The Fashion Icon Next Door
by David Wolfe
from Doris Day Paper Dolls featuring 24 Fashions from Her Films, $12
Doris Day has often been referred to as "the girl next door." That's understandable because, although a famous star, her image is warm and friendly. However, she could only really be the girl next door if you happen to live next door to a beautiful blonde with a perfect figure whose distinctive singing has sold millions of recordings and who was a top box office movie star for decades, equally adept in musicals, dramas and comedies. Plus, this down-to-earth goddess would have to have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and be the recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Not your average girl next door. Not by a long shot.
Doris Day's talents are formidable and for years her supreme, record-breaking popularity as a singer and actress overshadowed the fact that she was a fashion role model for women everywhere. She made her movie debut in 1948, singing "It's Magic!" in Romance on the High Seas and her image then had not as yet been clearly defined. She wore the somewhat overdone style of that time well, but it didn't suit her true fashion self. It wasn't until the 1960s when Jean-Louis costumed her for a series of sexy comedies that her fashion impact was at last appreciated,. But in truth, female movie goers had been following her lead long before that. From the time her cinematic career kicked into high gear earlyin the 1950s with films including Lullaby of Broadway, Doris Day's look has always influenced her audiences. Classic shirtwaist dresses, full skirts, crisp blouses, a smartly tailored ensemble or two and always a pretty formal gown formed the wardrobe that became her snappy style signature staples. In Young At Heart, she wore a cardigan appliqued with beaded bows that set a trend. Not only her wardrobe, but her coiffures were copied. When she adopted the "D.A." cut (named after the rear view of a duck), beauty salons were swamped with wannabes.
Herearly movie wardrobes weresometimesidealized nostalgiain films like On Moonlight Bay and By the Light of the Silvery Moon.Tea for Two and I'll See You in My Dreams saw Doris Day wearing costumes that vaguely suggested bygone decades. At that time, costume designers believed audiences would laugh at authentic vintage styles. Sometimes her films featured spectacular musical numbers that put Doris Day into costumes that were pure show biz pizzaz. April in Paris had her wearing a sheer outfit with a majorette cap while she danced with pastel-dyed poodles. She dazzled in a jeweled and feathered turquoise gown in Love Me or Leave Me. Most often, in films such as Lucky Me,April in Paris and The Pajama Game, she played a peppy, pretty girl who dressed in the snappy sportswear that defined American style in the conservative 1950s. In fact, her film wardrobes were very much likeher own personal style,constantly seen by the public in an endless stream of movie magazine stories and a noteworthy photo shoot in Cannes by famed photographer Edward Quinn.She was America's ideal dreamgirl; happy, healthy, bubbling with optimism and perfectly pretty.
Doris Day's wholesome image had become so well defined that when Pillow Talk was released in 1960, audiences were astounded at her new look. Suddenly, she was super chic and sexy. Her hairwas now platinum and sophisticatedly styled. Her wardrobe by Jean-Louiscould have stepped right out of "Vogue." A satin evening coat over a chiffon cocktail dress, a stunning white sheath gown, tasteful high style ensembles.all perfectly accessorized! And Doris Day looked glamorous and absolutely comfortable in her new high style role as a fashion plate.So successful was the fashion quotient of the hit comedy that her subsequent films reworked the same formula.The Thrill of It All, Lover Come Back, andSend Me No Flowersall showcased the star in stunning wardrobes that usually featured a sleek white gown (all the better to appreciate her spectacular figure) and more than a few smart suits and coats. Each movie also revealed a new coiffure that swept through the nation's beauty salons like a tsunami. That Touch of Mink co-starred Cary Grant and costumes by one of the greatest American designers, Norman Norell. Midnight Lace, a dramatic thriller set in London, provided the star with a high fashion wardrobe that garnered an Oscar nomination for Irene, who also outfitted Miss Day in Lover, Come Back. The famed Hollywood designer dressed her for several films including Hitchcock's hit, The Man Who Knew Too Much.
As the '60s started to swing later in the decade, Doris Day's image got groovy, ably abetted by trendy show biz designer, Ray Aghayan. Capricefound her in wild gear with bobbed hair and bold eye make-up. She even donned a va-va-voom mermaid costume in a spy-comedy,The Glass Bottom Boat. These forays into slightly far-out fashion were reeled in as the more familiar Doris Day image of wholesome All-American style returned for several films before she moved on to her highly successful, long-running TV series.
As Doris Martin on TV, her role shifted as the series evolved and her character, originally a farming mom in denim and gingham moved to the big city and became a smartly dressed careerist. Doris Day's audiences by then were so enamored of her as a fashion plate that a lavish fashion show was frequently forced into the sit-com plot.
Doris Day's passion for animals, especially dogs, inspired her heartfelt work for many decades. She produced her own TV series championing the need for compassionate care, responsible neutering and the love of pets. The Doris Day Animal Foundation carries on her good works and proceeds from this paper doll book will be donated to that worthy cause.
The world's most popular singing movie star, Box Office record-breaker and also animal rights activist had also, along the way, become famous as one of Hollywood's most stylish fashion icons.