On Saturday the 5 May, Film Fatale will be channeling high fifties glamour for our screening of All About Eve followed by an elegant 1950s ball mirroring the film’s award ceremony. But what does one wear to a 1950s ball?
All About Eve is all showbiz and drama which carries through to the exquisite fashion in the film. In no outfit more so than Bette Davis' iconic ball gown. Bette's ensembles were all designed by Edith Head, an eight-time Academy Award winner for her costume designs who famously dressed all of the leading ladies in the 1940s and 1950s, including Ginger Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck, Shirley MacLaine, Audrey Hepburn, and Elizabeth Taylor. Head is arguably one of the most, if not the most, important figures who made the 40s and 50s drip with glamour and elegance. All About Eve is no exception in the era of glamor and elegance. While the men’s costumes are elegant, classy and timely, it is the ladies’ costumes that make this film an iconic movie for fashion. Head was called in on short notice to design costumes for Bette Davis. She personally designed for Davis, while her assistants dressed the other female actors*
This dress is one of the key elements that made this movie famous for its costuming. Interestingly, this dress wasn’t originally designed the way it turned out in the movie. Apparently, when Head arrived on set the first of the cocktail party filming, she discovered that the bodice of the dress had been made too big. To ameliorate the situation, Bette David pulled the bodice lower and off her shoulders, which made the dress look even better than the original design.*
If you are lucky enough to have a dress this extraordinary take it out of your closet immediately.The rest of us are left with two options, hunting through charity shops and vintage shops or playing make and do.
Charity shops can be time consuming and painful but when you find a cheap once off stunner of a dress it's all worth it. We found an amazing ballgown in Oxfam George's streets vintage section the other day for €15.The best charity shops can be found on Georges street, Camden street and Capel street. Bring pictures and show the sales assistants, they may have something hidden in the back or if your lucky they might take your number and call you if something similar comes in.
Vintage shops in Dublin are getting better and better, Lucy's underneath Cafe Irie in Temple bar is by far the cheapest and I've found some beautiful stuff in there but my never fail shop is Harlequin just off Drury Street as it has an amazing collection in great condition. Swop shop in Temple bar have an lovely set up where you can post a picture on their Facebook page and they will put it on their wishlist so if someone has something similar that they no longer want they can get extra swop shop points for it. Of course there is always the magical world of ebay, size is always an issue but that's what safety pins were designed for.
For the more creative ladies it's time to take out your old debs dress bridesmaid dress or sophisticated halloween costume and go to town. If you don't have one you'll find one for about €15/€20 in a charity shop.
If you have a ball gown style dress with sleeves, very simply, do as Bette did and pull them down. The off the shoulder sleeves are key to this look and can be created very easily with a sash or some material, stitched or pinned into place.
For a more streamlined variation use a ribbon in a similar colour to the dress to pull it in at the waist. If you have sleeves pull them down, if you don't create them with a similar coloured material.
Finish with a big sparkley brooch.