Style Inspirations – Fred Astaire

If you’ve ever heard of film star Fred Astaire then you must certainly have heard the famous assessment given on his first screen test report:  “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.” A slight understatement of Astaire’s talent and considerable charm perhaps? Astaire was one of the greatest dancers of his time (here’s just one very famous example) but he also became known for his sartorial elegance which has ensured his status as an enduring style icon.

Astaire preferred British tailoring to American and often got his suits made on Saville Row. He was elegant when casual, wearing beautifully tailored sports coats and trousers in muted hues with his socks providing a punch of colour. And when wearing a top hat and tails he looked as if it was the most comfortable form of clothing in the world.

Astaire gave a comprehensive interview about his style to GQ magazine which is well worth a read. In it he discusses his aversion to “conspicuous” dressing, his love for double-breasted suits, and his preferred way to knot a tie. It is obvious that Astaire is extremely knowledgeable in sartorial matters and the fact that he returned to tailors with the same garment several times to get just the right fit is evident in every photograph.

Pic from Vanity Fair
Pic from
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Pic by Everett
Pic from The Luxe Obsessions

I couldn’t end this post without including the following video which sees Astaire paired with my favourite movie star of this era, Gene Kelly. Kelly and Astaire were considered to be two of the best dancers of their time but they were very different in style. It is perhaps best summed up by Cyd Charisse who partnered with both of them: “As one of the handful of girls who worked with both of those dance geniuses, I think I can give an honest comparison. In my opinion, Kelly is the more inventive choreographer of the two. I think, however, that Astaire’s coordination is better than Kelly’s. Kelly, on the other hand, is the stronger of the two. To sum it up, I’d say they were the two greatest dancing personalities who were ever on screen. But it’s like comparing apples and oranges. They’re both delicious.”

Astaire and Kelly admired each other professionally and  Kelly was also a fan of Astaire’s sartortial style, once saying, “I used to envy his cool aristocratic style, so intimate and contained. Fred wears top hat and tails to the manner born — I put them on and look like a truck driver.”

My Ultimate Movie Star Crush

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Gene Kelly. Even above Robert Redford, Gene Kelly is the film star I adore, the man who makes me go weak at the knees, the man upon whose face I gaze stupidly…oh you get the idea. Why Gene, you ask? Allow me to show you:

Tall, dark and handsome. Amazingly athletic and graceful. A great singing voice and a good actor. And of course, along with Fred Astaire, the greatest dancer the movies have ever seen. Swoon.

I have already posted about my love for Singin’ In The Rain, to my mind the greatest musical ever made and the film by which Gene is best remembered due to his virtuoso dance routine in the title song (although my favourite dance routine in the movie is actually Moses Supposes – take 3 minutes out of your day and fail to be awed by Gene, I dare you!).

On a particularly cold morning last week I watched An American In Paris for the millionth time. From the opening scene where Kelly gets up and goes about his morning routine in his tiny garret in Paris, every scene is beautifully choreographed and shows his exquisite grace and timing. The film marks the English language debut of Leslie Caron, one of the few “MGM Golden Age” actresses still working today, most recently onscreen in Le Divorce, a Merchant-Ivory production. And the orchestral dream sequence starring the pianist Oscar Levant is genius. (Also, the Black and White Ball in the film looks like so much fun – I’d love to go to a modern version of it.)

Although the storyline in An American In Paris is slight, the movie is very enjoyable primarily for Gene Kelly’s performance and the songs of George and Ira Gershwin, which include the classics Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm, Our Love Is Here To Stay and ‘S Wondeful. Kelly’s charm, magnetic charisma and dancing talent are second to none. If you haven’t seen it, it’s one I’d very much recommend.

Comfort viewing

I was sick all day yesterday and spent most of the day in bed.  The Swine Flu vaccination is a doozy!  I got it because I have asthma and my doctor recommends that I get vaccinated for flu every year, but the regular flu vaccine is a day in the park in comparison to Swine Flu.  My arm felt like it had been punched by David Haye and I had zero energy.

I decided after sleeping all day that all I could do in the evening was watch a movie.  I don’t know if it’s true for everyone, but I have films that always make me feel a bit happier, that cheer me up.  Comfort viewing if you will!  So yesterday I watched one of my favourites, Singing in the Rain.  It stars Gene Kelly who is probably my all time biggest movie star crush.  As well as being very handsome he is probably one of the best dancers ever captured on film and he makes me swoon with scenes like this (or maybe that’s the Swine Flu…):

In addition to Gene’s genius, the movie is notable for the hilarious performance of Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont, a silent movie actress who is having difficulty in the new era of the “talkie”, as can be seen here:

Although the movie didn’t make me feel 100% better, it certainly helped!  Singin’ in the Rain is the perfect Sunday afternoon movie so make sure you rent it soon if you’ve never seen it.