From 'little remarkable' to Brazilian Bombshell

Museu Carmen Miranda

Explore the extraordinary life and legacy of Brazils most loved and admired performer

Carmen Miranda: The Brazilian Bombshell
Born in Portugal, Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha, Carmen Miranda, has become one of the biggest icons of mass communication in Brazil thanks to her performance in radio and casinos and records of her performances in international cinema and musicals.
The 'little one'
Carmen Miranda was born on February 9, 1909, in the city of Marco de Canaveses, in Portugal. She was registered under the name of Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha and arrived in Brazil on December 17th of the same year, with only 10 months old, along with her mother, Maria Emília Miranda and her older sister. Her father, José Maria Pinto da Cunha, was already in the city of Rio de Janeiro, where Carmen moved to live and where her four other brothers were born.

Rio de Janeiro

In 1909, Carmen Miranda arrive in the Brazilian city.

In the late 1920s, Carmen helped her mother to serve tables in her inn which was frequented by names such as maestro Pixinguinha and his group, among other several local deputies and artists. In one of her presentations at the inn, she was discovered by the deputy Aníbal Duarte, who presented her to the musician Josué de Barros, being immediately invited to participate in a charity festival at the National Institute of Music.

Jacaranda choker
Choker on five jacaranda plates, carved, joined by gold metal ring used by Carmen Miranda. In the center, bigger board with baiana and beach landscape. Beside two plates with figures of rogues. Final plates, smaller, one with a tambourine and a rattle and one with a guitar.

Arco do Teles and Praça XV, area close to Carmen's house where she spent her youth.

Without much experience, she sang tangos and was invited to perform on the Radio. After a few presentations in the radios Society and Education, Josué de Barros invited her to record the songs: "Não vá simbora" and "Se o samba é moda" in a LP released at the end of 1929, but without much success.

Peacock clutch
Black velvet wallet used by Carmen Miranda, embroidered with golden yarns, on both sides, forming semi-circular motifs, with the center an open-tailed peacock. Details on head, chest and tail in blue and red wires. Black satin lining.

The fame came with the album "Pra você gostar de mim (Taí)", a march specially composed by Joubert de Carvalho for Carmen, who sold about 35 thousand copies, making it the great success in the carnival of 1930, being played and sung in numerous carnivals throughout Brazil.

Colorful pectoral necklace
Bead-studded pectoral necklace, used by Carmen Miranda, with round beads and rice-shaped beads; Purple, colorless, red, green, blue, brown and pink stones in various forms. Yellow, colorless, blue, green, brown and red strass. First band (neck) with a row of round stones and drops and rhinestones of different colors. Below, laced more open with pendant with rows of colored stones with larger stone in the center. Closing of piece of fabric with pearly beads and clasp.

The beginning of her career
Her biography is intertwined with the trajectory of popular music, cinema and Brazilian show business. She was the first radio artist to have exclusive contract and to participate in the first sound and musical films of Brazil. She traveled all over the country, and also to Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. Her clothes were original and constantly published in magazines, making her costumes to be copied by fans.

During the 1930s, she was known as “Pequena Notável” [Little Remarkable], “Embaixatriz do Samba” [Samba Ambassador], “Estrela Máxima” [Maximum Star], “Rainha do Samba” [Queen of Samba], “A pequena do It” [The little do it], “Ditadora Risonha do Samba” [Samba's Giggle Dictator]. In fashion, she started to be a reference, as she created her own singer and actress costumes. Carmen, with her financial independency, perfectly summarized the ideals of 20th century women.

Long dress of Madame Fifi's character- Copacabana (1947)
Long dress with tail worn by Carmen Miranda. Long sleeves and shoulders. In beige crepe covered by a black crochet net embroidered with green and red sequins and metallic beads. Waist-to-beam opening, with black tulle frill. Sleeves with metal snap fasteners. Zipper closure at the back.

The Casino of Urca, glamorous spot in Rio de Janeiro during the 1930s and early 1940s, where Carmen Miranda started her career and, during its golden era, was the main performer.

View of Rio de Janeiro from the top of Casino of Urca, at Urca beach.

The path to stardom
From "Pequena Notável" [Little Remarkable], she became known as Brazilian Bombshell, and its exotic image was seen in shop windows of New York, which exhibited her models of sandals, turbans, clothes, necklaces and bracelets.

From shop windows to the world, she revolutionized the standards of fashion at the time, in what became known as Miranda Look. In 1941, she went to Hollywood, making her first participation in films in the United States, becoming known internationally through technicolor.

Hollywood Walk of Fame Turban
Turban in beige fabric with stripes of gold metallic threads worn by Carmen Miranda. At the top, the fabric forms a kind of twisted bun lining a piece of acrylic blanket. Weft of straw lining.

