We don’t usually think of Bette Davis as a fashion plate, but here she is modeling FASHIONS OF 1934 for Warner Brothers early in her career. The clothes were created and designed by the studio’s main costumer Orry-Kelly. Some critics complained the script was an excuse for a fashion show segment and a Busby Berkeley musical number that showcased elaborate duds worn by the cast. Not sure if that is something to complain about, since glamour is what makes these early pictures so much fun to watch. I am sure Depression-era audiences enjoyed the razzle-dazzle, too.
In 1935, RKO produced the musical ROBERTA. Helen Westley plays the title character, the owner of a posh fashion house in Paris. Randolph Scott is her nephew, and Irene Dunne is the girl who catches Scott’s eye. Bernard Newman’s gowns sparkle during the glittery scenes of the movie.
A few years later, it was producer Walter Wanger’s turn. He had wanted to make VOGUES OF 1938 sooner, but decided to wait until improvements in Technicolor would showcase his models in the most spectacular way possible. His wife, actress Joan Bennett, stars in the films and wears costumes by Irene. In addition to this, we have designer Omar Kiam providing the clothes donned by costar Helen Vinson in some of the fashion show segments.
The vivid scenes in Wanger’s film no doubt inspired MGM to stage its own Technicolor fashion show in 1939’s THE WOMEN. George Cukor directs an exciting sequence that temporarily lifts us out of the black-and-white drama of a woman (Norma Shearer) whose marriage is threatened by a social climber (Joan Crawford). A character like the one Crawford plays may try to tear at the fabric of society, but movies like these will always be in fashion.