Behind closed doors at an unassuming photo studio in Cathedral City, a soundtrack of classic motion-picture scores sets the tone for sartorial thrill. Plumes of tulle, chiffon, and appliquéd organdy spill from a fleet of garment racks — these fashions date back to the midcentury but, save for a few (presumably storied) lipstick stains, remain in near-pristine condition.
From the mind of Academy Award–winning costume designer Helen Rose, who spent her twilight years in Palm Springs, the collection contains work produced for such films as High Society and The Merry Widow; some appeared on-screen. Now cared for by the Palm Springs Historical Society and never before showcased in public, the ensembles were unveiled from archival boxes to appear in front of Palm Springs Life’s lens. At the studio, a new generation of starlets — Laura Marano, Isabel May, Halston Sage, and Emma Nelson — step into character and costume to give Rose’s timeless designs a modern spin.
See the outfits beyond the page in a special runway event benefiting the historical society March 20 at Fashion Week El Paseo in Palm Desert. Tickets available at fashionweekelpaseo.com.
Laura Marano, 23, found the spotlight in 2011 as the lead on Disney Channel’s hit series Austin & Ally. Her talents ripened alongside her character, who for four seasons works to conquer stage fright and launch into a career as a singer-songwriter; Marano went on to win the 2015 Kids Choice Award for Favorite TV Actress. Music continues to excite the L.A. native. Post-Ally she helmed a talk show on Radio Disney, and in October 2018 she launched her own independent label, Flip Phone Records. Marano appeared in the Oscar-nominated Greta Gerwig drama, Lady Bird, and has three projects on the horizon: War With Grandpa starring Robert De Niro and Uma Thurman, coming to theaters next month; the romantic comedy The Stand In; and Saving Zoe, on which she also serves as a producer.
Laura wears a red chiffon gown designed for Elizabeth Taylor in The Last Time I Saw Paris (1954); Pyrrha choker.
Jeweled silk-chiffon gown designed for Cyd Charisse in Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956); Loeffler Randall shoes.
Emma Nelson will make her silver-screen debut March 22 in Richard Linklater’s film adaptation of the best-selling novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette. A heartfelt comedy originally penned by Maria Semple, the story follows lead Bee Branch (Nelson) on a quest to find her missing mother. Linklater, whose breadth of work (from Dazed and Confused to Fast Food Nation to Boyhood) often examines generational rites and youth culture, selected the bright-eyed 14-year-old Chicagoan for the lead role from a pool of thousands of audition tapes. Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer, and Laurence Fishburne round out the Bernadette cast.
Laura wears a gold-sequined gown designed for Esther Williams in Jupiter’s Darling (1955); Barollo shoes; Pyrrha rings. Emma wears a muslin peasant dress with gold braid designed for Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (1965); Loeffler Randall shoes; Anabela Chan earrings and ring.
Emma wears a brocade blouse with lace trim designed for Two Sisters From Boston (1946).
Halston Sage has crushed titanium with her bare hands as a Xelayan alien in Seth MacFarlane’s series on Fox, The Orville; made out with Dave Franco and Rose Byrne in Neighbors, earning an MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Kiss; and fled from the undead in Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse. In June, the 25-year-old Angeleno will trade her super-human Orville traits for mutant abilities as the X-Men disco queen Dazzler in Dark Phoenix. Albeit a small role, it marks Sage’s entry to an elite club of Marvel superhero heroines that includes Jennifer Lawrence, Sophie Turner, and Rebecca Romijn. She also stars alongside K.J. Apa and Maia Mitchell in the forthcoming Netflix dramedy The Last Summer, about a group of friends preparing to split ways for college.
Halston wears a sequined dance leotard with chiffon skirt designed for Judy Garland in Royal Wedding (1951; Garland left the film midproduction, and the costume was never used); Chloe Gosselin shoes; Carole Shashona earrings; mask, stylist’s own.
Halston wears a gown and stole designed for Lana Turner (details in caption at top of page).
Isabel May caught critics’ attention in 2018 with her inaugural appearance on-screen. Sidestepping the usual run-up guest spots required to get a good gig, she landed a starring part in the Netflix original kids’ comedy series Alexa & Katie. The half-hour show delves into the power of friendship as a high-schooler battles cancer; it earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Children’s Program and maintains a 100 percent critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes for its first season. Netflix released Season 2 in December. The 18-year-old Santa Monica native can also be seen as the newly recurring character Veronica on the CBS sitcom Young Sheldon. Most recently, she wrapped production on an experimental indie flick, Let’s Scare Julie to Death, a thriller about a Halloween prank gone awry that was filmed entirely in one uncut take.
Isabel wears an organdy wedding dress designed for Grace Kelly in High Society (1956); Carole Shashona earrings.
Chiffon cocktail dress designed for Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958); Barollo shoes; Carole Shashona earrings.
From left: Laura wears a strapless satin gown designed for Rita Hayworth in Gilda (1946); gloves, stylist’s own. Isabel wears a matador jacket designed for Martha Raye in Tropic Holiday (1938); shorts, stylist’s own; Pyrrha jewelry. Halston wears a lace corset designed for Lana Turner in The Merry Widow (1934; this design sparked and gave name to the “merry widow,” or corselet, womenswear trend); Anabela Chan earrings. Emma wears a ruffled velvet gown designed for Turner in The Merry Widow; Carole Shashona earrings.
From left: Isabel wears an organdy wedding dress designed for Grace Kelly in High Society (1956); Loeffler Randall shoes; Carole Shashona earrings. Emma wears a ruffled-neck chiffon gown with beaded belt designed for Cyd Charisse in Sombrero (1953); Barollo shoes; Anabela Chan jewelry; gloves, stylist’s own. Laura wears a chiffon gown with floral appliqué designed for Grace Kelly in High Society (1956); Barollo shoes; socks, stylist’s own.
VIDEO: Go behind the scenes on set with Laura Marano, Emma Nelson, Halston Sage, and Isabel May.