Movie Style Icons: Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow, Rita Hayworth


As an cinemaphile I am in a unique position to know, when reading a listing online for womens’ vintage clothing, whether or not the movie star used as a keyword would have actually chosen to wear it, or even be alive to wear it. This first guide will help you, the buyer, make a more informed choice between sellers who use the names only as meaningless keywords and those sellers who use them correctly.

For this first guide I am keeping it simple by using the movie stars that I run across in Vintage Womens Clothing listings the most:

Jean Harlow (born 1911 – died 1937)
Rita Hayworth (born 1918 – died
Marilyn Monroe (born 1926 – died 1962)

JEAN HARLOW (real name: Harlean Carpenter)

Jean Harlow was the first Blonde Bombshell. In fact, she made a comedy Bombshell, 1933, that was very much like her real life. It portrayed a movie star whose family leeches off of her, and a publicist who constantly betrays her.

In the early years of her career she played a series of cheap sexpots, because that was the way she looked. Even though off screen she was always described as surprisingly sweet and affectionate. But Jean Harlow had a marvelous flair for comedy.

Her movie wardrobe was always tight in the extreme, designed to show off her jutting, bra-less bosom. (She was the first female star of the 20th century to make the bosom the center of attention.) Harlow was considered a “man’s woman,” salty, brash, and uninhibited, at least on screen. Harlow’s hair was dyed white blonde, so she was also the first “platinum blonde,” a term coined just for her.

Much of her career as a true star was spent at MGM. Her clothes were meant to show off as much of her figure, particularly her breasts, as possible. Bias cut satins, tight long 30s skirts, low-cut evening gowns, furs, nightgowns…flowing satin and silk is the first thing one associates with Jean Harlow. Most of her movie wardrobe was designed by Adrian, MGM’s top designer.

Since the majority of her starring roles were in the early to mid 1930s, the costumes were not as structured as they might be ten years later–and one could get away with showing a LOT more in the early days of her career. (In fact, in many of her early films, the sides and undersides of her bosom and her nipples are clearly visible. Something that would not be tolerated a few short years later.)

Jean Harlow died an untimely death in 1937. When you think Harlow, think flowing, satiny, unconstructed, like lingerie. When you see a seller saying that “Jean Harlow would have worn this” about a 1950s full-skirted high-necked dress, you know they haven’t done their research.

RITA HAYWORTH (Margarita Cansino)

She was known as “The Love Goddess,” because her beauty seemed at once so down-to-earth and yet unapproachable. In real life painfully shy, her screen presence implied volcanic sexuality beneath a sultry surface. This is the famous “Put The Blame On Mame” dress from Gilda (1946)–the designer Jean Louis used the across-the-body hip sash and bow to tighten up and conceal Rita’s recently having given childbirth!

By now the censors did not let female stars show as much of their bodies as a decade before, so designers used other methods to showcase their clients’ assets. Rita Hayworth’s greatest assets were considered to be her long arms and shoulders, not to mention her beauty and lush hair. So her costumes emphasized those over her slightly thick waist and thin legs.

Hayworth was a favorite of World War Two soldiers, along with Betty Grable. Hayworth did a tremendous number of movies, climbing very slowly up the ladder to stardom. Columbia, her home studio, loaned her out for supporting parts, which gradually made Rita a star. Along the way, her black hair was dyed dark red, and her hairline raised by electrolysis, to make her less “Spanish-looking.”

During the war, she specialized in musicals, having been a dancer, born to a family of professional dancers, the Dancing Cansinos. Her singing was dubbed. Technicolor showed her off to great advantage, and she was born to wear the clothes of the pre-New Look war time 40s – tailored suits with padded shoulders, knee-length tight skirts (but not too tight–the silhouette was an inverted vee).

