Friday, April 22, 2011

1950's Hollywood 'does' Mediaeval

Prompted by our lovely Dreamstress in response to my Katy gown, I thought I would research what The New Look was doing to mediaeval costumes in the 1940s and 50s in Hollywood. Tricky. I've been scouring IMDB for movies then googling images. Slim pickings so far - if you have any favourites please comment and I will follow up and add them. I know that there was a bit of a trend for brides to be influenced by mediaevalism, no doubt as a result of some of the movies and TV programmes below, but I am more interested in the costumes themselves, not the derivatives.
 Angela Lansbury looking deliciously pouty while eating a burger with Basil Rathbone. I can't pin down what movie she was in but it may have been The Court Jester, although the photo is attributed to the 1940's (The Three Musketeers? Surely even Hollywood isn't that deranged about period costuming!).  Anyway, I love how even in this limited photo you can see the unmistakable impact of modern underpinnings, the sculpted bodice and off the shoulder line are so of their time. Adore the sleeves with the V on the hand. Gorgeous! She holds her burger like her character would have held a quail's egg.
Lousy images of Leslie Caron playing Elle in my second favourite Cinderella movie, The Glass Slipper. Actually I suspet this is set in that mythical 18th C Hollywood aesthete. Adorable anyway. Elle/Caron has pixie short hair and turns up at the ball with this hair and a tiara. Priceless! (my favourite is Ever After, my third favourite is The Slipper and the Rose)
Yetch that pink could take your eye out. Lansbury on left, showing off her exquisite shoulders, Glynis Johns on the right showing off hers. While the big skirt is missing, the 1955 silhouette is apparent for sure.

Serious stuff - Laurence Olivier as Richard III sweeping Claire Bloom off her feet. Hard to find a better image of Bloom. The costumes in this are trying harder, but provenance is still apparent. Again the gorgeous sleevesm covered buttons, off the shoulder.
Patricia Driscoll as Maid Marion in the British series of Robin Hood, 1955-1960 (she took the role over in 1957). What is not to love about this bodice! Pure 50's panto. That neckline, that silhouette, the sewn on pretend lacing, it's divine!
And this one, swoon! Dior does Deer hunting!!
Do share your fave examples of period costuming hijacked by the contemporary fashion!


  1. I think this is a very interesting issue... period costumes hijacked by contemporary fashion. It often has to do with foundation garments, doesn't it? 18th century dresses without 18th century stays, that kind of thing. And medieval being confused with renaissance. Common problem.

    Apparently, 1950s Czechoslovakia did medieval better than Hollywood:

    When it was truly meant to be medieval, that is. In fairy tales they were not so period-discriminating.

    Princezna se zlatou hvězdou:

    Pyšná princezna:

    But my favourite example is Renaissance in Císařův pekař / Pekařův císař - very well done, but still also very 50s.

    Similar style of costumes was also used in the fairy-tale Byl jednou jeden král:

    And 18th century in 1970s Czechoslovakian TV:

  2. Wow Hana what a fantastic collection of images! SO interesting to see how the same thing is happening in CZ as in the western world. I di dnotice one big difference though - all the ladies' necklines are VERY modest! Not a bared shoulder in sight, whereas in Hollywood, bared shoulders were the absolute thing. Would you do a post on your blog using these fab images? So we can see them all together. Perhaps we could start an international chain of blogposts about this!

  3. Ivanhoe from 1952! Elixabeth Taylor's Rebecca is lovely and fifties, as is Joan Fontaine.

  4. I love the slinky gowns Olivia de Haviland as Maid Marian wears in the Errol Flynn Adventures of Robin Hood! So 1930s...all that lamé! In Technicolor!

    And the 1920s aesthetic in Orphans of the Storm:,%20Lillian%20(Orphans%20of%20the%20Storm)_03.jpg

    Hannah is so right--the foundation garments build those silhouettes, and define the whole look! Great post