“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” –Edith Head
There’s nothing that transports us like wonderful clothes—costumes, even—and getting all dolled up. Sometimes, getting ready for a party is the most fun of all. Even before you arrive, feeling like Cinderella at the ball is a truly whimsical experience.
Always a fan of flamboyant fun, dressing up is something I’ve always loved, whether I’m actually going out or reading my favorite Fairy Tales from childhood.
Having a theme is always helpful because you have an idea of where to begin when planning your attire. Seeing the Met’s Costume exhibit each year is always an artistic highlight.
Lots of hair, jewels, makeup, and an evening gown make any woman feel like a princess. The amount of time, artistry, and detail that go into creating a certain hairdo, makeup, look, or piece of couture is staggering.
(The photo above was taken at the Monaco Red Cross Ball.)
In Praise of the Masquerade
It’s rare that one really gets to dress up in finery galore, so when the opportunity arises, take advantage! Why not look and feel like a goddess?
Some truly spectacular galas:
- The Rothschild’s 1972 “Surrealist Ball” was the ultimate in over-the-top glamour and definitely one of those moments where it’d be fascinating to be a fly on the wall, observing in absolute anonymity.
- The Black and White Ball hosted by Truman Capote at the Plaza Hotel in 1966 was complete with guests Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra wearing masks to resemble a black cat and white butterfly (other guests included Lee Radziwill, Ladybird Johnson, and Gloria Vanderbilt).
The Best Period Costume Film Moments
A love for fantasy and dressing up goes back to my love of movies, especially old films.
- Claudia Cardinale in “The Leopard”: wears possibly one of the most beautiful gowns ever shot for the screen.
- Elizabeth Taylor in “Dr. Faustus”: no one quite does cinematic beauty and spectacle like La Liz in all her various outfits and wigs. She’s even painted entirely silver at one point.
- Marisa Berenson in “Barry Lyndon” is one of the finest examples of an actress used for her supreme modeling capabilities. In order to inhabit the role, she had to simply sit and stand while wearing the most ornate 18th-century costumes, complete with wigs, bonnets with plumes, corsets, white makeup, an enormous beauty mark, and elaborately complicated gowns. At times, she’s like a wonderful Georgian painting come to life.
- “Eye of the Widow”—a film I did in the early ’90s (alongside the great Mel Ferrer and F. Murray Abraham of recent White Lotus fame)—called for a great deal of costuming, complete with a corset, hoop skirt, and hair in corkscrews curls.
18th Century fashions were especially over-the-top—elaborate powdered wigs, ruffles and bows, bustles, gowns with a million layers and petticoats, etc.—and completely fascinating. There definitely is an art to dressing up, and the history of fashion is endless!
- Goya’s portraits are so hypnotic; one can get lost in them. Painting the aristocracy—lords and ladies, dukes and duchesses—employed Goya, so he was able to work and wow us with his wonderfully dark and more complex pieces later on. His “Black Duchess” (1797) has always been a great source of inspiration.
- Women known for dressing up, like Luisa, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Soncino (the heiress who wowed Europe in the early 20th century), are supreme muses and influence painters, sculptors, poets, and, of course, couturiers and fashion designers.
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