Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ginger Rogers: THE Dress Revisited


"Ginger Rogers Swing Time Dress" is the most-popular search term here at Hollywood Dreamland and it stems from this post from February, 2009. Now, thanks to HD reader and commentor Dan, we can get an idea of what it takes to create Ginger's finest gown, as he has had a replica made for his wife! Dan already commented in the original post, but his fascinating commentary is reproduced here for your fashion benefit. Hey Dan, send us some pictures! Until then, we've provided these:




"I have now had THE DRESS copied for my wife, after considerable research. The original exists but is in a private collection, undisplayed. It was last seen in NYC at the MMoA [Metropolitan Museum of Art] in a special gown show in the late 70's.

My seamstresses made as close a copy as possible based on 220 stills taken from the dance sequence and a lengthy review of it with a professional costume designer who personally examined the dress in great detail the last time it was seen in public. Here are the facts on the dress as we now understand them:

It was silk georgette, two layers of fabric, forming two big circles. The material was cut on the bias. The dress was constructed in 22 panels with French seams, every other seam (in the skirt part only) held hand applied sequins. It had an under-structure similar to a 1920's bathing suit--with those short-short style legs. The original also had weights in the hem that were the size of half 50 cent pieces and made of something similar to a clear plastic. It was originally light pink and George Newman, RKO's costume director designed the gown. He surprised Ginger by doing it in her favorite color and she wrote in her book that she was greatly pleased. I had the dress copied in aqua for my wife as that is her favorite color. Those colors would have looked the same in black and white film. It took my seamstresses 85 hours to make the dress. My wife has worn the dress twice, first in LA at an Academy Awards party and later to a black tie benefit here at The Greenbrier Resort. It is not an exaggeration to say that this dress is dazzling to the eye. She has never received such complimentary comment."





Tremendous! Special thanks to Dan for taking the time to comment and especially for following up on the original post; it is appreciated.

21 comments:

  1. Wow, that wife is sure lucky to have a husband like that! Could you imagine being that woman showing up at the next party wearing Ginger's dress :)

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    1. Thanks. She wore the dress last month (11/13) to a black tie/vintage attire benefit for a local theater and it was again a big hit---first time worn in this town and in over a year

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  2. 85 hours to make? Amazing! But oh so worth it for a dress that gorgeous!

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  3. Wow!! That is so neat and very fascinating to read.

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  4. Very cool! Interesting that Ginger's dress was pink pink but appears pure white on film!

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    1. Yes, and I was told by a collegiate film professor that light blue and light pink filmed more white that white did on the old black and white film.

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  5. I never got the point of a dress looking like a night dress (the top). Most modern evening dresses draw on the same model, which results in monotonous red carpet parades. On the other hand, wearing an exact copy of the existing famous dress takes away from your individuality, remember it was done for a specific woman, so unless you're as pretty as Ginger you aren't likely to bear comparison.

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    1. Well Stella, I guess the reason that evening gown style survives and is loved so well still today is that it works so darn well. The beauty continues to be appreciated. Regarding a comparison risk in wearing this gown replica, I will say that Ginger was very trim. She had a dancer's body, in 1936. My wife has a great figure too and works out with a personal trainer routinely. Most find her to be as pretty as Ginger, but she is more busty.. She can carry off wearing this dress. A large framed or chubby woman cannot. The seamstresses did have to alter the studded, sparkling straps on the back of the dress to attach them higher so as to accommodate the difference between the ladies' figures topside though. Otherwise, both girls (Ginger in '36) are about size 4's and they are the same height.

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  6. Yes, I want to see pictures!!!!
    Also, it was Bernard Newman who designed the dress, not George. :)

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    1. Maggie, Okay. I have photographs but need to figure out how to post them here. Back to you on that..

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  7. What an AMAZING idea, to have an iconic piece of motion picture costuming replicated. You sir, are a champ in my book.

    Gentleman, consider taking Dan's lead, there are many beautiful gowns in film history and one is waiting to make you gal the envy of all!

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    1. Hey Felix, Thank you for the compliment. You are right. There are any number of great evening gowns from Hollywood's Golden Era that are worthy of recreation. We have had a lot of fun with my wife having this one. It is amazing to us how many people recognize it.

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  8. This dress is very stunning indeed. Don't they show the black one two? I mean the one Ginger wore as a teacher. It's on the cover of Gingers book and I sure adore it.

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  9. Wow that's one lucky lady!

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  10. Who is the seamstress? I have a friend who has copied quite a few of the gowns Miss Rogers wore...I wonder if she made this one as well?

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    1. Eileen, These gals are in CA and have a company they call BBeauty. And, yes, it is spelled with two capital B's together. Great to work with, too. I was lucky to find them as I had concluded that I was not going to locate craftspeople capable of recreating this gown.

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  11. I would love to do this for my girl. We have watched all the Ginger/Fered movies together and we are taking Tango dance together. Could somebody here on the discussion please put me in touch with someone that can do this amazing work? steven.seale (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. Hey Steve, I sent you and email on this directly.

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  12. Anyone ever find a pattern/patterns to use to make this dress?

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    1. Hi Purejoy, The ladies that recreated the dress for me researched the construction in great detail and developed a pattern for it as described above. The company is BBeauty Designs. They are in California.

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  13. Hello. I posted the description of the gown's construction following my having had it reproduced as closely to the original as was possible. a couple of years ago. I was unaware that there was further comment until I mentioned to my wife that I made the original two posts. That was only yesterday. When she went to this blog to read my comments she discovered that C.K. had added this section and further that several questions and comments calling fro a reply from me had arisen. So, I do apologize for taking so long but will respond to these requests below as time permits over the next few days..

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