Charles Vidor’s dazzling 1946 film Gilda, now out on Blu-ray and DVD, is an erotic, thrilling Hollywood noir. Set in Buenos Aires and starring the incomparable Rita Hayworth in one of her greatest roles, Vidor’s film also features an iconic wardrobe created by the famous French costume designer Jean Louis. As Columbia Pictures’ head designer from 1944 to 1958, Louis had a unique flair for making unforgettable looks for the leading ladies he dressed. Hayworth donned a number of ravishing ensembles as the titular femme fatale, but it’s the slinky satin gown she wore for her performance of “Put the Blame on Mame” that remains the film’s most memorable outfit. Inspired by John Singer Sargent’s controversial 1884 painting Madame X, the seductive black gown was custom-shaped to Hayworth’s body and rigged with an invisible apparatus to keep the strapless number in place as she danced across the stage.
On the occasion of Gilda’s release, we took a look back at a selection of the remarkable designs Jean Louis created for the film’s radiant star—from luxurious evening gowns to sparkling sequined coats—which are every bit as impressive today as they were seventy years ago.