Bringing Back Vintage Glam…Old Hollywood Style

posted on December 17, 2008

Lately I’ve been smitten with late 60s heist films like Pelham 1,2,3 and French Connection - but not for the reasons most film buffs probably are. The gritty scenes, many shot in old New York, I do love - especially love trying to figure out which particular street corner they show and compare it to what it looks like now. But the other, real reason I love these movies is the clothes. Case in point: Thomas Crowne Affair, 1968. Has there ever been a more fabulously-dressed couple than Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway? Dunaway has 31 costume changes - and I don’t think one of them is less than stunning. Whether she’s barefoot on the beach in skinny, ankle-length jeans and a tight-fitted turtleneck with her hair down, au naturelle from the salty air, equestrian-esque in a tailored short coat with bold black piping and a wavy-brimmed hat and high boots, or, the piece de resistance, a swishy ivory chiffon halter dress with a drapy neck scarf and a hemline that rides dangerously high above the knee, accented with a glorious bouffant of glam curls. The latter is the dress she wears when she seduces McQueen over a saucy game of chess - and it is the dress that I have decided I must have. Or at least a proxy of. When I saw the dress, I immediately thought it was vintage Halston, or maybe Yves St. Laurent, but it turns out that it—along with all the outfits in the movie—were designed by Theodore Runkle. And Runkle has no small list of impressive movies he’s designed for, including Bonnie and Clyde and The Godfather. Dunaway was so taken with his style, that she had him design many of her offscreen clothes as well, favoring the soft silks that this dress defines.

The thing is, I can’t think of where I’d possibly wear this dress - it’s so disarmingly sexy, its feminity so definitive of a particular era - that it would just look either trashy or like a costume. However, the “Halter Dress” can be redefined for today, still sexy, but smarter and more constructed. I found a great version in Born Again Vintage by Bridget Artisse, a book published by Potter Craft that teaches you how to create your own updated vintage looks. This version of the Halter Dress uses a more shaped, thicker patterned satin (almost like a brocade) that gives the dress a bit of a Mod look, puts the tie in the back, and adds a belt to the waist to really update it. It’s still backless, the skirt flares - but in an A-line - and it’s worn sans tights and heels, but rather with suede knee-high boots. As the book says “it stays vintage, [but] it is now wearable for a night out and no longer relegated to the annual costume party.” I’m on it. Need to find a Vintage dress with princess seams and a high neck, and then let the cutting and sewing begin.


-Nikki S.

— Allison

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