Category: White Tie
Nightmare Alley: Bradley Cooper’s White Tie and Tails
Bradley Cooper as Stanton “Stan” Carlisle, opportunistic carny-turned-nightclub mentalist
Buffalo, New York, Winter 1941
Film: Nightmare Alley
Release Date: December 17, 2021
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Costume Designer: Luis Sequeira
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
On the eve of the 94th Academy Awards, I wanted to revisit the “golden era” style of quadruple-nominee Nightmare Alley, Guillermo del Toro’s evocatively photographed adaptation of William Lindsay Gresham’s novel of the same name. Continue reading
Marlene Dietrich in Morocco
Marlene Dietrich as Amy Jolly, sultry French nightclub singer
Essaouira, Morocco, Summer 1930
Release Date: November 14, 1930
Director: Josef von Sternberg
Costume Designer: Travis Banton (uncredited)
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
The Awful Truth: Cary Grant’s White Tie and Tails
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!
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
The Last Tycoon: Monroe Stahr’s White Tie for Oscar Night
Matt Bomer as Monroe Stahr, charming studio wunderkind
Hollywood, fall 1936 and March 1937
Series: The Last Tycoon
– “Pilot” (Episode 1, dir. Billy Ray)
– “Oscar, Oscar, Oscar” (Episode 9, dir. Billy Ray)
Streaming Date: July 28, 2017
Developed By: Billy Ray
Costume Designer: Janie Bryant
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
It’s Oscars night!
The Last Tycoon, Amazon Video’s gone-too-soon stylish ode to Hollywood’s Golden Age, ended its singular season during the 1937 Academy Awards. Interestingly, the 9th Academy Award ceremony was held on March 4, 1937, exactly 81 years ago tonight!
After the Thin Man: White Tie for New Year’s Eve
William Powell as Nick Charles, retired private detective
San Francisco, New Year’s Eve 1936
Film: After the Thin Man
Release Date: December 25, 1936
Director: W.S. Van Dyke
Wardrobe Credit: Dolly Tree
After the Thin Man was released on Christmas 1936 as a continuation of The Thin Man, as its title implies. The all-original story was drafted by Dashiell Hammett himself immediately after the success of the first film, although Hammett had first envisioned circumstances that would send his witty detective duo back to New York City. Eventually, the decision was made to have the Charles couple solving a crime in their hometown of San Francisco. Continue reading
Redford’s White Tie in The Great Gatsby
Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby, enigmatic millionaire and eager romantic
Long Island, New York, Summer 1925
Film: The Great Gatsby
Release Date: March 29, 1974
Director: Jack Clayton
Costume Designer: Theoni V. Aldredge
Clothes by: Ralph Lauren
Things are looking good for Jay Gatsby by the end of this hot roaring ’20s summer. He’s reunited with his former love, Daisy Buchanan (Mia Farrow), and—for better or worse—he’s established himself as the party king of West Egg. Sure, no one knows where his curiously vast fortune came from, but as long as he keeps the champagne flowing and hot jazz booming, no one cares either. Continue reading
Bugsy Siegel in White Tie
Warren Beatty as Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, debonair and mercurial “celebrity” gangster
Hollywood, March 1945
Release Date: December 13, 1991
Director: Barry Levinson
Costume Designer: Albert Wolsky
Unfortunately, the ultra formal white tie dress code is all but extinct in American culture. The popularity of black tie in the post-World War I era was the first bullet to the chest of white tie, but an increasingly informal society has peppered white tie with more bullets than the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Luckily for sartorial purists, Downton Abbey and programs of its ilk have inspired a resurgence in early 20th century formalwear. As Mad Men has taught us, all it takes is a good TV show with well-dressed characters to get Americans to dress better.
A natty dresser like Bugsy Siegel didn’t need examples from the movies, though. While I’ve never seen a photo of the real guy in white tie, it makes sense that an image-conscious guy like Siegel would sport a formal tailcoat for a night of dancing at the legendary Ciro’s nightclub in West Hollywood to cultivate his image as a romantic ladies’ man rather than a vicious mobster. Siegel even tells a photographer from The Herald that captures him in mid-dance:
See that they run that, and not one of those sinister mugshots.
Titanic – Billy Zane’s White Tie
Billy Zane as Caledon “Cal” Hockley, pompous heir to a Pittsburgh steel fortune
North Atlantic Ocean, April 1912
Release Date: December 19, 1997
Director: James Cameron
Costume Designer: Deborah Lynn Scott
Exactly 102 years today, the RMS Titanic saw land for the last time when it departed Queenstown, Ireland (now Cobh) at 1:30 PM (GMT) on April 11, 1912. The destination was New York City, but the ship foundered in the North Atlantic Ocean, taking with it more than 1,500 passengers and crew and leaving only a scattered 700 in the ship’s relatively few lifeboats.
Oh, you’ve heard of Titanic before? Okay, then, I doubt I need to say much more. Continue reading
John F. Kennedy’s Ivy League Style
John F. Kennedy, U.S. President
Early 1960s, Washington, D.C.
Not every commemoration on BAMF Style is a happy one. To honor JFK on the 50th anniversary of his assassination, I’ll be examining the style of a man often described as our country’s most stylish president.
Whether he was in his office, at a cocktail party, or sailing off of Narragansett Bay, the Kennedys’ style captured the attention of the nation, with men taking hints from Jack’s fashion-forward sartorial sense and women envying Jackie’s elegance.
Everyone has their own conspiracy theory about who truly ended his life in Dallas fifty years ago today, but this isn’t the place to discuss that. Instead, I’ll be delving into the look and style of a man who became an American icon. Continue reading
Nucky Thompson’s Eveningwear
Steve Buscemi as Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, corrupt Atlantic City treasurer and “half a gangster”
Atlantic City, January 1920
Series: Boardwalk Empire
– “Boardwalk Empire” (Episode 1.01, aired September 19, 2010, dir. Martin Scorsese)
– “The Ivory Tower” (Episode 1.02, aired September 26, 2010, dir. Tim Van Patten)
Creator: Terence Winter
Costume Designer: John A. Dunn
Tailor: Martin Greenfield
The real “Nucky” Thompson—actually named Enoch L. Johnson—was born in 1883 and, like his semi-fictional TV counterpart, was raised in Atlantic City with both he and his father serving as sheriff. By 1920, he was the county treasurer and made much money from illegal bootlegging during Prohibition. Continue reading