Mommie Dearest Film Costumes

Dominique de Merteuil By Dominique de Merteuil6 min read

Last updated on November 12th, 2023 at 10:31 am

Mommie Dearest film costumes

I’m fortunate to have been brought up by a very glamorous and sophisticated mother, who at an early age, introduced me to the wonderful world of vintage Hollywood. I was mesmerised by the performances and beauty of such stars as; Veronica Lake, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Rita Hayworth and particularly Joan Crawford, of whom I’ve read probably every biography that’s ever had pen put to paper. Of those, one caused huge controversy, its title is Mommie Dearest and it was written by her daughter Christina.

Christina Crawford is Joan’s adopted daughter and her hugely controversial 1978 biography of her mother was turned into a 1981 film starring Faye Dunaway.

Mommie Dearest

Mommie Dearest portrayed Joan as a very cruel woman, an alcoholic and an abusive mother, an image that many of her adoring fans, myself included, have found difficult to believe. Nevertheless, the film has found a place in popular culture and for me, it’s been an inspiration set piece for my 1940s costuming and styling.

In the ‘Joan Crawford: Always the Star’ documentary, the film director, Herbert Kenwith said this about Christina Crawford.

I think Christina was very, very envious of Joan Crawford and her public and her popularity and her beauty. Very envious. Joan Called me on many occasions to help Christina get a job as an actress, which I did on two ocasions. Joan did everything possible for that child. She wanted to be an actress, she wanted to be Joan Crawford.


Herbert Kenwith

My Love For Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford
Joan Crawford photographed by George Hurrell in 1936

Suffice it to say that I’m a huge fan of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn. I find their acting talent, beauty and immaculate sense of style simply intoxicating.

I was about six years old when I first watched The Women (1939) and The Philadelphia Story (1940). And from that moment on, I was hooked on the Hollywood glamour that became the inspiration for my look. The hair, the make-up, and those magnificent gowns created by the most talented costume designers in Hollywood: Adrian, Edith Head, Orry-Kelly, and Irene Sharaff, helped transform every bland-looking actress into the most beautiful woman in the world. I so wanted to become THAT woman.

By the time I was a teenager, I’d seen almost every film with Crawford Davis, Hepburn and Hayworth. I learned from watching my favourite movie stars, with a similar look and body type to mine, what styles of clothes worked and which ones didn’t.

How fortuitous that my body is so similar, shape-wise, to my biggest style inspiration, not counting my mom, Joan Crawford. I used to hate my broad shoulders until I realised that they were almost identical in size to Crawford’s shoulders. Now, instead of trying to make them look smaller, I emphasize their size with the help of 1940s jackets.

Why am I sharing this with you? I want you to know that I love Joan Crawford and take the Mommie Dearest book and its film adaptation with more than a grain of salt. According to some of her closest friends, twin daughters, and Betty Barker, a private secretary of nearly 28 years, nothing in the book was true.

I must have been living in a different home. I never saw this happen.

Betty Barker

Let’s not forget that she was not the first or the last movie star portrayed by her child in a harsh, almost unbearable to read about manner.

This post is my tribute to Joan Crawford, the style icon, and my excitement about owning a couple of garments designed by the great costume designer, Irene Sharaff.

Mommie Dearest Film Costumes in My Private Collection

A few years ago, by sheer coincidence, I went to an auction at Bonhams, that consisted of clothing from some of the films that Angels has been involved in the production of. Amongst the odd assortment, I stumbled upon two dresses from Mommie Dearest that were being sold as one lot. I tried them on, they fitted me like a glove and I knew then that I simply had to win them, it was beyond my control.

Well I did win the auction and two wonderful outfits that were worn by Ms Dunaway are now in my possession and just so we’re clear, that means FOREVER, and I will never ever sell them.

*Unless someone owns a dress that Joan Crawford wore in one of her 1930s or 1940s films and would want to swap with me.

Why? Well, one of the dresses was worn in what has become the seminal and arguably its most controversial scene of the film. It’s the ‘No wire hangers!’ dress that puts in an appearance when an off-the-scale with rage Joan returns home to beat her daughter senseless for hanging her clothes on a wire hanger.

No Wire Hangers Dress

Mommie Dearest film costumes
Mommie Dearest No wire hangers dress
Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford. And yes, the powder is still visible on the gown.

