Fashion in Film: Mahogany

Photo credit IMDB.com

I'm a huge fan of classic movies with fabulous leading ladies. I finally got my hands on a copy of Mahogany--the 1975 film starring Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams; directed by Berry Gordy--for the first time. While I certainly revel in a romance and do find a good rags-to-riches story quite endearing, the REAL story of Mahogany for me, lay in the clothes.

The basic plot is that Diana Ross plays Tracy, an aspiring fashion designer who is putting herself through design school by working as an assistant at a high-end Chicago department store. In her neighborhood, she meets the dashing Brian (Billy Dee Williams), a political organizer and they fall in love. Tracy’s job allows her to meet a world renowned photographer, Sean (played by Anthony Perkins) who decides that she should be a fashion model and eventually, whisks her off to Rome where he graces her with the moniker “Mahogany”--because she too is “dark, beautiful, rich and rare” . Mahogany becomes a supermodel and fashion designer, as she’d dreamed, leaves Sean (who randomly becomes sort of a psycho-haha) to become the kept woman of a mega rich older gentleman, then ultimately realizes Brian is the love of her life and returns to dark, gray Chicago—richer, wiser and infinitely more fabulous (as you may note by the fantastic fur coat and matching hat she’s wearing in the final scene).

Despite much of the plot being way over-the-top, interspersed with complete corniness, I rather loved Diana in this film. Her acting is actually pretty good, she looks beautiful and her hair is just this crown of full flowing, bouncing tresses. Sadly there are not a ton of images to be found of all the clothing, but I was able to locate: a “head shot” of the amazing cape and wide brim hat combo in which Tracy arrives at her new modeling agency in Rome; a black and white of the one-armed, paper-thin fuchsia evening gown and muffler the character wore while shooting at a fountain in Rome; and a waist up photo of the polished white trench coat and white hat with black ribbon she wore while patronizing a newsstand. I would absolutely recommend you watch the movie so you can see the movement and life of the clothes for yourself—and so that when Tracy’s teacher in design class tells her to create a basic sketch with, “No sequins. No rhinestones. No ostrich feathers.”-- you can laugh too because, really—what would life be without those?!