The Fashion of Fred and Ginger's Characters.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had to be two of the most stylish people to be captured on celluloid. Impressively, their fabulous looks weren't always the result of the studio's wardrobe department -- Rogers and Astaire were both fashion-conscious and took particular care in their style, on the screen and off. Not only did the team become famous for their dancing, they also became icons through their look. I'm pretty sure the universal sign for the duo is a man in top hat and tails and a woman in a feather-covered dress.

If Fred had had his way, though, those tails wouldn't have been a part of the equation. In his 1959 autobiography Steps in Time, he recalled how fond he was of doing films that put him in military uniforms, saying "Some people objected to me in these [military] outfits, thinking I should always be decked out in those damned tails, I guess, but I liked it." Fred's personal fashion sense was well-known in Hollywood, with impeccably-dressed stars such as Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra praising the dancer's consummate style. My favorite look of Astaire's is when he would wear a scarf as a belt for his slacks, something he did on film and in real life. His socks were always perfect complements to his outfit, too.

Besides being influential in the world of musical film, Astaire was also highly regarded in the fashion world -- indeed, he still is today, with designers such as Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger still trying to emulate his style. Most of the clothes you see on Fred were picked by the man himself. After all, he had to make sure he could move in them and not be restricted. Fred's style is so amazing that it actually caused Forbes male fashion editor G. Bruce Boyer to write a book on the subject! You can find it here.

When it came to his partners' dresses, Fred wrote in his autobiography that he isn't concerned with the style of the dress, but rather how it reacts to the dance. "Girls love to wear slacks when learning or rehearsing a dance," he said. "Ginger always wore them for rehearsal. In fact, Hermes [Pan] and I were so used to seeing Ginger on the rehearsal stage in slacks that one day when she showed up in a dress, we didn't know who she was." He then goes on to explain how important it is to consider his partner's costume when preparing to film the numbers. "If the gown happens to be very full at the hem, for instance, it automatically becomes 'our' dress instead of just my partner's, as it wraps around my feet, causing no end of trouble and hindrance to both of us. If it is too tight, the lady cannot negotiate the routined movement, necessitating an alteration of the choreography or a splitting of the skirt."

As for Ginger, she typically had a huge hand in her costumes. She would oversee what the studio designers made for her and she loved going over what materials would be used and what colors they had in mind. Ginger's autobiography My Story is full of these details, which is a treat since all of her films with Fred, except for one, were in black and white, leaving some of these things unknown to us. Besides her stunning wardrobe in these movies, Rogers also made her mark in fashion history with the "Kitty Foyle dress," popularized by her character in 1940's Kitty Foyle. Much later in her career, Rogers would become a fashion consultant and spokeswoman for JC Penney, creating a total of twenty pieces for 700 stores across the U.S. In addition to that, she had her own clothing factory in Rock Island, Tennessee for her lingerie label, Formfit Rogers.

(Since I'm discussing clothes here, prepare for lots of giant photos below!)


Flying Down to Rio (1933)
Designer: Walter Plunkett
Fred and Ginger weren't household names yet, but it seems like it only took one film to change that: their first pairing, Flying Down to Rio. They absolutely steal the show, despite having only one number together. (Clearly, RKO didn't know what they had on their hands yet.) That number, "The Carioca," set in motion a historic partnership, but it's also just a really good musical moment. The fashion is pure Thirties, particularly Ginger's. Her dress for "The Carioca" is wonderful for dancing; although it looks like it would stay hugging Ginger's body, the lifts and twirls of the number demonstrate that it is perfect for spinning, as it flares out and then goes back to clinging to Rogers. It comes with a matching veiled hat, jacket, and gloves too.

Fred's look has always been timeless, at least to me. The man knew how to wear a suit, a tuxedo, even a dressing robe (as we'll soon see). FDTR was his second film, yet he already had his style and persona all figured out. I don't think this ever changed, unless the role really required it, like it did towards the end of his career. I have to admit, though, that I hate the third outfit here -- that sweater just doesn't work for me.

