Sartorial Screening: Riffraff, or How I left the Cannery and embraced shirtwaist dresses

In a further attempt to educate and inform, as is my sacred calling, today I present to you the first – and if no one burns me in the village square-a  revered standard-

 Sartorial Screenings!!! 

A look at fashion history thru its most accurate lens- the Hollywood system. A truer perspective on American womanhood will never be found- so let’s enjoy a journey thru time to a simpler time when women’s roles and fashion embraced and humped like fiends for our edification.

Today we feature Riffraff- the story of love on the docks.

Gentle folk, I give you our acolyte of subtle living thru bleach- Jean Harlow.  Our Miss Hook and Ladder #7:


Jean has returned early in the morning from what I’m sure was a church sponsored event where piety and good moral hygiene made her the belle of the ball.

Now she must start her day at the cannery. No euphemism- also no hair net. But first, she and her sister will stop along the lovely docks and listen to a spirited political discussion regarding unions and the lack of laundry detergent available to her poor sister. I believe the take away here kids is that marriage leads to limpness of the soul and frock.


Even though Jean has the manly Dutch  in her sights, Jean wants better for herself. But the sparks do fly as love talk includes such endearments previously only uttered by Moe, Larry and Curly.

3 Then  he shows his affection in the traditional way of 4th graders and future defendants by literally giving her a shove off.

4  Not cool Dutch, not cool. Surely there was a better way for our depression sad audience to get a peek at the Harlow lady Hamlet.  Well, off to the cannery. Where the female bonding of other dock trollops in not so pristine surroundings work shoulder to shoulder at the origin of my Fathers favorite casserole.  Huh, so this is how fish is made.


Enter our bad guy! The 1930’s stereotype villain with pinky ring, weasal-stache and more money than Dutch! Boo! Hiss!! He sees something special in Jean- I’m wondering if it’s her aversion to foundation garments…..


He offers her a bit of night school, a cozy office job and tries to get a leg over of course, but our heroine is made of stern stuff- but wait- he ups the ante by throwing in a little pet/pelt.

7   Scientific/Historical fact- between 1810 and 1960, women totally melted and peeled off knickers for wrap around carcasses. I mean really, who wouldn’t? Its a gutted animal with snaps attached to its paws- what is not hot about that???? Style and sompanionship all at once. Jean was a goner when those clammy paws hit her collarbones. Oh, and she liked the stole too.


Jean is now marked as the property of pinkie ring weasel stash dock boss! Oh no! What about Dutch? Time for a big drunken crowd scene where the gals show off the only other dress they have besides the cannery uniform. It’s a big party on one of the boats- convenient, so no one will be able to guess who smells the most like herring.


News flash! We have an outfit change!!!!  I’m throwing in a better picture here- its pretty swank- even sans foxy bits.


Well, of course these two woolen wrapped testosterone bags can’t help but fight over our girl and words and bravado was exchanged around a heated game of off-shore dice. As an early feminist, Jean refused to blow on Dutch’s dice. She’s no prize for the blowing. Well, something like that.


Ok, you know what happens next- we need a montage.


Yup, weasel-stashe, you missed your window. Dutch and Jean are making it legal. Dock living bliss!


Look! She dyed the fox to match her bridal gown- thats dedication to theme!


Dutch and Jean start their life together in a bungalow furnished entirely by Dutch at Depression Rooms to Go- oh dear, he is not a good manager of money and she knows nothing but canning tuna and being sassy!


Foreshadowing! Dom DeLuise is here to repossess it all- but she changed her outfit- so that’s good.


Dutch, buddy- have a heart- share the only piece of furniture left, will ya?  If I thought this was a plan and if I was a thoughtful reviewer, I’d mention here that she is back to the ‘cannery collar’ as her descent back to working girl starts….


Jean, don’t be so sad- your plaid matches perfectly. Oh, upset stomache? In a 30’s movie? That can only be code for prenatal things. Perfect timing, kids!


Sad at his inability to pay for nice things on his crappy tuna boat salary, Dutch walks out. Jean does the best she can to survive once Dutch takes a powder, but she never finished secretarial school and her skills are more….hands on, anyhoo. Back to the villain she goes! He must pay cash for everything.



Plot development and longer view of a fab frock:


Hmm….Jean uses a sassy bow to hide the pain of her separation from Dutch.


Uh oh- I hope sister can sneak in a bottle of peroxide with that file!


Well, while the Jeans away, her sister is starting to dress up a bit and go thru her things.


She’s here on visit a trollop day at the pen to retrieve some contraband you aren’t allowed to keep under your bunk- surprise! I will never cease to be amazed at what you can hide in a bias cut gown!


News travels to Dutch that he has the worlds largest newborn and he returns to see Jean!


He suggests a daring escape while he works to clear Jeans name! Conveniently, they are building the warden a spa area just outside of the laundry. I think we’re about to go Shawshank! Please read the next paragraph in a Morgan Freeman voice!


Jean and her prison sorority sisters distract the guards with a live rat (I’m sure Jean tried to wear it first) and make a run for the drain pipe! Soon a wet Harlow is on the lam!


She runs to her sisters hovel for her stole- oh and her kid, possibly. Ok, mostly to get her stole back. After unexplainedly clearing Jeans name and mysteriously disposing of Weasel Stashed pinky ring dock boss, Dutch rushes to see Jean and his large headed child and they swear undying love under the seriously intrusive gaze of her sister.


Ah, ain’t love grand? So what did we learn kids? Prisoners dress better than cannery workers and buying on time is a bad idea. Also, never trust weasels bearing furry gifts.


If you enjoyed this, you have the same dodgy tastes as I do and I love you for it.

*An Eighter from Decatur is craps slang for rolling an eight. Glad I could clarify for you layman.

photo credits: little me with a TCM assist. All images remain the property of their original

37 thoughts on “Sartorial Screening: Riffraff, or How I left the Cannery and embraced shirtwaist dresses

  1. Agnes says:

    Nothing like a morality tale to brighten a Saturday night! Consider me edified. Begone, peroxide & critter collars!

    P.S. My grandmother had one of those creepy things! There was a clip inside the mouth that fastened at the other end to one of the feet. I refused to kiss her when she was wearing it, even for a piece of candy.


  2. Fabulously entertaining post, thank you.
    The dead creepy thing ended up on a very old lady (maybe Jean’s “sister” in her vintage years) who used to sit in front of me at church. It was incredibly effective at keeping a 4 year old in a state of frozen and silent terror for the entire sermon 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. susan snow says:

    This is the most hilarious thing I have ever read. You are so talented with this sort of stuff. You should write for John Waters films or something like that.


  4. I remember the shoulder fauna from grown-ups. Time to bring on a fake fur version? (that was a hint to wearable wednesday stylists, be the first!)


  5. yes more please this was so entertaining to read. and my grandmother had one of those stole things – I remember being so grossed out by the feet – and the little teeth. yikes! by the way what is the name of this movie?


      • Hari says:

        Its one of my most sacred too, which is why I’m not messing with it and leaving it to you 😉 And it’s a Joan haunting I’d be most scared of.
        A film truly worthy of the Pretty Grievances’ treatment would actually be Monkey Business. Have you seen it? It has the sighworthy Cary Grant, the delicious Ginger Rogers and the divine Ms Monroe and yet it is enjoyably bad. Oh and chimps! Did I mention it has chimps?! And magic potions?


Something lovely to share?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s