With this blog, we begin a new series about the people who work behind the scenes to make the characters come to life for us. We are starting with the costume department. The costume or wardrobe designer is one of those people who help make the character real for us. While the job description varies from show to show, the costumer designer typically is in charge of the clothing and accessories. They read the script and determine what type of clothing is needed for each episode. Some shows bring in designers to create the clothing like Norman Miller on Dynasty, some shows send out shoppers to purchase ready-made clothing like My Three Sons, and some combine the activities. On Burns and Allen, Gracie Allen had a shopping day each week, and she picked out her own clothing.
Costume designers typically use clothing to develop a character as they evolve throughout the series.
One of the television shows that is known for its incredible wardrobe is That Girl. Costume designers for the show include Florence Albert, Suzanne Smith, Fern Vollner, and Phyllis Garr, the mother of actress Teri Garr.
Ann Marie moves from small-town Brewster to New York City to pursue her acting career. Her clothes reflect her youth and her fascination with fashion and life in the big city. Marlo Thomas was the force behind every decision of her show. For clothing, she secured the design services of Marilyn Lewis.
Marilyn was raised in Cleveland by her grandmother. Marilyn was interested in fashion, and she sketched designs and did a bit of modeling in Ohio. After her grandmother passed away, she moved to California where she hoped to become an apprentice to an established fashion designer.
In Hollywood she met Harry Lewis and fell in love. Harry was an actor who appeared in a variety of television shows and movies, including Key Largo throughout the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.
Harry had dreamed of starting a chain of restaurants where actors could feel comfortable hanging out. As an actor, he also had a goal to play Hamlet. Combine the two aspirations and you have the birth of Hamburger Hamlet.
They opened the first restaurant in 1950 with $3500 and sold the chain of a dozen eateries in 1997 for $33 million.
They also created a separate restaurant called Kate Mantilini’s Dinner House which they sold, bought back, and then opened a second one, so each of their kids had their own. Kate Mantilini was Marilyn’s uncle’s mistress in the 1940s.
Harry realized that his wife put her dreams of working in fashion design on hold for him, and in 1966 he bought her a dress factory. About this time, That Girl was in the planning stages. The choice of Marilyn as designer for the show was both surprising and expected. She was far from an established designer when Thomas hired her to design for Ann Marie. At the same time, Marlo was trying to step out from her famous father’s shadow and earn respect for creating her own show. A show about a girl leaving her teaching career and forgoing marriage to move to a large city and live alone and pursue a career is not out of the ordinary today, but it was in the mid-1960s.
Lewis was the perfect choice for designer. Lewis described her clothing as having a “whispering signature.” She went on to say that “California gives me great light, so I use color.” Lewis named her line Cardinali. Her first batch of designs included 35 suits, gowns, and dresses. Saks Fifth Avenue was her first customer, selling her clothing for $300-$2400 per piece. Today those items would cost $2000-$16,000.
Color was definitely an important element in 1960s clothing. Women weren’t afraid of color. You could find deep jewel tones, bright neons, and bold patterns galore.
Marilyn used the best fabrics she could import from Italy. Her early pieces included a wool boucle coat with matching purse and hat and a flowing summer dress with a scarf. Similar items can be seen on That Girl. She said she designed her clothing for a career girl who got dressed up at night. Similarly, Ann Marie dressed practically, but pretty, during the day and chose more glamorous looks for evening.
While looking at one of her ruffled chiffon party dresses, Lewis described it as “sexy and discreet at the same time. Always the contrast. And that’s me. I always have a little reserve in me. But never so much that I won’t wink at you and get the job done.” Ann Marie definitely picked up on that design vibe.
Her clothing on That Girl is also a contrast. While Ann’s wardrobe evokes the classic style of the 1960s, it is also timeless, and many of her outfits could be worn today.
Lewis became very successful in her Cardinali line. She was worn by many celebrities, as well as California first-lady Nancy Reagan and socialite Betsy Bloomingdale. Her clothes had a European flair not found in other American designers.
Ann Marie’s wardrobe was anything but boring, and Lewis strove hard for that look. She once commented that “There would be no true boredom if a woman would realize she could paint herself like an artist painting a canvas. It would be a tremendous lift to her spirits.”
During the height of her popularity in 1977, Lewis walked away from the fashion industry. But her design features are still influencing women. Marlo Thomas also continued to be regarded as a fashionista.
After the demise of That Girl, she went on to become McCall’s Director of Women’s Interests, a role that allowed her to become a model for sewing patterns that sold for $1.50 under the name “Marlo’s Corner.” She also wrote a monthly column for their counter book.
Though Lewis was hired to help create the character of Ann Marie, she ended up creating so much more. It’s hard to estimate how many girls growing up in the era of That Girl changed their entire fashion sense watching the show. Every girl dreamed of moving to the big city, getting their own apartment, and having an incredible wardrobe.
Great design is timeless, and Cardinali design was definitely great. The fashions from this era will always have a place in a well-dressed woman’s wardrobe. The pieces combined comfort with beauty and color. Ann Marie’s fashion sense evolved with her character as she gained more confidence. We evolved along with her.
24 thoughts on “Designing for the Ages and That Girl’s Ann Marie”
My wife laments those days of bright colors and imaginative clothing designs. Me too. Your line “Women weren’t afraid of color” is so true. And it wasn’t only late ’60s fashion, it was also music, film, writing, ideas, lifestyles…all like a giant flower opening up. But like everything else, I’m sure it will return.
There was something fun about that era. The large shoulder pads and leg warmers of the 80s did not provide much inspiration!
Costume designers are very underappreciated I would imagine. You don’t think about the effect that has when you are watching until something changes or you can’t see it anymore.
