White Christmas: Bing’s Gray Plaid Suit

Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace in White Christmas (1954)

Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace in White Christmas (1954)

Vitals

Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace, Broadway crooner and World War II veteran

Pine Tree, Vermont, December 1954

Film: White Christmas
Release Date: October 14, 1954
Director: Michael Curtiz
Costume Designer: Edith Head

Background

Happy holidays, BAMF Style readers! I hope all who celebrate are having a very merry Christmas whether you’re spending it with loved ones or beloved movies.

One of the most esteemed entries in the ever-expanding world of holiday cinema is White Christmas (1954), the story of two World War II veterans who go into show business together. Business is booming for the song-and-dance men Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) with nary a complication in sight… until the two make the acquaintance of the lovely and talented Haynes sisters and change their plans to join them for a gig in Vermont. Bob is smitten with the vocalist Betty (Rosemary Clooney), while Phil finds himself drawn to the dancer Judy (Vera Ellen).

The fun really begins when the foursome arrives in Vermont on an uncharacteristically sunny December afternoon and head to the inn where the women are performing, only to discover that it’s run by their popular ex-commanding officer, Major General Tom Waverly (Dean Jagger). Will the showbiz pros be able to deliver a show good enough to bring business to Waverly’s failing inn? Will Bob and Betty find love despite their stubbornness? And, most importantly, will it snow on Christmas? You’ll just have to watch!

Bing and Rosie send their regards as well.

Bing and Rosie send their regards as well.

Though Bob Wallace sticks mostly to suits, sport jackets, and the occasional service uniform, the real Bing Crosby dressed to the nines for special occasions like the holidays.

Though Bob Wallace sticks mostly to suits, sport jackets, and the occasional service uniform, the real Bing Crosby dressed to the nines for special occasions like the holidays.

Bing Crosby carved himself quite a place in Christmas lore, having recorded nearly a dozen Christmas albums over the course of his half-century career, the bulk of which were recorded in the 1950s after the success of White Christmas established him on the holiday map.

Even Frank Sinatra’s kids were forced to admit that “Bing Crosby was there first,” as Nancy told Variety during a 2017 interview. Bing was thus a natural choice when holidayphile Ol’ Blue Eyes was tapping a partner for his 1957 Christmas special.

Bing’s first major role in a Christmas-themed movie was in the season-spanning Holiday Inn (1942), co-starring Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds, where he first introduced Irving Berlin’s song “White Christmas”. Although the plot elements of showbiz pros at a New England inn during the holidays remained intact, the story was mostly reimagined when it was loosely remade as White Christmas in 1954.

What’d He Wear?

Bing Crosby was in fine sartorial hands for his role in White Christmas, whether he was dressed by his usual tailor H. Huntsman of Savile Row or by the film’s costume designer, the esteemed Edith Head.

“Having done costuming for a number of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope’s Road pictures prior to White Christmas, [Head] knew exactly how to make Crosby’s character shine,” notes Jeff Saporito for ScreenPrism.

Bob Wallace dresses fashionably for his arrival in Pine Tree, Vermont in a glen plaid suit, striped tie, and long-sleeved cardigan sweater meant to combat the expected snowww in “New England’s winter playground”.

The suit is a gray finely checked glen plaid wool. The single-breasted jacket has notch lapels that roll to a low, two-button stance. It’s detailed with a welted breast pocket – where Bing wears a white pocket square – as well as flapped hip pockets and a narrowly flapped ticket pocket just above the right-side hip pocket. The jacket has a short single back vent and three-button cuffs that match the mixed brown-and-tan plastic sew-through buttons on the front.

Imagine if it was customary for all hotel guests to salute the hotel owner upon meeting them.

Imagine if it was customary for all hotel guests to salute the hotel owner upon meeting them.

Bob adds some holiday festivity – and a warm additional layer – with a burgundy knit long-sleeve cardigan sweater under his suit jacket. A lifelong golfer, Bing Crosby’s cardigans became an increasing part of his image as he aged, and Slazenger even reintroduced the blue lambswool cardigan he wore during his iconic “Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy” duet with David Bowie during Crosby’s TV Christmas special, “Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas”, which aired posthumously a few weeks after the singer’s death in October 1977.

