If I Were Poor


By Julie Lang Hunt

From the July 1935 issue of MODERN SCREEN

[Note: This article took direct quotes from Kay as well as Jeanette MacDonald, Ginger Rogers and Claudette Colbert. I just typed up the part which regarded Kay’s opinions on the issue.]


archivesifiwerepoorKAY FRANCIS would meet our twenty-five dollar-a-week challenge with an “accessory wardrobe.”

“I could manage to hold my own in any fashionable circle with exactly three well chosen costumes,” she told me. “However, each of the three costumes would do triple duty and do it with chic and eclat by the sheer sorcery of the accessory plan.”

Kay is absurdly proud of her suggestion, because she made it to work throughout the entire Hollywood season when an overcrowded picture schedule precluded shopping forays. All this occurred about three years ago when Kay was winning her first recognition from all the prominent Parisian couturiers as Hollywood’s best dressed woman. During that very winter, she made one black crepe frock see her through every formal and semi-formal engagement, and one gray suit and a black afternoon dress meet all her daytime sartorial needs. She actually led the film colony’s fashion race with three outfits.

And that is why Kay can offer you this amazingly shrewd set of wardrobe blueprints. She says:

“I would manage somehow from my twenty-five-dollar salary one good suit for business wear. It would be made to measure because that is the only way to purchase any tailored garment. I would have my dressmaker or tailor add to the usual jacket and skirt, a jumper of the same material, this turning my skirt into a trim, two-piece frock for the office.

“Instead of expensive and perishable blouses, I would select several light-weight jersey sweaters in bright and dark colors, and one silk blouse shot with metal threads to dress up the suit for luncheon and matinee dates. This would give me one tailored suit, a two-piece frock and one semi-dress outfit.

“The second garment of my three costume collection, would be an afternoon frock and it would be in a color complementary to the suit so that the hats, gloves and shoes could be interchangeable. If the suit were black, oxford gray or navy, I would have this frock in black or gray.

“This outfit should be in a two-piece affair because the dress you can divide into two equal parts is the one that lends itself gracefully to the magic of the accessories. There should be one pair of inexpensive but well-made clips to change the neckline of this frock, and there should be one three-quarter length tunic of a contrasting shade, preferably a bright jewel color with which the outfit is entirely transfigured. And then because there is that blessed separate skirt, I would sometimes wear it with my silk metal-shot blouse for informal Sunday evening occasions, the movies, the bridge gettogethers.

“And now we come to the even frock, which is so important to the girl with many dates and a slim income. It should be black, this evening gown, and not too extreme in cut to help defy that “dated” look after its first season. I should own a long-sleeved jacket of the same material, or if I could afford it, and extra metal cloth jacket. When worn with my little coat, the deeply décolletage formal becomes the perfect dinner costume.

“To my jacket I would sometimes add a bright scarf or emerald green or wine red satin and I would tie it Ascot fashion for extra dash. I would find a small cluster of dark red carnations and pin them on the lapel of the dinner jacket (when the scarf is not worn) and I could transfer these flowers with gratifying results to the tailored lapel of my suit.

“For those big nights when my black down must do formal duty, I would collect two or three bright and enormous flowers to change the effect of the waist, the shoulder line and the very back of the décolletage. I might even buy a remnant of brilliant silk and swathe it about the waist and let the ends fall down the back in a gay train. I would certainly treat myself to one enormous clip that could be effectively snapped at varying points of the neckline and waistline and would look effective against a black background.”

Kay Francis believes in her accessory plan. She knows that she can carry it out tomorrow, if necessary, and still walk the ranks of the impeccably groomed. She knows all this because even in the very midst of Hollywood’s unbridled extravagance she has made this three-costume accessory wardrobe function, for her, and function, I might add, beautifully.

Archives Main Page