In honor of the holidays, I’d like to salute one of my all-time favorite movies for costumes, White Christmas. The clothes in that movie are prime examples of classic ‘50s fashions, and have provided many an inspiration in my own design experience. I should probably give you a little backstory about how my love affair with the costumes of White Christmas developed. It began when I was a kid. As a child of the 1980s, I actually remember when the VCR was a new and exciting thing. My aunt gave my family our first VCR one Christmas, and along with it was White Christmas. Needless to say, I watched it a lot, even when it was not Christmas. And somewhere along the line, White Christmas became our family’s Thanksgiving tradition. To this day, we still watch it every Thanksgiving after dinner, to kick off the holiday season. So at this point, I can’t even count the number of times I have seen that movie, and Edith Head’s costumes for it have been permanently etched in my heart. They have come back to inspire me so much over the years, in a way that a lot of other movies have not, probably because of all those great childhood memories that go with them.
Who can forget Rosemary Clooney’s beautiful black gown when she sings at the Carousel Club? It’s so simple, yet the jagged edging of the neckline makes it something special. And her black and red sequin gown from “Mandy” – I love the fact that her gloves and bracelets were covered in sequins too. Even her pajamas were fashionable, with their matching robe and slippers, all red with white piping.
Vera-Ellen wore some beautiful outfits too. I’ve always been fascinated by her “Mandy” costume. Its white sequined swirl pattern is pretty, and the red gloves tie her in with the rest of the number’s costumes. But it also holds a surprise that comes midway through the number. The costume is short in the front to show off her dancer’s legs, but has a long tulle train in the back. As she is about to begin the more complicated dancing, two of the male dancers reach behind her. The train splits down the middle, attached to a wide belt you didn’t even realize was there, and the dancers lift the train over her head, leaving just a small bustle of tulle behind.
I also love Vera-Ellen’s pale pink dress from “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” where she dances with Danny Kaye. On the surface, you think her skirt is simply a pale pink chiffon, but as she starts to dance and spin, she reveals more layers of chiffon underneath, in varying shades of darker pink. Who knew all of that was under there?
I really could go on and on about my favorite clothes from this movie. All the fun full skirts, the dyed-to-match shoes on both the men and the women, the great belts and gloves and other accessories, Danny Kaye’s great jackets. If you get the chance this holiday season, check it out and enjoy all the colorful ‘50s finery for yourself.