Without further ado, I present the infamous ‘No Wire Hangers’ dress from the movie Mommie Dearest that is now in my proud possession. Photography, by Gregory Michael King.

mommie dearest dress

“Be afraid of nothing.”

The Ice Follies of 1939

The other dress was worn in the opening scene of the film. In it, Joan is preparing for a dance scene in The Ice Follies of 1939. It’s a blue ice-skating outfit made from thousands of hand-sewn sequins and from what I’ve been told since meeting someone who worked in the costume department for Mommie Dearest, the hat alone for it was more expensive to make than many designer dresses of the day.

Mommie Dearest film costumes

The reason for this? The perfectionist is the legendary Irene Sharaff, Chief Costume Designer for the film and whose last film work this was to be. Ms Sharaff created costumes for Hello Dolly!, The King and I, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, West Side Story and is second only to Edith Head in the Oscar count for film costume designing.

 I’m wearing the original ice skating dress designed by Irene Sharaff and worn by Faye Dunaway in the film Mommie Dearest!

Mommie dearest dress
Vintage fashion blogger

The wonderful little hat didn’t make the cut. Such a shame as it’s such a magnificent piece.


The front of the ice skating outfit that made 10 10-second appearance in the film Mommie Dearest. Please, forgive my awful long and unstyled hair.

 Mommie Dearest costume

All The Other Costumes From Mommie Dearest film

So many wonderful garments, I wish were now hanging in my closet.

Mommie Dearest film costumes
How utterly fabulous is the red-pink colour combination?!

Any woman who appears in public without being well-groomed is digging her own grave.

Mommie Dearest film costumes
I don’t wear white, but for this ensemble, I would make an exception.
Mommie Dearest film costumes
Sitting pretty.

I think that the most important thing a woman can have, next to her talent, of course, is her hairdresse.

Mommie Dearest film costumes
If anything, this picture makes me thirsty.

I was born in front of a camera and really don’t know anything else.

Mommie Dearest film costumes
That’s what I do every evening before going to sleep.
" I was born in front of a camera and really don't know anything else.'

If you want to see the girl next door, go next door.

Mommie Dearest dress designed by Irene Shariff

Care for your clothes like for the good friends they are.

Joan Crawford Mommie Dearest clothes

Love is fire, but wheter it is going to warm your heart or burn down your house, you can never tell.

Joan Crawford Mommie Dearest

I’ve persuaded myself that I hate things that are bad for me-fattening food, late nights and loud and agressive peaople head the list. I’m friends with myself, so I do things that are good for me, otherwise I couldn’t be good for others.

Joan Crawford, My Way of Life

You might also be interested in my article on the Joan Crawford Inspired Look!

1940s dress Joan Crawford look
“Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.” Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford in Adrian

Which is your favourite outfit from the Mommie Dearest film?

What do you think?

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14 Comments
  • KATHLEEN LAFRATTA
    August 18, 2022

    My favorite outfit was the silver sequin column dress. But the Art-Deco jewelry is what really set off all of those clothes! Especially the brooch she wears in the scene with the Pepsi board. I can’t seem to find much information about those pieces. Like what jeweler made them? My guess, Harry Winston.

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      August 21, 2022

      Yes! I LOVE the silver column dress and wish it was in my collection. The jewellery that Fay Dunnaway wore throughout the film is from the Frances Klein Estate Jewels in Beverly Hills.

  • Chuck
    November 28, 2019

    Where could I buy one like it? I remember a few years back I found a company that makes them. It’s for my wife.

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      November 28, 2019

      You can’t.
      I bought both dresses at a Bonhams auction. They are the original pieces from “Mommie Dearest” film (1981) designed by Irene Sharaff and worn by Faye Dunaway.

      Have a look at The Haverdrils evening gown from NICOL & FORD. or perhaps Marlene dress from Marilyn Feltz. They don’t have buttonts at the front but they are still really lovely.

  • Kerrie Ann
    October 4, 2012

    Where have you been hiding? Fashion world needs you! x

  • Callie
    July 30, 2012

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  • Rebecca
    July 19, 2012

    Her dress from “No More Wire Hangers” is just.. so divine!
    I adore it and you look amazing in it!

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    July 14, 2012

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  • Patricia
    July 10, 2012

    Love the blue ice-skating outfit :))) Amazing!