My Name is Barbra Blue Middy Dress

This iconic Bill Blass dress is now on its way to a new owner after being so lovingly cared for by Lou Papalas for so many years before he passed. The dress was first purchased in a 2004 auction for $14,400.00, and after 13 bids has sold for $26,000.00. I’m hoping it goes to a great new home where it will be cared for. 

Image © 2023

As fans know, this middy dress was worn for Act One of “My Name Is Barbra.” (1965). The middy blouse was one of Streisand’s signature looks in the 1960s. Like many of her other dresses, she designed this one herself and collaborated with designer Bill Blass to have it made. When interviewed about this process Streisand said “That’s what’s so great about Bill. He’s not afraid to like my sketches. I can talk to Bill. We did a variation of a thing I made for myself & sang in four years ago. I woke up one night & knew the costume had to be made of chiffon. So it’s all pleated chiffon cut on the bias. It’s so wrong it’s right. It’s almost a take-off on the original dress.” 

Images © (2004)

Middy dresses are also sometimes called sailor dresses. The word middy is derived from the word midshipman. Former naval tailor Peter Thompson is credited for creating the style in the early 1900s. The middy look became a standard school uniform for children and was also a trend in early bathing costumes. An important part of the original middy was the fabric used which was cotton duck. True middy blouses were not made to be tucked in, however during the 1920s middys with waistbands came into fashion (mostly worn as active wear with bloomers). The middy look has resurgences in popularity over the years, most notably in the 1980s when Laura Ashley brought back the dropped waist middy dress. 

The original sketch and end result

Streisand’s legendary blue middy creation features a linen collar with blue trim has an extended drop at the back. The chiffon sleeves have matching linen cuffs. There is an empire waistline and the piece is darted at the bust. Beneath the layers of blue chiffon is a blue wool lining. The back of the dress features tightly gathered chiffon and all edges are finished in a rolled lettuce hem. The dress was detailed with a lovely eye-catching red bow with ribbon that extends down the entirety of the front. 

Scenes from My Name is Barbra

What I love most about this look is the way Streisand incorporated it into her performance, lifting the chiffon as she walked and spun to create a more dramatic effect. Because she infused it with so much energy, today one can almost imagine it still in motion even when seeing it displayed on a mannequin.