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June 01, 2010


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One of my favorite movies is The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle with Fred Astair and Ginger Rodgers. I don't know how historically accurate the movie is but they do have a scene where Irene gets her first Dutch Cap. At least thats what she calls it.

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Interesting! I haven't seen the movie, but I understand the Irene Castle consulted on the script and costumes. When researching this post, I read that Rogers and Castle had a few serious disagreements over costume details. As she was a recognizable star, Rogers apparently had strong ideas about her appearance and costumes that didn't jibe with Castle's ideas of herself.

I'll have to be sure to watch the movie soon!


Irene Castle lovingly called those caps "little Dutch caps"... Vernon bought her very first one for her in Belgium (not Holland, incidentally) when they were on their way to move to swinging Paris in 1911, just after their honeymoon. She thought it was the most darling thing in the world, and it probably was! It was white lace linen. She wore it with her simple wedding dress - her only really nice dress at the time! - when she and Vernon were asked to dance a number at the Cafe de Paris a couple months later. The dance was a combination of the Texas Tommy and the Grizzly Bear - both of which were new dances for Parisians. This launched their career, and the little Dutch cap became Irene Castle's signature accessory. Her autobiography "Castle's in the Air" tells the whole story - and also reveals what is and is not true about "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle". The film, I believe, has Vernon buying the Dutch cap when they are ON their honeymoon, but that is not exactly true... pretty close though! "Castles in the Air" is a fantastic read and one gets a really good feel for the voice and personality of this modern businesswoman, animal rights activist, and elegant dancer. She is very opinionated and not one to keep those opinions to herself! She talks a great deal about clothes as they are "a part of my stock in trade" (Castle, from "Castles in the Air"). About the house of Lucile she gushes, describing in detail ensembles she had worn at least forty years prior to the book's date of publication. At one point she calls Lady Duff Gordon "one of the most remarkable dress artists I have ever known".
If you can't get enough Irene Castle after "Modern Dancing" and "Castles in the Air", read her beautiful "My Husband" - or go to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and watch some of her silent films, go through scrapbooks, or peruse box upon box of photographs, souvenir programs, and other memorabilia in Special Collections. Another great Castle bio written during our era (2007)is "Vernon and Irene Castle's Ragtime Revolution" by Eve Golden. There's so much to learn about and love about this spunky, sporty superstar! Can I just say a few more things to tempt you...? She rescues a bear from the vaudeville circuit by taking him away in a taxi cab in Chicago... she actually bobbed her hair for the first time when she was just a teenager as a bit of high school rebellion, but then repeated the hair cut several years later as a matter of convenience after a stint in the hospital for appendicitis - plus she'd always liked the look and she insisted that simple hairstyles work better for dancing... the Castle's all-black orchestra, led by composer James Reese Europe, often went on tour with them, and the Castles were instrumental in opening some previously-closed doors for non-caucasian musicians.

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Audrey, I'm sold! I had a difficult time finding an available copy of Castles in the Air when researching this post, but I'm going to make a point of reading it asap. Irene Castle was clearly a complex and interesting person, worthy of the popular acclaim she received throughout her lifetime and beyond. I love that you've added so much information to what we presented in the post...thank you!


just watched the movie and it really peaked my interest in the Castle's want to learn more, and more

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