Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A look back at high collars in light of 2020 Oscars fashion February 11, 2020

Note the high stand-up collars in fashion in the 1930s (top row) in this photo taken of Kolacky Days queen portraits. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo January 2020.


LEATTA. EMMA. GLADYS. Leone. Josephine.

Cynthia Erivo.

If you watched the Oscars or have seen the movie “Harriet,” you recognize Erivo’s name. She was nominated for best actress. And she performed “Stand Up,” in the running for best original song, during Sunday evening’s star-studded awards night. She won neither.

Typically I don’t watch the Oscars. My knowledge of celebrities is minimal. I last saw a movie in the theater about 2 ½ years ago. One I walked out on last May and demanded a refund for doesn’t count. That said, I really want to see “Harriet,” a movie based on former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Erivo and background gospel singers presented a moving and powerful performance of “Stand Up” during the Oscars. The singer/actress wore a shimmering gold gown with a high stand-up collar. And, as we all know, those glamorous gowns garner lots of attention. Even from me, someone who doesn’t much bother with fashion. Peek into my closet and you’ll find primarily jeans, tees and flannel shirts.

But the Oscars fashion interested me. And apparently my husband. “Remember those pictures of the Kolacky queens?” Randy asked Sunday evening as I commented on Erivo’s high collar dress.

“Huh?” I responded.

Randy suggested I review my photos of 1930s Kolacky Days queen portraits taken during a recent visit to the Montgomery Arts & Heritage Center. That would be in Minnesota. Not Alabama. So I did. And sure enough, there were Leatta, Emma, Gladys, Leone and Josephine wearing gowns, or maybe it’s capes, with high stand-up collars. Just like Cynthia Erivo some 90 years later.

TELL ME: Did you watch the Oscars? Any observations you would like to share on gowns past or present?

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


35 Responses to “A look back at high collars in light of 2020 Oscars fashion”

  1. Ruth Says:

    I really enjoy watching the gowns and thought Cynthia was stunning. Her musical number was one of two I thought good, the others not so much. Oscars is good tv to knit to.The only movie I saw this year was Its a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Pittsburgher Mister Rogers is a beloved hero.

  2. We did watch the Oscars because we are movie goers and like to see which ones win that we have seen. What I don’t like anymore is all of the political statements that are made during the award shows –I get that it is a great platform for celebrities to share their thoughts but it has gotten away from the recognition of the awards and achievements and become something different. With that being said we still watch and I do love to look at the fashions. It’s fun to see the glamorous ones and also the ones that are outlandish. Every one of them makes a statement.

    • It’s interesting to read your thoughts as a frequent movie-goer. You’re right in that the Oscars have become quite the political platform. And I agree that some of the attire is incredibly outlandish. A Twin Cities metro TV feature reporter called one gown “a lasagna noodle.” I knew exactly which she was referencing, but I don’t know the actress’s name.

  3. “Harriet” is on our movie list to watch. We love to watch a good movie from the comfort of our living room. I do not really tune into the award shows lately. I tend to think the fashion goes from classic to trendy to outlandish. I do believe that some fashion stands the test of time, some just goes away and some comes back again. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  4. valeriebollinger Says:

    I watched it some but turned it off before the song you are referring to. Darn.
    It’s interesting to look at the fashions…I try to find ones I like but it’s getting harder. 😉

  5. No, didn’t watch. Can’t wait to Harriet also. I admit that I use to watch the awards for the fashions. As a small town country girl it was a world like being a princess. There is something really cool and special wearing a beautiful gown or sexy dress. For a small town gal I still get a kick out of dressing up in my Europe fashion clothes when I am home in MN. Makes me feel like I made it! Maybe a bit vain.

  6. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    I did watch the Oscars for lack of anything better to watch….Regina KIng and Renée Zellweger were my favorites, so classy and modest.

  7. Lynette Spanbauer Says:

    This is an entirely different topic—but related to “Prairie Roots”. Living in eastern South Dakota, I am looking to forward to having a new bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls who has “prairie roots”. Father Donald De Grood, who grew up on a farm at Faribault, will be installed as our new bishop tomorrow (Feb. 13).

  8. Littlesundog Says:

    We used to watch the Oscars, mostly out of curiosity of fashion statements. Forrest and I both enjoyed the suits and gowns and hair styles… oh, and the jewelry, and what about those crazy and outrageous shoes?!! We haven’t watched in several years, nor do we indulge in movies like we used to. For us it is about boycotting the political yammering.

    Those high collars would never be practical in the Midwest!! Ha ha! One gust or sustaining wind could cause the collar to slap a person silly!!

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