Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Clothes on Film: Hilda Crane

Jean Simmons & Evelyn Varden in "Hilda Crane"

While I was eating breakfast this morning I turned on the TV and caught the last 45 minutes of Hilda Crane also known as The Many Loves of Hilda Crane. I missed the many loves, instead coming in on Hilda's wedding day, when she was refusing the her future mother-in-law's bribe of $50,000 to leave her momma's-boy fiancé at the altar. Any modern viewer will conclude that Hilda should have taken the money and run away with the sexy Frenchman, especially after mean Momma calls her a tramp, but while Hilda's life-choices may have been less than perfect, her wardrobe choices were not. In 1956, the twice-divorced Hilda couldn't wear white at wedding number three, so instead she was wearing the most divine pale yellow full-skirted dress with a surplice bodice and dolman sleeves. To die!

As with many mid-Fifties Hollywood morality-tales, Hilda Crane's wardrobe is much better than its soapy plot. Hilda's full dresses (which she apparently donned after returning to her hometown to recapture her respectability) looked not only glamorous but, with the exception of the wasp-waist, comfortable. A loose dolman-sleeved bodice creates no titscrepancy, and there's absolutely no danger that the world will become the gynecologist of a woman wearing a calf-length four-gore skirt. Waists can always be let out if there's a big enough seam allowance. And there's nothing like a group of angry women in full dresses having a flounce-and-swish-off.

1950s diagonal closing dress from So Vintage Patterns

1950s Coachman's Robe pattern at Heavens to Betsey Vintage

195os dolman-sleeve shirtdress sold by Sew Cool Rock n Roll

The dresses reminded me of bathrobes, and in fact one of the vintage patterns I found that most resembled what Hilda et al. were wearing, the one from Heavens to Betsey Vintage, is in fact a pattern for a robe. A lot of damn robe.

Oh, poor Hilda, all she wanted was to be loved in a pure and honorable way, with no mother-in-laws to call her a tramp, and no French professors to call her a courtesan. Because, "[i]n case you don't know what 'courtesan' means, it's just a fancy word for 'tramp'!" (So said Hilda.)

*ETA: The costume designer on this movie was Charles Le Maire, who has a long, long, list of credits, including "All About Eve," and "The Diary of Ann Frank," and who was nominated for an Oscar 16 times and who won three, and about whom I know nothing except what IMDB provides. How did I miss this guy?

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