Monday, March 25, 2013

Giving Them The Slip: When Passion Meets Fashion

This is my contribution to The Hollywood Revue's Fashion in Film Blogathon. Click HERE for more fashion, more fun and more fabulosity!

Joyce Compton approves of Barbara Kent's slip
 According to Wikipedia, the slip is:

"a woman's undergarment worn beneath a dress or skirt to help it hang smoothly and to prevent chafing of the skin from coarse fabrics such as wool. Slips are also worn for warmth, and to protect fine fabrics from perspiration. A full slip hangs from the shoulders, usually by means of narrow straps, and extends from the breast to the fashionable skirt length. A half slip hangs from the waist. It may also be called a waist slip or more rarely a petticoat.
Slips are often worn to prevent the show through of intimate undergarments such as panties or a brassiere. A slip may also be used to prevent a silhouette of the legs showing through clothing when standing in front of a bright light source. Other uses for slips are to make a dress or skirt hang properly, the prevention of chafing to the skin, to protect the outer garment from damage due to perspiration, or for warmth, especially if the dress or skirt is lightweight and thin."

Really? We all know that, at least in the world of film, the slip was a way to show a woman in her undies while getting past the censors. It wasn't quite a nightie, and it wasn't quite panties and a bra. It hinted and titillated and gave us all a voyeur's glimpse into a woman's boudoir. A feminine lure, it reeled the  hunter in until the last moment when - alas- the prey retreated behind closed doors (or a dress).

In the 1920s and early 1930s (up until that fateful day the hays Code was enforced), the slip was a staple in stories of modern girls on the make. Now, you would never see Mary Pickford in a slip, but Clara Bow? You bet!
Clara Bow displays the goods

For Clara, the slip was her work uniform

Clara in her element
In the 1930s, Clara's free spirit with a slip became a staple of the pre-code sweeties. The Teddy - a shortened version of the slip - became the staple of provocation. Add a pair of high heels to the look and it was the cat's pajamas, hubba hubba, ooh la la and all that!

Jazz Up Your Lingerie!

In 1931's "The Smiling Lieutenant," Claudette Colbert gives some musical advice to Miriam Hopkins that became the theme song for  all pre-code gals on the make:

Miriam Hopkins after her lingerie has been jazzed

Bebe Daniels pretends she is not trying to seduce

Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell are
better covered than their friend (but not by much!)

Leave it to Joan Crawford to look find the most glamorous lingerie

Joan Blondell spent most of her pre-code days in her lingerie

Ann Dvorak's slip seems to have slipped!

Carole Lombard and friends check out the goods

Jeanette MacDonald was never shy about
stepping out in her unmentionables
In the 1940s, the slip became more ornate and took on a more nightie type of look. Sometimes it was hard to tell if the lady was getting ready to retire or step out. One clue is that the slip seemed easier to wade through than the voluminous negligee.
Gene Tierney has the classy but provocative look down pat

Ann Sheridan adds a garter to up the ante in allure
Rita Hayworth's famous pose
The 1950s were the last hurrah of the seductive slip, but it went out with a bang with Taylor and Monroe.
Elizabeth Taylor breathes new life into the slip in both
"Butterfield Eight" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"

Marilyn use the slip for both retiring and nighttime departures: very efficient

Once we get to see Doris Day in her slip getting dressed with her kids in the room we knew it was all over and the slip will eventually be relegated to the dustbin with stays and pantalettes.
Doris Day in the sanitized slip in "Please Don't Eat the Daisies"
Natalie Wood gave it a go in the 1976 TV version of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," and although she is beautiful, it all looked rather quaint by then.

Oh well, it was sure fun while it lasted!



Lovely post! Lingeries could easily be a symbol of the pre-codes. They are not even near the standard of naughty nowadays!
The photos are wonderful, and it1s even difficult to recognize some of the actresses in their early days. I've downloaded The Smiling Lieutenant in a Frank Borzage six film package (I only wanted Lucky Star, but ended up in advantage) and I plan to watch it soon.
My Fashion in Film blogathon post may be up on Thursday.

panavia999 said...

In "Please Don't Eat the Daisies", just before she dresses in front of her kids, Doris Day chastises them for using her douche to fill water ballons. I prefer to think of Doris Day's slip in that scene as elegant and classic! But it doesn't get more housewife/mom than that scene.

Anonymous said...

I love this post! A good slip could really make an impact on screen. I mean, who could ever forget Elizabeth Taylor's in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or Butterfield 8? It's too bad they've fallen out of favor in recent decades.

