The Safari Style of “Mogambo”

Ava Gardner's Style-Mogambo

A remake after Clark Gable’s 1932 adventure film Red Dust, Mogambo (1953), directed by John Ford, was shot on location in Africa. Ava Gardner is a show girl who winds up stranded in the hunting outpost of Victor Marswell (Clark Gable), a big-game hunter, who also runs a safari, and the two soon start an affair. She is a natural fit for Gable. Donald Sinden plays Donald Nordley, an English anthropologist, who hires Victor to take him and his wife into the African wild. Grace Kelly is in the role of the wife, Linda, outwardly stiff and prim, but secretly harboring a lust for Victor. A love triangle unfolds on the background of the beautiful and rugged African landscape.

ava gardner's costumes Mogambo (17)

The jewel tones suit Ava incredibly well. Off shoulder top, full skirt and cinched waist, chunky gold bracelets.

ava gardner's costumes Mogambo (18)

I am happy to talk about another safari-style wardrobe in movies. Helen Rose was the designer and she did a beautiful job. However, we have the chance to see a variety of styles, including two evening gowns. I also like the impracticability of the glamorous red lips, strands of pearls, high heels and chunky gold link bracelets that we constantly see even in the middle of the safari.

ava gardner's costumes Mogambo (4)

The leather belt with whip-stitch details is the element that gives this look a twist.

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Ava in a safari skirt-suit. Note the easy elegance she wears it with.

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Grace makes her entrance in her own safari suit, with soft skirt, white gloves, satchel bag and pith helmet. This time, the look says ladylike demeanor. I like the lapel-less shirt. If there is one thing I dislike about a shirt look is too see a shirt with its lapels spread all over a blazer or jacket worn on top. This was Grace Kelly and Helen Rose’s first film collaboration and the latter would become one of the three costume designers, along with Oleg Cassini and Edith Head, who would help the actress shape up her personal style.

style in Magambo

cinema style Mogambo

Ava and Grace were both nominated for the Oscar for their performances, but Ava outshines Grace, in style and acting, and she steals the show from both Gable and Kelly. Gardner is enticing and she also has the best lines in the movie.

grace kelly's costumes in Mogambo

ava gardner's costumes Mogambo (8)

ava gardner's costumes Mogambo (9)

Another off-shoulder top, full skirt, cinched waist and heels look for Eloise.

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The only two gowns Helen had to design, to her disappointment, for the film. Purple for Grace, white for Ava. I prefer Ava’s dress. It’s like the roles are switched, because Linda is the tempted wife and Eloise is the seductress with a heart of gold.

costumes in Mogambo

Another beautiful leather belt for Ava. The array of shirts is one of my favourite parts of the wardrobe in the film and the neckerchiefs make me want to wear one more often.

ava gardner's costumes Mogambo (12)

ava gardner's costumes Mogambo (13)

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Although the two leading ladies are dressed similarly, they wear their outfits so differently, which reflects their different personalities. Linda wears everything by the book, everything is very posh, refined and very English about her. Eloise’s style is more relaxed, unstudied and carefree: turned up sleeves and pants, popped up collars, hair cut short – she is very confident of her attractiveness. Even the styles of the hats differ: Ava opts for a canvas safari hat.

costumes Mogambo (4)

grace kelly's style Mogambo (2)

Another classic safari look: midi skirt, shirt, leather belt and knee-length leather boots, completed by the jacket in the image below.

grace kelly's style Mogambo (3)ava gardner's style Mogamboava gardner's costumes Mogambo (15)

A tan wool safari jacket with suede elbows, pleated pockets, front zip and partially lined in silk (from what I remember having read somewhere a while ago).

grace kelly's style Mogambo (4)

grace kelly's costumes Mogambo (6)

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A green safari shirt is the next thing on my wish list. And a beautifully crafted belt to pair it with.

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photos: stills from the film captured by me from this DVD edition / credit: Loew’s Incorporated

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