Friday, June 19, 2009

Style Inspiration: Barbara Stanwyck

I just can't get enough of old movies lately, especially ones from the 40's and 50's. One of the most recent that Dan and I viewed was Ball of Fire with Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper (sigh:) Its a 1940's take on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, she being Stanwyck as Sugarpuss O'Shea the night club singer, them being a team of academics deeply engaged in the writing of an encyclopedia. After their paths cross, a slew of slang, singing, dancing lexicographers, and hijinks ensue. Written in part by Billy Wilder and directed by Howard Hawks, its funny, touching, and entertaining (in many senses of the word). All I can say is that I really liked it a lot. 

Anyway, I've been a fan of Stanwyck since seeing her in the pre-Hayes Code films Night Nurse and Baby Face. She's amazing as the fast talking, saucy and independent girl who came up from nowhere (I think that's actually a line from Ball of Fire:) 

While we were watching this last movie, I couldn't get enough of her costumes. The fancy number for her scene in the night-club was fantastic in a sexy, sparkly kind of way, but what I loved so much were the dresses that she wore through the majority of the film. Mostly long-sleeved, a-line ones with a lot of detail on top, cinched waists, and swingy, knee-length skirts. Every time she appeared onscreen wearing something new, I couldn't help but blurt out...I love her dress! (My husband is used to this by now and fortunately finds it cute:) This first one below is my favorite. I love the sequined frawns or leaves that wrap around her torso and the ruching (is that the right word?) of the fabric around the bust. 

This next one just reminds me of sooooo many of the dresses in my closet. Seemingly simple, but with great shape and movement...and usually paired with a belt.

So, naturally, when I was in a thrift store last week and saw this dress, I thought of Barbara Stanwyck and had to get it. I sincerely wish that it had the details of the first palm frawn/leaf dress, but the draping of the fabric around the bust was enough to sell me. I also love the shoulders. I've bought a slew of black dresses recently (more on this in another post), but this one just made me think instantly of her. I really like pairing it with the red leather belt...adding a bit of color to the outfit. Any garment that can make me feel remotely like her is always stylish in my book!

Oh! And thanks for the advice on comfortable black mary janes! These are my new ones...I ended up going with Clarks again because I've had such good luck with their heels recently. They're very comfortable and just the right heel height for me. 

Dress: Thrifted
Belt: Thrifted
Shoes: Clarks
Pearl Earrings


  1. She's gorgeous, and so are you in that outfit lady :)

  2. Love her and love your outfit - the red makes it pop!

  3. That is a lovely outfit! And hers are too! I should watch one of her movies one of these days...

    ~ Caitie

  4. Oh I am so glad you posted about my all time favourite lady of film! I think it's not just that she's beautiful and stylish, but she has this quirky presence on screen that seems to say "Oh, good heavens I'm not beautiful...but I won't mind if you say I am." Meet John Doe is my favourite film of hers - Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck were so adorable together. I love your Barbara inspired look! And the Mary Janes are perfect. So glad you managed to find a pair that worked!

  5. ive never watched barbara stanwyck movie.. it's a bit hard to find classic hollywood movie here. i really want to watch baby face! :(

    and your dress and your new mary jane are awesome.. you look very good in it! that look can go from day to evening, great!!



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