|Lady Lou checks out the scene in She Done Him Wrong|
The twentieth century had brought with it a fashion revolution. Womens styles of late 19th century reached a height of elegance and elaboration that has seldom been equaled. The silhouette of the fashionable woman was, as it had nearly always been throughout the centuries, curvaceous. But changing social roles, work outside the home, and the ferment over women’s political rights, made these lovely gowns seem outmoded and impractical by the 1910’s. Women discarded their full skirts, their corsets, and their long, heavy hair, sometimes with mixed feelings, but generally greeting the new fashions with an increased sense of freedom. Before their eyes was the fresh and fashionable example of Mrs. Vernon Castle, whose slim, active figure and boyish bobbed hair became a new ideal in the years right before the outbreak of World War 1.
Fashion evolved through the twenties to the early thirties, as short, beaded evening dresses morphed into gowns that were structureless slips of bias-cut satin that skimmed the slender body.
|Mae sings Frankie and Johnnie|
Fortunately, a savior was riding to the rescue. In 1933, most unexpectedly, the highest-grossing motion picture was a period melodrama laced with wit called She Done Him Wrong, the creation of Broadway star, playwright and screenwriter Mae West. It was based on her hit play Diamond Lil, which was deemed too shocking for movies. She Done Him Wrong was a huge sensation; besides doing enormous business and keeping Paramount Pictures from bankruptcy, and proving so popular that midnight showings were instituted in some cities -- some of them for gentlemen only! -- it also created a tsunami in the world of high fashion.
|One of Dolly Tree's costumes for the Broadway production|
|Dolores Del Rio in Madame Du Barry|