Film Costume: My Fair Lady (1964)

By Sydney Kipen

The costume designed for Eliza Doolittle, designed by Cecil Beaton, is illustrative of high society fashion in the early 1900s of Edwardian England. Following her transformation from a Cockney, low-class member of society to a high-end member of the "leisure class," Eliza becomes the epitome of high fashion. Her dress, when she attended the famous Ascot Racecourse (horse races), embodies the qualities of upper-class society with long and elegant lines and a slight release of the corset and bodice. The lace, large broad hat, sash and belt to accent the small waist, high boned collar, and brushing of the floor of the dress all demonstrate early 20th century European fashion tendencies. Eliza's dress effectively communicates the transformation of her character to member of respected, high society and her role as a woman of status. The dress worn at the Ascot Racecourse demonstrates a sense of power dress and how transformation of one's clothing, and speech when she opens her mouth, can change others' perceptions and interpretations.