls' costume changes range from the most tropical of turquoises--the perfect Miami color--to darker colors like deep pine green and black for the Northeast. Rosemary's black velvet gown for the "Love Didn't Do Right By Me" number happens to be one of my favorites dresses that Edith has ever done. The carefully cut decolletage in both the front and back with a brooch pinned above the bustle is just breathtaking. Stunning.
Another interesting part of White Christmas' style story is the suiting. This was a rare occasion when Edith did the clothes for the men as well as the women. She loved this even more than designing for the ladies...finding that men had wayyyyyyyyyyyyy less ego when it came to costumes and seemed to better respect dressing for character rather than the individual. Bing Crosby also already knew he was in good hands with Edith since she designed costumes throughout the 1940s for his seven Road pictures with Bob Hope. I love that the tailored fit and clean lines of her men's suiting is what she preferred in her designs for women as well. You'll see it in their suiting, of course--just think of Kim Novak in Vertigo--but it also carried through to dresses, robes, coats, and separates such as Rosemary's yellow blouse and long black pencil skirt in White Christmas.
There are plenty of truly timeless designs in 1954's White Christmas and amazing that even in a holiday classic we can find cinema's influence on fashion. Edith's turquoise lace dresses for "Sisters," for example, are beloved by nearly every designer today and a big inspiration for the colorful lace dresses that are now on trend for Fall/Winter 2012. This influence is not a surprise to anyone who has seen A Conversation with Edith Head, which I just saw and so enjoyed celebrating the costume designing icon with the show's co-creators--star Susan Claassen and biographer and publisher Paddy Calistro. White Christmas shares just some of why we love her so. Long live Edith Head!
As everyone knows, I adore the tropics
so Novello's in Miami is heavenly
We are introduced to the Haynes sisters--Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy (Vera Ellen)--
in holiday-colored robes before they perform their act at Novello's
These turquoise lace fit and flare dresses for "Sisters" are perfectly created for Technicolor
Beautiful longsleeve sequined pink chiffon on Judy
and lavender chiffon with a beautiful back on Betty
Edith loved dressing the men for White Christmas...
Danny is dressed in monochromatic gray--suit, socks, shoes--
to keep the longest possible lines during "The Best Things Happen When You're Dancing"
One of the highlights of the movie is the song "Snow"
Look at the suiting on Bing and Danny--perfectly tailored classic gray and slim tie choices (love the one on Bing!)
Getting off the train in Vermont looking chic,
especially Judy with those accents of leopard on her hat, belt, and bag
Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) move their Broadway show to Vermont to help,
but Betty mistakenly thinks they're doing it for the wrong reasons
While trying to push Bob and Betty closer together
Judy gets cozy with Phil in a classic black and white ensemble with accents of red in the belt and shoes
Another gorgeous dress on Betty in a deep forest green velvet
with skinny straps in front and back
Judy is dressed in a longsleeve white lace dress for her faux wedding announcement
The plan backfires and Betty decides to head out on her own
Bob tries to keep Betty from heading to New York
and she looks stunning in a belted coat with fur cuffs and hat
One of my favorite gowns of all time--this black velvet stunner
with carefully cut decolletage in front and back (sealed with a brooch)
Future Oscar winner George Chakiris (Westside Story) is one of the dancers
who accompanies Rosemary for "Love Didn't Do Right By Me"
Bob finally clears up the misunderstanding and lured his love back to Vermont for the show
All is forgiven as Betty returns for Christmas Eve
In cute tailored uniforms courtesy of Edith Head for the "Back in the Army" number
Classic cardinal Christmas costumes for the "White Christmas" finale
when the snow finally comes to Vermont