It is not often the fabric of Hollywood history is discovered quite unexpectedly. In a museum, in Las Vegas, it is the rarest of finds. The Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas brings to light a fantastic, “lady-like” suit set costume now known to have been worn by a star in the truest sense of the word.
Actress Ginger Rogers was Hollywood royalty, full of glamour for decades beginning in the 1930s. Paired with Fred Astaire, she was half of one of the most famous dancing couples in history. An Academy Award-winning actress, she worked with the 20th century’s greatest composers and leading men including Ronald Reagan and Cary Grant, and she appeared in a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II. The Kennedy Center honored her in 1992.
Designer Jean Louis spent his early career as head of wardrobe for Columbia Pictures and joined Rogers on the production of “It Had to be You,” a 1947 romantic comedy, a fortunate chance to showcase ‘40s fashion.
Donated to the museum by local resident and vintage clothing collector Terry McFall, the stunning blush-colored set drew the attention of volunteer curator Karan Feder as she examined the museum’s collection. Feder found a Columbia Pictures label sewn into the garment’s right sleeve, with the handwritten inscription “1138 Ginger Rogers.”
“Studio wardrobe labels typically included the name of the actor, the character and at least one identifying number that might represent the work order for the costume shop, or the production number of the film, as assigned by the studio,” Feder said. She set out to find the match. It took some sleuthing, but production records, photographs and film screenings proved the garment to be authentic, indeed the one Rogers donned in the movie.
“The original costume included a matching pillbox hat and a parasol,” Feder said. While they went missing, the classic costume and accompanying 40’s photos are in full view at the museum.