The preferred style during World War Two was practical. Since fabric was rationed, suits tended to look slightly like soldiers’ uniforms, and dresses were simple. But, we’re talking about the movies here, not real life–so Rita also wore lavish evening gowns with elaborate beading that clung close to the body, or boned-bodice evening gowns that flared out at the skirt with layer upon layer of chiffon.

The latter gowns were designed for dancing. Rita’s strongly-boned face showcased the large picture hats and the upswept hairstyles of the time perfectly.

Her stardom faded after the war, and a series of unhappy marriages, including one to “Citizen Kane‘s” Orson Welles. Rita Hayworth had never wanted to be a “movie star” in the conventional sense. But she still did excellent dramatic work in films such as Separate Tables (1958). However, she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and eventually died in 1987.

MARILYN MONROE (real name: Norma Jean Mortensen)

Unlike our first two stars, everyone on this planet (and probably others) knows Marilyn Monroe. She is a legend, an icon, a goddess. But take a look at this very young bride during World War Two:

This was before she became a professional model, when she was still a young housewife, married at sixteen. She wore the typical styles of the 40s, and it was a number of years before she became the blonde Sex Goddess we revere today. First there was a modeling career, which in turn led to dozens of bit and small parts, usually as a “dumb blonde,” in undistinguished movies. She herself was not particularly distinguishable, to be honest, but she changed her name to Marilyn Monroe and worked as hard as humanly possible to become a movie star. There were occasional roles that showed a glint of something more, but they were few and far between. Even at the beginning of her career she displayed the emotional difficulties that would plague her later life.

She achieved stardom in a series of films for 20th Century Fox Studios in the early 1950s: How To Marry A Millionaire, River Of No Return, There’s No Business Like Show Business, and others. Along with an excellent singing voice (never adequately appreciated), like Harlow, she also had a flair for comedy. William Travilla was the costume designer for most of her Fox films.

She did not quite wear the typical styles of the 1950s…for instance, she HATED full skirts, and only wore one in a Cary Grant film where she had to put her leg up on a chair. Everything had to be skin-tight. The interior construction of her costumes are a wonder to behold. The dress in which she sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to President Kennedy is a marvel of interior design, everything held and pushed in place. (The same designer, again Jean Louis, was famous for designing Marlene Dietrich’s “nude” gowns for her nightclub act, which were actually gowns made over a flesh-colored corset, sewn into the dress!)

So if you’re looking for Marilyn-style clothes, think: 1950s, everything tight, cinched waists, halter dresses, spaghetti strap dresses with slim skirts, skin-tight capri pants worn with flats (Monroe had a passion for Ferragamos), sleeveless blouses tied at the waist, cardigan twinsets…in other words, unsubtle.

She remained a star until her death in 1962, and has become more of a legend with each passing decade.

I hope that you have learned something useful. More guides will be coming up for more movie star icons!


copyright Elisa DeCarlo – use of this material is forbidden without written permission

Roseanne Shows How To Age Gracefully


First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Apologies, but I was too drunk to post anything at the time.

But the hangover has ebbed, and I thought I would post about something that caught my eye.

Many stars fight the aging process with a tenacity usually shown only by male grizzly bears fighting for a mate. (And it’s sometimes just as ugly.) The 59-year-old Roseanne is certainly no stranger to plastic surgery. In fact, she’s had almost as many procedures as the Bride of Wildenstein, but at least Roseanne knew when to stop.

Recently seen in public and looking quite stylish, Roseanne has traded in her dyed brown hair:

for a more feminine, soft mane of silver.

It is ever so much more becoming. She looks rather like Fern Mallis. And notice that her skin is not pulled as tight as a drum. It looks like Roseanne can actually move her face. Try THAT, Cameron Diaz!

If only more stars would let themselves age just a tad, those of us over 30 wouldn’t feel quite so bombarded by Olay ads.

Age is not a state of mind any more. It has become something to be avoided at all costs.


Elisa & Bucky the Wonderdog

On Today’s I Don’t Care List…Duracell!


