Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Could It Be...?

One of the projects I'm working on right now is an inventory of the shoe collection. It has been very exciting to come across items from Seattle businesses and pieces that are just downright fabulous. But this week we were presented with a little bit of a mystery.

On Friday this relatively benign pair of shoes was up next to be photoed, measured, and condition checked:

My intern, faithfully updating the record in the database stopped and commented, " the description it says 'Shoes said to have been made for Julie Andrews in the 20th Century Fox Movie The Star'...what does that mean?? Did Julie Andrews wear those shoes???"

Instinctively skeptical, I brushed it off. (MOHAI also has a bloody scarf that Mrs. Lincoln apparently was wearing on the night of the assassination. I looked into it and there is a 98% chance of that claim being totally hooey).

The only thing that gave me pause was the fact that there were marks on the soles that looked like they had once been taped with masking tape. That is a short-term solution for giving shoes some traction on a smooth floor--often seen on shoes worn for fashion shows or in the theater.

Then there was a second pair with a similar claim in the description:

These also had tape marks, including on the inside. AND they looked like they may have been painted to go from red to gray. All touches consistent with quick-fixes for costuming purposes.

Then there was something else nagging me. Guess who donated the shoes?

Who else?

John Doyle Bishop, connoisseur of the fabulous and friend to the rich and famous, seems to be JUST the kind of person who would enjoy owing a pair of shoes worn by an icon.

Seems about right

The more I thought about it the more I thought it COULD BE. I mean, it's not like the record was claiming that these were Dorothy's ruby slippers. As fabulous and amazing as Julie Andrews is, Star! was not a big hit and Hollywood churns out hundreds of movies each year. Clothing pieces worn by stars in lesser-known pictures must end up somewhere. 

In total, there were actually four pairs of shoes and one hat in this donation, all claiming to be from this movie, all worn by Julie Andrews, all donated by JDB. I did some research and the costumes for Star! were done by Donald Brooks, the New York-based fashion designer who also did costumes for movies and the stage. And GUESS what Seattle store sold Donald Brooks??

This is a sketch from the Seattle Times advertising a special showing of Donald Brooks clothing at John Doyle Bishop's store in 1968- the year that Star! was released. 

I don't think that this evidence is conclusive but I think it makes the claim plausible. What do you think? Obviously the next step is to find a copy of the movie and scrutinize the footwear!


  1. Have movie watching happened yet?!?

  2. Have movie watching happened yet?!?

  3. Not yet! I want to get all the pieces inventoried first so I know what to look for.