Film Fashion Friday 20. Thelma Ritter’s Pencil Dress in “The Model and the Marriage Broker” from 1951; “Character Couture” for The Eight Annual What a Character Blogathon

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Today is Friday. It’s the beginning of another weekend, so that means that it’s time for another Film Fashion Friday article! Every week, I choose a different costume from a Code film and describe how the outfit can be reproduced with clothes from Amazon. A Code film is an American movie made between 1934 and 1954. The purpose of this series is to encourage people to adopt vintage fashion as their style for regular wear. Perhaps you have watched an old movie and admired the clothes the actors wear, leading you to wonder, “Why don’t people dress like that anymore?” The glamorous fashion of yesteryear may not be the most popular trend anymore, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t choose to dress that way. The main rule with modern fashion is anything goes, so vintage fashion goes, too!


This weekend, The 8th Annual What a Character Blogathon is being hosted by Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club, Aurora of Once Upon a Screen, and Kellee Pratt of Outspoken and Freckled. I want to congratulate these hostesses on conducting this fabulous blogathon for so many years in a row! I haven’t been able to participate in this unique event so far, so I am excited about joining with two articles this year. When I saw the announcement for this blogathon, I decided to join with an entry dedicated to the fashion of some classic character actress. After all, in life as in the movies, not everyone can be the leading lady. The cast of the world would not be complete without the character actors and actresses, so they too deserve excellent fashion. These ladies may not be as young or as slender as the starring women, but many of them still displayed lovely outfits. One of the most lovable character actresses is Thelma Ritter, so I decided to write this week’s Film Fashion Friday article about one of her costumes.

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One of my favorite movies with Thelma Ritter is The Model and the Marriage Broker from 1951. In some of her movies, Miss Ritter appears in only a few scenes. In this movie, however, she is truly a supporting character to Jeanne Crain’s role, the leading lady. In fact, although she got third billing in the credits, I would go so far as to say that Thelma Ritter’s role, Mae Swasey, the marriage broker who thinks that getting people together is more than just a business, is the protagonist of this film. Although Jeanne Crain’s role, Kitty Bennett, a pretty young model who becomes friends with Mrs. Swasey through random circumstances, is the romantic leading lady, it is Mrs. Swasey who carries the film. We see her character first, and Kitty starts as just one of the many people whose lives she touches. It’s wonderful to see this talented character actress in a role which really showcases her abilities and charm, as well as her comeliness. Along those lines, let’s look at one of the lovely outfits which she wears in this movie.

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Jeanne Crain and Thelma Ritter in The Model and the Marriage Broker, 1951.

The outfit which I am going to describe today consists of a pencil dress and its accessories. Let’s start by analyzing the dress. Although you can’t see it in any of the pictures I found, the dress reaches below her knees. It is fairly form-fitting, since it is intended to accentuate the figure. It has a material tie at the waistband which creates the hourglass silhouette. The neckline is V-shaped, and the collar is folded over. The neckline is decorated with a scarf, but we will discuss that later. It has capped sleeves. The dress is white with a black print. It is not quite striped, but there are lines on it. Although it is not baggy, notice that this dress does not cling to Thelma’s figure. Be sure to get a dress which is big enough to achieve the proper fit. Let’s see what options Amazon has for such a dress.

The above dress from Amazon is my first option for this dress. It has a V-neckline and cap sleeves, although they are somewhat shorter than Mae’s sleeves. I think the skirt is a little tighter than the one which Thelma Ritter wears in the movie, but the basic design of the dress is very similar. The best thing about it is the material tie at the waist. This was the only dress I could find which featured such a tie. Its material is 65% rayon, 30% cotton, and 5% spandex. In addition to the tie at the waist, it has a zipper up the back, which makes dressing easier. Unfortunately, this dress doesn’t come in any patterns. It does, however, come in many different solid colors, including airy blue, black, blue, brown, burgundy, camel, dark green, gray, harbor blue, merlot, navy blue, olive green, peach, red, yellow, and white. This dress costs $29.99-$32.99, depending on which size and color you choose.

The above dress from Amazon is another good option for this outfit. It has a V-neckline. It also has capped sleeves, which are the same length as those on Thelma Ritter’s dress. This dress is nicely fitted through the torso. It pulls in at the waist, and there is ruching at the side, but there is no actual tie. The material is 95% polyester and 5% spandex, and the dress has a zipper up the back. This dress also does not come in a pattern similar to Mae’s. It comes in red and sea green, as well as dark blue dot. It costs $19.98-$29.98, depending on the size and pattern you order.

The above pencil dress from Amazon is the least similar to the one in the movie in terms of design. While it has capped sleeves, it has an angled neckline rather than a V-neck. It is fitted at the waist, but there is no tie, waistband, or particular styling at the waist. The material is 95% cotton and 5% spandex. I am recommending this dress because it is the only one with a pattern which is similar to the one in the movie. It comes in twenty-five patterns, including the one which is pictured. It is white with black flower and branch designs on it, which looks a lot like the black striped pattern on Thelma Ritter’s dress. This item costs $24.99-$27.99.

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As I mentioned earlier, the neckline of Mae’s dress is accentuated by a scarf. It appears to be a small chiffon scarf. It may be actually attached to the dress, but it could just as easily be a separate scarf which is pinned to the dress to stay in place. It is fastened in the front with a brooch. It looks like it is black. However, if you choose one of the dresses which is a different color, you may want to choose a different accent color. For instance, if you choose the dark blue dot print on the second dress, I recommend a white scarf. There are two options which I found for this sort of scarf.

