Monday, September 5, 2011

Who Wore it Best? Recycled Hollywood Costumes

Did you ever watch a film and think "I've seen that costume before..."?

While studio-controlled Hollywood often spent lavishly on sets and costumes, it was also notoriously thrifty when it came to getting the most out of its investments. One area  where Hollywood really saved its pennies was in the recycling of costume design. Often, once a beautiful costume made for a star was worn, it had more lives than a cat on secondary or background players. However, once in a while, an outfit made for a star found its way back on a the back of a star or leading player in another film. Of all of the studios, it seems the Fox Studios really got their money's worth and barely let their costumes cool off before they were used again.

In this new era of thrift and making do, who would have thought we'd turn to Old Hollywood to teach us how to handle hand-me-downs? Let's take a look at some interesting re-treads that, with a little mink here and a button there, found life at least twice in the leading lady spotlight.

As the Fashionistas would ask: Who wore it best?

Adrian created this beautiful gown for Garbo to wear in 1931's "Inspiration."

Although Myrna Loy did not wear this knockout in any of her films, she wore it for some glamour shots taken by Hurrell.
Marilyn Monroe's costumes sure got around (though they were rarely filled as well). Here is Marilyn in a sweet little Travilla summer dress from "The Seven Year Itch."

Barbara Nichols showed up wearing the same frock in "Ten North Frederick." Although Charles Le Maire is credited with the costumes, the notoriously thrifty Fox gang probably had this one ready for re-use.
Niagra Falls took a back seat to the beauty that was Marilyn in 1953's "Niagra" looking stylish in this sexy daytime dress.
Was Barbara Nichols raiding Marilyn's closet when she wasn't looking? Here is Barbara in the same dress in 1959's "A Woman Obsessed."
This Orry-Kelly gown was made just for Marilyn's charms in "Some Like it Hot."
Yet, there is Barbara AGAIN in Marilyn's clothes - this time in 1961's "The George Raft Story." Orry-Kelly did not design for this film, but this must have been another case of "if Marilyn wore it, it will fit Barbara."

From what I can see, Marilyn barely got out of a costume before another star popped into it. Here's Marilyn filling her swimsuit admirably for a publicity shot.
Looks like Ann Miller donned the same suit to a slightly different effect.
Marilyn famously sang "That Old Black Magic" in this magical Charles Le Maire outfit in "Bus Stop."
Leslie Caron then fitted herself into the same get-up in 1959's "The Man Who Understood Women."

Fox was not above giving Marilyn a hand-me-down on occasion. Susan Hayward first appeared in this modest Charles Le Maire gown in 1952's "With a Song in My Heart."

In 1956, the basic design made another appearance, this time a little less of it, on Marilyn in "Bus Stop."

The Walter Plunkett costumes from "Gone With the Wind" found new life in other films. Once completed, many of these costumes found their way to the Western Costume Company and appeared, in altered forms, in many period films for years to come.

However, even mighty Scarlett got a re-tread.

This lovely paisley robe was originally worn by Katharine Hepburn in 1936's "A Woman Rebels."
I am sure Scarlett would not have been pleased to know that someone else had worn this ensemble before she did!
And then there is this dress. Apparently, there were several versions of Scarlett's iconic green velvet gown.
One was heavily altered for Anna Lee in 1946's "Bedlam."
And, rumor has it, this "lost" version turned up on a television show many years later...
Hollywood, I am listening and am now following in your thrifty footsteps! As soon as I hit the "publish" button on this article, I am going to comb through my closet and see if a mink trim, a button and a new off-the-shoulder design can kick it up a notch for fall! Why, I feel positively virtuous and just like a Hollywood star!


Jan Miner said...

This was interesting. Frankly, I think it's a great idea to recycle costumes - so much less waste! Now what would be really cool would be to have the same actress re-wear an outfit in a different film.

Dawn said...

What a fun post!! I would take a Marilyn, hand me down, anytime.

FlickChick said...

Hey, Jan! I thought you would enjoy the re-cycling aspect! Actually, it seems that when Marilyn was starting out, she used a lot of her own clothes and can bee seen wearing the same sweater a few times.

FlickChick said...

Dawn - I'd take Marilyn's hand-me-downs if I could be assured I'd fill them the same way!

Jessica P said...

I love this! I notice things like that alot in films. I have to say, I think I like Myrna wearing the dress better than Greta...

Funny how many of Marilyn's costumes were recycled for Barbara Nichols, I guess they were saving money and trying to produce the same outfit?

A singer in "Three Little Words" wears the same red and white feathered dress that Ann Miller wears as she dances in "Easter Parade." I think its the number that has something to do with girls on the calender or covers of magazines?

Craig Wingard said...

What a great posts, I love to see things like this. It is fun when you see a costume you recognize from another film. I actually just talked a little about this in my Gentlemen Marry Brunette's posts... where Marilyn was ripped off again.

FlickChick said...

@ Jessica: there are so many "spottings" of repeated outfits! Usually, they go to someone in the background, but poor Barbara Nichols seemed to get all of Marilyn's hand me downs (not that that is a bad thing). It's fun to spot them!

FlickChick said...

@ Craig - I'll have to go check out your post. One thing Hollywood does really well is rip off a good thing!

Diane said...

Ha! I never knew that. You are always coming up with new information. I just love reading your posts.

FlickChick said...

Not really new,more like recycled :)

The Lady Eve said...

I don't know whether to say "Poor Barbara Nichols" or "Lucky Barbara Nichols"...Marilyn wore those outfits first and in big hit movies. Barbara wore them in mostly obscure B-films...on the other hand, there had to be some satisfaction in fitting into Marilyn's hand-me-downs and looking not bad at all in them.

FlickChick said...

Lady Eve - Poor Barbara Nichols - she always knew what her next wardrobe was going to be. All she had to do was watch Marilyn's films!

KC said...

I love this post--so entertaining! I've always been pretty bad at spotting recycled costumes, but I did notice the Bus Stop/Song in My Heart thing recently. Did you know that they were selling copies of that blouse on Esty? I wanted to buy one, but it was too expensive for a chronic spiller like myself to take a chance on it.

FlickChick said...

KC - well, I wouldn't have dinner in one of these! And, a little veil or fur trim and these things do look different!

ClassicBecky said...

I had no idea costumes like that were recycled! I think most of the originals looked best, although Ann Miller definitely had the edge with that bathing suit. Also, Marilyn in the "Bus Stop" outfit was much hotter! The Marilyn and Barbara outfit competition was just hysterical. I know that studios were trying to groom Barbara and Sheree North both to be Marilyn clones, but it just wasn't possible to outdo her!

Really fun article, FlickChick!

FlickChick said...

Thanks, Becky. I'll bet there were blondes all over Hollywood that got Marilyn's cast off clothes and other things, too!

Nikki via The Scarlett Rose Garden said...

Hi there~ Nice post~ I believe you are using my photo of Katherine in A Woman Rebels.

Nikki via The Scarlett Rose Garden said...
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Nikki via The Scarlett Rose Garden said...
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