Black dress of Rita Hayworth

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Black dress of Rita Hayworth
Gilda trailer rita hayworth3 crop.JPG
DesignerJean Louis
Year1946 (1946)
TypeBlack strapless dress

In the 1946 film Gilda, Rita Hayworth wore a black dress made by American costume designer Jean Louis.[1] It was used in one of the most famous scenes of the film: one in which the character of Gilda sings the song "Put the Blame on Mame", improvising a quick striptease, choreographed by Jack Cole.[2][3] The dress has helped consolidate the image of the femme fatale, as well as being universally recognized as an icon of fashion and cinema.[3][4] The Independent named it as one of the Ten Best Fashion Moments in Film.[4]


Jean Louis, Columbia Pictures costume designer, collaborated with the actress Rita Hayworth in nine films from the 1945 until 1959. Louis is considered "an essential ingredient in the formula that created the image of Rita Hayworth".[1]

To create clothes for Gilda, Jean Louis was inspired by Portrait of Madame X, the famous socialite in Paris.[3][5] According to Life magazine, the wardrobe designed by Jean Louis for Rita Hayworth had a value of about $60,000, a large figure for the time.[1] The dress was said to illustrate that "extreme sexuality" in women, hot or cold, is a recipe for catastrophe.[3]

In 1946, the image of Rita Hayworth in the Gilda black dress was imprinted on the first nuclear bomb to be tested after the Second World War, as part of Operation Crossroads. The bomb, nicknamed "Gilda", was decorated with a photograph of Hayworth cut from the June 1946 issue of Esquire magazine. Above it was stenciled "Gilda" in two-inch black letters.[6]

In April 2009, the dress was to be sold at the auction of the Forrest J. Ackerman estate. In the description of the lot it was specified that the dress still had the label "property of Columbia Pictures" and "Rita Hayworth" sewn inside.[5] The initial price was estimated between $30,000 and $50,000, but the lot was withdrawn before it reached the auction.[5][7] Later, in September 2009, the dress appeared mysteriously in an auction on eBay with a starting price of $30,000.[1]

The famous scene with the black dress has been referenced in numerous films. One of the most remembered is a parody sung by Jessica Rabbit in the Disney film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, in which the character performs "Why Don't You Do Right?" in the style of Rita Hayworth in Gilda. For the 23rd James Bond film Skyfall (2012), costume designer Jany Temime referenced the black dress while creating an outfit for Bond girl Sévérine.[8]


The strapless dress[3] is a sheath in black satin with a straight neckline, leaving the shoulders bare.[4] The dress is long and side-slit down to the ground. In the scene in the film Gilda in which it appears, the dress is paired with a pair of satin long gloves worn up to Hayworth's shoulders. The glove fabric is identical to the dress fabric; not made from cheaper stretch satin.

To be able to wear the dress, Hayworth had to wear a corset, because just a few months before she had given birth to her daughter, Rebecca, and had not yet regained her pre-pregnancy figure. In addition to the dress, Jean Louis made a harness, worn under the dress. The harness consisted of rigging—one under the breast, one in the middle and one on the side. In addition, the soft plastic had been molded around the top of the skirt.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "The Rita Hayworth Fashion Page – Pt. II of III". Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  2. ^ Federici, Corrado; Boldt-Irons, Leslie Anne; Virgulti, Ernesto (2007). Beauty and the abject: interdisciplinary perspectives. Peter Lang. p. 218. ISBN 978-0-8204-8810-3. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e Fields, Jill (2 July 2007). An intimate affair: women, lingerie, and sexuality. University of California Press. pp. 149–50. ISBN 978-0-520-22369-1. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Davis, Laura (28 May 2009). "The Ten Best Film Fashion Moments". London: The Independent. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  5. ^ a b c "The Gown of Gilda". Bella Online. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  6. ^ "Atomic Goddess Revisited: Rita Hayworth's Bomb Image Found". CONELRAD Adjacent (blog). 13 August 2013. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  7. ^ "Rita Hayworth's Iconic Gilda Dress on Auction". Emanuel Levy. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  8. ^ Musgrave, Eric; Cosgrave, Bronwyn (12 October 2012). "The spy who clothed me". Financial Times. Lionel Barber. Archived from the original on 2 May 2017.