The above scarf is 100% polyester chiffon. It is semi-transparent. It comes in black, pink, red, purple, fuchsia, hot pink, lemon yellow, orange, polka dot black, polka dot white, turquoise, and white. Its size is 26 in x 26 in. It costs $7.99.


The above scarf from Amazon is another option for the same type of item. It is tulle polyester. It comes in black, blue, fluorescent green, green, light tan, pink, purple, print, and two multi-color prints. You might prefer this scarf over the previous or vice versa because of the color options. Its size is 27.57 in x 27.57 in. It costs $5.99.

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The scarf at Mae’s collar is fastened with a brooch. The brooch appears to be silver with black stones. It is shaped like a flower. Any of the three floral brooches from Amazon which are pictured below are good options with this outfit.


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Thelma Ritter wears a very nice hat with this dress. It is a small white hat with a square crown and a small brim. Its only decoration is a black branch with a flower at the front which bends around the left side of the hat. I searched in vain on Amazon to find a hat like hers. There is absolutely no product sold on the site which is really like this chapeau. This is an unusual type of hat. If such a hat is to be found new anywhere, it would be at a hat store or on a hat website. Other than that, a white pillbox hat is a good substitute. These small, flat hats are similar to the hat which Thelma Ritter wears in this scene. Below are two plain white pillboxes from Amazon. You can go to a craft store to find flowers or other decorations to sew or hot-glue on to them to decorate them like the hat in the movie. Both of the hats pictured below come in other colors. You may want to choose a different shade if you decide on a dress which is a different color.


The right shoes are an important part of every outfit. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any pictures in which Mrs. Swasey’s shoes are visible. However, they can be seen very clearly in one scene in the film. They are black with very low, square heels. They almost are flats. They are D’Orsay shoes, meaning they have closed toes but an open side before the heel. At the heel, there is an ankle tie. It wraps around the ankle twice. They seem to be leather. They are rather unusual shoes to see on a business woman of this era, but they are very cute. Let’s see what similar options Amazon offers.

The above shoe from Amazon is the only option I recommend which has a real tie at the ankle. It has a pointed toe and a D’Orsay style. It is completely flat. There are two thin laces which cross on the foot and then tie at the ankle. The shoes are faux suede with rubber soles. They come in black, brown, and apricot. They cost $23.99-$25.99, depending on which size and color you choose.

The above shoe from Amazon is a good option if you want a higher heel. It has a pointed toe and a D’Orsay style. It has a wedge heel which is a couple of inches tall. There is an ankle strap with a gold buckle. They are described as suede with a rubber sole, but they look like they are leather to me from the display image, either genuine or faux. This shoe comes in black, pewter, buff, and marine. It costs $55.15-$139.02, depending on the size and color you select.

The above shoe from Amazon is another flat option. It has a somewhat pointed toe but a closed side. It has two ankle straps which cross each other. This shoe is suede. It comes in black, tan, and taupe. It costs $19.70-$26.18, depending on the size and color.

The jewelry she wears is very simple. Her earrings are stud jewels. They look like diamonds, but they could be crystals. Since they are very simple, I recommend the below earrings from Amazon. They are cubic zirconia on gold-plated sterling silver for $39.99.

Aside from her wedding ring, the only other jewelry she wears is a watch and a bracelet. The watch is a bracelet watch on a black band with a jeweled face. It was a very popular style in the 1930s through the 50s, but it is hard to find any watches so delicate anymore. I have a vintage one I bought secondhand, and my mother bought an excellent replica from the Met Museum store website. However, Amazon doesn’t offer such a watch, so I leave that item to your own discovery. The other bracelet she wears on the same wrist is a silver charm bracelet. It has a delicate chain, and it seems to have only one or two charms. The charm which I noticed is a heart. I recommend either of the below charm bracelets from Amazon.

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That concludes my description of this outfit! It is a charming style which looks good on ladies of all ages, as Mrs. Swasey shows. Paired with a warm smile, helpful concern, and no-nonsense logic, this outfit is one which will make you as perky and pretty as Thelma Ritter!

If you want to observe Miss Ritters’s style for yourself, I suggest that you purchase the movie and study his outfit firsthand! Click the above image to rent or purchase The Model and the Marriage Broker on Amazon Video.

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!

Casablanca Fashion

To every Glamour Girl and Dapper Dan, “Here’s looking at you, kid!”

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This year, PEPS is celebrating the holidays with a blogathon! It is called The Happy Holidays Blogathon, and it will run December 6-8. It is all about films which feature the winter holidays. Eligible holidays include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, News Years, The Twelve Days of Christmas, The Epiphany, Russian Christmas, and Russian New Years! Whether it is just one scene or the whole film, this is your chance to write about your favorite holiday movies!

Follow us to bring back the Code and save the arts in America!

We are lifting our voices in classical song to help the sun rise on a new day of pure entertainment!

Only the Code can make the sun rise on a new day of pure entertainment!

4 thoughts on “Film Fashion Friday 20. Thelma Ritter’s Pencil Dress in “The Model and the Marriage Broker” from 1951; “Character Couture” for The Eight Annual What a Character Blogathon

  1. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this film! Thelma Ritter AND Jeanne Crain? Well, I’ll be looking for it soon.

    Also, these Film Fashion Friday posts are always a lot of fun – learning about film fashion and enjoying a virtual shopping trip at the same time. It’s a brilliant idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Ruth,

      Thank you for your comment! Yes, this film is a masterpiece! I know that you will enjoy it when you get a chance to see it. It is really entertaining. I am so glad that you enjoy my Fashion Friday articles. I don’t get a huge amount of response from them, so I really appreciate it when someone takes the time to leave a comment. I’m happy to know that you like reading them!

      Yours Hopefully,

      Tiffany Brannan

      Liked by 1 person

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