Sunday, July 12, 2009

Never on Sunday: Vintage 1960, How to dress like Melina Mercouri as Ilya

In 1960, Theoni V. Aldredge (Deni Vachliotov) as costumer, designed fabulous outfits for Melina Mercouri, the leading lady in "Never on Sunday" (Pote tin Kyriaki). Ilya, the smart and sexy character played by Melina Mercouri is a Greek sea port's leading lady of the evening. To showcase her long, lean build, Ms. Aldredge created simple yet dramatic garments designed to make an impact and support the character's profile as a happy hooker with a heart of gold.

It is possible today to revive these terrific looks, as the styles are so currant. There is also a tone of sophistication and drama that is hard to find in most fashion. The first dress is a smashing 'little back dress' that fits like a dream (possible when you have a staff of studio seamstresses to make that happen). It has a plunging "V" neckline in front, which may have been held together by a decorative band at the bra level (or is that the bra we are seeing?). A "V" neckline is one that appears several times in Ilya's wardrobe. This first dress is simply a well fit sheath, with a deep "V" neckline. Altering an existing round or square neck on a dress is always possible if you want to create this well cut neckline.

If you are creative, I have collected sewing patterns that approximate the looks best.

We can create our own version using a form fitting sheath without a waistline sash or belt. Depending on your figure type, either princess seam lines or darted body patterns are available. The dramatic deeply cut "V" neckline will have to be of your own design, as it does not exist in commercial patterns.

For the fitted sheath dress, we like the straight forward cut of darted body line in New Look 6643. The princess seamlines in Burda 7972, would make fitting curvy shapes better than darts. Vogue has two wonderful versions of "V" necklines in slender silhouettes. Vogue 9668 has a great midriff panel, that adds to the visual interest of the sheath look. Vogue 8532 has a dramatic collar at the "V" neckline, with an empire waistline to throw focus to the upper body (and skim any waistline flaws).

The second outfit is simply a tank top and a soft circle skirt. The skirt has sunburst pleating to create a smooth fit over the hips and accent movement. A wide white belt pulls this look together. Blanket stitch in white edges the top for a cute style detail.

For Ilya's birthday party, she has chosen a shiny white blouse that is wraped across the front for a neat fit. The slender skirt in black is cinched by a wide black belt with a large black buckle for a super small waistline.

This amazing matte jersey dress symbolizes Ilya's Greekness, in its use of lovely draping. She IS a goddess! This sheath has a narrow flat panel down the center front, from the neckline to the hem. Along this edge, the dress is shirred to drape over her curves. A cute beaded fringe tassel is set into the narrow band at the dress hemline. The shoulders have a narrow double strap, that often falls off her shoulder in a sweet way.

Did a striped tank top ever look this good? Ilya's take on the sailor's jersey, this fitted knit top is exactly waist length, and worn with a contrast straight skirt. This low square neckline is possible with careful cutting to fit the demi bra that is worn under it.

This black knit top has elbow length sleeves cut in one with the body. A "V" neckline in cut in both front and back, for dramatic exposure. Probably bodice darts make it fit neatly into the waistline of her skirt. The vintage sewing patterns I have seen in this cut have zippers in the side seams and bra strap snap loops at the shoulder seam to keep the neckline from sliding down the shoulder. As accents, her bracelets and jewelry really give this outfit punch.

So what is the overall idea in trying to get this sophisticated vintage look?
Fit, fit, fit.
Achieving a great fit is the start of a dramatic silhouette. By working with slender garments, mostly solid fabrics, limited details, and punched up jewelry, a great 1960's look is possible!

Pote tin Kyriaki (Never on Sunday)

Costume: Theoni V. Aldredge (Deni Vachliotov)
Melina Mercouri: Ilya


Cafe Pasadena said...

You have great stuff here! However if the # of comments left is any indication, your blog could be seen by many more readers.

Jen said...

Hi Cafe,
Ha ha, I didn't know I was supposed to approve comments (OK, that's dumb)

Anonymous said...

NEVER ON SUNDAY was not designed by Theoni V.Aldredge but by her first cousin Denny Vachlioti who lives permanently in Athens, Greece. She was also the costume designer of other Melina Mercouri's movies such as Stella, Phaedra, Topkapi. Aldredge did the costumes of Ilia Darling, the Broadway adaptation of Never on Sunday, as well as Promise at dawn, in which Mercouri stared and was shot in Europe.

Earl Flournoy said...

My wife adores that movie. In fact, many of her vintage and semi-vintage dresses were inspired by the clothes worn by Melina in that film. She even has a whole set of Tony of Beverly wigs dedicated to recreating vintage looks for her business meetings and the like. She said it never fails to attract positive attention, and that's why she nails most of her presentations.