24 May 2012

TSC Spotlight On: Allison and Good & Bad Girl Fashion

No, she's a scrape--part square, part drape. I think she's pretty.

One major element at play in the world of Cry-Baby is the drape vs. square social divide among Baltimore's teens. As I'm sewing along to the film, I thought I'd take a minute to explore how that division is expressed in the wardrobe department (just in girls' clothes for now--I'll be taking a look at mens' fashion a little later).

One way of looking at the differences between the two social groups' wardrobe parameters would be a contrast and comparison of the outfits Allison wears at different points of her journey from princess of the charm school to Queen Cry-Baby. After all, to take a character we've been guided into seeing one way and completely upend our perception of her, you've got to really nail it, right?


Allison's two informal performing outfits--worn at the theme park opening and the Jukebox Jamboree--show us some of the clearest differences between square and drape styles:

The two costumes do have some similarities. First, Allison is wearing green in both scenes, tying the two outfits together--this is the same girl, just in two very different worlds. And then there are the Fifties mainstays--red lipstick, cat eyes. But the makeup is a lot heavier in drapeland, and where Square Allison wears a very feminine full skirt and crinolines, has her hair pulled firmly back above a demure neckline, her Post-Drape Makeover look is all curves and decolletage and loose, flowing curls--and capris, which are an especially apt marker of cultural chasm only scenes after her grandmother has dismissed slacks on women as "hysterectomy pants"!

The two outfits she wears between these two, in the "Naughty Lady From Shady Lane"/morning-after scene, show pretty much the same contrasts:

Allison starts the scene in pants and a fairly close-fitting blouse, hair down and tousled, red lipstick heavily applied; after hearing the radio report Cry-Baby's (fake) engagement to Lenora, she dives into her closet and comes out with a high-necked, full-skirted sundress, then pulls her hair back and wipes the lipstick furiously off.

The color similarity here is lacking, with implications for character development rather than clothing style particularly. Allison changes clothes specifically as an emblem of her changed social adherence in the wake of Cry-Baby's presumed betrayal.


The other two stage looks we see on Allison, at the charm school talent show and the chicken race, are more formal. Again we have the more vs. less heavyhanded makeup, the hair up vs. down; on the clothing count, though, where the casual outfits show a dramatic difference in style, the gowns display more of a difference in tone:

The talent show dress is pretty much the archetypical Fifties prom dress: mountains of pouf and petticoat, floral appliques and embellishment at the bodice. The chicken race number is slinky, formfitting, glamorous--built to house a femme fatale instead of the other's teen sweetheart. And the white/black contrast and its symbolism are clear. The white is a dress for a sweet, innocent young girl--the black is a gown for a bold, sexy, grown-ass woman.


Allison's last two ensembles don't fit into quite as neat a pair as the others seem to; both the nature of the dresses--plain shirtdress vs. bombshell sarong--and the circumstances of their wearing--a polio vaccination drive and an attempted jailbreak, respectively--diverge wildly. But what they do offer is the extreme example of each type--the squarest square and the drapiest drape:

Relative weights of makeup? Check. Hair up/hair down? Check (this may in fact be the most consistent element of Allison's warring identities). The square dress is full-skirted, muted, demure--the drape frock tight, bright and shiny.

Plus, bringing the sarong dress into the conversation means I have an excuse to post this hilarious screencap of Cry-Baby and Allison in the juvie visiting booth:

1 comment:

  1. I was about six when this movie came out, and saw it a few years later. I haven't thought about it much since, but am glad you reminded me, as I forgot how many fantastic 1950s are in it (plus, you know, a healthy dose of Johnny Depp, which never hurts ;D).

    Wishing you a gorgeous Monday & week ahead,
    ♥ Jessica