Another signature Astaire accessory: the boater hat. Besides Harold Lloyd and William Holden in Sabrina, I think Fred was the only man who could pull off this hat.

 At the end of the film, Ginger and Fred scheme up a performance that is absolutely bonkers and involves scantily-clad women dancing on planes in the air. It's so insane, and Ginger's character is given this shiny aviatrix outfit, complete with cap, goggles, and flared-out gloves:

The Gay Divorcee (1934)
Designer: Walter Plunkett
Being the first true Astaire/Rogers flick, The Gay Divorcee sets up what would become the basic formula for the narratives, the casts, and the fashion to come. Unsurprisingly, Fred embodies the elegant sophisticate:

He's so cute trying to pick out what tie to wear. And check out his scarf-belt:

Interestingly enough, it's a wardrobe malfunction that sparks the story since it's what introduces our leading man to his leading lady. Helping her aunt to re-pack her messy suitcases at the train station, Ginger gets her dress caught in one and repeatedly calls for a porter to aid her, drawing Fred's attention. It's quite funny to see Ginger squirm and try to keep her pulled-up dress from showing her knees; it's not exactly a situation we would see as mortifying as she does, but back then, wearing long skirts was de rigeur.

After tearing her dress in his heroic effort to free Ginger, Fred offers his raincoat to cover the rip. When Ginger says she'll mail it back to him, he spends days eagerly awaiting the package, hoping she'll leave a note or an address where he can reach her. She doesn't, but our man is nothing if not persistent.

I had to take two photos of this outfit -- it's ruffles galore!

I never paid much attention to this next outfit since it's only in this short scene, but it's an interesting choice:

Finally, we get to our first duet of the film. Ruffles are becoming a theme here... And look at how well they match her hair! This also won't be the last time you see a low back on Ginger's dress. It was said that the actress had a very flexible back, meaning she could do all of those deep backbends and dips without much trouble. Designers for these films with Fred seemed to pick up on that because they frequently gave her gowns low backs, sometimes at Ginger's own request.

Ginger's negligee is so fancy, I'm pretty sure it counts as a dress:

Time for "The Continental!" The fringe-like stuff on Ginger's shoulders always amuses me.

LOOK AT HER MATCHING HEADBAND. This woman doesn't mess around.

Look at this skirt action!

Rogers's dressing gown, and the contrasting polka dots and stripes of Erik Rhodes:

You only get to see these outfits for a minute, but they're still fantastic. I love how Ginger's skirt flares out, and those shoes are magnificent:

Roberta (1935)
Designer: Bernard Newman
Although they had proven they were successful as the leading man and lady, Astaire and Rogers were put back in supporting roles for their third film, Roberta. Again, they're the best part about the movie, and RKO knew to give them more than one number like they did in FDTR. Since Roberta is about a fashion house in Paris, obviously clothes are pretty important. Ginger loved her role in this one because she got to do a fun accent and because Bernard Newman was her favorite designer. She praised his clothes for Roberta as "exceptionally clever and handsome."

This gold lamé dress was actually owned by Ginger; she had bought it for her trousseau when she married Lew Ayres in 1934. It was the first time she wore a piece of personal clothing onscreen.

For rehearsal clothes, Ginger wears this fantastic blouse with a bow and flared-out pants, which I think are made out of satin. (Side note: isn't satin a little hot for dancing rehearsal?) A little later, Ginger wears a buttoned jacket that matches the pants. It almost looks like a different outfit for a second.

Here's Fred in his rehearsal clothes, which include two-toned shoes, striped socks (!), and that scarf-for-a-belt I was talking about earlier. Swoon!

For the film's finale, both the fashion and the dancing reach its high-point, as Fred and Ginger help Irene Dunne stage a big show. There are lots of interesting gowns, but honestly, the best one can be found on who else but Ginger. She enters in a fur-accented, floor-length coat, and struts over to Fred, who helps to remove her coat. Her dress is brilliant in its simplicity, with only a diamond brooch in the front to embellish it. The cut in the back adds some excitement, too, as well as the gorgeous headpiece. "Men always commented on that gown," Rogers said. "Indeed, I never met a man who didn't like that dress."

