Category: Formalwear

Marlene Dietrich in Morocco

Marlene Dietrich as Amy Jolly in Morocco (1930)

Marlene Dietrich as Amy Jolly in Morocco (1930)

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Marlene Dietrich as Amy Jolly, sultry French nightclub singer

Essaouira, Morocco, Summer 1930

Film: Morocco
Release Date: November 14, 1930
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Costume Designer: Travis Banton (uncredited)

Background

The white tie dress code dates to before the turn of the 20th century, designed to make any man look his best when appropriately tailored, so there’s considerable irony in the fact that one of the most iconic film appearances of a white tie, top hat, and tails was worn by a woman: Marlene Dietrich, the German screen legend born 120 years ago today on December 27, 1901.

As previously featured on this site, today’s post continues the blog’s regular focus on menswear but here memorably worn by a woman, specifically the impeccable evening ensemble that Dietrich wore for her Academy Award-nominated performance as the brassy club singer at the center of the intrigue in the pre-Code drama Morocco, her second of seven eventual collaborations with director Josef von Sternberg. Continue reading

Frank Sinatra’s 1971 Retirement Concert Tuxedo

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra sings his ’40s-era hit “All or Nothing at All” during his June 1971 retirement concert in L.A.

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Frank Sinatra, multi-talented entertainer facing retirement

Los Angeles, Summer 1971

Series: Sinatra: All or Nothing At All
Air Date: April 5-6, 2015
Director: Alex Gibney

Background

Born December 12, 1915, Frank Sinatra had recently turned 55 when he started talking seriously with close friends about retirement. For more than 30 years, the entertainer had enjoyed a landmark career, beginning with his days as a pop idol, then a career downturn in the early ’50s that was reinvigorated by an Oscar win for From Here to Eternity and a series of concept albums for Capitol Records that launched him to massive success.

Throughout the ’60s, Sinatra evolved from one of the most popular entertainers in the nation to one of the most influential entertainers across the world. He had founded his own record label with Reprise Records, been a confidante of a sitting U.S. President (before their famous falling-out), and continued to prove his success on the charts with songs like “My Way” (despite his resentment for this particular tune.)

Like so many successful 55-year-old Americans, Ol’ Blue Eyes decided to hang up his tilted hat and retire, with his final performance to be June 13, 1971, at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Alex Gibney’s 2015 HBO documentary Sinatra: All or Nothing at All was framed around the singer’s hand-chosen setlist for the concert, and how the eleven musical milestones Sinatra selected essentially told the story of his life to that point. Continue reading

The Grass is Greener: Cary Grant’s Velvet Dinner Jacket

Cary Grant as Victor, Earl of Rhyall, in The Grass is Greener (1960)

Cary Grant as Victor, Earl of Rhyall, in The Grass is Greener (1960)

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Cary Grant as Victor, Earl of Rhyall, deadpan but debonair nobleman

Rural England, Spring 1960

Film: The Grass is Greener
Release Date: December 23, 1960
Director: Stanley Donen
Wardrobe Supervisor: John Wilson-Apperson

Background

Today marks the 35th anniversary since the death of screen legend and style icon Cary Grant. To commemorate the actor’s prolific career, I wanted to highlight his characteristically stylish clothing from one of his lesser-discussed works, the Stanley Donen-directed romantic comedy The Grass is Greener.

While The Grass is Greener isn’t among my favorite of Grant’s filmography, I can certainly appreciate its cast and style! The execution feels a little too stagey for my liking, which makes sense as it was adapted by Hugh Williams and Margaret Vyner from their own hit play, deriving its title from the centuries-old idiom that is paraphrased by Grant’s character when he admits that “indeed, the grass is always greener on the other side of the hedge.”

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Death on the Nile: Peter Ustinov’s Dinner Suit as Poirot

Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile (1978)

Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot in Death on the Nile (1978)

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Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot, eccentric Belgian detective

Egypt, September 1937

Film: Death on the Nile
Release Date: September 29, 1978
Director: John Guillermin
Costume Designer: Anthony Powell

Background

Today would have been the 100th birthday of Peter Ustinov, the brilliant dramatist and diplomat who—among his many achievements—played Agatha Christie’s celebrated sleuth Hercule Poirot in a half-dozen productions.

Fluent in multiple languages, Ustinov was easily able to glide between the English and French required to play the fussy Belgian detective and was able to provide his own voice in the French and German versions of his movies, including several of the Poirot productions.