I was sent the photograph below by the lovely people at Duracell batteries, who had some “green” event called Pedaling the Power today. Among the illustrious participants (titles designated by them, not moi):

Carson Kressley, (Fashionista) Robert Verdi, (Fashionista) Tinsley Mortimer, (Fashionista) Charlotte Ronson (Designer) Joey Wolffer (Stylist/ The StyleLiner), Jussara Lee (Designer) Mazdack Rassi (Milk Studios), Jean Pigozzi (Owner, LimoLand store), Eric Goldstein (Owner, The Jean Shop) Charles Nolan (Designer)

The press release had a tremendous amount of blah blah blah about how wonderful Duracell is, how “green” the company is. You know the drill. Why this is supposed to be interesting is beyond me, but here it is. It will be one any number of blogs who will consider it “news.”

Now that I’ve done my job, I deserve a cocktail.


Elisa & Bucky the Wonderdog

Bottom Feeders Of New York Fashion Week Spring 2011

I am aware that I have been somewhat derelict in posting day to day reports about New York Fashion Week. So here are some of the rather, er, strange people one sees every day. Most of vanish into the darkness until the next Fashion Week rolls around.
Number One:

Painted Suit Man

A perennial habitue’ of the central tent, this silent, eerily affectless gentleman shows up every day in a different hand-painted suit and matching hat. He never goes to the shows. But he is willing to stand for up to 10 hours, waiting to be photographed. The strategy rarely works. Note that with this newest suit, he is also rocking a pair of tight gold lame leggings. Dear God.
Number Two:

Milk Carton Man
This gentleman, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Seth Rogen, is the acknowledged master of getting into the front row. Even though he is supposed to up in the back in standing row. He tends to be dirty and disheveled. Often he is moved from the front row when a actual celebrity or Fern Mallis shows up. But in a few moments he pops up elsewhere. Nobody knows who he is. My image of this men is his photo on a milk carton, asking, “Have You Seen Me?” If anyone knows who he is, please tell me in the comments section.

Number Three:
Quiet Good Taste
You have to admire this woman. Her look is distinctive. The huge white bouffant can be easily spotted. Both she and her assistant wear outfits that defy description. Well, one descriptive would be “Huh?” Apparently she has a public access show based in Long Island. Which explains a great deal.

In the interest of fairness, this is what I wore today: a dress designed especially pour moi by SKWilbur, made of denim with satin detailing on one side front and back; and a hat from 1939, made of velvet with a large satin bow in the back.

More reportage on the morrow.

Elisa & Bucky the Wonderdog

The 62nd Emmy Awards Best Dressed!


The Emmy Awards were endless on Sunday, weren’t they?

And as an aside, DAMN YOU BRYAN CRANSTON! How can the voters keep picking him over Hugh Laurie? (Who, by the way, looked sensational in a midnight blue tux.)

It was hosted by Jimmy Fallon, seen here with a woman who is either quite pregnant or doesn’t believe the 70s ever ended.

Kate Gosselin? KATE GOSSELIN? Seriously?

Yes, Kate Gosselin.

Although if you look through the red carpet photos, “television personality” has eclipsed “actress” these days. Speaking of tps, the first part of the night’s coverage was done by Ryan Seacrest and Bobblehead Girl.

If her breasts are real, then mine are fake.

Onward to happier topics! Here are my picks for the Emmy’s Best Dressed, in no particular order.

My favorite gown of the entire evening was January Jones in Atelier Versace. The dress is made of blue silk satin petals. Every time I saw this dress on screen, I smiled. And while watching an awards show, between the idiotic faux banter and the cloying bad taste, it is difficult to smile.

However, like almost everyone else at the Emmys, she looked like her hairdresser had taken the day off. Was there a hairdresser strike in Hollywood that we didn’t hear about?

Mariska Hargitay, in a gorgeous blush pink Vera Wang “old Hollywood” gown which showcases her beautiful body and face.