The dress looks beautiful as Ginger dances, and it moves fantastically, especially when the tempo speeds up:

Top Hat (1935)
Designer: Bernard Newman
You know this movie is going to be good for fashion simply because of its title. The fourth of the ten Astaire/Rogers films, Top Hat is the ultimate example of their work.

Astaire's distinguished aesthetic was already signified as his unique look by 1935. The proof lies in the fact that Irving Berlin wrote him a song about his most famous costume: "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails."

Our first glimpse of Ginger is her in a negligee in a satin bed. Can you say "opulence"?

Chasing after Rogers, Astaire switches places with a horse cabbie. He still can't get rid of the top hat, though! (Ironically, Rogers gives him a nickel and advises him to buy a new hat.)

For "Isn't it a Lovely Day," Ginger is seduced not in a breathtaking gown, but in her jodhpurs. The ensuing dance is a great change of pace for the couple, with Ginger dancing alongside Fred and keeping up step for step, even adding in a few fancy ones of her own. If it wasn't clear before, it is now: this is a pairing of equals.

Bows, glitter, and layers, oh my!

If anyone could pull off a bow in her hair, it was Ginger.

I'm almost sad we don't get a dance with this dress. I like to call these kind of sleeves "Ginger sleeves" because she often wore them, and not just with Fred. They might be my favorite part of this look.

Matching carnations!

And now, the dress we've all been waiting for! When it came time to design the dress for "Cheek to Cheek," Ginger became particularly excited, telling Bernard Newman she wanted something in the kind of blue you would find in a Monet painting. "It's funny to be discussing color when you're making a black-and-white film," Rogers confessed,"but the tone had to be harmonious." The resulting gown was exactly what Ginger had envisioned when she described it to Newman, complete with $1,500 worth of long ostrich feathers. As soon as it came through the soundstage, though, it started causing problems.

Normally, Fred would have his partner wear her costume before it was time to film to ensure that everything would go smoothly, but the sewing of the feathers was still being done so it wouldn't be ready until the day of shooting. Before Ginger even put the gown on, director Mark Sandrich came to her dressing room and asked her to wear a previous dress from The Gay Divorcee instead. Ginger knew people would remember the old dress, and besides, it had become soiled and stretched from being on a hanger. Sensing a battle, she called her mother, Lela, a woman infamous around Hollywood for being a tough cookie.

According to Ginger, Sandrich brought ten executives to the set to try to change her mind, but Lela advised her to just walk off the set, forcing Sandrich to agree to one rehearsal in the gown. Ginger knew it wasn't the director who had a problem with the dress -- after all, he had to approve the sketch before it was ever made. No, the real person who didn't like it was Fred. "I was determined to wear this dress, come hell or high water," Ginger wrote. She believed that it added to the dance and she wasn't going to budge. Nobody on the set wanted to side with her, though, and for two days she was given the cold shoulder.
Now, in Fred's book, he never mentions this struggle between "Gin" and Sandrich, instead writing that he saw the sketch of the dress and thought it looked nice. It wasn't until they started dancing that he detected an issue, claiming that "feathers started to fly as if a chicken had been attacked by a coyote. ... I had feathers in my eyes, my ears, my mouth, all over the front of my suit..." After a few takes, the amount of feathers that fell off the dress amazed Astaire, who admitted that it became funny after a while. He and co-choreographer Hermes Pan even created their own parody of the lyrics to "Cheek to Cheek" for the occasion:
Feathers -- I hate feathers
And I hate them so that I can hardly speak,
And I never find the happiness I seek
With those chicken feathers dancing
Cheek to cheek.

Fred also nicknamed Ginger "Feathers," which I think is kinda cute. A few days after the incident, he sent her a gold feather for her charm bracelet with the note "Dear Feathers, I love ya! Fred." I'm just glad the dress was kept. It's easily one of the most iconic images of cinematic history, and Fred would later reenact the dress-shedding episode with Judy Garland for comedic effect in Easter Parade.