Death on the Nile was the first—and often considered the strongest—of Ustinov’s six films as Poirot. Continue reading

Walk the Line: Johnny Cash in Rockabilly White and Black

Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line (2005)

Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line (2005)

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Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, rising country rock star

Texarkana, Texas, Summer 1955

Film: Walk the Line
Release Date: November 18, 2005
Director: James Mangold
Costume Designer: Arianne Phillips
Tailor: Pam Lisenby

Background

Eighty-nine years ago on February 26, 1932, J.R. Cash was born in Arkansas. His childhood was dominated by music, as there was little else to encourage the family enduring the hard years of the Depression made worse by a dangerous flood and the violent death of Jack, one of the seven Cash children. It was when he joined the military that the 18-year-old Cash expanded his first name as the Air Force wouldn’t allow just initials, though it wasn’t until cutting his first recording at Sun Records that he established the name that would become legendary: Johnny Cash. Continue reading

The Awful Truth: Cary Grant’s White Tie and Tails

Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth (1937)

Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth (1937)

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Cary Grant as Jerry Warriner, witty divorcee

New York, Fall 1937

Film: The Awful Truth
Release Date: October 21, 1937
Director: Leo McCarey
Costume Designer: Robert Kalloch

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Archibald Leach was born 117 years ago today on January 18, 1904. Though he’d established his now-iconic stage name just before his film debut in This is the Night (1932), I consider Leo McCarey’s 1937 screwball comedy The Awful Truth to be the symbolic start of Cary Grant’s screen persona as a stylish yet self-deprecating gentleman with a remarkable penchant for physical comedy as well as wit. Continue reading

Rod Taylor’s Velvet-Trimmed Dinner Jacket in The Glass Bottom Boat

Rod Taylor as Bruce Templeton in The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

Rod Taylor as Bruce Templeton in The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)

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Rod Taylor as Bruce Templeton, charismatic aerospace lab chief

Long Beach, California, Spring 1966

Film: The Glass Bottom Boat
Release Date: June 9, 1966
Director: Frank Tashlin
Costume Designer: Ray Aghayan (credited with Doris Day’s costumes only)

Background

In honor of Aussie actor Rod Taylor’s birthday on January 11, 1930, today’s post explores the first movie of his that I’d seen. The Glass Bottom Boat reteamed Taylor with Doris Day after their collaboration the previous year in Do Not Disturb, this time in a Cold War-era romantic comedy where Doris’ PR flack is suspected of being a spy sent by Mother Russia to seduce scientific secrets out of Bruce Templeton, the debonair head of a NASA research facility.

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Mad Men: Don Draper’s Decade of Black Tie

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Episode 1.05: "5G").

Jon Hamm as Don Draper on Mad Men (Episode 1.05: “5G”).

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Jon Hamm as Don Draper, mysterious and award-winning Madison Avenue ad man

Series: Mad Men
Creator: Matthew Weiner
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant

Background

Only three days left in 2020! The tradition of gents wearing black tie on New Year’s Eve, popularized in movies like the 1960 Rat Pack classic Ocean’s Eleven, seems to have fallen out of favor among the general population as standards of formality have decreased. However, given how excited many will be to see 2020 come to an end may herald a resurgence in dinner jackets and tuxedoes as many celebrate the new year in private.

On #MadMenMonday, we can take a few style tips from the enigmatic Don Draper on assembling a classic black tie ensemble from his half-dozen screen-worn dinner jackets. Continue reading

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Black Tie in The Great Gatsby

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby (2013)

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby (2013)

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Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, eagerly romantic millionaire and bootlegger

Long Island, New York, Summer 1922

Film: The Great Gatsby
Release Date: May 10, 2013
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Costume Designer: Catherine Martin

Background

On the eve of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthday, let’s look at the most recent major adaptation of his most famous work, The Great Gatsby. Fitz’s 1925 novel had been adapted for the big screen at least four times before Baz Luhrmann directed his colorful spectacle during the past decade.

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Timothy Dalton’s Shawl-Collar Dinner Jacket in The Living Daylights

Timothy Dalton as James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987). Source: thunderballs.org.

Timothy Dalton as James Bond in The Living Daylights (1987). Source: thunderballs.org.

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Timothy Dalton as James Bond, British government agent

Bratislava, Fall 1986

Film: The Living Daylights
Release Date: June 27, 1987
Director: John Glen
Costume Designer: Emma Porteous
Costume Supervisor: Tiny Nicholls

Background

Happy birthday to Timothy Dalton, born 74 years ago today on March 21, 1946! To celebrate the Welsh actor’s birthday, I want to revisit Dalton’s debut as James Bond, bringing a serious, Ian Fleming-influenced approach two decades before Daniel Craig would approach the role in a similar manner.

Dalton had long been a contender for the role, turning it down twice due to his youth when the filmmakers sought a replacement for Sean Connery and then for George Lazenby. When it was unclear if Roger Moore would return for his trio of 007 films in the ’80s, Dalton’s name came up each time, but it wasn’t until Pierce Brosnan was contractually obligated to turn down the role to return to Remington Steele in 1986 that a pathway was finally opened for Dalton, then 40 years old and seasoned enough to play the agent, to slip into Bond’s finely tailored dinner jacket for The Living Daylights. Continue reading