Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dancer sleeves, Fred Astaire and Roller Skates

I recently had a rainy day movie afternoon with my 6 year old daughter and we watched Shall We Dance, the 1937 movie starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I cant believe that I hadn't seen it before but for what its worth we both thoroughly enjoyed it. I would go so far to say that it transcended the stereotypical "musical" and was an entertaining, well written and acted movie in it's own right. 

When the movie reached the iconic musical number of Let's Call the Whole Thing Off where Petrov and Linda sing and then dance around on roller skates I couldn't help but notice Astaire's sleeves. I have discussed dancers sleeves in two previous posts [part 1 and part 2] and it recently came up again on the cutter and tailor forum. There is always a few who strive to achieve the maximum freedom of movement possible and the perfect sleeve/body/shoulder for this. Here is definitive proof that you can't have everything. Something has to give, in this case it is the upper sleeve. 

Astaire was a well known client of Anderson and Shepherd and considered a fashion icon by many. Always impeccably dressed and fashion forward, although rumoured to . As far as dancers sleeves go, I think they cut the perfect balance between fit, appeal and function. However as I have said many times before, I don't see this cut appropriate for anything other than within the context of a dance routine. In my opinion it is too messy for a regular business suit. But if it's good enough for Fred Astaire?... well we're not in 1937 any more for one.

I've taken some screen shots of the scene and divided them in to pros and cons. Factors to consider when assessing the photos are that A&S cut a soft jacket (if they did cut this, I can't find any credit either way), the cloth is a little heavier than what modern suits are made of, which can hide some of the drags a finer cloth would show. Lastly, the jacket shoulder extends beyond the natural shoulder quite a bit, as was the late 1930's style. There are also quite a few theatre tricks that can be used to keep the jacket down, like ties or elastic. Who's to say that the jacket wasn't attached to the trousers or anchored in some way (look at the final pic with suspicious drags around the bottom) to prevent the body of the jacket rising up. What do you think? 

Cons go first so we end on a positive tone...

large folds when arms are down

the deep fold and you can see clearly the full cut upper arm


from imdb.com; where the sleeve looks the best


when the arm is slightly raised the sleeve smooths down; note the high armhole
you can rollerskate and the body of your jacket wont ride up
same goes for gliding...
here you can see the cloth at the head of the sleeve is starting to bunch up as the arm is raised higher, the underarm is still locked tight to the body

even with arms raised this high, the jacket shows little movement

So in conclusion, this sleeve is beneficial for wooing; as long as the lady is not sat directly across from you and gets distracted by your weird sleeves. However it is unparalleled when it comes to rollerskating!


Lynne Williams said...

Love this movie and really appreciate that you have taken a tailors eye to his suit in this scene.

Fun....and educational:)

paul van der hart said...

A late response, but when I saw this it made me think of this post....


Kerry Goodrich said...

Lynne - Thanks for your comment!

Paul - I saw the Kilgour suit on Permanent Styles blog yesterday, lovely isn't it!