I'm pretty sure this outfit is supposed to be a pair of pajamas, but a few minutes later, Ginger wears them in public, so maybe not.

I thought getting a screenshot of the feathery dress would be hard -- um, no! This simple, sparkling number was the most difficult thing to photograph. Don't ask me why. If you ever find yourself at the Smithsonian Museum, you can see this dress in person!

Follow the Fleet (1936)
Designer: Bernard Newman
No tails for Fred in this one! Well, almost. As "Bake" Baker, the dancer traded in his monkey suit for a sailor suit for the majority of the film, going against the usual Astaire persona. Playing an entertainer and Bake's old partner, Ginger initially complements Fred's outfit with a shiny sailor suit of her own, seen below:

Follow the Fleet finds our duo more relaxed than normal. They're supposed to be ordinary folks, with no high-paying jobs or fancy threads, as demonstrated by their rehearsal clothes for "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket":

The studio couldn't have their stars be totally casual, however. While Ginger gets a nice gown or two, nothing compares to her superb beads-and-fur creation in the film's finale, paired so familiarly with Fred's tails. It looks great, but as you may have heard, Ginger's costume didn't thrill Fred. In my post for Follow the Fleet, I wrote this about the infamous dress, starting with Fred's recollection of the event:

"Ginger came up with a beaded gown which was surely designed for anything but dancing. I saw it before shooting of the number started, and I tried a
few steps with Ginger. It was a good-looking dress but very heavy, I thought -- one solid mass of beads. ... When Ginger did a quick turn, the sleeves, which must have weighed a few pounds each, would fly -- necessitating a quick dodge by me. If I didn't duck I'd get the sleeve in the face. After a few rehearsals with this creation, I thought I had mastered the menace. When shooting of the number started, things went smoothly in the first take for about fifteen seconds. Then Ginger gave out with some special kind of a twist and I got the flying sleeve smack on the jaw and partly in the eye. I kept on dancing, although somewhat maimed."

When the dance was over, Astaire admitted to the director and Ginger that he couldn't even remember it, that's how dazed he was. He wanted another take, the second of many because none of them satisfied everyone. They all agreed to reconvene the next day, but it was unnecessary. Looking at the rushes the following morning, "the #1 take was perfect. It was the one we all liked best. The haymaker I got from Ginger's sleeve didn't show a bit. I was astounded."
Ginger had problems with the dress as well, writing that "the weight of the skirt would flare out and slap me, throwing me off balance. I had to learn to steel myself against the onslaught of the 'third person' in our dance, my dress." (And in case you were wondering, this particular dress was pale blue.)

One of the more interesting costumes Ginger wears in any of her films is her fringed, yet shimmery piece for the only solo performance she did in her movies with Astaire. I can't say I like it, but it does intrigue me:

Two more looks from Ginger:

Harriet Hilliard, in my opinion, gets the better clothes here. I absolutely love some of the gowns she wears, especially these two:

Swing Time (1936)
Designer: Edward Stevenson
Like The Gay Divorcee, this movie kicks off with a fashion situation -- Fred's pants. Wanting to keep their pal Fred from making it to his wedding, his friends/fellow dancers convince him that his trousers are a major fashion faux pas because they're missing cuffs. He believes them and while waiting for the pants to be outfitted with cuffs, he winds up missing the wedding. To make it up to his bride and her stern father, he pretends he has a new, highly lucrative job in New York that will prove he isn't a deadbeat. Once there, however, he meets a certain blonde.

I never noticed this before, but check out the little bow in the small of Ginger's back:

Before I go any further, let's get the problematic costume out of the way: Fred in blackface. I'm never okay with this kind of appropriating of another race. It's disturbing and insanely wrong. While I don't think Fred ever meant it to be malicious, given that it's a tribute to black dancers Bill Robinson and John W. Bubbles, two men he greatly admired, it's still not something I agree with. I understand the context and its place in our culture at the time, and Astaire's dancing here is superb, but still.

