White Christmas: Bing’s Gray Flannel Blazer

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

Merry Christmas to all BAMF Style readers who celebrate! After a turbulent year, I know I’ve found comfort in the warm familiarity of the 1954 holiday classic White Christmas starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as a pair of war buddies-turned-producers who stage yet another “yuletide clambake” to support their popular general (Dean Jagger)… as if you hadn’t already seen it!

Bing and Danny’s plans to spend the holidays in New York are derailed when they meet the talented Haynes songbird sisters, played by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. Now, I don’t know whether the best plots are hatched while you’re dancing or whether they just happen in Vermont, but Danny and Vera-Ellen conspire to pair their work-obsessed partners Bing and Rosie together. Plenty of holiday mischief, misunderstands, and “small compound fractures” follow until the climactic Christmas Eve performance.

Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas.

If you’re one of the few unfamiliar with White Christmas, or if you’ve watched it so much that you can anticipate every Bing-ism from playing “a little trombone here” to getting stuck with “weirdsmobiles”, check out this fun roundup from the blog Life of Ando celebrating the movie’s quirkier aspects.

What’d He Wear?

Among the scheming in White Christmas, Bob and Phil set out to present their Christmas Eve show at the Columbia Inn to rejuvenate its owner, their former commander Tom Waverly.

Bob: …the minute Phil and I saw it, we decided it was ideal. Didn’t we, Phil?
Phil: That’s right, Bob. Ideal. That’s exactly the word we used, too. Ideal. We looked at this big ski lodge and we said, “Isn’t it ideal? Absolutely ideal.” Didn’t we?
Bob: Ideal.
General Waverly: We’ve established the fact the lodge is ideal.

Scarf aficionados Michael Curtiz and Bing Crosby are joined by Danny Thomas on set, with Danny Kaye standing over director Curtiz.

Scarf aficionados Michael Curtiz and Bing Crosby are joined by Danny Thomas on set, with Danny Kaye standing over director Curtiz.

Both performers are dressed nattily when trying to talk “the old man” into hosting the spectacle at his “ideal” inn. While the younger—and arguably less mature—Phil wears a sportier suede blouson and yellow turtleneck, Bob takes a more sophisticated approach to off-duty dress, layering a smart gray flannel blazer over a burgundy knitted shirt and silk scarf.

The brief vignette only photographs our heroes from the waist up, though a behind-the-scenes photo from filming the scene reveals a pair of medium-shaded socks that suggests either the bright red or blue hose that Bing wore elsewhere in White Christmas.

Bing’s dark gray woolen flannel blazer was tailored flatteringly in the full-cut fashions of the early ’50s, building up the drape chest with wide, padded shoulders and a suppressed waist. The notch lapels gently roll over the top of three gilt shank buttons, an ornamentation characteristic of blazers in addition to the sporty patch pockets. The single-breasted blazer also has short double vents and three gilt buttons on each cuff that match those on the front.

With this casual outfit, Bob wears a burgundy knit long-sleeved shirt with a large polo-like collar and two white plastic buttons worn closed on the plain (or French) placket. He ties a periwinkle silk scarf around his neck like a day cravat, tucking it into the top of his buttoned-up shirt.

Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby, and Dean Jagger in White Christmas

Sporty, sophisticated, and sturdy: Phil, Bob, and General Waverly reflect their own personalities in their approach to casual dress. A blazer, knit shirt, and scarf is as dressed-down as Bob Wallace gets… at least, when not performing in the proverbial girdle and snood.

Several misunderstandings later, Betty has abandoned the show—and any fledgling romantic feelings for Bob—as she boards a train for New York. As it turns out, Bob himself has been at the station to make some arrangements for when his fellow veterans would descend on the town for the Christmas Eve show and catches up with Betty just in time to exchange quick and confused farewells.

Perhaps as he’s conducting some business, Bob chooses to dress a little more formally than he does around the inn, wearing the same white shirt, striped tie, and burgundy cardigan that he had worn with his glen plaid suit when the foursome first arrived in Pine Tree. The white cotton shirt has a spread collar and a plain “French placket” front. Bob tends to prefer shirts with double (French) cuffs, though these could get bulky when worn under the long sleeves of his sweater.

The burgundy cardigan, with its four smoke-gray plastic sew-through buttons, has been knitted in a lighter-weight material that reveals the silhouette of his tie underneath. The brown tie is patterned with tan “downhill” stripes that are split by very narrow stripes in brown, periwinkle, tan, and orange.

Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby in White Christmas (1954)

One of those sticky situations that could have been avoided by direct communication! Let’s hope Emma truly did resign as president of the New England chapter of Busybodies Anonymous after all the trouble she caused.

Bob’s trousers are a shade of dark gray adjacent to taupe, a warmer shade than his blazer to provide the necessary contrast though some may argue that the effect still too closely resembles a mismatched suit. Likely pleated per the era’s fashions and Bing Crosby’s own preferred style seen elsewhere in White Christmas, the trousers are finished with turn-ups (cuffs) that break high enough to show the yellow cotton lisle socks that provide a touch of color between the conservative-colored trousers and the black leather derby shoes.

Bing Crosby in White Christmas (1954)

Bob’s yellow socks get the time to shine on screen when he scurries down the station after a hastily departing Betty.

With both outfits, Bob wears his usual chocolate brown felt fedora with a brown grosgrain ribbon and self-finished edges that he wears both upturned and turned down in the front. On the inside of his left wrist, Bing Crosby wears his usual gold wristwatch with a curved brown tooled leather strap, evidently the same watch he would wear in other films of the era including High Society.

Crosby would wear a different gray napped wool odd jacket in White Christmas, a more formally styled tailored jacket with a ticket pocket, for his late-night “Vermont smorgasbord” with Betty that culminates in a kiss after the two sing “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)”.

How to Get the Look

Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace in White Christmas (1954)

Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace in White Christmas (1954)

Merry Christmas, BAMF Style readers! Today’s yuletide post explores how Bing Crosby dresses up (and down) a gray flannel blazer in the 1954 holiday classic White Christmas, always incorporating some festive burgundy knitwear into his outfit, whether it’s a two-button long-sleeved polo shirt and scarf or a lightweight cardigan over a white shirt and tie.

  • Dark gray woolen flannel single-breasted 3-button blazer with notch lapels, patch pockets, 3-button cuffs, and double vents
  • 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
  • Taupe-gray wool double reverse-pleated trousers with self-belt, side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
  • Black leather derby shoes
  • Yellow cotton lisle socks
  • Gold wristwatch on tooled brown leather curved strap
  • Brown felt short-brimmed fedora with brown grosgrain band

Do Yourself a Favor and…

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

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