Stellar Vintage #483: Sylvia Sidney in a banded hat, exaggerated lapel coat and button embellished dickey.

Stellar Vintage #483: Sylvia Sidney in a banded hat, exaggerated lapel coat and button embellished dickey.

Classic Film Guide for How to be a Lady #25: Know your dollars and sense and be kind enough to share the facts, just like Sylvia Sidney does in You and Me (1938).

In Fritz Lang’s shrewd take on consumerism and the modern workplace, Sylvia Sidney resuscitates the lifeless cliche ‘crime doesn’t pay’ for a group of hardboiled men. White chalk on the blackboard offers stark relief for the brass tax of how little dividend the men will share. Instead of an indulgent, romantic fantasy of a big heist where each man imagines a mountain of cash, Sidney illustrates in black in white what a fool’s errand they face, for a mere hundred and change. She delivers a masterclass in gangster economics. Once the figures start adding up, she has transformed a room of bored, overgrown children into rapt pupils. Talk about your ‘teachable moments.’

Stellar Vintage #345: Sylvia Sidney in a white blouse with puff sleeves and Peter Pan collar over a black A-line skirt, 1930s.

Stellar Vintage #345: Sylvia Sidney in a white blouse with puff sleeves and Peter Pan collar over a black A-line skirt, 1930s.

Stellar Vintage #204: Sylvia Sidney in a pansy print frock.

Stellar Vintage #204: Sylvia Sidney in a pansy print frock.

Stellar Vintage #150: Sylvia Sidney in a pointy zig-zag hat, pearl drop earrings, floral coat and gloves.

Stellar Vintage #150: Sylvia Sidney in a pointy zig-zag hat, pearl drop earrings, floral coat and gloves.

Classic Film Fashion #145: Hungry ladies at The Automat in the 1930s are always well dressed.

In this clip from Sadie McKee (1934), Joan Crawford can barely afford a cuppa, even though she looks like she’s stepped out of a fashion spread. Also in 1934, Sylvia Sidney acted in a similar scene in Thirty Day Princess. Same goes for Jean Arthur in Easy Living in 1937. All three ladies are styled to the nines without a dollar in hand. Penury was no excuse for looking crap to the ladies of the silver screen. Smart hats, fur coats, flawless slap all around.

Stellar Vintage #22: Sylvia Sidney in a kitty cat print frock. Marc Jacobs, eat your heart out.

Stellar Vintage #22: Sylvia Sidney in a kitty cat print frock. Marc Jacobs, eat your heart out.

Classic Film Fashion #93: Sylvia Sidney’s rags-to-riches makeover in Thirty Day Princess (1934).

Long before she played Juno in Beetlejuice, Sylvia Sidney took top billing above Cary Grant in this rom-com about a down on her luck actress who takes a gig impersonating foreign royalty. The trouble is even when she’s cheating the Automat for a rare dinner, Sidney’s saucer-eyed dame still looks like a million bucks, turned out in a smart wide-collared jacket and perfect lippy. Her not too-dramatic makeover nevertheless features precious garments by costume designer Howard Greer, including a gown which fashions a chiffon spinal column, along with multiple versions of ruffles and pleats to puff a lady up. You need all the finery you can manage sharing the lead with Mr. Grant.