Bob Coburn,  Bonwit Teller,  Fashion,  Fashion Friday,  Motley,  Vintage Clothing,  Vivien Leigh

Fashion Friday: Vivien Leigh Models for Motley

In 1940, Vivien Leigh modeled clothing for the department store, Bonwit Teller. The gowns modeled by Vivien were created by Motley, a group of three very talented women, who designed sets and costumes for the stage and screen. Motley worked on several plays that Vivien starred in, including The Happy Hypocrite, Romeo and Juliet and The Doctor’s Dilemma.

The outfits for today’s Fashion Friday post were inspired by British heraldry. They feature the symbols and colors associated with certain British monarchs.

In this first outfit, Vivien stuns in a gorgeous, pale blue, satin coat. The floor-length coat features amethyst studded sleeves. The sleeves are also heavily embroidered with gold trim and are horizontally slashed, in a crescent shape. This type of ‘slashing’ was normally done vertically, as in the Elizabethan age, with material from the underdress pulled through the cutouts, to achieve a puffy sleeve.

The coat falls dramatically to the floor in satin waves. It’s not hard to imagine how luxurious this material would be to the touch. This rare image of Vivien recently popped up on ebay and sold for $410!  

The New York Times ran an article with a few of these ensembles designed by Motley, called Fashions from Heraldry.

The description printed with this next gown reads: A Black Prince coat appliqued in velvet fleur-de-lis and lions is worn with this black gown. This black gown, in its simplicity, is absolutely stunning on Vivien.

The Black Prince coat referred to in the above description is modeled below. Fleur-de-lis (lilies) and lions are appliqued onto the black velvet jacket. The jacket’s hood is lined with a lightweight red wool.

The term Black Prince is a reference to Edward of Woodstock (June 15, 1330 to June 8, 1376), father of King Richard II, from whom the Motleys drew inspiration from for this design. At some point in history, Edward began to be known as the Black Prince. His coat of arms were lions and fleur-de-lis.

Unfortunately, for this next gown, I only have the newspaper photo, which came with the following description: White chiffon is embroidered with crystal beads in sunbursts, the badge of King Richard II. 

Up next is this lovely, red crêpe, evening gown. This draped crimson gown is the shade of the Rose of Lancaster. It features a very deep décolletage, which is accented with flowers.

Finally, we have this gorgeous portrait of Vivien in a floral headdress. Many people confuse this picture with one of Vivien from Romeo and Juliet. The printed description simply states: Roses of York form an evening headdress. The Rose of York was a white rose and represented the House of York. It comprised one half of the Wars of the Roses, which was fought for control of the British throne. The other half fighting for control was the House of Lancaster, represented by the red Rose of Lancaster.

The dress is also embroidered with roses, as pictured on the gown’s sleeves.

Thanks for joining me for today’s Fashion Friday post!

All photos are by Bob Coburn, who had also photographed Vivien for the recently wrapped That Hamilton Woman.  The italicized descriptions are from the New York Times, Fashions from Heraldry, December 29, 1940.


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