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In Which Aunty Toby and Ilse Lund Become One

I’m a big fan of the movie, Casablanca, and I have the feeling the most people who visit here have seen it at least once (if not a dozen times and I don’t have any images because I think I’d get snagged for copyright infringement if I did a screen capture so you’ll just have to use your imaginations). Do you remember the scene in the film where Ingrid Bergman pulls the gun on Rick? She’s begging him for the letters of transit.

What’s she wearing? Don’t worry, we’ll wait.

She’s wearing a white jacket with big shoulders (no mystery there; the movie was released in 1942 – women had big shoulders in everything, even sweaters), and a blouse, a long skirt and a sash that is being used as a belt. I was thinking about that movie recently and it occurred to me (and I suppose no one wanted anyone to think about this at the time) that if Ilse Lund and Victor Laszlo are on the run, hiding out from the Nazis every moment of the trip from France (“remember when I was sick is Lisle…you didn’t leave me then…”), they must have had someone helping them with the luggage.

Because Ilse had SOME wardrobe in that movie (courtesy of Orry-Kelly) – much more than would have fitted into a single suitcase (which would have been, frankly, what one person could have reasonably carried under refugee conditions and we are not talking about a big suitcase here. I sure would not want to have had to walk more than a mile with a big suitcase). We won’t even talk about the hats (quick – how many different hats did she wear in that film? All I can remember right now are the straw hat she wears with the light colored jumper dress with the striped top in the marketplace scene and the felt hat she wears at the end at the airport. Anyone else?) which, given their condition, would have required their own hat box piece of luggage.

They might have been hiding out in a barn, but it was a barn with maid service, a dry cleaner and a very big closet.

But that is NOT the topic of this (see how I get the digression in here?). What IS the topic is the usefulness of a long dark skirt in terms of evening wear.

Now, a couple of years ago, there was a fad for big flooffy (that’s a technical fashion term) ball gown skirts (which of course required big flooffy petticoats underneath them), to be worn with sweaters or even sweater sets. I think that lasted one winter season. It was, in it’s own way, a clever meshing of the casual with the formal and I think it attracted a lot of younger women at the time.

This is NOT the sort of skirt I am talking about. Big and flooffy does NOT compliment Aunt Toby. The last big and flooffy item I had probably dates from when I was in the 6th grade. Actually, the skirt that Ilse Lund wears in the cafe scene is pretty straight down but is not pegged – so it has quite a lot of walking space (which, as we all know, is where ‘the rubber meets the road’ when it comes to evening wear). Now, as everyone knows who comes here, I am very big on being prepared, whether you have in the closet a suit, the little dress, the garment bag all set up for out of town funerals or whatever, but I always get bolluxed up when it comes to the fancy evening out. This is a mine field. Long or short? Black dress or blazing colors? Nice pants and a fancy top? I have an absolute horror of ‘being the only one’ at a party wearing xxx'(must date from my childhood).

And considering how obviously, Ilse Lund was definitely ready to go with her long dark skirt, Aunt Toby has decided to make the investment to put something like that into the closet too. I have in the stash a big chunk of dark blue (not navy) polyester shantung and I’m looking at two patterns, one of which I own already and used to make the skirt for the MOTB suit I wore for Daughter The Younger’s wedding in Scotland a couple of years ago. Which is this:

The other one (and I know there are going to be some readers who will be saying to themselves about now, “mmm, those look almost exactly alike”) is this one:

I’m also sure some people would be saying to themselves, “Why isn’t she making this in black?” Well, it’s true that black would be the standard OP evening wear, but I happen to believe that dark blue is kinder, shall we say, to me than black is; in addition, I feel that there are plenty of other colors and prints that I can wear with it. Thirdly, black is an evening wear cliche and I’m sort of a rebel at heart. Not enough of a rebel to make this skirt forest green or burgundy (those are great colors but definitely limiting), but a bit of a rebel, nonetheless.

So, here we go and production details will follow.

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  1. Duchesse says:

    I’d go fairly narrow, the second one looks a bit more current. Will enjoy seeing the project progress. Like long skirts for evening best when the top is very casual, like the time Sharon Stone wore that Gap turtleneck as her top to the Oscars.

    Bergman was a great classic beauty; she suited those assertive shoulders and tailored jackets, because her softness tempered them. Hepburn wore them too, but with a more masculine attitude.

  2. Ruth says:

    Silly Girl! She went straight to the local dressmaker, and, of course, Victor went to a tailor, the minute they got to Morocco! One can’t go to the latest nightclub there otherwise. It seems like Victor was well off, but I may be unclear on that?

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