I’ve never heard of Hamburger Hamlet but that is quite an ROI for them on that franchise!
When you think about it the set designers and costume people are probably as responsible for what we think about a character as the actors are. Just think about Phoebe Buffay on Friends or Klinger on MASH. It would be a fun job.
I realize this page is not new, but a couple of comments on Cardinali. She designed for That Girl seasons 2,3 and 4. I believe Werle was the designer the first year, and not sure, but I believe Suzanne Smith designed for season five. Season Five, Ann Marie wore a lot of midi dresses and stopped wearing the Mary Quant-like fashions. I really missed the Cardinali fashions when Marlo stopped wearing them. Cardinali was an amazing designer.
Thank you very much for the additional information. Ann Marie has an amazing wardrobe
The clothing by cardinale were the best! In my opinion, the show went downhill when the hair and clothing started imitating the hippie movement. It was wonderful before the feminism and sloppy dress took over. After that, even the acting was dreadful. But the first few seasons are so much fun to watch and the clothes and hair are beautiful.
I agree; those first few years were the best. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.
I agree. The last year’s fashions on That Girl were not attractive, in my opinion. I was a teenager at that time, and I remember how we all tried to adapt to the midi–that length just didn’t look good on anyone and as I recall, the midi didn’t stay around for very long. By the fifth year of TG, some of the shows were issue-oriented. Nothing wrong with caring about important issues in life, but to bring that abruptly in the last year of the show took away (at least for me) the charm of Ann Marie. Those early fashions of Ann Marie’s were wonderful.
I’ve heard Thomas say that she was in London doing Barefoot in the Park prior to That Girl, and when she came home to do the series, she wanted Ann Marie to dress the way the London designers were doing it, with those cute miniskirts and suits. I still enjoy the show and still think it holds up. I’d love to see what a teenager watching the show today for the first time thinks of it. I don’t think it seems dated, but I’m ancient now!
One reason I still live the old sitcoms is to see the clothes and decor from those years.
Where can we find that wonderful Cardinalli wardrobe in 2021
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Agreed. Watching That Girl, Green Acres and The Partridge Family is such fun just to see the clothing and furniture. Thanks for reading.
I would like to know also where to find Cardinali (for large women) clothes. I live in California, but can’t find clothes that I like. Would appreciate some help.
After I replied to your comment, I did a quick search and I see both 1stdibs.com and vintage Cardinalli on etsy.com both sell vintage Cardinalli. Good luck with your search. I’d love to know if you find some items. They certainly were beautiful.
A few years ago, Marlo Thomas had a clothing line called “That Woman” on QVC and I bought one of her dresses. It is the same one she wore on the show. It had 3/4 length sleeves and a panel of color on the sides (I think the original. dress with yellow with black on the sides). Mine is tan with black down the sides. I love it!
I never knew that; thanks for sharing. I do watch QVC off and on. I started when my son who is 32 was a baby and we were up in the middle of the night. Many of the things I get the most compliments on in our house or clothing come from QVC.
I hope I will get help on finding clothes from Cardinali (large size).
Hi. Thanks for reading my blog. The only way I know for you to find Cardinelli would be to check ebay or some vintage thrift shops in California. I’m guessing that they have not been produced since 1977. She did sell them all over the country so there may be a variety of sites selling them.
Thank you so much for this amazing information. I have been watching “That Girl” reruns and I’m fascinated by her wardrobe. Great to know who is responsible for those unique fashions. And of course, nobody could wear them better than Marlo Thomas!
I definitely agree. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.
I love the show That Girl . I watched it as a young girl and I still watch the re-runs today. Ann Marie’s wardrobe was exquisite and could easily still be worn to this day. She always looked picture perfect in any outfit she had on. Thanks for giving us the background on her wardrobe.
Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I still love it too.
I was 13 December of 1969… but I do remember watching That Girl… I’ve recently started watching the series on Prime… I can’t get enough! I’m actually putting together my new wardrobe and getting ride of all things not considered to be a “Tailored” look… I’m using That Girl’s wardrobe as my inspiration… I’ve always dressed similar to how I dressed 50 years ago… thankfully I’m still the same size ! I still love that romantic flowing Bohemian look too… This has been a Pleasurable walk down Memory Lane! I get lots of Compliments when I’ve put together a fashionable outfit… very “ purposely put together “…… like Ann Marie! Although I still wear my hair to my waist… I’m looking for a Knowledgeable hairdresser to give me soft layers a little past my shoulders.. and I adore bangs! Thank You Again! It’s been Enlightening for sure, Patricia May ✨💖✨
P.S. Every time I hear the theme song, It just “does something to me”… heightening my Dreams for this new Season in life, being a widow and empty nester, I feel like we do in the beginning of adulthood; somewhat, for new Hopes and Dreams of a Future, that most would think has passed by at 66 years on this earth….Oh, as far as the theme song, I’ve made it a point to learned the lyrics and sing along
( which weren’t sung untill the 5th season , to my pleasant surprise) I sometimes feel as though I’ve lived dozen life times… without ever feeling old , nor growing old… I Imagine this is how Betsy Johnson feels…whom I’d never seen till she was on “ Dancing with the Stars”… and I’ve recently discovered Lilly Pulitzer! I bought a very nice dress at “Plato’s Closet” for 20$ not realizing it was a Steal! I was upset that she’s no longer with us… and how Amazingly Popular her fashions were and still are!!! I was Elated to see we have one of her stores here! Better close.. Thank You Again … Graciously, Patricia May…
Thank you so much for the message. I think her wardrobe was full of timeless pieces. So glad you found the post. I love keeping in touch with that part of me that watched those shows when they debuted and still love them today just as much.