My favorite song is "The Way You Look Tonight," and one of my favorite movie moments is when Fred sings it to Ginger. It's an adorable scene, made all the more unique because our duo isn't dressed to the nines, thanks to Fred catching Ginger as she washes her hair. (Question: how come this never happens to me when I wash my hair?) It's an interesting way to show that Ginger's character is letting her guard down and she is becoming closer to Fred. I mean, she's still horrified when he turns around and sees her, but it's a start.

Ginger's dresses for her big dances with Astaire continually awe me. They look extraordinary on her, and when she is in motion, the dresses seem to suddenly gain a superpower -- it's unreal how amazing they look as she moves. For "The Waltz in Swing Time" number, Ginger again designed her own gown, calling it her "dream" dress: "The pink organza panels had a one-inch ruffle falling from the center like rose leaves forming a rosette. The top of the dress was very tailored, with thirty self-covered buttons. When I put it on, I wanted to turn and whirl in it. Dresses always affected me that way. I can never emphasize enough how important clothing was to me." This one even comes with a cape that magically flattens her voluminous sleeves:

Ugh, these two are so perfect. Just look at them in their winter gear, all cozy. Fred actually kept this coat and years later, he gave it to his daughter Ava's husband. It wasn't some grand gesture, if that's what you're thinking -- Fred just had it sitting in the closet, he knew his son-in-law needed it, and he gave it to him without fanfare. As you can tell, Fred wasn't exactly sentimental about his films.

Another cape-clad gown:

Get ready for some of my proudest screenshots:

Circling back to the beginning of the film, Fred wins Ginger by making her fiance look ridiculous, tricking him with the old "no cuffs?!" gag. It's a goofy way to end the narrative, but really, who cares?

Shall We Dance (1937)
Designer: Irene
For the only time in his career, Fred portrays a ballet dancer, a serious artist who discovers tap at the beginning of the film and falls in love with it and with Ginger's tap-dancing star, Linda Keene. I may or may not giggle at Fred's ballet outfit:

But soon all is right again:

Here, Fred's ballet outfit from the beginning is modified slightly with a shiny top and looser-fitting pants. It's like the top half is Ballet and the lower half is Tap Dance, exemplifying Fred's character's association with both. This moment comes from the finale, which is a retelling of the relationship between Fred and Ginger throughout the movie. Playing herself, dancer Harriet Hoctor is supposed to represent the man-eating ballerina who comes between Fred and Ginger. Interestingly, though, she is wearing a dress that is reminiscent of Ginger's feather-accented dress in Top Hat.

Playing a well-to-do entertainer, Rogers gets plenty of excellent clothes, such as this shimmering dress paired with a luxurious fur coat. Notice the sparkling fringe that drapes from the waist and the high slit in the middle. This isn't The Gay Divorcee anymore, although it's just three years later.

Traveling by ship to New York gives Ginger lots of little scenes and therefore lots of outfits.

Back on land, we again get a multitude of different costumes.

When Ginger and Fred are hounded by the press at their hotel, they roam the city incognito until the paparazzi give up and decide to leave. I love their sunglasses, but I do have to wonder why Ginger's Linda Keene chose to wear a shirt that has her initials "LK" embroidered right on the front...

"They Can't Take That Away From Me" has to be one of the most romantic scenes in any of the Astaire/Rogers films. Like "The Way You Look Tonight," the number is pared down to just Fred singing the song to Ginger, with a minimal, foggy background and the camera close to make it intimate enough so your focus is on the song and nothing else (besides Ginger's sublime reaction shots). Here, the clothes are as simple as they get, Rogers's fur coat (the same one from earlier?) covering any marvelous gown that could distract us.

For the finale, Ginger surprises Fred and comes on stage, wearing this dress that somewhat recalls the one from the finale of Roberta.

