Barbra Streisand truly embraced the spirit of the 1970’s in her personal wardrobe, some of which transitioned to on-screen costumes in A Star is Born (1976.) As fans know all costumes in the film were credited as “Ms. Streisand’s clothes…from her closet.” One of my favorite outfits in the film is this gorgeous boho look which Streisand designed herself. This costume appears twice in the film. Look for it at one hour, fifteen minutes in and again at one hour, fifty four minutes. It acts as a bookend to the relationship of Esther and John Norman, presenting itself to mark the beginnings of happiness and love on their wedding day, and again when they spend their very last day together. In both scenes, this look was worn on location in the sprawling desert grasslands of Sonoita, Arizona.
The cut of this blouse is reminiscent of the many plunging necklines worn in Funny Lady which was released just a year prior. Funny Lady’s costume designer Bob Mackie told press that he thought Barbra had one of the most gorgeous chests in show business, therefore designed many of her costumes to flatter her bustline. When designing this blouse, Barbra probably had his words in mind. Since this to-the-waist plunge was edgy and daring it fit the persona of Esther perfectly.
By the 1970’s the boho look was extremely popular for women who were emerging out of a previous decade filled with tight mini skirts, bold prints, peter pan collars and boxy mini dresses. Comfort and self expression were driving forces in women’s fashions of this period. Women were free in spirit and fashion in reaction to their new found freedoms in society. Barbra’s design resembled the very popular prairie and peasant dress styles of the 1970’s. These were most notably sold by the brand Gunne Sax. This style of dress had somewhat of an Edwardian feel and generally featured bold prints in contrasting colors with long flowing skirts.
Barbra’s ensemble features a tag from Western Costume Co. This famous costume warehouse was founded in 1912 and is the oldest in Hollywood to still be in business. The black and white blouse is tailored to perfection. It features a vertical pattern of delicate, flora motif alternating with larger lines of scrolling flora. The long sleeves are puffed at each shoulder and have fitted cuffs with the lovely detail that the sleeve plackets and buttons are on the outside of the wrists. The deep-V neckline has a front button closure and likely had the assistance of some double sided tape to help keep it in place.
This was worn tucked into an ankle-length cotton skirt with a gathered waist. The skirt features a vertical motif in deep red, black and white. Between the solid deep red stripes sit black stripes dotted with white eight petal flowers. Stripes containing tiny white arrows alternate throughout. The skirt closure features a hook, eye and zipper.
The gorgeous fabric belt is seven feet long and ends in a handkerchief hem. It has a black and red checkered motif which shifts in color on the inside of the fabric.
One of the things I like best about this look is how much movement it has on-screen. The skirt catches in the wind beautifully when Esther is outside, and puffs out perfectly when she sits.
Both of the times this ensemble is seen in the film Barbra wears a Native American inspired choker. This has a 1” black band with an oval floral silver and turquoise pendant. Silver and turquoise jewelry was a massively popular in the 1970’s and nearly everyone owned a piece.
In the first scene this outfit is worn it was paired with a black straw hat with a v-bend at the crown. The band is decorated with a variety of feathers including fluffy spotted guinea, black crow and red and white soft marabou.
The second time this outfit is worn it it topped with a Navajo style blanket which was clipped shut to create a poncho, and a vibrant red, white and black head scarf. Both the poncho and scarf were removed once Esther and John Norman enter their Adobe style home. During their dialogue Barbra cleverly drapes the scarf around her shoulders creating a shawl. This gives us some variation to the look and also provides a nice connection from the outfit to the matching bold Navajo blanket hanging on the wall behind them. Adding more edge to this look are black knee-high leather boots.
This costume and hat sold separately at auction in 2004 for $1,700.00 and $925.00.