The book closet: This Chandler vixen's worth a stare on page . . . May 19, 2011 18:08 2 Comments

Or on screen, where she's played by Lauren Bacall, and her name is Vivian Sternwood Rutledge, rather than Vivian Sternwood Regan. 

Raymond Chandler, as you recall, dearest readers, is my favorite writer. He knew how to tell a story. He knew how to turn a phrase. And his descriptions? Well. Second to none. 

He describes Vivian of The Big Sleep as worth a stare. And here is his picture of Vivian when she visits Philip Marlowe's office:

McCall-7238 She wore brownish speckled tweeds, a mannish shirt and tie, hand-carved walking shoes. Her stockings were just as sheer as the day before, but she wasn't showing as much of her legs. Her black hair was glossy under a brown Robin Hood hat that might have cost fifty dollars and looked as if you could have made it with one hand out of a desk blotter.

Oh, I can't stop there.  I can't. Let me share more of this passage. OK? Please?

"Well, you do get up," wrinkling her nose at the faded red settee, the two odd semi-easy chairs, the net curtains that needed laundering and the boy's size library table with the venerable magazines on it to give the place a professional touch. "I was beginning to think you worked in bed, like Marcel Proust."

"Who's he?" I put a cigarette in my mouth and stared at her. She looked a little pale and strained,  but she looked like a girl who could function under a strain.

"A French writer, a connoisseur in degenerates. You wouldn't know him."

"Tut, tut," I said. "Come into my boudoir."

You can see, the movie heroine doesn't exactly look like Bacall. She's no blonde. (Not that there is anything wrong with being a blonde. I, after all, sport that particular shade.) And her The_big_sleep_beret wardrobe is different as well. If you want to duplicate either look, may I recommend Vogue 6047, from the 1940s. (The book was published in 1939; the movie released in 1946.) And for the blouse, McCall 7238 would work ever-so-nicely. For the hat, you might choose Simplicity 1076. The beret, of course.

I love this look. I do. I do. I do. Absolutely. And may I suggest this mannish linen-wool check fabric from Michael's for the suit? It's perfect. Truly.

The_big_sleep_tweed And, of course,  this smashing ensemble of vintage patterns can be yours. Just click over to The Blue Gardenia, where the patterns are counted, the jewelry is sparkling, and domestic shipping is free. (And we happily ship abroad for a fee, generally even less than the USPO charges us. Are we special? Well, yes. Yes, we are.)