The 7 Wonders of the Pre-Code World: 5

The BacoFoil dress.

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TROUBLE IN PARADISE — Miriam Hopkins with Herbert Marshall.

Advances in cooking technology went hand-in-glove with those in ladies’ fashions during the pre-code era, resulting in numerous slinky, shimmering gowns to adorn the women of the screen. (Ah, gowns! What heterosexual man does not rejoice when he sees the credit “Gowns by –“?) 

The patented BacoFoil gown was a must in the early ’30s, adorning Miriam Hopkins, Carole Lombard, oh, just everybody. And this despite the obvious health problems associated with performing in foil under the hot studio lights. The dresses dropped sharply in popularity only after actress Karen Morley was rushed to hospital after being badly basted.

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13 Responses to “The 7 Wonders of the Pre-Code World: 5”

  1. Christopher Says:

    …”Shes my HOT potato…”
    wonderful film ,Trouble in Paradise..

  2. High time I watched it again. I’ve become more of a Kay Francis fan since last time. Which will make it more evenly balanced between the two female leads.

  3. david wingrove Says:

    “What heterosexual man does not rejoice…”

    Just for the record, gay men are great fans of gowns as well – although our interest is, perhaps, more purely aesthetic.

    BTW…the best ever metallic gown was worn by Katharine Hepburn in CHRISTOPHER STRONG. The runner-up is Carole Lombard in THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK. What is it about metal couture and aviation?

  4. The gown in Eagle is worn by Veronica Lake, surely? Hoping to watch Chris Strong when I get home. I have a couple of unwatched Arzners burning a hole in my disc folder. I’ve seen stills of Hepburn in metalwear, and it’s a striking look!

  5. Christopher Says:

    I’ve a confession to make..I’m a straight guy…who LOVES clothes..Give me those ..Gowns by Vera West.!..Why can’t they make great clothes for MEN?..lol..Cyd Charise is one of my favorites to watch for clothes..particularly non dancing outfits.(clothes just seem to hang better on a dancing figure!..Ann Miller is another one)I’ve long wanted the green evening gown and long black gloves that Cyd wears in The Band Wagon,just to hang in my room..Moira Shearer in the Powell-Pressbuger films is another to look out for in clothes

  6. David Boxwell Says:

    The heaviest metallic dress in Hollywood history was supposedly worn by Jane Russell in Von Sternberg/Ray’s “Macao” (52). Twenty pounds of fine chain mail, fetishistically accentuating Russell’s breasts for Howard Hughes’ delectation.

  7. Charisse looks great in green, she has a smashing outfit in It’s Always Fair Weather too. The way that skirt swings, it must’ve been weighted with lead.

    When my costume designer, Ali, gets back from the wars, I should try to collaborate with her on a costume-related post.

  8. As a hetero girl, I have to say that I also get a kick when I see “Gowns by –” on a film’s titles, particularly when the blank space is filled with aparticularly enticing name.

  9. Today’s Duvivier film, Whirlwind of Paris, had “Furs by Max,” which also has a certain allure. Lil Dagover was fairly swamped in animal skins.

  10. David Boxwell Says:

    Bestest name of all: Travis Banton.

  11. Banton’s a great name, and probably the most exciting designer, but to give me a real thrill, it helps if it says “Gowns by…” and then a SINGLE NAME. That’s the real deal.

  12. david wingrove Says:

    Yet another great metallic dress is worn by Florinda Bolkan in an Italian film from 1969 called METTI UNA SERA A CENA (a.k.a. LOVE CIRCLE) It’s a rather languid tale of bisexual partner-swapping, directed by the great Giuseppe Patroni Griffi (best known for ‘TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE and THE DIVINE NYMPH).

    The film itself is not terribly memorable, but Florinda looks sensational in a dress made entirely of silver chains – with a helmet to match! A similar gown was worn by Aaliyah in QUEEN OF THE DAMNED but it was nowhere near as classy.

    BTW – It was Carole in EAGLE AND THE HAWK. Veronica Lake appeared in a later Mitchell Leisen flying melodrama called I WANTED WINGS. I’ve never seen that one, so no idea if she wears anything good!

  13. I think they dressed Lake in leftover gowns previously worn by Claudette Colbert. The poor thing.

    You’re quite right, I have my films mixed up. Think I have a copy of Eagle & Hawk lined up, along with a few other minor-seeming Leisens.

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