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It Pays To Be Sensational—Ruth Roman

It happened the night of one of her first big premieres. There were lights and cameras and hundreds of gorgeous people stepping out of limousines. Crowds lined the sidewalks—cheering their favorite stars as they entered the theater. Ruth Roman Stopped to give an autograph. “Gosh, Miss Roman, you look just wonderful,” said the Tittle girl whose book she held.

Shyly, the girl reached out and touched the sleeve of Ruth’s coat. “Mink . . .” she sighed, blissfully.

Ruth sighed, too, before she grinned her honest grin and confessed. “Honey,” she said. “It goes right back to the studio tomorrow.”

“You mean it doesn’t belong to you?” said the voice of utter disillusionment. That’s when Ruth realized that she had a problem.

Just plain Ruth Roman can lounge around in denims. She can even walk down Hollywood Boulevard in a simple peasant outfit—as long as no one recognizes her. But Ruth Roman, movie star, is obligated to be spectacular most of the time. “It’s expected,” she says. “Stars are supposed to have more imagination about clothes, and more money to spend on them.”

Occasionally, you’ll find that sensational clothes pay off—as in the case of Rita Hayworth. Rita was playing one small role after another. Nobody seemed to care. Until Ed Judson, her husband at the time, took her shopping. They spent a few thousand dollars on designs. It figured. If she dressed the part, stardom would follow. Rita and her gowns got the publicity. And the publicity launched an exciting career.

In Ruth’s case, her acting caught the rave notices, though she’s the first to admit that the bathing suit she wore in Champion came in for its share of attention. However, when Warners offered her a contract, they didn’t agree to throw in Fort Knox. And under these circumstances, a girl can’t very well go dashing out for a Dior original every time she’s invited to dinner. Even though she realizes that a star and her wardrobe should be sensational, she knows even better that you can’t tear a paycheck in half and have twice as much money.

Ruth can prove that you needn’t leave a year’s salary as down payment on a gown to have it appreciated. For instance, scores of friends and strangers told her how perfectly stunning she looked as she made a presentation on last year’s Academy Award program. Magazines and newspapers commented on her appearance. Ruth thanked one and all. Then Life ran a photograph taken during the Academy festivities. The text mentioned the price of Ruth’s dress. Seems she’d found it on a rack for $28.00.

Her friends were astounded. So were her fans, and the mail poured in. Everyone wanted to know whether the gown could possibly have been that inexpensive. “They thought I was lying,” Ruth moans.

The dress was white and strapless, simplicity’ itself. It will be seen again on the Roman frame. But chances are that few will recognize it. There’ll be a flower here and there. Or an unusual belt. Or perhaps an addition of lace to give a Spanish effect. And most likely a second and third round of compliments. “Why not have five dresses for the price of one?” Ruth wants to know.

“A smart person plans a wardrobe systematically,” Ruth says. But even she will occasionally make a spur-of-the-moment purchase. A dress will take her fancy and next thing she knows it’s in a box under her arm. She gets it home. Turns out the dress matches nothing. It hangs in her closet and whenever she opens the door she spies it and wonders, “Now why in the world did I buy that?” If she ever wears it, she’s merely soothing a troubled conscience.

Generally, she’s more conservative. She’s been a firm believer in sales since her leaner days in Boston. And to Ruth there’s something sentimental about a bargain basement—that’s where she bought her first formal. At the time, she was a student at Bishop Lee Dramatic School. Receiving an invitation to a prom, she rushed down to Filene’s basement and carefully cased the stock. She chose a chartreuse gown. With it came a Kelly green cape. The complete outfit set her back $3.00.

Ruth can’t help wondering how friends and fans would react to that one. She really takes their opinions to heart. On one occasion when photographers came calling, they found that she had recently moved into a brand new home. Since Ruth was working on a picture and decorating at the same time, progress on the interior of the house was going slowly. “Let’s have a kitchen shot,” suggested one of the lensmen. Ruth obligingly posed.

When the photograph appeared in print, she received an indignant communique. “Whatsa matter?” the writer wanted to know. “Can’t you afford kitchen curtains?”

She went out and bought some. Curtains, or clothes, she concludes, a star must have them. And everything with flair. “I have been tempted to wear curtains,” she confesses.

That temptation was strongest one summer when she was in stock. She had an important date and her trunk hadn’t arrived. Fortunately, necessity did prove the mother of invention. Ruth looked around her room. She eyed the curtains thoughtfully, but decided the pattern might seem too familiar if she met the landlady on her way out. So Ruth pulled a sheet from the bed. She whipped out needle, thread, and scissors. A short tame later, Ruth had herself a dress. But her poor date couldn’t understand why the girl had hysterics when all he said was, “How attractive you look.”

Ruth dresses according to compliments. She’s noticed that she receives the most when she sticks to vivid colors. When she comes out in navy blue or black, there’s a dead silence.

She prefers tailored things to frills because she thinks the person should wear the clothes and not vice-versa. “A dress itself shouldn’t be outstanding,” she maintains. “It should simply help to complete a pretty picture.”

And for a movie star, the picture as a whole should provide the spectacular. Ruth’s working toward that goal, but it’s difficult. One afternoon a friend stopped by at her house. “I’m in the market for a sable,” she said. “Want to come along?”

“Sure,” Ruth answered.

So they drove out to Fuhrman’s in Beverly Hills. Seconds after she’d stepped into the store, Ruth eyed a stole. She closed her eyes and mentally juggled her bank balance. “I think I’ll wait in the car,” she said, being a girl who likes to avoid temptation.

Then she stopped to think it over. “Ruth,” she told herself, “you can’t go running away from every mink-lined shop window you see.”

She stayed. With thoughts of the future, she even tried on some furs. About $150,000 worth of it. But when her friend departed with sable, Ruth followed with pocketbook. She went home to her camel’s hair coat. Someday in mink she’ll be sensational. In a sensible sort of way.





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