Take one length of silk satin, some ecru lace, add one of the most beautiful women who ever lived and you have a truly iconic garment. Liz Taylor’s slip in Butterfield 8.
Or, come to think of it, Liz Taylor’s slip in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
For as long as I can remember, the image of her in those petticoats has been for me the very essence of true womanhood. Femininity at its most powerful. And with no more flesh on show than you’d see at a cocktail party.
I must have been quite a young girl when I first saw those films, randomly catching them, as you did back then, on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I was entranced. I still am.
I watched Butterfield 8 again last night, as a tribute to Ms Taylor, who died on Wednesday, and was breathless with admiration from the opening shot.
By the moment when she’s trying the fur coat on over the slip, I was practically hyperventilating. Then she waltzes out to get a taxi in that combo, plus the perfect pointy gold pumps, of course. Cinematic bliss. I am woman, hear me roar.
Between hot flushes of worship I was trying to analyse what makes Liz’s slip so astonishingly amazing. Mainly her body, of course, the perfect hip to waist ratio, ideal boob size, also her skin, so deliciously dewy on the shoulders, but really it’s the fit of the thing.
That was a made-to-measure slip, for sure, with some kind of fiendishly clever firming undergarment on the stomachular/derriere area. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d stitched her into it.
It makes me want to rush immediately to Paris and have one fitted at Sabbia Rosa*.
The all-white slip in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is very nearly as good. It fits as beautifully and is only just a tiny bit less divine than the satin and contrasting lace of the other. Glorious against her tan.
And thanks to Tennessee Williams, that film also happens to have one of the best scripts in history (‘You no-neck monsters!’), the legendary white Grecian dress – and Paul Newman. I’ll be watching that tonight.
I’m sure those films were what inspired Helena Christensen’s fabulous vintage slip with a vintage cashmere cardie over the top look, which remains my favourite style moment of the 1990s. I worked that combo as hard as I could in my gorgeous Collette Dinnigan versions (all of which I still have…).
And in that same decade I went to a fancy dress party in just my black silk slip (bought in Hong Kong), pointy pumps, red nails and a big hair do, in my own little homage to Gloria Wandrous and Maggie the Cat.
I probably looked hideous, but I felt all woman and had a wonderful time. So thank you Miss Taylor for being an inspiration to us all. For all that – and the legendary fund- and awareness-raising for AIDS charities, she will be much missed.
And never equalled.
* Sabbia Rosa is the glorious lingerie shop where Madonna, Naomi and every other beauty you can identify by their first name alone buy the slips of chiffon they call underwear. They have a made-to-measure service, but nothing as vulgar as a website.
I used always to stay in a hotel a few doors up and while I would always look in the windows like a hungry dog, was too shy ever to go in. When I win the lottery, it will be one of my first stops.