For his American film debut, Hitchcock cast Joan Fontaine as the young woman who becomes the second wife of brooding, aristocratic widower Maxim de Winter, played by Laurence Olivier, in the psychological thriller Rebecca. Fontaine was nominated for an Oscar for her role and a central moment in the film is when she descends the grand staircase to the Manderley ball, having been duped by housekeeper Mrs Danvers into wearing a gown that is modelled on one of Rebecca’s.
No costume designer was credited on screen, however, the wardrobe has often been attributed to American fashion designer Irene Lentz. Fontaine’s clothing completes her character, asserting her role as the awkward, mentally-abused, gentle, young woman who must live in Rebecca’s shadow. Wearing plain cardigans and wool skirts, she only has childish gowns to don for supper. Her attempt at dressing more maturely and elegantly for dinner results in Maxim’s mockery.
Ingrid Bergman in Notorious, 1946