Carefree (1938)
Designer: Howard Greer
Ginger's clothes in this film are magnificent. It easily ranks as one of my favorite movie wardrobes. There are beautiful floppy hats, ridiculously matching purses, and one lovely, bedazzled snood. Playing Amanda Cooper, Ginger even wears shorts with the letter "A" stitched on them!

For the film's first dance, Ginger dreams of a romantic interlude with Fred in a fairy tale-like setting, with giant lily pads and a castle in the distance. Ginger's dress absolutely floats, and her hair ribbon looks adorable. While the number was supposed to be in color (hence the song "I Used to Be Colorblind"), it was deemed too expensive. But I don't mind when everything else is so marvelous.

Carefree allows Ginger to be the pursuer, and it's great fun to see her in action. There is no shortage of funny faces, for one thing.

Similar to her dress for "I Used to Be Colorblind," Rogers's dress for "The Yam" is made to float on the air. Meanwhile, the top of it is decorated with sparkling gems.

My #1 pick for best outfit in Carefree is right here:

Lastly, we have this incredible wedding dress:

The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939)
Designer: Walter Plunkett
I would argue that next to Roberta, or maybe even more so, this film is the most fashion-centric of all of the Astaire/Rogers films. Vernon and Irene Castle were real dancers in the beginning of the 20th century, and their influence on the culture at the time was pretty big. As the movie shows us, their fame prompted all sorts of branding, from Castle Bon-Bons to an instructional book on dancing to fashion copies of Irene's latest outfits.

Let's look at some of Fred's outfits first, though. For the most part, Fred is dressed as his usual dapper self. Example:

However, there are a couple of touches that remind the audience that this film is taking place in the 1910's, such as this striped jacket:

And this costume that recalls what men wore when they drove the early automobile models:

Vernon had joined the military at the news of WWI, and he was assigned to be a fighter pilot:

Irene Castle was still living when the movie was made and since it was based on her stories My Husband and My Memories of Vernon Castle, Irene was made a consultant... and promptly drove everyone nuts. Understandably, she wanted things to be as authentic and true-to-life as possible, but Hollywood wasn't interested in depicting the facts exactly how they happened. Ginger got the brunt of Irene's rants, particularly her costumes since Mrs. Castle was very well-known for her fashion back in the day.

One of my favorite looks from this film is this one below. The way it's lit in the third picture here is so lovely:

Now we're starting to get into Irene's more flashy costumes:

Ginger's suit looks simple enough, but some of the details are interesting (and those shoes!):

I'm just impressed with the pockets here. I'm a sucker for a dress or skirt with pockets.

One of the real Irene's trademarks was her Dutch cap, as seen on Ginger here:

The Castles popularized many dances, such as the foxtrot and their own Castle Walk. Other dances became known as specialties for the team, such as the tango Fred and Ginger dance below. Fred's outfit cracks me up.

Ginger poses as the reporters take note of the latest Irene Castle creation:

I'm pretty sure this...

is supposed to be a replication of Irene's outfit here:

I hope no real animals were harmed in the making of this gown:

Another Dutch cap! And as a bonus, below you can find a photo of the actual outfit on Irene:

Fred's fashion could be so subtly bold. Here, his vest, shirt, and maybe his tie are all contrasting patterns:

This dress caused a problem on the set when Irene noticed that Ginger's shoes had silver ribbons instead of being gray like they were when Irene wore the original. In her book, Ginger admitted that she had asked the costume department to change to silver so it would look better on-camera. You'll notice in these photos that Ginger got her way. "I wasn't an Irene Castle clone any more than Fred was a carbon copy of Vernon," Rogers wrote. "We were just emulating them. I was doing my 'imitation' of Irene, and Fred was doing his conception of Vernon. Fred got off the hook because Irene focused all her attention on me!"

The original:

After all that glamour and fanciness, I'll end this section with Fred and Ginger in gorgeous dressing gowns:

The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
Designer: Irene
Ten years after playing Vernon and Irene Castle, Astaire and Rogers came together to portray another showbiz duo: the fictional Josh and Dinah Barkley. A fun, nostalgic send-off to one of cinema's best teams, The Barkleys of Broadway finally gives us Technicolor, adding another element to the costumes. Knowing audiences had been waiting to see Fred and Ginger back together, the film wastes no time in giving us what we want, with Fred in tails and Ginger in gold lamé, which she had picked out herself.

