Film Fashion Friday 30. Fred Astaire’s Lucky Attire in “Swing Time” from 1936; Dressed for Success

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Today is Friday, so I’m going to publish a Film Fashion Friday article. This is my first article in this series since July. Since these articles are very complex, it takes me a long time to write them, making me publish them less frequently than some other series. Also, I recently had to renew my Amazon Associates affiliate membership, allowing readers to purchase the products we recommend. Whenever you buy something on Amazon after following a link on our website, we get a small commission. As the holidays approaching, please consider buying some of our recommended products throughout the website as gifts for your friends and family, and you will give PEPS the gift of your support, as well!

I was motivated to restart this series by participating in a blogathon. This is my first entry in the Fall Musical Blogathon hosted by Heidi of Along the Brandywine. The blogathon’s fancy official title is With Glamour & Panache: A Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly Musicals Blogathon. I decided that I had to honor both of these talented Hollywood dancers with a post, so I am writing one article about Fred Astaire and one about Gene Kelly. I decided to make my Fred Astaire article a focus on some costume he wore. Fred Astaire was famous for his style, whether in his iconic white tie and tails or a more unique dancing outfit. Thus, it’s not surprising that I have already written two articles about him in this series, reviewing his golf outfit from Carefree and his patriotic ensemble from Holiday Inn.

Swing Time (1936) | Christina Wehner

I decided to write about an outfit from Swing Time (1936), Fred Astaire’s sixth of ten collaborations with Ginger Rogers. This is the last of their films which I saw, having watched and reviewed it as my last film in 52 Code Films last year. As gambler turned dancer Lucky Garnett, Fred Astaire wears a lot of dapper costumes. I decided to make one of these outfits topic’s topic. Unfortunately, as fellow WordPress users will probably know, WordPress updated to a new editor within the last couple of months. This change has occurred since the last time I used the Amazon Affiliate program. With this new editor, I have been unable to embed Amazon links in my posts so far. Thus, I can’t do a full costume description, as planned.

FRED ASTAIRE — Freddie on the set of Swing Time, 1936
Fred Astaire in Swing Time (1936)

The above winter wear costume from Swing Time is the costume I planned to review today. I hope to write about this outfit soon, when I have fixed this glitch. In the meantime, I will describe one of my favorite scenes from this film and explain the important lesson it teaches.

Criterion Confessions: SWING TIME - #979
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Swing Time

This scene is the first time that Lucky Garnett (Fred Astaire) meets Penny Carroll (Ginger Rogers). He and Pop Cardetti (Victor Moore) have just arrived in New York, and all the money they have is a quarter. Lucky asks a passerby, who happens to be Penny, if she’ll give him change for the quarter so he can buy some cigarettes for Pop. However, when he puts the coin in the vending machine, change and cigarette cartons pour out! He chases after Penny to get the quarter back, since it was his lucky quarter, but she thinks he’s just a masher. When Lucky accidentally knocks Penny’s packages out of her hands in the middle of the street, Pop takes the opportunity to remove the quarter from her purse. However, before he can replace it with non-lucky coins, Lucky hands her back the purse, unaware of the mix-up. She quickly opens it, discovers the missing quarter, and demands that Lucky gave it back, although he honestly declares that he didn’t take it. She then calls a police officer (Edgar Dearing) over, but he takes one look at Lucky’s clothing and assumes that he is in the right.

The lesson which I mentioned before is about people’s perception of others based on appearance. In classic films, women often had only to tell security guards or police officers that a man was “bothering them,” and the fellow would be promptly shooed away on accusation of being a masher. However, in this case, the police officer takes one look at Lucky, impeccably dressed in a morning suit, and assumes that he is a wealthy gentleman from high society. I described this type of very formal wear, also called a cutaway coat, in an earlier Film Fashion Friday article. He is dressed thus for his wedding, which he missed.

Now, Penny is also dressed very nicely. She is wearing a skirt and a lovely cape jacket with a cute hat. However, her clothes could be considered casual, something anyone could own, while his are formal. The police officer says, “Now, miss, does he look like a man who would go around stealing quarters?” He judges his personality based strictly on his attire. While perhaps not as dramatic today, people still appraise each other by appearance. Dress in a movie-inspired style, and people will naturally assume that you are a lady or gentleman. I’ve seen the results myself!

25/12/14 - Swing Time - Music - Jerome Kern - Dance Scene - Fred Astaire  And Ginger Rogers - 1936 - In Deep Music Archive

Although this coin incident is an unfortunate situation, it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship and eventual romance between Lucky and Penny! They eventually sing and dance such classic tunes as “Pick Yourself Up” and “A Fine Romance.” The same day, they perform an amazing number in a dance studio, which you can see in a clip from YouTube below. Penny quickly realizes that, beneath the tailored suit, Lucky has a heart of gold, which you can never miss when a character is charmingly played by the ever dapper Fred Astaire!

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2 thoughts on “Film Fashion Friday 30. Fred Astaire’s Lucky Attire in “Swing Time” from 1936; Dressed for Success

  1. Very interesting, thank you for sharing.

    (Also, that pic of Astaire in a winter overcoat in the snowy woods is like a quintessential Winter Wonderland/classic Christmas moment.)

    Thanks so much for contributing this to the blogathon!


  2. Oh, I’m sorry that you weren’t able to write about what you wanted to because of the links! WordPress has been giving me a lot of trouble with leaving links in comments. The platform that I use, Blogger, updated recently as well and has been very frustrating.

    Reading about this I realized that I’ve never seen the full movie! I just have seen from the middle of that dance scene to the end. Time for me to remedy that.

    MovieCritic | Movies Meet Their Match

    Liked by 1 person

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