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Thursday 13 February 2014

Sluttishly Vintage: Outfits Worthy of Romantic Heroines

Cue the stirring music, pass the hankies - this month the Vintage column is headed to the movies. And, since it's Valentine's day tomorrow, we're going for a full-on slush/snog fest with outfits inspired by some favourite romantic heroines. While tomorrow may not bring a card from Ryan/Cary/Leo, we can pick up some style tips from their leading ladies. Ten heroines, ten films of varying quality, but - most importantly - ten great outfits.

Terry McKay in An Affair To Remember (1957)

Let's start in the fifties. Deborah Kerr as Terry in An Affair to Remember wears some amazing examples of romantic late fifties styling, not least the beautiful pleated number, complete with orange chiffon train, as shown below. If you can't have Cary Grant, you can have your own chiffon train, thanks to this amazing cocktail dress from Juno Says Hello. It's from slightly later - the early sixties - so it's entirely possible its designer had also been inspired by Terry's style. It's also a leading lady kind of price, at £265.

Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

If that amount of money is going to take you a lot of trips to the powder room, Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly is a look that can be cheap to put together but looks anything but. And, she's the only one of our ladies who has bothered to think about outerwear - quite useful at this time of year.

Look chic, even in a rainstorm, in a classic mac (umbrella also advised). This Max Mara number is £75 at Rokit. For the typical Breakfast at Tiffany's shot, Advantage in Vintage on Etsy are currently selling a slinky LBD, and a pearl choker too. Holly's shades are apparently Manhattan by Oliver Goldsmith but, as they cost a few hundreds, I've found these sixties lookalikes for £50. Sorry, I haven't found you Cat.

'The Girl' in The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Do you even need to see this clip to know what dress I mean? Oh go on then.

While 'the girl' doesn't fare the best in the romantic stakes (being pawed and perved at by a married man is not so fun), she does look smoking and this dress - and this scene - is one of the most famous in the world.

There's no hiding that this is the inspiration behind the Monroe dress, one of the vintage-inspired dresses from 20th Century Foxy. In red, you get all of the curves and less of the costume effect. That's £95, or there's a disco halterneck style available for only £35 from Beyond Retro.

Andie Walsh in Pretty In Pink (1986)

Oh Andie, you get given a beautiful vintage original to wear to your prom, you work your crafty magic on it and ... you end up with one of the most disappointing costume choices of all time. Although love eventually conquered all - even bad dressmaking - it would have been great to see her in a proper prom dress.

This fifties lace original is not only beautifully fitted, I reckon the full skirt would have gone down a treat at an eighties prom. It's £60, again from Advantage in Vintage. Andie - step away from those scissors.

Allie in The Notebook (2004)

While this isn't my favourite film, it's hard to resist the power of the Ryan/Rachel combination, coupled with some forties styling. To echo Allie's look, I've found this dress from Juno Says Hello. It's from the fifties, but you're almost certain to look as peachy pretty as she does in this scene.

It's £125 though, so perhaps try not to get this one wet?

Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday (1940)

While The Notebook is a noughties take on forties style, here's what romantic heroines of the forties actually were wearing. No pastels here: it's fierce chevrons and stripes a la Hildy in His Girl Friday, or hound's-tooth tailoring in the style of Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not.

This 40s-style Rhea dress from Lindy Bop is perfect for putting some charm and quips back into office life. And, it's almost retro prices too, at only £29.99. I haven't, sadly, found you a matching hat. If you have more cash to splash, it's worth looking out for original tailoring that still retains its original sass. Lilli Ann is an US label that made gorgeous suits in the forties, such as this stunning one from Palette London.

Tess McGill in Working Girl (1988)
The eighties is known for taking some of the styles of the forties and blowing them up to ridiculous proportions, so it's not that much of a jump to go from forties tailoring to eighties power dressing courtesy of Working Girl. Personally, I don't find that much romance in a shoulder pad, so let's admire another eighties classic which is date appropriate - the cocktail dress.

My, a bit of shoulder and a bit of sparkle, doesn't Tess look lovely? There are many, many eighties cocktail dresses available for not big bucks, and at varying levels of eightiesness.

This Peekaboo Vintage number is little and black but with a softer silhouette than many dresses of the period. Of course, how "serious" you go with your hair is up to you. The dress is £55.

Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman (1990)
The internet is also your oyster if you are after some of Vivian's late eighties/early nineties big frocks too. And there are plenty of her 'working girl' costumes available just a google away too, should that be your thing.

My favourite of her ensembles is the brown and cream polka dot number she wears to the polo, complete with matching hat, gloves, belt, bag: it's a full-on ensemble.

It's a look that can be yours for not very much money at all. This sixties polka dot shift is just £35 from Beyond Retro; a matching bag is £18; while you can pick up a contemporary straw hat for £25.

Juliet in Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Oh god, this scene still makes me go completely gooey. It's no surprise it did wonders for the sales of a) Des'ree b) fish tanks and c) angel wings in the mid nineties.

Juliet's dress is beautiful in its simplicity. This sixties strappy dress from Love Miss Daisy evokes a similar sense of innocence. It's £55. You can pick up your angel wings here.

Andie Anderson in How to Lose A Guy in Ten Days (2003)

Forgettable film but this is one of the best film frocks of more recent years. But, sigh, who other than Kate Hudson can pull off that shade of yellow?

I'm proposing this golden yellow dress from Darlings Vintage on Etsy for mere mortals - it's a much more flattering shade to pull off. And what this dress lacks in slink, it makes up for in fifties fitting - it will hold you together even if you are falling apart - at least until the inevitable kiss and make up. 

And that's all folks. As the credits roll and we sniffle our way out of the cinema stalls, let me know your favourite romantic heroine - especially if they have a nice line in frocks.


  1. In all of my years of searching, that Juno dress is the closest I've seen to Deborah Kerr's (I go through this every single time I watch the film). I'm constantly surprised there aren't more versions anywhere to be found, it's total chiffon happiness.

    1. It's amazing. I'd like a jaunty chevron hat a la His Girl Friday so much. Alas, still to unearth that one!


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