This shot reminds me of their snuggling in the snow in Swing Time:

Ginger's glittering dress was harder to take a screenshot of than I expected. I also can't get over the sheer amount of hair piled on her head. Who wants to take bets on how much of it is real?

Doesn't Fred look cute in her coat?

In the next scene, back at their home, Josh and Dinah change out of their fancy duds into PJ's. I love this scene because it demonstrates their impeccable chemistry beautifully, but I also enjoy seeing the couple "de-glamorize," which really isn't a thing in old Hollywood. Just look at Fred's suspenders and how they match Ginger's robe!

Don't you just adore how dressy rehearsal clothes seemed to be back then? And to make it even better, Ginger is wearing a scarf for a belt, as is Fred! Dreams really do come true. Also, Ginger's look here, minus the loose hair, recalls her rehearsal outfit in Roberta.

The flashes of bright green in this suit are brilliant:

I bet you never knew you needed to see Fred Astaire in a kilt before this.

Notice how red, white, and tan connects the three characters here:

I'm not sure I like this outfit, but I do love the shoes. I'm also puzzled about what is hanging from her waist. I'm assuming it's a watch of some kind...?

Fred's casual golfing look, which might very well be what he actually wore when he went golfing in real life:

I kind of want Ginger's red reading glasses:

I included these next two photos because 1) you get a better look at Ginger's blouse and 2) you get to see their characters' hilarious publicity shot, taken while arguing under their breath.

Green galore!

Desiring to be a serious dramatic actress, Dinah's colorful clothing suddenly becomes gray and business-like for a little bit, signalling that she is trying to leave behind her musical comedy roots.

Can we all agree that Fred looks handsome in practically everything?

In every Astaire/Rogers film, there is the one Important Dance, which also means there is the one Important Gown. Reprised from Shall We Dance, "They Can't Take That Away From Me" gives us both of those things.

Dinah's Sarah Bernhardt costume for her dramatic debut:

Here, Ginger trades her gold, polka-dotted robe for this striped one with shades of green and purple. Her bright red nails are toned down to a light pink, too, which matches her dress in the next scene:

I cannot get over how much hair Ginger is toting. It sort of distracts me from her blush pink gown, especially when  you notice the diamond piece put in her hairstyle.

Surprisingly, Fred's tuxedo isn't pure black, but midnight blue with black lapels. I couldn't get a good shot of it, but his pant legs have a black stripe going down them as well. This might be the most unconventional tux I can remember Fred wearing.

After going through all ten films, and thinking about his other films, another staple of Fred's wardrobe appears to be a carnation in his lapel. It's certainly true in this movie, and it always adds a little pop of color to his clothing.


Rogers and Astaire's style cemented their team persona as classy, elegant stars, while also sticking closely to their own personal appearance. More importantly, their clothes complemented their dancing flawlessly, matching the mood and the type of music superbly. In addition to that, the fashion had to be practical and still look incredible.

If you'd like to read more from me about Fred and Feathers, you can check out my personal ranking of their films here, my list of what I like about their pairings here, and the story of how the duo came to be here.

With love,


This is my contribution to the Characters in Costume Blogfest. You can check out the other entries here.


  1. Wow, this was sensational! I loved all the images and really appreciate how much time you put into everything. I never realized just how central fashion and their appearance was in all their films, even how often it was part of the plot.

    I confess I now have a rather overwhelming desire to go back and watch each and every one of these films again. I loved reading all your comments and analysis of the different costumes and the little details of their clothes. It was interesting to see how many ruffles and bows Ginger Rogers wore. Usually, I tell people I don't care for ruffles and bows, but on her it looks great. You're right - no one could wear a bow quite like her.