And you are so right about how a lot of 1940s slips often look like they could be worn out on the town. Sometimes I look at vintage clothes on eBay and I have seen so many 40s slips listed as both a nightgown and an evening gown.

Thank you so much for participating in the Fashion in Film blogathon!

The Gal Herself said...

As I was scrolling down I was thinking, "Please let her include Liz/please let her include Liz." And of course, you did. No self respecting slip post could possibly exclude her.

What I tend to forget is how adorable Joan Blondell was! I'm not very familiar with pre-code Hollywood and those photos were a revelation. Thanks for sharing.

Here's my take on Travilla and Valley of the Dolls:

Unknown said...

I love your fun spotlight on "slips" in film. It reminded me of my much "younger" days when, I was brave enough to wear camisoles with jeans for a night out on the town with my husband...

JavaBeanRush said...

Doris Day's "sanitized slip" always looks like a dress to me.

Natalie Wood's "quaint" slip does look more functional than most of the earlier ones; I would expect to be able to go into any department store and find hers. The earlier ones look bespoke.

I'll have to Google that Joan Blondell/Barbara Stanwyck film. What's a skeleton doing in their beds? Seems hilarious!

You can check out my contribution to Fashion in Film. It's The Tender Trap (1955) with Debbie Reynolds.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your post. It took me back -- I remember hating slips as a child when my mother made me wear them, and how I later loved them when I grew up. Like so many things -- like handwritten thank-you cards and wearing hats and gloves -- they seem to be slipping away (no pun intended). But they'll be there in the movies for us to enjoy -- thanks for this great look at this timeless garment!

FlickChick said...

Thank you so much, Le. I hope you like "The Smiling Lieutenant" and Claudette's advice to Miriam to jazz up that lingerie!

FlickChick said...

panavia999 - thank you so much for your comment. Doris Day was actually a very sexy woman - it was hard to make her look dowdy, but that black slip did it.

FlickChick said...

Thank you , Angela, for hosting a very fun event!

FlickChick said...

Hi Gal - yes - it would have been a sin to omit Liz! Even when I was working on the earlier stuff, I knew I would end with her.

FlickChick said...

Dawn - by any chance, will you be posting pictures :)

FlickChick said...

Hi Java. That photo of Stanwyck & Blondell is from "Night Nurse."

Caftan Woman said...

A really jazzy slip can make a gal feel special. How the movies have influenced our psyche.

What a great article!

Anonymous said...

Love this! I saw in a pre-code film that women were in slips for nearly no reason in scenes-other than looking sexy of course.
I love the lingerie of the 1930s-sexy yet still enough left to be imagined. I think it's much sexier than anything today.
It's a shame slips aren't part of our every day wear!
By the way, what's the movie with Joan Crawford from?

Silver Screenings said...

Some of these slips are gorgeous! It's too bad that they've fallen out of fashion, but maybe they'll make a glorious return one day.

I really enjoyed your post and this look at lingerie.

Andina said...

Lovely! I love Rita Hayworth's lingerie :) Slip looked fashionable and flirty, and nice to see how good they were in classic movies.

The Lady Eve said...

Great piece, Chick, excellent background and photos. Will always love Rita best in her classic pin-up pose.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a pre-Code film without a young, shapely woman in a skimpy slip! The slips got longer and less transparent with the Code but were still fetching. Was thrilled to see Tyrone Power in his underwear in a late-'30s film a few weeks ago - it's nice to have some beefcake along with the cheesecake.

FlickChick said...

Thanks, CW - it's true, a garment that kind of looks like a dress can look so naughty!

FlickChick said...

Hi Comet - that photo of Joan was from, I think, "Our Blushing Brides" 1930. Thanks for stopping by!

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Silverscreenings! I occasionally have a need for a slip and they are so plain and functional today. Maybe they will make a comeback at Victoria's Secret!

FlickChick said...

Andina - Rita sure is hard to top in that slip - and thousands of American G.I.s thought this, too!

FlickChick said...

Thanks you, Lady Eve. I really tried to find a photo of a man in a slip just for fun, but no dice!

iluvcinema said...

Boy those ladies wore the heck outta those slips!

Joan Blondell - you minx :)

Love that Rita Hayworth piece!

Great post.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Cinephile! And yes - Joan Blondell was a definite minx!

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Emma B. said...

Loved the whole article! Here's the good news - there is definitely a bit of a revival going on for glamorous vintage slips. Time to re-write it?! :-) Regards, Emma at Nylon Nostalgia