About Joyatri

Avid thrifter and vintage clothes wearer. Love 1960s and early 1970s styles. Partial to Art Nouveau, Pre-Raphaelite, Victorian, Renaissance and Medieval art. Former art historian. Current packrat. On a continual quest for good-looking, comfortable vegan shoes. Bhangra dancer since 2002. Fascinated by all things Indian. Vegan and animal advocate. 

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« Cottage industry, or how I spent hours on the Internet | Main | A special dress for a special day »

Collars and cuffs

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.

Reader Comments (5)

I haven't seen this film, but I enjoyed your analysis of the collar and cuff situation, Jo!
Have you heard the British expression about collar and cuffs matching (or not)? A giveaway as to whether a lady dyes her hair! Less applicable in these times of the Brazilian and the Hollywood wax jobs, of course!
Did I just lower the tone? Sorry! xxxx

December 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpastcaring

Interesting factiod Jo, never thought about it before. I'll have to pay more attention.

December 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpao

I'm afraid I was thinking the same as Curtise when I saw your blog title. I've never heard of or seen the film but loved your analogy! x

December 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVix

I have only seen the post code version, and was quite besotted by Barbara's beauty AND her costumes!!!
I must see if I can get hold of a pre code version....

December 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHelga

Hi Joy! So nice to meet you. Sorry it takes me so long to get around blog land! Life has been utterly crazy around here lately! I did not know this about this film!! Wow. Makes me want to see it. I love that last picture of the dark dress and the crocheted collar. So pretty! In your previous post, YOU look lovely! I love your hair and your beautiful smile! I am a huge fan of John William Waterhouse's work. Lovely!


December 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLynn Dylan

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