TBT: Gigi (1958)

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I think of this movie as My Fair Lady but with prostitution. Gigi is weird — it’s a lively musical with splashy, vaguely 1900s costumes, and the whole story revolves around selling off a pretty young girl to dirty old men. The original story is a famous French novelette, but the Lerner and Lowe musical is a little too Americanized to make sense. I’m not going to recap the movie because Tom + Lorenzo already did a brilliant job here. Let’s just talk about the costumes.

In some ways, Gigi is a test-run for My Fair Lady (1964). Famed photographer and designer Cecil Beaton created the costumes for Gigi and then did the same for My Fair Lady. He won the Best Costume Oscar for both films. They both have his stamp, with vivid Technicolor used to tell the story and exaggerated historical details mixed with then-contemporary fashion. The costumes work carefully together with the set design as well, particularly in Aunt Alicia’s florid red parlor where Gigi learns most of her “lessons.”

 

Gigi (1958)

She’s wearing plaid, so she must be a 15-year-old schoolgirl. Right.

Gigi (1958)

I’d have totally gotten more homework done if there was dancing & champagne after school.

Gigi (1958)

Classic bordello madam gown on Auntie. Does what it says on the label.

Gigi (1958)

Aunt Alicia is REALLY committed to pink. Maybe she sells Mary Kay on the side.

Gigi (1958)

Aunt Alicia in, you guessed it, more pink.

Gigi (1958)

Aunt Alicia’s rare subdued gown, except for the GIANT FREAKIN’ ROSES.

Gigi (1958)

Fashion show, dress 1 — For your date with Big Bird.

Gigi (1958)

Fashion show, dress 2 — For your date with Barney.

Gigi (1958)

Fashion show, dress 3 — For pretending to be Aunt Alicia.

Gigi (1958)

Look, I’m all growed up now!

Gigi (1958)

She is 15, going on 16, playing at prostitution…

Gigi (1958)

The only thing historical about this costume is the stunning Art Nouveau archway.

Gigi (1958)

Gaston skinned Muppets to win Gigi’s love, and now she wears one on her head as a trophy.

 

 

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

8 Responses

  1. Donna

    The actress who plays Aunt Alicia later played the Dowager Duchess of Denver in the Ian Carmichael Lord Peter Whimsey series … I always figured that meant the old courtesan retired *very* well :-)
    Also, I find it interesting that all the folks in lower class/ serving roles have Spanish names … did the French aristos / rich folk of the time particularly like Spanish servants?

    Reply
  2. India

    I find it odd that you think GIGI is too Americanized, as huge hunks of the dialogue are straight from the novella. My favorite in the movie is Maurice Chevalier — once I had the delightful experience of seeing GIGI on the big screen with a full audience, and when he finished “Thank God I’m Not Young Anymore” the audience applauded!

    Reply
  3. India

    PS: While I love most of the clothes in GIGI, I can’t stand that dress Gigi wears once she’s Gaston’s wife. I always wince when it’s on-screen. It seems such an odd choice for her.

    Reply
  4. Michael

    I have to disagree. The costumes in Gigi are gorgeous, especially the white gown. That is a real knockout costume if I ever saw one, and as someone else said, it is reminiscent of the iconic Madame X black gown.

    Reply
  5. Lynn S

    So i LOVED this movie growing up – and Mom frequently threatened me with “Gigi lessons” if i didn’t mind my manners. I didn’t even get the whole prostitution thing until I was in my 20s!! >.< Gee, thanks, Mom!

    Reply

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