Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dress of the Day, May 3, 2012: Cecil Beaton / My Fair Lady

Yesterday, quite by chance, I caught the beginning of My Fair Lady on television. As happens whenever I glimpse one of my favorite films, I was hooked. Three hours later, I had cried and laughed and marvelled again at the perfection of this great production - music and lyrics and acting and costumes. Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's musical rendition of George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, My Fair Lady (1964) stars Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison in a brilliant cast including Wilfrid Hyde White, Stanley Holloway, and one of my favorites, Gladys Cooper.

Cecil Beaton's costumes are breathtaking, not only for Audrey Hepburn's Eliza Doolittle but for a large cast in ensemble scenes such as Ascot and the embassy ball. The fashion design is a sumptuous evocation of late Victorian and Edwardian fashion with a whimsical twist.

Here is the famous Ascot gown in the dazzling scene in which Beaton dresses the women in all black and white and the men in dove gray (except Professor Henry Higgins).

At the embassy ball, Audrey Hepburn is stunning in a neo-classical gown, simple in form with beaded embellishments. Gladys Cooper, playing Henry Higgins's mother, is also in a Grecian gown and hairstyle.

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