(Image Source: A.V. Club)
Style Icons is a new series examining how icons of our time defined style in a particular era. In our first edition, Popspoken curator CJ Ang delves into the fashion of 1930s girl group The Andrews Sisters.
Long before Christina Aguilera went “back to basics” in 2006 and sang about making her panties drop and cherry pop (as witnessed in “Candyman”), or the existence of three-pieces female harmony groups like The Puppini Sisters and The Living Sisters, and indie pop bands like The Pipettes that incorporate similar elements of influences into their music outputs, there was The Andrews Sisters.
Though not fully an original idea either beginning as imitators of The Boswell Sisters, the real-life sisters of Patricia Marie, LaVerne Sophia and Maxine Angelyn Andrews soon found fame in the late 1930s, kicking it all off with an English cover and adaptation of a Yiddish hit titled “Bei Mir Bist Du Schön” (translated “To Me You’re Beautiful”) which spent five weeks on the Billboard No. 1 slot, and with a whole discography string of hits thereafter consistently throughout the 1940s-1950s.
Fashion played a key in their music notes too, with the eldest sister LaVerne’s eye for fashion. Often spotted in outfits identical and matching one another that were complimentary to the collective’s physiques, styles and personalities, the sisters were most often sighted donning in military-inspired attires, to uplift spirits during a period of World War II uncertainties where they participated actively in patriotic duty of wartime entertainment – through singing, dancing and signing autographs, as a form to give back to the soldiers who had sacrificed themselves. Coincidentally, they (Patty, Patricia in nick, in exact) were also the ones to announce the end of the war in 1945 during a USO concert held in Italy, through an interruption by the commanding officer’s bypassed note. Furthermore with another military connection, they discovered post-war that some of their records were actually smuggled into Germany and relabelled and marketed as “Hitler’s Marching Songs”, and were used by concentration camps there.
Through their music, quirky yet addictive and original lyrics, and synchronized dance moves, they provided happiness and laughter in audible and visual formats that triggered expressiveness involving other bodily senses. It was no wonder they were captured through various channels on radio series, commercials, Broadway and Hollywood movies as well.
Some of their first major influences included The Boswell Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald and Mel Torme. Even a major influence for most of us, Mr. Elvis Presley himself, was a fan of The Andrews Sisters. Throughout their career, they had collaborated frequently with the likes of Bing Crosby, Al Jolson, Glenn Miller and Danny Kaye, and had earned themselves nine gold records, selling over 90 million records, and becoming the first all-female group to have a record go platinum, amongst other accomplishments.
Sadly, all three sisters had moved on to another world, with Patty departing at the start of the year itself, 30th January 2013, 17 days shy of her 95th birthday anniversary (LaVerne died of cancer in 1967, and Maxine of heart attack in 1995). However, their music legacy and input will live on and hopefully, be passed on down to the generations that come.
“I am ignorant and that’s why I’m happy!”
– Patty Andrews
“Rum And Coca Cola”, “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree”, “Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny Oh!”, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”