August 31, 2012

Frankenstein Fashions

Don’t underestimate the value of your screen fashions” advised Photoplay magazine, in December 1931. “You can go back home with a wealth of ideas for pepping up your own clothes picture.

As an unusual and subtle way to plug their hot new horror film, Frankenstein, just then rolling out across America, Universal entertained Photoplay magazine’s young women readers with pictures of Mae Clarke, the film’s Elizabeth, modeling screen-worn fashions.

Published under the title Stars Broaden Shoulder Lines, the first photo shows Clarke in the fur collar dress — “Worn in Frankenstein” — from scenes where she and Victor recruit Dr. Waldman and travel through a storm to the tower laboratory where her fiancé, Henry Frankenstein, treats them to a lightning show and the first stirrings of his slab-bound Monster.

The second photo shows Clarke in a light wool crepe number accessorized with a “vest-like arrangement” of baronduki, a fancy name for the Siberian squirrel. This is the dress she wore in the scene where Elizabeth returns to the lab, this time with Henry’s pompous father, only to find her beloved in a state of nervous collapse. “See this in Frankenstein” reads the copy.

The studio, or perhaps the magazine editors, chose to show Clarke in smart street clothes, something readers could aspire to. In the film, Clarke also appears in a very chic lace dress and, of course, a spectacular wedding gown with an endless train.