Carnival of the Couture: Clothes on Film

Gidget Bananas, over at , is running this week's Carnival of the Couture, and the topic is Clothes on Film. (And yes, I've been earwormed with Duran Duran's "Girls on Film" ever since I saw the topic.) Here's her question:

What movie, TV show or video featured clothes that made an impression on you? What movie, TV or video wardrobe did you try to emulate? How many times did you dress up as Emma Peel (or for the mens, John Steed) at Halloween, and if not, why not? 'Fess up, I know you have at least one vest a la Annie Hall, or torn sweat-shirt a la Flashdance, stuffed back there in your Closet of Shame.

I have but I don't think I have ever articulated WHY I love her, or at least her Pillow Talk/Touch of Mink film persona, so madly. I think it boils down to this: the basic plot of a Doris Day movie, at least the ones that I have seen, is that she is happily living her life, doing her job, getting up in the morning and going to sleep in the evening, all in a state of contentment. She's not pining. She's not waiting around for something, or somebody — she's doing stuff! She is active, not passive. And this, I think, manifests itself in the clothes for her movies — it has always seemed to me that her characters dress to please themselves first. If Rock Hudson likes the dress? Bonus. But it's not her focus.

I googled around for some pictures from her movies, and found plenty — but this one is the one that called to me. Look how perfect, how clean and unfussy her dress is. Look how happy she looks, how relaxed, how comfortable in her own skin. She's not dressing "sexy", but she looks like a woman, not a girl.

I want to start a "What Would Doris Wear?" movement. To qualify, a dress would have to be wearable — comfortable, practical, with pockets, easy to move in, and suitable for a day's work. It would have to be pretty, but not juvenile or infantilizing. It would be feminine–womanly but not vampy. And most of all, it would have to make you feel happy, cheerful, comfortable, ready for anything and optimistic about what the day will bring.

There's been criticism, I know, of Doris Day's movie persona as "overly virginal" or prissy. I think virginity was really a metaphor for agency. It wasn't really her body that she was reluctant to surrender — it was her independence. Which would have been a much more radical idea for the time; easier to make the conflict about sex than about autonomy! (Film critics, feel free to jump in here.)

Okay, one more picture, this from an earlier film:

Doris Day

C'mon, don't you want a red & white dress with polka dots, accordion pleats, and Western detailing? I know I do! And I'd be this happy all day in it.

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0 thoughts on “Carnival of the Couture: Clothes on Film

  1. I love Doris’s sheath dress pretty tremendously. Unfortunately, my body + sheath = not such a great look. Though I am currently coveting this Talbot’s giraffe print sheath even if it means I look enormous.

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  2. “…come on; Doris looks like she’s about to Pop a Gut, she’s so tense! Look at her leg muscles! She’s anything but comfortable even in her svelt built. Wearing this dress would make one constantly watch how she sits; that the dress doesn’t ride up; and dependinging the woman’s build, that the “rolls” don’t collect in the middle!! It’s too restricting!!

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  3. The movie for me was Funny Face. GAH! all those Givenchy gowns, and the photo shoots, not to mention the too perfect beatnick leggings and turtleneck look.The sheath looks great to me. There is a tendancy for sheaths to be worn tight, but this one looks loosish. I do love a sheath myself, but foe a straight line silohette, seperates work better on my body.

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  4. Erin, Dress a Day always puts a smile on my face. I have, as my friends say, a bit of a dress problem. Consider yourself an enabler with all your pretty pictures and fantastic ideas. Today (at the Vogue Fabrics in Evanston) I bought this amazing citrus-y plaid shantung silk, which is going to be a full pleated skirt with a waistband and deep hem. I possibly need a flouncy petticoat underneath, to peek out when I cross my legs.

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  5. I just came across your blog Erin (searching for tips on how to sew wrap dresses incidentally), and I love it. And I completely agree with you on Doris Day! I’ve only seen the one film, The Glass Bottomed Boat, which for some reason is on TCM over and over again, and I was quite taken aback, as it wasn’t how I’d imagined Doris Day. She wasn’t virginial and prissy, she was active and outgoing and confident. I liked her. What Would Doris Wear, indeed! I’m with you. Well, in theory. In practice I’m an awful dresser. *blush*

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  6. Ooh la love. The dress is a little boring, but I’m with your social/movie criticism. It’s about dressing very practically for herself (though this style is channeled through a studio that needs to make a commercially successful movie) – the sheath is the most practical thing she could have worn in her world of New Look, corsetted silhouettes. It’s sleek and let’s her move, she’s not stuck in the kitchen.

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  7. For some reason, Doris Day reminds me of capris and pedal pushers, sartorially. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a DD movie that I can’t remember which ones I’ve seen.The film, Cleo de 5 a 7 has two or three tremendous dresses in it, and I’ve been looking for good shots to send you since you started this blog, but I haven’t had any luck yet.

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  8. I love the dress Doris is wearing. It is a timeless classic. I made two just last summer and I’m looking forward to wearing them as soon as it warms up in Chicago. The simple design leaves many options for adding accessories.Chris aka U SEW GRL

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  9. Doris could work a sheath with a level of skill that only Audrey Hepburn could match!I know that she grew up a dancer, and I think that that kind of carriage and poise and constant undercurrent of enegery is part of what made her so unique and fabulous.

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  10. I love your site AND Doris Day. I renounced pants last fall and have never been happier scrounging for new dresses in thrift stores and flea markets here in Paris. Keep up the good work! Every time I visit your blog I can’t wait to get home to my sewing machine!

