All About Bette

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All About Bette

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Marlene Dietrich had her smoky le smokings. Joan Crawford, her padded linebacker shoulders. But as for their contemporary Bette Davis, who would have celebrated her centenary on April 5, fashion was hardly at the forefront. In fact, she’s quite famously known for shunning that whole Hollywood glamour-gal persona. The actress frequently kicked vanity to the curb to bravely play an assortment of ghastly looking characters, from a dying syphilis-stricken moll (Of Human Bondage) to a cake-faced vaudeville has-been (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane). Nevertheless, Ms. Davis still managed a fair share of sartorial moments on the silver screen. Take, for instance, Fashions of 1934, in which she’s a platinum-blonde glamazon á la Jean Harlow while embroiled in a counterfeit couture conspiracy creating knockoffs of the latest Parisian fashions. Several years later, Davis won her second Oscar for her role in 1938′s Jezebel; its plot is based around a red gown she rebelliously wears to the Olympus Ball. Then there’s that cocktail dress in All About Eve (1950) which Davis made famous while uttering the oft-quoted line, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” As it turns out, the Edith Head gown proved Davis’s impromptu styling prowess: It was too big when she first tried it on, so the actress simply tugged the whole thing down a bit, transforming its roomy bodice with a square-shaped neckline into a sexy off-the-shoulder number. Now, Davis is about to make a posthumous fashion turn when, in September, the U.S. Postal Service releases a commemorative 2008 stamp in her honor. The image, of Davis dolled up in diamonds and a lush fur coat, was painted by Brooklyn artist Michael Deas and is based on a photograph taken during the filming of All About Eve.

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