Saturday, November 5, 2016

Cinema Wedding Gowns: The Old Maid (1939)

The Old Maid (1939) is an odd title for a post on wedding gowns, but throughout the course of the movie, starring famous rivals Miriam Hopkins and Bette Davis, there are three weddings and one almost-wedding, which is of course Bette Davis who then becomes the title's "old maid."

Hopkins and Davis are cousins living with their grandmother during the Civil War. On Hopkins' wedding day, her old beau, George Brent shows up. Even though she loves him, she goes through with her marriage to a man who is much wealthier. Davis, who has been secretly in love with Brent for years, takes this opportunity to be with him. But then he goes away to the war and gets shot, leaving her an unwed mother.

Davis starts a foundling home as a way to hide her child. On the day of her wedding to Hopkins' brother-in-law, she tells Hopkins that she has a child. Jealous that Davis had a child with the man she (Hopkins) loved, she stops the wedding.

The wedding gowns designed by Orry-Kelly and worn by Hopkins and Davis in the film are very elaborate and each very distinct. Hopkins gown is extremely busy. It features a silk corset-like bodice that is covered with a lace bolero. The long-sleeved bolero has a ruffled trim and small posies of flowers on each shoulder.

The skirt is hoop-skirted with a lace overskirt and a hem with ruffles, intricate pleating, and flowers.

The veil is made of tulle and has flowers surrounding the bride's forehead.

A look at the back of the dress as well as Davis' bridesmaid gown.

The dress worn by Davis seems designed to make her look like an old maid. She is not especially happy to be getting married as she is worried she will have to give up her foundling home and along with it her child. The gown is made of cream satin and features a high neckline, long sleeves, and bib pleating on the bodice and at the hips creating a symmetrical look.

The lace veil looks very much like a Spanish mantilla and is topped with a large headband of flowers. The bride's hair is held back from the face with a snood.
A close-up of the flowers. They look like mainly tiny roses.

Relaxing on the set
Out of the other two weddings in the film, that of Hopkin's daughter and Davis' daughter, one dress is only briefly seen and the other not at all.


  1. The detail is exquisite and astounds me. Thank you for breaking it down. When I watch the movie, I appreciate the loveliness of the costumes, but not the work in the creation.

    1. I know, when watching a movie you don't notice all the tiny details because it's shown so quickly or not in its entirety. Glad you enjoyed it!