Piece of the week

Brazilian Film-Star, Carmen Miranda’s decadent influence  

A prom dress inspired by Carmen Miranda

This week’s piece of the week is an intricate pink prom dress donated by Janelle Kopp. The dress was surprisingly bought in 1992, one would look at the sleeves and immediately jump to the 1980s. Janelle bought the dress from a bridal shop in Fargo and wore the dress to the Bismarck High School Senior Prom.  

At first glance, the dress bombards the eyes with sequins and extremely puffed sleeves. Looking at the dress more closely, one can see the artwork of the sweetheart neckline meeting at the bodice with a beautiful pink floral piece, it is quite a unique feature. The back of the dress is as interesting as the front with a large cut out in the back and crystal-like beads hanging down the opening. The icing on the cake comes with the front leg slit of dress, reinforced together secretly with two weights. 

The glamour of the dress gains its influence from regal visions of the past. One of the most notable inspirations on the dress is from the sleeves, which gained popularity through Latina film star, Carmen Miranda.  

Miranda was born in Marco de Canaveses, Portugal on February 9, 1909. During her youth, her family relocated to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, due to her father becoming involved in the producing business. By the time she was 15, she was a singing sensation in Brazil. 

By the 1930s, she was appearing in high-grossing Brazilian films and was a prominent samba recording artist. In the late 1930s, she was recruited by a Broadway producer, marking her transition from Brazilian star to the Americanized “Brazilian Bombshell.” 

She worked in Broadway for about in year before she began appearing in American films, her debut being Down Argentine Way. In 1946 she was the highest-paid female entertainer in the United States, earning $200,000 that year, equivalent to about $2,000,000 in 2017.  

Her films highlight the final years of Hollywood’s golden age and the glamour of a triple threat; singer, dancer and actress. Miranda’s mark in history is her larger than life persona and acting, along with her imaginative wardrobe. She was known for her extravagant headwear, often containing real fruit, and her skyscraper platform shoes designed by Ted Saval, she had to do something to compensate her 5 foot frame.

During the night of Aug. 5, 1955, she was hosting friends at her house after a day of recording. When she was heading back to her friends after using the restroom, she fell over and had a fatal heart attack, she was only 46.  

Her influence on fashion was apparent during the 1940s and 50s with United States’ citizens incorporating her baiana (traditional Brazilian Dress), turbans and her tutti-frutti jewelry. 

Moving to modern times, her sleeves were an inspiration to the designer of this pink prom dress. The tiny silhouette and accentuated sleeves were the typical Carmen Miranda style. She was an icon for both South and North Americans; although her name is not as common anymore.  

Often times the inspirators of designs fade from the spotlight and are left behind in history while the design itself continues to be used and reincorporated. It is important to place these pieces of history back together in order to understand the evolution of fashion and the relevance it has today.  Carmen Miranda was an acting and fashion influence who deserves to be remembered for her abundant achievements.  

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