Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame Dennis in 'Auntie Mame' Designed by Orry- Kelly


Two piece costume, [395-1/2] short sleeve bodice of beige shear silk, small collar ornamented with small silver bugle beads in a water wash patterned, studded throughout with rhinestones and small crystal dangles, [395-2/2] matching short low cut full harem pants with rhinestone buttons at cuff. (Pants have WARNER BROS. PICTURES, INC. label which reads "RUSSELL 9501-845").


Bibliographic Citation

Screen World"," 1959"," Daniel Blum"," Biblo & Tannen Bookseller & Publishers"," pg. 129



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Additional Notes

The beautiful, campy and sumptuous comedy is a tour-de-force for not only Rosalind Russel- who some feel delivered the zenith performance of her career- but for the production designers and the costume designer, Orry-Kelly. With Mame’s bigger-than-life sense of style and fashion, the set and the costumes constantly change as Mame’s mood changes and she enters each new phase in her life. In the original novel, the character moves from location to location as her economic status changes, but for theatrical ease, the action remains in one ever-changing apartment which is perfectly mirrored by the changes in her costumes.

Auntie Mame is a madcap comedy of an eccentric 20th Century liberated woman living in New York and dealing (with gusto) with the realities that life throws her from the stock market crash of 1929 to 1958. The story is told through the eyes of her nephew, whom she finds herself guardian of, and the film is based on the novel written by the real life Patrick Dennis. Rosalind Russel pushes the limits without going into caricature and retains the decency, compassion and tolerance of the character.

Orry-Kelly covered such a wide array of colors, fabrics and used almost every element of style and fashion. There was Mame’s Bohemian Period- of sequined evening dresses and over the top jewelry; The Oriental Period with embroidered dragons; The Blue Period representing (in Auntie Mame fashion) the austerity of the stock market crash with even the use of the Peter Pan collar that matches those worn by her servants; The Southern Period with over the top Sothern Bell chiffon and riding suits; The Literary Period with the use of boldly modern browns and tans in flowing robes, smoking jackets with ascots and tuxedos; The Modernism Period in which the sparkling harem pant ensemble is worn- probably to push the buttons of Patrick’s new in-laws and the Indian Period with the use of golden beaded saris and stoles.

There are so many subtle changes in the costumes such as the use of the beige suit and pearls for the meetings with Patrick’s administrator and the seemingly appropriate Widow’s Weeds gown with the Mame touch of a floral bouquet at the low cut back. It is very easy to overlook the scope, details and subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) statements that Orry-Kelly created for the film. But, it is impossible to acknowledge the contribution of his designs in creating a character and a film that still holds up today. The costumes were also designed with long sleeves to cover the scars from the various surgeries that Rosalind Russell had from lymph node removals from her ongoing battle with cancer. The harem pants were originated by Paul Poiret in 1911 based on the Ballet Russes production of Scheherazade. These were later morphed into the Parachute pants that narrow at the waist and later Channel and Vionnet with the Plazo pants.



“Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame Dennis in 'Auntie Mame' Designed by Orry- Kelly,” Film Costume Collection, accessed June 6, 2023,