    Your post also demonstrates that Ginger Roger must have had one of the most expressive faces ever in history! :)

    Thanks so much for joining in the blogfest!

    1. Thank you! It felt a little daunting when I first picked this topic -- there are 10 films, after all -- but it became so much fun to do. I also want to go and watch all of these films again. Buzzing through them to get screenshots was almost sacrilegious.

      Good point about Ginger's expressions! Sometimes I think we take for granted how good she was. The audience never loses sight of her character, despite her being paired with Astaire, the king of charisma.

  2. This is fantastic!! You make me want to watch all the ones I haven't seen, plus rewatching the old favorites. (And yes, Fred does look great in almost everything...except perhaps sweaters by themselves, which tend to hug his slender frame. He looks better in other garments, I think.)

    And the comment about "our dress" is absolutely true. Such full-hemmed skirts can get between the wearer's legs, to say nothing of one's partner.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Thanks for having me! I think you're right about Fred and sweaters; he doesn't quite have the body type for it. Actually, after FDTR, I don't think we ever see a sweater on him again...

  3. Wow! What a great post! Gotta admit some of Ginger's dresses are a bit over the top (to modern eyes anyway) but wouldn't it have been just lovely to wear something floaty and feminine and dance with Fred! I really want to spend the afternoon watching one of the films now...

    1. I agree about Ginger's costumes. I'm not too fond of her wardrobe in Roberta, for example, but she always looked fabulous in the clothes. Some people say that part of the reason why she was Fred's best partner was because she made it look like it was fun to dance with him, and I think it's true. She acted perfectly while they danced.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. Well, people certainly knew how to dress in the 30s! Awesome post Michaela :)

  5. I learned so much reading this! And I loved all your screenshots. :) I also would love to emulate Fred's style because menswear is awesome. I never even knew he used to do that with scarves.

    I don't know if you've seen the Orry-Kelly doc, Women He's Undressed, but it really made me appreciate movie fashion a lot more. And your post reminded me of it, because of how important the clothes were to the plots and characters, and how very important they were to both Fred and Ginger. Ginger's comment about how emphasizing how important they were reminded me of Audrey, who said clothes often gave her the confidence she needed. And you know the great thing about Ginger doing everything backwards and in high heels is even more pronounced when you think about those dresses! Ack, it kinda blows my mind to think of it. Movie magic I guess!

    1. I just saw that Orry-Kelly documentary yesterday! I liked that they singled out certain movies and costumes to show how important it is. It can be easy to think that clothes are just there to make the actors look beautiful, but they're a critical element to the movie in terms of characterization and the plot. Ginger and Audrey were both highly aware of this, as were many other actresses. Plus, it was imperative to them that they felt great in what they wore in order to do their best job. It's amazing to think of how it all works together.

      Thanks for reading, Simoa!

  6. What a fabulous post about one of the best duos! I really enjoyed reading this and looking through all of your excellent screen caps and images. The outfits Ginger wore throughout those films were really quite magnificent. And I agree completely on those shoes in the last photo from The Gay Divorcee, they are to die for! Anyway, I really liked this post and even learned quite a few new things.

    1. Thank you! This post is easily one of my favorite things I've written. Some of the details I pointed out were actually new to me, despite countless viewings of these films. Taking screenshots and looking them over really brings things to your attention.

  7. I am so behind with everything, but I remember when you mentioned this post! Fred's style is just effortless, and I don't think I ever noticed the scarf-as-a-belt detail before. I love it!! I haven't seen Roberta yet, but I am now completely SMITTEN over Ginger's rehearsal outfit. Also, her outfit and Fred's uniform in Follow the Fleet are tooo cute together, and I adore the "Isn't This a Lovely Day" scene in Top Hat. I just realized that all of my favorite Ginger outfits have her wearing trousers, but what can I say? She totally rocks them.

    A most excellent post!

    1. Thank you! I often love it when Ginger wears trousers, too. Not only does she look wonderful, but it frequently meant that she would be dancing alongside Fred and doing the same moves as him -- I'm all for that. So glad you stopped by!


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