Monday, September 30, 2013

Fashion In Film: Irma la Douce (1963)

Director: Billy Wilder
Shirley MacLaine, Jack Lemmon
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly
Jack Lemmon and Shirley Mclaine

I have always been intrigued by this movie. I found out about it years after watching these two actors in the an earlier Billy Wilder-directed The Apartment (1960). Finding these two very American actors starring in a French sex farce with Lemmon as a policeman and Shirley as one of the best prostitutes in France sounds like a huge mismatch. Here is a discussion of the film on Adapted from the 1956 Broadway musical, the movie was a hit and I'm sure I wasn't the only person who loved the interaction of these two actors together. I wish they had made more movies together. Can't you imagine them in an incredible (but offbeat) production of Taming of the Shrew?

The costuming of this movie is another reason to love it, Irma's wardrobe in particular. In the movie, Irma La Douce (aka Irma the sweet), has a favorite color that is represented in her wardrobe at all times. Her stockings, lingerie, and even her eye shadow come in the same lovely billiard table green. Her precious pooch, Coquette, is always sporting a green bow to match.

My favorite movie costume designer, Orry-Kelly, created some great outfits for this movie, which also included cool costumes for the many ladies of the night, sailors, pimps, eccentric gentlemen, and police (gendarmes) characters in the cast.*
Shirley on the cover of LIFE magazine, June 21, 1963.

When we first meet Irma she is not dressed as provocatively as her friends and competitors, though later oufits make it pretty clear what she does for a living.

Loving the see-through raincoat and the matching green barrettes on Irma and Coquette. A quick look at other images from this scene show that the dog is wearing her own translucent rain slicker too!

The suit looked black in the movie, but I have a feeling that it might have actually been a very dark green, as in the first photo above.

Is that apartment for real?!

I included so many pictures of this negligee because it is so amazing. This piece and the green lace top/bra below were my lasting visual memories of this film. Though it is see-through it reveals nothing but the belly button and cleavage, yet it is sexier than a skimpier outfit would be. I wouldn't be surprised to find that Shirley kept this after the filming...I would! Note the matching billiard green marabou mules. I've always found boudoir shoes decadent...but I guess that's the appeal. The use of the green lace and sheer net is genius. I wonder if you could find those materials in that particular shade of green today? Another amazing thing about the lingerie in this movie is how well it shows off MacLaine's dancer figure and that the engineered structure of the bras were giving her "girls" LIFE!

On the set.

Another fashion-filled Shirley Maclaine film to check out would be the amazing What A Way To Go(1964) with costumes by Edith Head. There are seventy-three!! different costumes for Shirley's character alone! One day I'll try to chronicle the fashion from that movie, though it might take a long time and will probably be in installments! 

* Watch out for cameos by Bill Bixby and James Caan.

Images: Leo Fuchs, Gjon Mili (Life photo)

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