Miss Pettigrew brown dress.
I’m working my way through Lee Pace’s backlist and while doing so discovered this little gem of a movie, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008). The film is a throwback to the screwball comedies of the 1930s with heart, depth, a great soundtrack, fabulous costumes, and splendid sets. Miss Pettigrew (Francis McDormand) is a middle-aged governess who is down on her luck. Dismissed from her last position and desperate to stay off the streets, she wangles her way into the next job the temp agency has open: social secretary to the glamorous American singer, Delysia LaFosse (Amy Adams). Over the next twenty-four hours, Miss Pettigrew defuses a series of crises for her new employer and in the process redefines herself.
When our story opens, we find Miss Pettigrew looking very dowdy in her dark brown sack-like dress and coat. Frances McDormand says she decided that Miss Pettigrew probably hadn’t had any new clothes since she put together her trousseau as a young woman back during the Great War so many of her oufits appear to be stuck in an earlier era.
The first change we see is when Delysia gives Miss Pettigrew a blue scarf. The scarf immediately brightens up Miss Pettigrew’s outfit and becomes an important prop later on as we shall see.
Delysia’s blue dress gives her an all-American girl appearance.
Delysia first makes an appearance in her frou-frou peach dressing gown, then changes into a smart blue dress and hat for her visit to Edith duBarry’s Beauty Salon.
Miss Pettigrew Lingerie Show
The lingerie show that Miss Pettigrew and Delysia attend serves as a commentary on the contentious relationship between Edith (Shirley Henderson) and her on-again-off-again fiance, Joe Bloomfield (Ciaran Hinds).
Edith’s designs are heavy corsets filled with whalebone and steel–a conservative approach aimed at older women such as the two matrons who look so disapproving when Delysia and Miss Pettigrew sit down next to them. It’s implied that Edith is a self-made woman whose worked her way up the social ladder and her lingerie designs reflect her conservative, unsentimental, and business-like nature. Although Joe is an older man, his designs are light, flowing, and very modern. We learn during the course of the scene that it’s Joe who has designed the blue scarf Miss Pettigrew likes so much–and the first point of attraction between them is established.
Miss Pettigrew as nature intended.
Since Miss Pettigrew’s current ensemble is unsuitable for her current role as social secretary, Delysia and Edith give her a makeover. Miss Pettigrew re-emerges in a simple blue dress, updated but still appropriate for a working woman.
Undoubtedly, Delysia has the best wardrobe (and the most costume changes) of any of the characters. Here we see her pink dress that she wears to an afternoon cocktail party.
Delysia’s gold gown. Probably my favorite costume in this film.
The piece-de-resistance is her gold evening dress that she wears for her job as a singer at The Scarlet Peacock nightclub. It’s a wonderful Grecian draped, 1930s piece.
Miss Pettigrew’s blue velvet dress in action.
Miss Pettigrew also gets an evening wear upgrade, a blue velvet dress with a rose. The small white ruffle is symbolic of her tentative flirtation with high fashion. The waltz with Joe, of course, cements their growing attraction to each other.
Delysia’s final outfit, the white traveling suit.
The story ends, of course, as all good fairytales do with the all the lovers reunited. Delysia wears a very smart, off-white traveling suit which suggests bridal wear in her final bow to the camera.