Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Old Movie Beauty: Kathleen Turner in Body Heat

The 1981 Florida-noir film Body Heat has everything I look for in a movie: murder, deception, romance and inspiring fashion.  Kathleen Turner as femme fatale Matty Walker is chic, elegant and hot in every way.

Florida's heat is ever present, mentioned in more scenes than not, and the actors stay dewy with sweat. Rather than going skimpy and bare, Matty is most often in white blouses. The first time we see her she is at an outdoor theater, stunning in a white silk blouse and skirt, even a slim white belt.  Matty wears so much white. And her long hair is a hot-roller glory.

The next time she appears on screen she is wearing the same silhouette, but her blouse is a fine linen or cottom, with pockets, and her and her straight skirt is red.  

Ned:   Maybe you shouldn't dress like that.

Matty:   This is a blouse and a skirt. I don't know what you're talking about.

Ned:   You shouldn't wear that body.

Matty takes her work as seductress and general evil-doer seriously.  Like any good Modern Career Gal, she has carefully assembled a sensible wardrobe that works. She likes her skirts slit to mid-thigh and her blouses unbuttoned and braless, but it's not sleazy; it's a very grown-up look. I am nostalgic for the time of solid basics, and flattering separates. Even the ladylike language: slacks and blouses. What is the essential thing that seems to me to have changed in the way we dress? And when did it change?

To harp on a vague point, let's look at the shoes. Matty, and later her doppelganger Mary Ann, played by Kim Zimmer, both wear cream-colored pumps and sandals. Matty is also seen in beige shoes. Hard to believe, but there was a time that accessories were largely done in neutrals. After years of shoes and bags in charmingly unexpected colors, I am finding something very appealing right now about having a small wardrobe of shoes and bags in sensible neutrals: black, navy, and my favorite, tan. I continue to be charmed by the outdated names for these shades: saddle, luggage.

As I've mentioned here, I am deep into building a reasonable wardrobe that actually works for myself.  I love to dredge the past for tips and inspiration, and I'll continue to share.

Costumes for Body Heat were designed by Renie, an icon in her own right, who worked on over 175 movies and won as Oscar for Cleopatra.  She was eighty-years old when Body Heat was made.  It was her last film.