Film Fashion Fridays: 9. Judy Holliday’s Black Dress with a Polka Dot Jacket in “Born Yesterday” from 1950

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Hello, ladies and gentlemen! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to publish a Breening Thursday article yesterday. However, I’m back today with an entry in one of our other weekly series, Film Fashion Fridays. Every week, I choose an outfit from a movie, describe its various components, and provide links to similar products on Amazon so that you, my readers, can create your own vintage, film-inspired fashion! For the past three weeks, due to blogathon-participation, I have written about gentlemen’s fashion. It has helped to redress the balance of a surplus of article on ladies’ fashion. Now, I am not participating in a blogathon this weekend, and it is time for another article on a woman’s outfit.

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Today is Judy Holliday’s birthday. This classic comedienne and very talented Columbia actress would have been ninety-eight today. Happy Birthday, Judy! Although no blogathon is being hosted to celebrate this anniversary, I am honoring her birth by choosing an outfit she wore as the topic of today’s article. I decided to write about one of the costumes she wore in her Academy Award-winning performance as Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday from 1950. Although not her first film, it was her first role as a leading lady, and it made her a star. In fact, it was the greatest achievement in her film career.

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As the ditsy “fiancee” of an oafish junk racketeer (Broderick Crawford) who turns into a bookish thinker after he hires a handsome reporter (William Holden) to educate her, Judy wears some very glamorous and very beautiful clothes. After the reporter, Paul Verrall, encourages her to start reading, she wears glasses to improve her “not so hot” eyesight. The outfit I have chosen to describe today is the first ensemble with which Paul sees her new spectacles.

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The basis of this outfit is a straight black dress. It’s about mid-calf length. It has a scoop neckline. We can’t see the sleeves under her jacket, but they couldn’t be longer than elbow-length. She is wearing a black patent leather belt at the waist. It may or may not be attached to the dress. The dress complements Billie’s voluptuous figure, but it isn’t too tight. Judy Holliday was not the thinnest lady, but her fuller figure looks very attractive in this outfit.  

The above dress from Amazon would be a good one to wear with this outfit. It is described as a 1950s Vintage Short Sleeve Pleated Pencil Dress. The skirt seems to be about the right length. It has a similar neckline level, but the neckline is pleated and gathered rather than plain like Billie’s. The dress has short sleeves, which will not interfere with the jacket. The dress is form-fitting, designed to show the hourglass figure which was popular in the 1950s. It comes with a slim black belt, which further accentuates the waist. This dress’s material is 65% rayon, 30% cotton, and 5% spandex. It costs $29.99-$32.99, depending on what size and color you order. This is a lovely choice for this outfit.

The above dress from Amazon is another excellent choice. It is almost identical to the previous dress, since it comes from the same company. Although the display picture is gray, it also comes in black as well as nine other colors. These two dresses are exactly the same in fabric, style, and price. The only difference is the neckline. Rather than a pleated and gathered neckline, this dress has a flat collar with a bow on the left side. It is very pretty. I think this dress would be lovely in this outfit.


The above dress from Amazon is a good choice for cooler weather. With its 3/4-length sleeves and higher neckline, it would be warmer than the other two options. Since it is from the same company as the previous dresses, it has the same fabric, length, price, belt, and basic design. However, instead of cap sleeves, it has sleeves which reach below the elbow. The neckline is a little higher, and it has a thick stand collar with no additional adornment. Although the neckline is a little different on all of these than on Billie’s dress, all three dresses are very beautiful.

All three dresses come with very thin belts. However, Judy Holliday’s belt is a thick patent leather one with a square buckle. If you prefer a belt like that, you can replace the dress’s existing belt with the above one from Amazon. It is black patent leather. It comes in junior size (26″-34″) or plus size (34″-42″). At $11.99, this is a great value. It would look lovely over any of these three dresses!

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What really gives this outfit style is the black jacket with white polka dots that Billie wears over her dress. It looks like it is satin. The jacket has loose, elbow-length sleeves. It ends below her hips. It comes in slightly at the waist and flairs below that. It is unfastened in the front to show her figure. The collar is turned over. This is a lovely piece which really gives the outfit pizzazz!


The above jacket from Amazon is the best option for this piece which I could find on Amazon. The polka dots are about the same size as those on Billie’s coat. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any jacket with this pattern which was satin. This garment has stretchable crepe fabric, made of 96% polyester and 4% spandex. It has an open front, it is just longer than the waist, and it flares slightly below the waist. It has gathered, 3/4-length sleeves. The collar is quite similar. This jacket is tighter than the one in the movie because the material is limper. This item is $23.50-$33.98, depending on which size and pattern you order. Although not quite as structured as the jacket in the movie, this is a good choice for this outfit.

