A passion for food + fashion

Friday Follies: Seeing Valentino Red

In Fashion, Film on April 3, 2009 at 7:56 am

Friday Follies [n., pl.] postings on Fridays about fashion and food in film from guest bloggers with impeccable taste.


Woman on Top might be a movie about a woman scorned, but to me this movie is all about red dresses. Awash in blandness, Isabella (Penélope Cruz) leaves her cheating husband, dressed in an array of pasty white flour sacks. As Isabella simmers up some red chile peppers, her mojo returns and her wardrobe gravitates towards a vibrant hue of red. 


She sashays through the streets wearing red dress #1 (a spaghetti-strapped swingy sundress) enticing what must be the entire straight male population of San Francisco to follow behind her in a Dr. Pepper-meets-Verizon Wireless parade through the city streets. 


She saunters out on the set of her new cooking show, “Passion Food Live,” in red dress #2 (a skin-tight, cap-sleeve number).


She goes on a date with the show’s producer in red dress #3 (a floor-length mandarin) and continues her self-resurrection with red skirts, sashes and lipstick accenting her every scene. 


Isabella—with her scarlet lips and tight, red top—looms over the city as a giant billboard for her TV show.  When her husband arrives in town to win her back he declares, “How can you dress like this? It’s not proper, in your condition, married to me!”

Isabella is red: Valentino Red, to be more precise. And ultimately she becomes the color.

Do I want to wear the exact wardrobe from this film? The actual garments chosen for Isabella’s wardrobe are themselves forgettable and at some points laughable, but it’s the abundant use of red that makes this movie memorable. Watching it, I am overwhelmed with a need to wear red immediately. Hell, I can trace the most regretted non-purchase of my shopping history to Woman On Top’s homage to Valentino Red, and not to the fact that the atelier had only two of the simple modern chiffon dresses remaining on the rack.  One that was red, in my size, and one in white…one size too small, both Valentino. Interestingly, Valentino was initially known for his white wedding dresses, but it is for his signature color of crimson that we will always remember him.


Looking back, my husband wasn’t familiar with Ms. Cruz’ Isabella; he perhaps was not aware that red is the color of love, prosperity, passion and good fortune.  Or that red wards off evil spirits and brings good luck to brides across the far east, and well…he just didn’t realize that this dress I was eyeing for my wedding day was VALENTINO RED….and damn it, it fit!  Much to my own consternation, I acquiesced to my fiancé’s request to stick with a more traditional tone for my wedding dress purchase, and I went with the smaller-sized, white chiffon dress instead. I added a gym membership to the receipt in my Valentino Red shopping bag. But we did serve a mean red chile sauce at the wedding…and by the way, the film’s Bossa Nova soundtrack is awesome too, but that’s a story for another day.—Jill Burnham

[The Foodinista’s Note: As a bridesmaid in said wedding, I can attest that no bride has ever looked lovelier in Valentino…white!]

For the previous FRIDAY FOLLIES, click HERE.

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