Words by Emily B
One of the best parts of our job is discovering what vintage gems are going into the shop. As we unpack carefully selected and prepared stock, knowing that every piece is different, well it’s a bit like Christmas; it’s very exciting and there has certainly been some surprises!
What captivates us are the stories embodied within each piece. The clothes are a snapshot into a bygone era while also leaving us guessing about the people who once wore them. I suppose we are caught somewhere in the middle of being hopeless romantics and lovers of nostalgia, but leaving enough room for simply appreciating good design. So when the British Film Institute (BFI) and St Cyr partnered for the Starring Barbara Stanwyck season it had us swooning over her silver screen iconography and those costumes by top Hollywood designer Edith Head.
Starring Barbara Stanwyck Season
The season will show an array of classic Stanwyck films at the BFIs Southbank location, including The Lady Eve (1941). It was this film that cemented the Stanwyck-Head working relationship with Stanwyck quoted as saying
‘From then on I had Edith Head’s name written into every contract, no matter what studio I was working for’.Austin Film Society
Preston Sturges’s inventive screwball comedy presented Stanwyck the perfect opportunity to show off her exceptionally good talents, by playing two wildly different characters: con artist Jean Harrington and aristocrat Lady Eve Sidwich. Pulling off this double performance was only deemed possible with the help of Head and her visionary threads.
‘Stanwyck elegantly drifts from Jean to Eve while draped in Edith’s marvellous costumes and spouting out the kind of lines only Sturges knew how to write’.
‘Stanwyck insisted to producer Samuel Goldwyn that Edith Head be commissioned to create her costumes and, years later, would continue to request that Edith be loaned out to work for Warner Bros. Though these later collaborations produced interesting and certainly worthwhile designs, their initial work on The Lady Eve remains the benchmark for what can be done when comedy, charisma, and craftsmanship are blended to such perfection that anything seems possible.’AustinAustin Film Society
It was a pivitol moment for Stanwyck and Head.
For Stanwyck, an already top ranking movie star, it was her first high fashion picture as well as being her biggest transition in costuming, with Head describing her previous roles as ‘plain Jane’. The Lady Eve saw her wow the screen as a style icon with Head opting for Spanish motifs on much of Stanwyck’s wardrobe.
‘Barbara looked sensational in poncho and serape styles… She was so sexy in the clothes that suddenly Latin American fashions swept the country’.Edith Head
As for Head, she went on to win a record eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, starting with The Heiress (1949) and ending with The Sting (1973). Ginger Rogers, Bette Davis, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Elizabeth Taylor are some of the other leading female stars she worked with throughout the ‘forties and ‘fifties. She also became a recognisable personality in her own right thanks to her distinctive personal style including her signature glasses. And somewhat surprisingly Head only liked to wear four colours herself: black, white, beige and brown. Allegedly she was behind the inspiration for the character Edna Mode in The Incredibles!
Starring Barbara Stanwyck season is now on at the BFI Southbank until 21 March. The season will include a BFI re-release of one of Stanwyck’s best-loved films The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941), as well as other classics such as Stella Dallas (King Vidor, 1937) and Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944). To enjoy two tickets for the price of one simply quote STANWYCK241 when booking on line, in person or over the phone.
You too can recreate your own Hollywood glamour with some of our vintage jewellery here