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In this scene, Billie wears a small black pillbox hat which sits on the center of her head. On either side of the hat itself, there is a large white flower. From some angles, it almost looks like she has flowery cat ears on her head! This is a very stylish but very unique hat. It fits this classy outfit nicely.

The above hat from Amazon is the closest thing I could find to Billie’s. It is described as a Fascinator Hair Clip Headband Pillbox Hat. It truly seems to be all those things. It is a little black pillbox with a large white flower on it. There is a clip on the underside of it, so you can directly affix it to your hair. It also comes with a removable headband, which you can wear to make it a fascinator. It’s very stylish, and it’s only $11.89! This is definitely the best choice for a hat to be worn with this outfit.

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Billie’s jewelry with this outfit consists of a white pearl necklace and white pearl earrings. The earrings are dangle with a silver piece on the ear and a single white pearl that hangs down. Pearls were very popular in the Golden Age. A strand of pearls was an especially common accessory in the 1950s. It is a very nice accent to any outfit with white polka dots, since the round white gems mirror the white spheres on the pattern. This is very classy jewelry.

The above necklace from Amazon is a string of freshwater pearls. This is just an example of a piece of jewelry which you can buy in any jewelry shop or department store. Perhaps you already have your own string of white pearls. If not, this item, which costs $79.00, is a good value. Below are three pairs of white pearl dangle earrings which are quite similar to those worn by Judy Holliday. They all have freshwater pearls in sterling silver settings. They have different designs, but each reminded me of Billie’s earrings in a different way.

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Billie wears black gloves with this outfit. You can’t really see them in this picture, but, in the pictures before the description of the dress and of the jacket, they are quite visible. They are black, probably satin, and elbow-length. They reach the place where the jacket ends, completely covering her arm. She removes her left glove so that she can eat an ice cream bar in the above scene, but she always keeps the right one on. Below is a pair of elbow-length black satin gloves from Amazon. They look like a good accessory for this and many other outfits. At only $7.99, they’re quite a bargain!

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Billie carries a wristlet clutch with this outfit. You can only see it in the picture I put above the dress section. It is black and very small. We can tell that it is on a wristband because it is suspended from her wrist. It probably is leather. Below are two black leather clutches from Amazon which are small and on a wristband. Either would be a fine accessory to this outfit.

   

No outfit is complete without the right shoes. We never see Billie’s shoes with today’s featured outfit. However, we can assume that she is wearing some sort of black high heels. To get an idea of what sort of black shoes this character wears, let’s look at the shoes she wears with her first outfit in the film. They can be plainly seen in the three above publicity photographs. They are black pumps, and the material looks like suede to me. They have a closed, slightly pointed toe. The heel is quite thin, although not stiletto, and is about three inches tall. These shoes are d’Orsay pumps, meaning they are open on the sides by the arch but closed on the heel and the toe. Below are four black suede d’Orsay pumps from Amazon of varying heel heights. They all look like fine options.

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That concludes my description of this outfit! With a nice black dress, a polka dot jacket, a black pillbox hat with white flowers, pearl jewelry, and black d’Orsay pumps, you can have a beautiful outfit worthy of 1950’s Best Actress! A pair of glasses like Billie’s is optional. However, one thing you can’t forego is the bubbly personality and the thirst for knowledge which Judy Holliday’s character has in this scene. It would look good on ladies of various figures. It is a great tribute to the incomparable Judy Holliday!

If you want to observe Miss Holliday’s style for yourself, I suggest that you purchase the movie and study his outfit firsthand! Click the above image to purchase all Born Yesterday on DVD at Amazon.

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By the way, please join our month-long celebration of Code films, #CleanMovieMonth85! Throughout July, we are going to watch nothing but American Breen Era films, and we are inviting participants to do the same. Writers can join this celebration with articles about their own favorite films and discoveries during the month, and we will republish them on our website. Here’s to 85 years since the formation of the Production Code Administration!

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As a special high-point of our month-long celebration in July, we are hosting a blogathon on the first weekend in July in honor of the formation of the PCA and the twenty wonderful years of decent cinema which followed during Joseph Breen’s tenure. It will be called The Favorite Code Film Blogathon. On July 5-7, participants will choose their single favorite Code films and write about why these movies from the era of film decency were so good. Please join!

Remember, take pictures of yourself in vintage style and send them to me to be featured in a future Film Fashion Fridays article! I will gladly republish your pictures, advice, and experiences in vintage clothing for others to see and read. Let’s make Friday a day for film fashion!

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