I’ve been looking forward to the Fashion in Film blogathon for a while now. Admiring the beautiful clothes worn in old movies is just one of the many reason I enjoy classic cinema. If you’ve been reading this blog for some time you probably know that I often make note of the costumes in my reviews. I was originally going to just choose a film and showcase some of the outfits in it that I liked, but instead I decided to talk about a book—not a movie—that profiles some wonderful styles from the 1930s and 1940s. I hope this is acceptable for a film blogathon. I thought it might be excused since so much of the book talks about, well, fashion in film!
The Way We Wore is a beautiful coffee table book (though I read it cover-to-cover) by model, singer, and actress of stage and screen Marsha Hunt. In case you are not familiar with her, here is a little more about Miss Hunt, courtesy of IMDb:
“Stardom somehow eluded this vastly gifted actress. Had it not perhaps been for her low-level profile compounded by her McCarthy-era blacklisting in the early 1950s, there is no telling what higher tier of stardom Marsha Hunt might have reached. Perhaps her work was not flashy enough, too subdued, or perhaps her intelligence too often disguised a genuine sex appeal to stand out among the other lovelies. Two studios, Paramount in the late 30s and MGM in the early 40s, failed to complete her star. Nevertheless, her talent and versatility cannot be denied. This glamorous, slimly handsome leading lady offered herself to well over 50 pictures during the 1930s and 1940s alone.”
Now approaching her 94th birthday, Marsha is still alive and active. She continues to work for charity causes and make public appearances (sometimes giving interviews at film festivals and the like).
This book was published in 1993 and is a comprehensive volume that profiles Marsha’s career and showcases the styles and trends of the ‘30s and ‘40s. There are a lot of interesting stories stories—from her experiences in a USO tour in the Artic, to meeting President and Mrs. Roosevelt—and anecdotes about what day-to-day life was like for a starlet during the studio era. Later on, she describes her experience of being blacklisted and her successful stage career that followed.
The bulk of the volume is comprised of film stills and glamour portraits with anecdotes and information interspersed throughout. One of the great things about this book is that it feels very personal—like you are just enjoying tea with Marsha and she is sharing all her stories with you. She also recalls stuff with incredible detail and her great appreciation of fashion comes through in the way she describes the colors and fabrics of the outfits. The accompanying captions really bring the black-and-white photos to life. Needless to say, Marsha has impeccable style herself, and even designed some of the outfits featured in this book.
While many of the photos are of the author, there are also a lot of screen stills of co-stars that include the likes of Ava Gardner, Greer Garson, Margaret O’Brien, Gregory Peck, June Allyson, Susan Hayward, Lana Turner, Ray Milland, Van Heflin, Mickey Rooney, Gene Kelly, William Powell, and many more. Not all of these stars are pictured in the book, but the majority of them are.
There are also sections of the book that profile a certain topic, such as the Hollywood Canteen, cars, shoes, makeup, hats, hairstyles, etc. (See slideshow further down for examples.)
If you’ve ever wondered what daily life was like for a young starlet during the most glamorous era of Hollywood, or if you are just interested in vintage fashions, this book is for you. It is now out of print, so you may have trouble finding it. If you’d like to read it but can’t find any affordable copies online, I would recommend seeing if you can interloan it through your library system, which is what I did. (What, oh what, would I do with out ILL!)
To give you a better idea what it’s like, I’ve made a slideshow that features some pictures of pages from the book.
It seems that some of the slides don’t line up just right with the text. If you are having trouble with that (or if the images seem to small), click here for an easier viewing format. You should also be able to zoom in if you want to read the text.
Though some of the clothes may seem dated (and I believe Marsha even admits this), many are surprisingly accessible for fashion-lovers today. But while style may come and go, the things that Miss Hunt embodies in this book—pose, elegance, good character, grace, and beauty—are timeless.
This post is my entry in the Fashion in Film Blogathon hosted by The Hollywood Revue. I can’t wait to see what everyone else posts about!