Thursday, 10 April 2014

Old Movie Madness - Love Affair (1939)

Another film I indulged myself in while furiously knitting over the weekend.  This time a little later in the 30's - in fact made in one of my favourite fashion years (the same year as The Women) - glorious 1939.

Love Affair is a sort of romantic comedy drama starring the lovely Irene Dunne and Mr Charles Boyer as a couple who meet on an ocean liner.  Both Terry (Dunne) and Michel (Boyer) are engaged to other people and, given Michel's celebrity playboy reputation they have to be very careful not to give the press the wrong idea.  It seems all their platonic sneaking around fuels the fire of true love, and after much flirting over champagne cocktails, the pair agree to end their relationships and meet up again in six months to see whether the spark is still there with Michel giving up the playboy life to concentrate on becoming a painter.

On the way to their meeting Terry is hit by a car, and is told she may never be able to walk again.  She does not want Michel to know and so does not contact him, leaving him heartbroken, thinking that she did not turn up.

The pair bump into each other a later date - abut Terry manages to hide her condition.  Michel later tracks Terry down, angry and wanting to find out why he was rejected so cruelly.  

It's all very heart rending to tell you the truth, if you are soppy of constitution as I am.  though I suspect for some it might teeter on the brink of mawkish.  Still - we aren't here for the plotline really - we are here for the clothes!

Being set in 1939, the world was on the brink of war, and it can probably be argued that this had an effect on fashion, even in Hollywood and even at this early stage.

Dresses were losing the fluffy, puffiness of the earlier years and become much more structured and incorporating mannish elements.  Whether this was a reaction to the impending war or just that the eyes were sick of the flounces I cannot say.  I suspect a little of each.

You can see the military lines in this FABULOUS dress on Irene Dunne.  I've included a few pictures so you can see the detail.

The puffed sleeves of the earlier 30s have almost gone, with the sleeve caps being set in more cleanly.  The dress is shirtwaist in style, mimicking menswear, with large chevron detailing at the bust.

This coloured detail follows down into the narrow skirt with inset coloured pleats. I like to imagine that this was white with Navy blue accents but it could be yellow and green for all I know!

It's the big buttons that mark this out as late 30s rather than 40s to me.  It's a dream dress.

The picture below, from the blog of the wonderful Subversive Femme shows the shirtwaist design and smaller, harder shoulder treatment.  I love her blog it's probably my absolute favourite, I'd recommend popping over for a browse.

There is also some wonderful evening wear featured, well, what do you expect with gowns by Howard Greer?  I'd love this sequin bolero ensemble.  The shoulder treatment (again, note the emphasis on the shoulder) is positively space age.

 The bolero was really quite the thing in '39, as this image from Wearing History shows

Below shows the most beautiful flowing black evening jacket, which looks divine with the short  curly-top hair, like an early version of Betty Grable's famous poodle do.

Coats are a bit of a theme in this film as a lot of it takes place outdoors - either on the deck of the boat or in the street or on the porch of houses.  This fur trimmed number is divine.  Simple, but with that striking fur panel to add interest.

The piece that stood out for me however was the fur coat Terry wears early in the film.  I think she was wearing this when the couple met, it is probably what made Michel fall in love with her, anyone with the sheer chutzpah to carry off this epic jacket deserves a grand passion.

I mean, seriously, look at the size of that freaking thing.  It's epic.  I want it.

I think I found a picture of Dorothy Lamour working the same jacket, also from '39.  Click here to take a peek.

Big fur coats were definitely a thing in '39.  Earlier in the 30s furs were still big, but tended to be more curvaceous in cut, it is the boxy shape of this fox bolero that really marks it out as a wartime number and this style would continue well into the 40's as the military influence of WWII continued to make it's mark on fashion.  fur coats in fact, were one of the items not rationed in wartime Britain, through they were still costly.

This wonderful article from the Telegraph in 1939 talks about the high demand for furs that year.

I hope you enjoyed my fashion round up of Love Affair (1939).  go watch it.  Make sure you have some tissues.  


  1. I think I may have seen it! (Or possibly another film, where one person just couldn't get to the appointed place.) It made me uneasy about making arrangements to meet without any backup plan -- what if they think I'm not there on purpose? So much easier now with mobile phones. And yes, the clothes are wonderful. I sometimes find I'm watching them rather than the story in these old films.

  2. That chevron dress is rather lovely. Sounds like an interesting film.

  3. Glad I'm not the only one watching movies for the fashion alone. The Women has to be one of my all time faves, not least because Rosalind Russell is knitting in it! Not seen this one, looks good. I know Irene Dunne for the only one movie. Yeh, that one.