Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Dancing Dee: The Story Of A Dress

Dee Turnell was an MGM era dancer and actress. With 21 films to her credit (IMBd) she danced her way through Hollywood alongside some of the greats like Cyd Charisse, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. She was born in Illinois on born on November 27, 1925 (and according to my source she passed away in January 2003 as Dee Thorpe in Walnut Creek California). She made her way to New York in 1944 and began her dance/acting career in the film Copacabana  (Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda).

There was no doubt that she was a part of MGM history of escapism films and a highly talented dancer/performer. There is scarce and conflicting information about her personal life. One source says she left Hollywood in 1955.  She had three children, two daughters and a son. There is more to her story for sure but the mystery intrigues me.

Cyd Charisse w Dee 1948 - Words and Music

Cyd and Dee

Ballet dancer Dee Turnell performing at Copacabana nightclub. (Photo by Eileen Darby/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

The Dress:

A friend from my past connected me with a woman who had a gorgeous Vintage gown she thought I may be interested in for my eBoutique Evolution Vintage. We met and she showed me the dress and I  immediately fell in love with the exquisitely beaded bodice. She began to tell me the story of a woman who once lived a glamorous life who was, because of old age and ailments under her care in the East Bay of California. She was given permission from one of Dee's daughters to take whatever she wanted as many of her personal effects were being discarded. She spent a lot of time with Dee in her later years and felt the need to rescue some of her personal items, this gorgeous gown included. She expressed how humble and kind Dee was while she was caring for her. She didn't make the connect about who she was until after she had passed and she went through photographs that were left behind.

I wish I knew the exact story of this dress but I am sure it saw the inside of a Hollywood or Palm Springs function, cocktail party or some other soiree. This gown is from a time where actresses who worked for film houses actually purchased or had gowns made from them by costumers. Many of today's stars are given their dresses or are loaned them by designers. This gown appears to be purchased from the then famous Los Angeles department store 'Robinson's' where famed costume designer Helen Rose did a run of commercial evening gowns but altered/reinforced for the actress.

Vintage 1960's Helen Rose chocolate Brown evening gown with an exquisite jeweled and beaded bodice.

It appears that the interior bodice of the gown was deconstructed and fitted to Dee by the hand of a costumer/tailor. I consulted a costumer who was employed my Paramount Pictures for 20+ years and she confirmed that the gown had indeed been altered from it's original state for the actress. The interior was altered from the original state; the original zipper and the label re-sewn in (see image). I have left the garment in the state that I procured it.

The bodice appears to be hand crafted in India due to color pallet and bead work. The pattern is backed with chiffon on the interior and a piece of "french bone" in the garments center to assist in the shape. The bodice is comprised of intricate beading detail (bugle beads, crystals, rhinestones, large and small beads) In a gorgeous color pallet of Browns, coral, moss green, lime green, orange and red. Accented with Aurora borealis beading ans droplets trimming the empire waist (measuring 1.25"). The back of the bodice has an extensive hook/eye closure system.

The waist is empire style and the fabric used in the skirt is a Matte Jersey. A perfect fall gown.

Bust = 36"
Waist= 28"
Length = 60"

Plenty of additional photographs available upon request of interior and exterior of garment. A great piece of Hollywood History.

$1,000 USD

I would love to see this dress get a new life!

Where would you wear it?

Dee: April 10, 1944 - New York

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh, she is SO cute :) LOVE that style (and tattoo!!)
    That top pattern is too cute, as are your fabric choices. I love to sexy women dresses