The burgundy cardigan in White Christmas has smoke gray plastic sew-through buttons and is made from a lightweight material, possibly even a linen-wool blend, that reveals the silhouette of his tie under the sweater. Bob would later wear the same cardigan, shirt, and tie with his dark gray flannel blazer when seeing Betty off on her train to New York toward the end of the movie.

Like his neckwear in the preceding scene with his powder blue mini-checked jacket, Bob wears another fancy-striped tie. The brown tie is patterned with tan “downhill” stripes that are split by very narrow stripes in brown, periwinkle, tan, and orange. His white cotton shirt has a large spread collar and plain front, though it’s hard to tell if the shirt has his usual double (French) cuffs under the sleeves of his cardigan sweater.

The suit’s pleated trousers have a full fit and are finished on the bottoms with turn-ups (cuffs) that cover most of his black patent leather lace-up shoes that appear to be the same cap-toe oxfords he wore during the “Sisters” number in Florida. The full break of the trouser bottoms prevents us from seeing if Bob is wearing some of his more colorful hosiery like the yellow or red socks that make appearances during his time at the Columbia Inn.

From remarks about grass-covered igloos to suggesting that they're actually in southern Vermont, the gang has more jokes about the weather than Linda from finance when you run into each other on Monday morning at the office coffeemaker.

From remarks about grass-covered igloos to suggesting that they’re actually in southern Vermont, the gang has more jokes about the weather than Linda from finance when you run into each other on Monday morning at the office coffeemaker.

Now that they’re heading for the cozy, casual confines of a winter getaway in Vermont, Bob swaps out his business-friendly gray fedora for an all-brown felt fedora with a wide brown grosgrain band. As it was evidently 68°F the day before, Bob has no need to don the camel overcoat he carries over his arm, though he does wear his butter yellow cashmere scarf with its frilly edges, albeit untied.

It's never too late to start harmonizing about snow.

It’s never too late to start harmonizing about snow.

Bing Crosby wears his own wristwatch in White Christmas, a plain gold-toned watch on a tooled brown leather curved strap with a gold single-prong buckle. The watch appears in several other Crosby flicks of the ’50s such as High Society, where he also wears it with the face on the inside of his wrist; though this could be explained as a holdout from Captain Wallace’s service in the U.S. Army, it’s one of the many real-life Bing Crosby traits that the actor brought to his performance.

Just the Jacket…

When dressed more casually for his rounds of rehearsals at the Columbia Inn, Bob later wears the jacket orphaned with a bold blue knit polo shirt, gray wool trousers, bright yellow socks, and a red-and-blue striped silk handkerchief around his neck.

What's a retired general supposed to do when the Army doesn't want him back? If only there was a song about it...

What’s a retired general supposed to do when the Army doesn’t want him back? If only there was a song about it…

It’s a natty outfit, to be sure, and one worthy of its own discussion… perhaps next Christmas!

Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace in White Christmas (1954)

Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace in White Christmas (1954)

How to Get the Look

It’s no surprise that a sharp dresser like Bing Crosby would bring his colorful, well-tailored style to the role of Bob Wallace in White Christmas.

  • Gray glen plaid wool suit
    • Single-breasted 2-button jacket with welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets with ticket pocket, 3-button cuffs, and single vent
    • Pleated trousers with turn-ups/cuffs
  • Burgundy lightweight knit long-sleeve 5-button cardigan sweater
  • White shirt with large spread collar, plain front, and double/French cuffs
  • Brown tie with tan “downhill” stripes and complex narrow stripes
  • Black leather cap-toe oxford shoes
  • Gold wristwatch on tooled brown leather curved strap
  • Brown felt short-brimmed fedora with brown grosgrain band
  • Butter yellow cashmere scarf with frilly edges

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie, and have a very happy holiday season!

The Quote

Well! Must be wonderful in Vermont this time of year… all that underwear.

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