Dressed to Impress: Costume


1967, Designer: Unknown, Gift of Marge Padgitt

As the Washington Post reported in 1992, “We tend to think of Ginger Rogers floating, or seeming to float; flying, or seeming to fly; twirling through the air in satin or silk or feathers.” This was the affect Rogers created with a beaded blue silk chiffon gown worn to the 1967 Academy Awards. Co-presenting an award with Fred Astaire, the couple danced their way on stage, performing an unexpected, effortless spin; the numerous godets at the hem of Rogers’ gown flared with movement, seemingly light as air. A small size 12 tag inside the gown indicates it was not a custom design; however, the gown still reflects Rogers’ consideration of color and form as studies have found that blue is the most agreed-upon color in the world, perhaps because it evokes the widest range of associations. As Veronique Byland wrote in Dress Code (2023), “Blue has an appropriately ocean-like vastness that encompasses everything from staid, stable bureaucracy (the UN logo blue) to intellectual, progressive women (bluestockings) to artistic agony (Picasso’s blue period) to explicit content (comedians “working blue.”) It simultaneously evokes democracy (the EU flag) and elitism (blue blood.)”


Rogers’ blue beaded chiffon gown from her revue shares features with an earlier beaded blue chiffon gown designed by award-winning Hollywood designer Edith Head for Rogers in the “Blue Dream” sequence of the 1944 film Lady in the Dark. In the colors of the ocean with clouded silks in shades from aquamarine to deep blue, scattered throughout with sequins and imitation sapphires, the 1944 blue gown also featured a cropped bodice, beaded sleeves and a low back. Prior to this dream with the blue dress, Rogers as her character Liza, speaks to an analyst to find out the truth about what lies buried deep within. And what is that? “In the [Blue Dream], Liza approaches a locked chest to search within it for one of her secrets. Suddenly, the chest springs open and out floats a magnificent blue dress: Liza’s inner soul is chiffon!”