The Hays Code went into affect in Hollywood in mid-1934 and determined what could and could not be shown in films (for example, a couple could not be shown in the same bed, crime could not go unpunished, and drug use was verboten).
This week, A and I went to see the pre-code cut of "Baby Face" with Barbara Stanwyck, made in 1933. Stanwyck plays Lily Powers, a small-town girl whose father prostituted her at age 14 (uh, yeah, that tidbit got cut out of the post-code version) and who eventually becomes a 'master of her own destiny' by sleeping her way to the top. You can read about the changes eventually made to the film to bring it up to code here (warning: there are spoilers if you plan to see the film).
Stanwyck's performance was stellar and the racy story was riveting. I was also riveted by Lily's costumes, particularly her office looks, as she her fortune rose.
As a bar girl "working the night shift" in her father's speakeasy, Lily wears a simple top with a pointy collar and white trim on the sleeves.
In her first office job in a bank in New York City, she wears a floral print dress suitable to her small-town past, with short, puffy sleeves that look girlish. The collar reminds me of a Puritan collar, perhaps suggesting the innocent image she was trying to convey. A very young John Wayne was her first conquest.
A few promotions later Lily wears a large crocheted collar and cuffs with a sleek, dark dress. I couldn't find more images online, but as her 'power' grows, her collars and cuffs become more elaborate.
Of course, once she no longer has to work, her everyday wardrobe consists of stunning velvet and satin gowns, ornamented with sequins and fur.
Have you seen the pre-code version of "Baby Face"? If so, please do let me know if you saw a similar progression in Lily's office outfits.
The screening that A and I saw included a discussion afterwards with my favorite director, Mike Leigh -- a treat all around.