Under the influence: A review of Valley of the Dolls

Geometric textiles, feathery eyelashes, and color blocking: Doll Fashions

Sharon Tate (Jennifer North), Barbara Parkins (Anne Welles) and Patty Duke (Neely O’Hara)

There are stunning costumes in the film that you can only dream about when reading the book. The designer William Travilla professionally known as Travilla, designed all of the girl’s most stylish looks. Mod A-line dresses, bedazzled pantsuits, cage pattern dresses and of course red carpet evening gowns were a staple for the film’s starlets.

Neely was a bit tomboyish in the beginning, until her success in showbiz afforded her voluminous blowouts and extravagant fashion. Though she is most often remembered by her scene in a scotch induced stupor, yelling at her then-husband Ted on their pool deck wearing only a bra and slip. Jennifer North had the face and tall stature to wear Travilla. She can be seen in glittering minidresses with matching door knocker earrings. On her visit to Neely’s Hollywood home, she is in a pink beach coverup suit hybrid and reveals a lime green swimsuit with matching bangles. Barbara Parkins who played Anne Welles, had the most boring of everyday looks, as she stated in a Valley of the Dolls documentary. Beige everything: dress, winter coat, matching beret to go with the office’s beige envelopes. With her chestnut brown hair she practically blended in to the woodwork. The career woman Travilla sets were based on Jackie Kennedy’s impeccable first lady looks. Parkins DID have her shining moments in the colorful glamor of the Gillian Girl commercial and then after.

Fashion in Valley of the Dolls

I feel like I could pickup Valley of the Dolls over and over again to read. Its charmingly hilarious and I find myself shaking my head at all of the feminine trepidation these girls went through with love, heartbreak and career. I knew I wanted to wait to view the film after I had read the true account that Jacqueline Susann had conveyed. In a way it was her own account; she was Anne Welles wading her way through entertainment in the 1960s and wrote from all the different angles. The film wasn’t the novel verbatim (they seldom are) but more like watching a series fashionable comedy skits. The acting was like a roller coaster, as are the emotions.

 “Tony, how many times do I have to tell you? At night, all cats are gray.”

Miriam to her brother Tony

The supporting women are equally hilarious: Miriam (sister to the nightclub singer, which Jennifer was wed to) and aging Diva Helen Lawson were spectacularly bizarre in their dialogue exchange. Everyone should check out this piece of camp history, because both works are idyllic definitions of the camp genre.

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