Funny Girl checked sweater jacket costume by Irene Sharaff

Barbra Streisand wore this sporty checked sweater ensemble by Irene Sharaff in Funny Girl (1968). This costume appears in the film around 28 minutes in when Fanny gets a telegram from Ziegfeld inviting her to sing for him at the New Amsterdam theatre. This is the last time we see Fanny in a casual Henry Street look before she gets a wardrobe upgrade. 

Fanny Brice began her first run of shows with Florenz Ziegfeld at age twenty-one in 1910, and headlined in Ziegfeld Follies through 1911. Costume designer Irene Sharaff had impeccable skills for historic detail and this costume is very accurate to this period. Sweaters like this around 1910 were dubbed “knit sweater jackets” and “sweater coats” and were very trendy. It is around this time that you start to see sweaters taking on a longer more narrow shape that would continue to be in fashion through the 1920’s. 

Barbra’s long sleeve knitted sweater features black, dark and light grey checks which extend into a flattering V-motif as they reach the front button closure. Button and zip closure sweater jackets like this were far more common and popular than pullovers because they could easily accommodate women’s dramatic hair styles of the time like the Gibson Girl.

Black trim accents this entire sweater including at the cuffs and thigh-length waist band. This sweater features a black middy collar. This marks the second time Fanny wears this style in the film, following her iconic red middy look worn while singing “I’m the Greatest Star.” A white button up middy blouse peeks out from the sweater jacket and was worn tucked into the skirt, as was the style of the time. The back bib of the sweater hangs a few inches longer than the blouse.

Middy blouses had completely finished their evolution from sailor tops around 1910 and would remain popular well though 1930. The word middy is derived from midshipman. Former naval tailor Peter Thompson is credited for creating this style in the early 1900’s. This look became a standard school uniform for children & also a trend in early bathing costumes. An important part of the middy back then was the fabric used. They were constructed from cotton duck. During the 20’s middys with waistbands came into fashion, but were mostly worn as active wear with bloomers. 

Simple and versatile skirts were a part of every woman’s wardrobe in the Edwardian period. By 1910 these had streamlined into the tea-length, A-line silhouette seen in this costume. Barbra’s skirt mirrors the sweater motif with miniature brown and black checks. It is box pleated and looks like it was made from a light wool. 

Jule Styne (1905-1994) confers with Barbra on set of Funny Girl

The most dramatic part of this look is the oversized lush velvet, chocolate brown beret. This features a large pom-pom at its center and was worn tipped to the left. Look closely the next time you watch Funny Girl and you’ll see that the pom-pom thread has a slight sparkle on film.

Completing this costume are a pair of leather and cloth top shoes with tall Louis heels and a row of delicate buttons up the sides. 

Costume designer Irene Sharaff (1910-1993) is famous for her manipulation of color and historic detail, as evidenced in all of the spectacular costumes in Funny Girl. She earned 15 Academy Award nominations and won five. Sharaff also costumed over 50 Broadway plays and musicals and received 8 Tony Award nominations, winning for The King and I. 

From The New School Archives – A sketch from Margaret Hodge company files, created for a Funny Girl press kit to promote the fashions of the film.