And we mustn’t speak of beautiful bodies without a mention of the much-Photoshopped Christina Hendricks in her lavender Zac Posen gown, cut to accentuate her curves and trimmed with ostrich feathers.

Susan Sarandon and her daughter, Eva Amurri (who recently guest-starred on the series “House“) proved that opposites attract. Susan chose a phenomenal dress by Donna Karan. Of course, if you’re Susan Sarandon, it is hard not to look phenomenal. Also opting for blush pink, Eva wore a vintage Thierry Mugler satin dress.

In a sea of safe looks, Carrie Preston stood out for all of the right reasons. Her custom-made print gown not only played up her coloring, the construction and cut were original, both front and back.

Another print gown, this one hand painted by Douglas Annette, stole the show as worn by Rutina Wesley of True Blood. (I was going to write “Work it, girlfriend!” but then I remembered myself.)

Speaking of risks, it does not matter to moi if everyone hates these dresses and hairdos. I was tickled to death by Mindy Kaling and Naya Rivera. It’s a party, let the young people have some fun! Don’t squash them into a dress fit for a 30-year-old, like Lea Michelle.

The cast of Glee were all over the place, which was deeply annoying to those of us who are not fans of the show. However, we forgive anything when it comes to the brilliant and beautiful Jane Lynch, who looked regal in this eggplant Ali Rahimi confection. She owned the red carpet, as they say.

Amy Poehler brought her husband, Will Arnett, and something never seen in Hollywood: an actual post-baby body!! Plastic surgeons make a fortune doing tummy tucks, breast lifts and, uh, vagina tightening after a star has a child (trust me on this one, I have excellent sources). Then, of course, the tabloids scream ‘STAR SHEDS ALL BABY WEIGHT IN ONE WEEK’ or some other lying nonsense. Not our Amy, and she looks splendid!

Another beautiful comedienne is Jane Krakowski, who wore this sensational blue confection:

Your faithful correspondent never thought she would have an embarrassment of riches in the Best Dressed category. Honestly, that never happens. But it seems there are.

So here some of the women who brought the old Hollywood glamour : Mary Hart, Julia Ormond, and Kirsten Lea. And Betty White, because she is literally old Hollywood.

And, in my final tally of the Best Dressed, I have to include Wanda Sykes, Sarah Hyland, Emily Deschanel, and Amber Riley. Phew!

Feel free to comment on my choices, but bear in mind: I am always right.

Elisa & Bucky the Wonderdog

Photos courtesy of WireImage and Getty Images

People’s Choice Awards: The Best Dressed


Before I start my list, I must say how thrilled I am that at last night’s The People’s Choice Awards:
1) House MD won as Best Dramatic Television Show
2) Hugh Laurie won as People’s Choice Dramatic Actor!

However, I cannot put the star on my Best Dressed list because of that tie. Showing that James Wilson has not yet cornered the market on ugly ties. It was also delightful to see him with his real hair, without a hairpiece or whatever it is they put on his head and less beard.

The program itself was hellish to sit through. Approximately three minutes of programming, then eight minutes of commercials, then several minutes of a “special advance preview” of either an awful movie or an awful television show. If one cannot make a project look good in two minutes, one is in trouble. That’s all I can say. The nadir was a CVS commercial used as actual programming. I have blocked the details from my mind. Onto the important part: the dresses.

The list for this event is a bit more difficult than my usual. So many of the stars, no matter what their wattage, wore one-shouldered dresses. Most of them were draped, Grecian style, but there was no shortage of other variations.

I must begin my list with the Host of The People’s Choice Awards, the divine Queen Latifah. Her black one-shouldered entrance gown, with its evocation of 1950s movie star glamor, was perfection, as were the chorus boys helping her maneuver down that ill-conceived ramp stage left.