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  11. Oh for hips that weren’t wider than my shoulders. Oh for the ability to wear a sheath dress without screaming “I’m a Pear!” Le sigh.Totally with you on loving Doris Day, though. I even like her albums (currently on my wish list).–Lydia

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  12. Love Doris Day, but always wanted to be Molly Ringwald -Pretty in Pink- I was in heaven when she was making her prom dress from 2 others, too bad it turned out so odd…. (ugly) Cabbage rose print capris, vintage dresses for $1.99, haircut, color and all, that’s me 1986-ish. *sigh*

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  13. Oh, that’s SO easy..the movie for me is Rear Window, the Alfred Hitchcock thriller with Jimmy Stewart, and if I could BE Grace Kelly in that movie and WEAR Grace Kelly’s clothes in that movie, and work for Bergdorf Goodman like Grace Kelly in that movie…well..that’s MY version of heaven!LOVE this site, Erin. Im obsessed!

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  14. Monica Vitti in The Eclipse. Though that really is my fantasy world – I’m not about to put in the effort that an early 1960s Italian woman would, much as I envision myself clicking across empty plazas in her slingbacks.

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  15. Doris was anything but “overly virginal” in “Love Me or Leave Me,” a 1950s musical co-starring Jimmy Cagney in which she played a dancehall singer/gangster’s moll…….

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  16. I love this dress that Doris Day is wearing. I saw quite a few of her movies and she was known as the girl next door this was her image. I liked the way she dressed. I also watched the Doris Day show. I grew up watching hollwood glamour. If I could have been anyone it would have been Audrey Hepburn or Leslie Caron I love the clothes from Funny Face. The dress I lust after is the red dress from Daddy Long-legs. I love this movie. The clothes were fantastic in it. Love MM to. Love the dress from 7 year itch. I just love hollywood glamour from the 30’s to the 60’s. When I was 12 yrs old I stayed up late till 4am & 5am on Fri and Sat to watch movies. I also watched Sunday’s hollywoods best movie. I wish you could see the old movies on T.V now like you used to be able to when I was growing up. I so miss them. I thought I had seen more Doris Day movies then I had. Iam going to have to rent a bunch of them and watch them.

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  17. I’m a sucker for Indian outfits ever since I saw Devdas. I wear flouncing shawls with almost every sort of blouse/ top. They are very practical for too sunny days.I agree Grace Kelly’s wardrobe in Rear Window is unique.

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  18. Love Doris, love her movies, love a sheath dress, love the way Doris looked in Midnight Lace, too, which is not a widely-known movie of hers, I don’t think.I should have been an adult in the fifties!

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  19. i probably shouldnt love doris day quite so much as i do given the fact that im a teenager but realy i cant help it..i love nearly all the dresses she wears in love me or leave me and i am attempting to recreate one of them for myself !

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  20. Love Doris Day, love the dress, what’s more she can fill it out pretty good, Her movies are fab! So inspiring and a get up and go personality. She is a beautiful woman and a lady. Someone men respect and really just has it all. Lucky girl!

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  21. Doris Day is a style icon, certainly from the mid fifties onwards [pedal pushers, drindles, tight cocktail dresses, spike heels, and most certainly from the Pillow Talk years onwards through the 1960’s and 1970’s – what a fantastic figure, with the height to carry off any creation – see her tv show for how to wear clothes! Even liked her unconventional trouser/pant suit worn to the 1989 Golden Globe awards – style is about leading, not following! The dress in the picture is a timeless classic due to its simplicity.

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  22. I am completely enamored with Doris Day. I just watched “Move Over, Darling” with james Gardner which reminded me how much I loved her look, confident. I googled and found this blog while searching for info on her fahsions. Can’t wait to read all of the comments. I agree that Doris Day was a go getter. The women she portrayed knew exactly what they wanted and how to go about getting it without exploiting themselves or appearing conceited. She wore her clothes not the other way around like so many people in the today’s movies do. She was fabulous.

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  23. I think your right on the mark – putting Doris in the virgin category was all wrong. It was her independence she didn’t want to give up. She was one of the only working women in movies at the time. And when she found a man that really interested her she went after him !And when she wasn’t a career woman she was married with children. I don’t understand where they got the perennial virgin tag. She was a strong, independent woman in all of her movies whether she was married or single.

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  24. I love that dress that Doris day is wearing,she always wore fantastic clothes,i think she is a very talanted lady and a true icon,a great singer/actress and animal lover.

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  25. My favorite is the white cocktail dress Holly Hunter wore in “Always”. Also the wedding dress J. Garth wore on the last TV episode of “What I Like About You.” I grew up on Doris Day movies and loved the clothes she wore, especially in “Pillow Talk” and “Lover Come Back”.

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  26. I totally agree with you on Doris Day! She is my style and personal role model also. She was so fashionable and confident in all of her movies. I love the clothes she wore, pretty and feminine and sexy without being trampy in the least. I agree with you about the virgin image. It was about her independence. She often played a beautiful, confident career girl who could make it on her own and didnt need a man. But when she fell in love, she didnt want to just let him take all of her independence away from her. She didnt want to be the submissive housewife, she wanted to support herself, and if that included love, it was great, but he couldnt take her independence and confidence away from her.

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  27. So I just discovered this blog, and I’m reading the archives, but I had to answer this. I’ve always been completely transfixed by Maureen O’Hara and her dresses in the original version of the Parent Trap. STUNNING.

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