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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Inspired by: Brigitte Bardot in Shalako (1968)

You guys, it's Wednesday, and do you know what I love about Wednesdays? Sure, Hump Day is great, but even better: the MoviePlex channel has Western Wednesdays, twenty-four hours of vintage Westerns for your (MY) viewing pleasure. I have a perverse love of Westerns, ever since I saw The Great Train Robbery on the big screen, watched John Wayne try to rescue Natalie Wood in The Searchers, and discovered the best modern Western made since 1965, John Sayles' Lone Star. The "classic" Westerns John Wayne popularized in the 1950s were sweeping epics, full of dust-kicking, horse-riding, gun-toting action. It was the 1880s straight out of 1955, you could die from a rattlesnake bite, your land and cattle were always under threat from those pesky Indian braves, but hot-diggity, you looked great in a prairie dress the whole time.

And then came Shalako in 1968. The story of a chic, semi-royal European hunting party caught in the vast wasteland of the American West features Sean Connery straight off of his first four outings as James Bond. Even more incongruously, the iconic Brigitte Bardot is his love interest. The whole story, based on a Louis L'Amour novel, is based on the extensive history of European nobility (and the curious)'s fascination with the American West. Did you know Oscar Wilde went on a big-game hunting trip in America? What, did he take his tightest spats and best quill?

Obviously, the best part of Shalako is Brigitte Bardot's improbably perfect hair, complexion, clothing, and general demeanor. She is chock-full of smoking-hot badassery with a top hat and a rifle, riding side-saddle. Needless to say, the lady can take care of herself, thank you very much, Mr. Connery. BB looks glam, rough'n'tumble, regal, sassy, and super capable in her rather impractical but appropriate diachromatic riding ensemble. As you can clearly see, BB pulls off the black ribbon tie like a professional.

I love the look, but I just could not pull off all of those high-necked ruffles and bows without looking like a stuffy Victorian lady who's obscenely busted out of her whale-bone corset. So I modernized it a bit, with a dash of practicality and a pinch of Gothic princess:
From top to bottom, you've GOT to start out with a classy, twee miniature top hat (by Black Peace Now) perched atop your sexy-foofy cowgirl hair. Leave the ribbons in a loose bow so the hat comes flying off as you ride your fancy, rugged horse off into the mountains. Extra-large sunglasses (from Rokit) with clean, Art Deco-y lines and gold details for maximum sun protection factor with all of your outdoorsiness. Protecting your precious eyeballs from cataracts starts early, people!

A simple chiffon bib-detail blouse retains the ladylike ruffles and whiff of girlish naivete with the practicality of short sleeves (SPF lotion required). For the main garment, I've chosen a structured, asymmetrical vest to keep that chest up and back straight. Equestrians and ladies are all about proper posture. Burrs and briars might stick to the Moi-meme-Moitie skirt, but a calf length skirt leaves so much more room for running, jumping, and shooting. There is certainly less skirt to hike up when riding on bumpy terrain. Then, matching cream Victorian detail leather gloves and boots (my favorite!).

The finishing touch for both Brigitte Bardot and our modern-day Western mademoiselle is the Maltese Cross. The eight-pointed cross is said to represent the eight chivalric values, originating with the order of the Knights of St. John during the Crusades: observation, tact, resource, dexterity, sympathy, perseverance, discrimination (ironyyy), and explicitness. (Source.) The vintage gold Maltese cross necklace and the silver/gold chunky ring are probably about all I could handle flying around while I rode a horse. Etsy seller Ruby Ann Designs has a fab steampunk found-object Maltese cross, and Winston Studios has a lovely deconstructed variation of the traditional solid gold cross. I'm a pretty big atheist and never wear religious emblems of any sort, but I could get into the Maltese cross. (See also: Mary Astor's spunky femme fatale in The Maltese Falcon.)

So, cowboys and cowgirls, your lesson for today is that Westerns are not all plaid flannel shirts and dusty ghost towns. Westerns, although unsuccessful ones, can be swank and European, all swish and swagger. There's always fashion inspiration to be found in the strangest of places! Thank you, Mlle. BB, Sir Sean Connery, and Edward Dmytryk!

Images from Dr. Macro, the Times Online, and Polyvore.com

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