Another dream dress was a white strapless Georges Chakra gown with metallic trim around the waistline:

Next, the only reality show host I enjoy who’s not on Project Runway, Clean House’s Niecy Nash, showed off her stunning figure in a hot pink Grecian dress ( I told you one-shouldered dresses were all over the place last night). One had to restrain oneself from writing “my homegirl” because one has a smidgen of propriety.)

Lisa Edelstein, also of House, always makes my Best-Dressed List. She simply cannot look other than ravishing, although this David Meister gown is not one of my absolute favorites. But Ms. Edelstein gets points for covering both shoulders.

Speaking of House…I must betray my own values, my deepest feelings, and almost everything I have written about her in this blog…but…

Olivia Wilde made my list. Apologies, dear readers, but AT LAST Ms. Wilde wore a Monique Lhuillier dress that was flattering, rather than one of those awful skin-tight gowns that showed her jagged hipbones. Again, like the Queen, a fluffy dress, evocative of the 1950s:

Taraji P. Henson, voluptuous as always, struts her wares in this lovely (albeit yet another one-shoulder Grecian style) Alberta Ferreti lilac gown:

Despite a near-wardrobe malfunction during her acceptance speech, Mariah Carey showed off her womanly shape in a white halter gown:

Finally, the sublime Mary J. Blige. Yes, she is in a one-shouldered draped Grecian dress, but the shorter length, shoulder embellishment, perfect fit and soft gray color make the look:

Feel free to comment upon my choices, but bear in mind, I am always right.

Worst Dressed coming up!

Ciao, Elisa & Bucky The Wonderdog

A Tell-All Expose’ Of The Fashion Business Suppressed!


The gall! The cheek! The sheer effrontery!

As my dear dead friend Lana Turner would say, “the nerve of some people”!

My deathless work, my creation, my book, has been TURNED DOWN by a worthless, know-nothing personage in the doesn’t-deserved-to-called-the-publishing business. The non-publishing business is more like it. And why? WHY?

Because, I was told, my protagonist is not “sympathetic enough”!

Pardonnez moi, you clot, but the protagonist is ME!


A writer who has charmed millions with the sheer deliciousness of her prose. A writer whose blog-thing reaches millions of worshipful fans every week. A woman who has been written about in The New York Times, Glamour, international magazines, countless websites, and even Vogue.

How could I, a hard-working woman who has done naught but devote herself to the cause of Fashion In The True Sense (with an occasional veering off the topic), be considered unsympathetic?

I clutched my silk handkerchief to my copious bosom as I read the cold email from this—this non-entity, and then I began to sob. Yes, mon adoration publique, I cried, as only a woman rejected by a publisher can cry.

If the lumpkin had the nerve to face me, I would have sicc’d Bucky on this person so fast they’d never known how their ankles got shredded.

Then I realized: it is not that I am an unsympathetic character. Far from it. One admits that keeping an assistant is problematic, but that is their fault, not mine. I am a deeply sympathetic character, a symbol of working females everywhere, in every business. Outside a façade of confidence, inside there is a vulnerable heart. At least occasionally.

The TRUTH is that my book would rip the lid OFF the can of worms that is the fashion business, particularly where fashion intersects with celebrity, greed, and television cameras. My book names the names (well, not all of them, I don’t have that much money to pay in legal fees), exposes the dirty secrets of those would style the stars and the unspeakable acts to which they will stoop. I am not talking about moi, here, of course. But there are people out there who know of what I speak.

And that, my dear readers, is the reason my book will likely not see the light of day: until some courageous publisher is willing to stand up to Big Fashion and say, “Enough! Let the facts come to light! This courageous fashion-fighter needs to be heard, and now!

Besides, my book would make a superb movie. Starring moi, of course.

Or I might be persuaded to settle for a Broadway show. (There are some superbly-written sex scenes, to boot.)

Unsympathetic, bah!

I must reclaim my inner peace by screaming at the maid. There are wet towels in the bathroom.
Elisa & Bucky the Wonderdog