Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fashion in Film Blogathon: *The Way We Wore* by Marsha Hunt

I’ve been looking forward to the Fashion in Film blogathon for a while now. Admiring the beautiful clothes worn in old movies is just one of the many reason I enjoy classic cinema. If you’ve been reading this blog for some time you probably know that I often make note of the costumes in my reviews. I was originally going to just choose a film and showcase some of the outfits in it that I liked, but instead I decided to talk about a book—not a movie—that profiles some wonderful styles from the 1930s and 1940s. I hope this is acceptable for a film blogathon. I thought it might be excused since so much of the book talks about, well, fashion in film! image
The Way We Wore
is a beautiful coffee table book (though I read it cover-to-cover) by model, singer, and actress of stage and screen Marsha Hunt. In case you are not familiar with her, here is a little more about Miss Hunt, courtesy of IMDb:

“Stardom somehow eluded this vastly gifted actress. Had it not perhaps been for her low-level profile compounded by her McCarthy-era blacklisting in the early 1950s, there is no telling what higher tier of stardom Marsha Hunt might have reached. Perhaps her work was not flashy enough, too subdued, or perhaps her intelligence too often disguised a genuine sex appeal to stand out among the other lovelies. Two studios, Paramount in the late 30s and MGM in the early 40s, failed to complete her star. Nevertheless, her talent and versatility cannot be denied. This glamorous, slimly handsome leading lady offered herself to well over 50 pictures during the 1930s and 1940s alone.” image

Now approaching her 94th birthday, Marsha is still alive and active. She continues to work for charity causes and make public appearances (sometimes giving interviews at film festivals and the like).

This book was published in 1993 and is a comprehensive volume that profiles Marsha’s career and showcases the styles and trends of the ‘30s and ‘40s. There are a lot of interesting stories stories—from her experiences in a USO tour in the Artic, to meeting President and Mrs. Roosevelt—and anecdotes about what day-to-day life was like for a starlet during the studio era. Later on, she describes her experience of being blacklisted and her successful stage career that followed.

The bulk of the volume is comprised of film stills and glamour portraits with anecdotes and information interspersed throughout. One of the great things about this book is that it feels very personal—like you are just enjoying tea with Maimagersha and she is sharing all her stories with you. She also recalls stuff with incredible detail and her great appreciation of fashion comes through in the way she describes the colors and fabrics of the outfits. The accompanying captions really bring the black-and-white photos to life. Needless to say, Marsha has impeccable style herself, and even designed some of the outfits featured in this book.

While many of the photos are of the author, there are also a lot of screen stills of co-stars that include the likimagees of Ava Gardner, Greer Garson, Margaret O’Brien, Gregory Peck, June Allyson, Susan Hayward, Lana Turner, Ray Milland, Van Heflin, Mickey Rooney, Gene Kelly, William Powell, and many more. Not all of these stars are pictured in the book, but the majority of them are.

There are also sections of the book that profile a certain topic, such as the Hollywood Canteen, cars, shoes, makeup, hats, hairstyles, etc. (See slideshow further down for examples.)

If you’ve ever wondered what daily life was like for a young starlet during the most glamorous era of Hollywood, or if you are just interested in vintage fashions, this book is for you. It is now out of print, so you may have trouble finding it. If you’d like to read it but can’t find any affordable copies online, I would recommend seeing if you can interloan it through your library system, which is what I did. (What, oh what, would I do with out ILL!)

To give you a better idea what it’s like, I’ve made a slideshow that features some pictures of pages from the book.

It seems that some of the slides don’t line up just right with the text. If you are having trouble with that (or if the images seem to small), click here for an easier viewing format. You should also be able to zoom in if you want to read the text.

Though some of the clothes may seem dated (and I believe Marsha even admits this), many are surprisingly accessible for fashion-lovers today. But while style may come and go, the things that Miss Hunt embodies in this book—pose, elegance, good character, grace, and beauty—are timeless.


This post is my entry in the Fashion in Film Blogathon hosted by The Hollywood Revue. I can’t wait to see what everyone else posts about!


  1. Love this post. As a kid, I always hated my name and whined that nobody else had it and my mom would say "there is an movie star by the name of Marsha Hunt." A great feature of an interesting actress and some fabulous looks!

  2. This book sounds pretty amazing!  Next time I go to the library, I'm going to have to see if they have it or can get it from another library.  Thank you so much for being part of the blogathon! 

  3. It's definitely worth seeking out.

    Thank YOU for coming up with this great idea!

  4. What a marvelous find and recommendation.  Grand post.

  5. Hi Audrey, thanks for highlighting this book. It is a real gem. I had the pleasure to meet Ms. Hunt when I invited her to speak and autograph copies when it her book first came out in conjunction with a Hollywood costume design exhibit we had a the Coronado Library. She has such perfect voice and diction - which was then coached to young actresses. A real delight. Thank you.

  6. That is so neat! Thanks for sharing your story. I would've loved to go to that costume design exhibit. :)

  7. I'm so glad you reviewed this book! I saw your link for the review and got really excited. I've been wanting to buy it/ask for it for Christmas for awhile now and you're review confirmed it! I think the book is still around on Ebay.
    Though she isn't very well known, Marsha Hunt is one of my favorites. She is flawless and sooo beautiful and fashionable. (Though the girl could use a steak or doughnut lol). 
    Even in her old age she looks great. I wrote her some fan mail and she sent me back a large photo of herself and paid for postage along with a way to buy the book from her (I can give y'all this information if you want) so I think she seems like a very nice lady. 
    I really enjoy books that you feel like you are talking with a friend and like you personally know the star as you read it-like you say this one is.
    I also feel like she probably has a great sense of humor, judging the the title of the book-which always gives me a chuckle. 
    Thanks for sharing! :D

  8. You would love this book, Jessica, since you admire '40s fashions so much. Like I said, if you don't want to buy it you can probably get it through inter-library loan. University libraries, in particular, can usually get you just about any book you need.

    Weight is one of the things that Marsha mentions in this book: "While calorie counting and diet formulas haunted most women in movies, I faced the opposite problem, trying always to gain weight. Wolfing down hot fudge sundaes, rich malteds and such in the studio commissary inevitably brought snarls of envious rage, as better-endowed actresses passed my table. Greer Garson, whose figure was perfection, used to wail, 'Would you look? She can even wear quilted clothes to work!'" (p. 95)

    She does have a great sense of humor, and I love that she never takes herself too seriously. I know I'm raving about this book a lot but I swear I'm not getting endorsed to advertise it. I just really enjoyed it. :)


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