In March 1941, she became the first Latin American artist to print her feet and hands on the sidewalk of the Chinese Theater, and to have a gold star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

As a fashion icon, Carmen was an example of the combination of elegance and exuberance, giving her models a unique touch.

Red velvet spencer
Spencer in red velvet covered by net of golden threads worn by Carmen Miranda. Long sleeve and shoulders. Open at the front. Beige satin lining.

Measuring only 1.53m tall, Carmen, since her adolescence, has always used high heels to value her curves. Her signature became the platform jump, inspired by Portuguese clogs.

Shoe worn at the Oscar Academy Awards (1941)
Dark blue velvet shoe used by Carmen Miranda, right foot. Open toe, peep toe style. Strips fastened in the upper, crossing the front, passing strips on the sides of the heel, clasp by buckle. Heels tapering on the back.

Even before becoming famous, Carmen always liked to adorn herself with costume jewelry. She used several props and when she started to use the stylized 'baiana' she abused the excess of necklaces and bracelets. Her costume jewelry was commissioned by her to artists of her confidence and always seeking to value her stature.

Treadmill bracelet
Treadmill bracelet formed by nine chains joined by carved strips, rings and double incised beads used by Carmen Miranda. In center rectangular plate in metal, relief of arabesques, interspersed of cabochons in the colors green, blue and red. In the center, red globulated stone, surrounded by colorless rhinestones. Two plaques in the clasp, flanked by cabochons in the colors red, green and blue.

Carmen Miranda's turbans were inspired by the clothing worn by the 'baianas' women who were common to see at Plaza Onze in the city of Rio de Janeiro since the beginning of the 19th century. With this exotic look, Carmen began to use various themes and materials in the making of all turbans.

Black Turban
Turban of black embroidered tulle with sequins of the same color worn by Carmen Miranda. Topped by arrangement of embroidered flowers with black sequins, net of plungers and large silver beads. On the set holder, black satin. From the right side, part of the arrangement hangs.

Between 1941 and 1955, Carmen made several presentations in theaters and nightclubs, married, traveled to Europe, Canada and Cuba. So much work made Carmen pay the highest US income tax as a female artist in 1946. Living in Los Angeles, she participated in thirteen more movies.

Hollywood, Broadway and the World
Carmen Miranda became a meteor and her international career was crowned with films in Hollywood and her presence always requested in shows on Broadway. Carmen also toured Europe, what made her talent more widely recognized around the world. The Carmen Miranda Museum features costumes from her films and most notable shows.

Copacabana
1947

Costume by Barjansky, with suggestions of Carmen Miranda. This garment is considered the last laced 'baiana' created in Hollywood studios and the first of a series for international concerts and tours.

Top with silver, pink, yellow and green sequins
Bustier in bra shape worn by Carmen Miranda, heart neckline. Bulges structured with circular ring. Black fabric printed around the bulge and sides. Embroidered with silver, pink, yellow and green sequins covering most of the piece. In the lining, cotton mesh on the sides. At the top of the bumpers, metal hooks. Metal clasp sewn on side bands.

The 'baiana' skirt was, afterwards, adapted by Carmen Miranda herself to be used in one of her shows.

Baiana' Skirt worn at the show of Carmen Miranda in Las Vegas
Skirt in golden lame with waistband worn by Carmen Miranda. Skirt with embroidered ornaments in gold sequins and fruit applications in satin and velvet of various colors, embroidered with round sequins and in eye shape, stones and rhinestones. Waistband in beige tulle filled with rhinestone embroidery and sequins forming lozenges. Zipper closure and bracket on the back.

Baiana's Turban from Copacabana movie (1947)
Turban embroidered with pearly sequins worn by Carmen Miranda. Topped by fruit basket embroidered with sequins and beads. Among the fruits: pineapple, bananas, grapes and strawberries. Around the basket, red fruits of plastics and green leaves embroidered with sequins. On the right side hangs a bunch of grapes embroidered with sequins.

"Alegria Rapazes" (Something for the Boys, 1944) and "Sonho de Estrelas" (Doll Face, 1945)

Part of the costume was created by Yvonne Wood and Kag Nelson in 1944 and it was originally used in the films "Alegria Rapazes" (Something for the Boys) and "Sonhos de Estrela" (Doll Face)

Green striped shoulder frill
Shoulders frill worn by Carmen Miranda, with four overlapping tule bands forming layers, the first being in a white tulle with horizontal bands of green sequins. Fabric in beige nylon and lace of metallic wires in silver and green. Elastic bands at the top, forming ruffles. Metal clasp sewn at the ends.

Top
Bustier in bra shape, heart neckline worn by Carmen Miranda. Structured arches. Green satin embroidered with two kinds of green sequins (round and star-shaped), covering most of the piece and leaving part of the side band with the apparent satin. Lining in beige fabric, beige crepe and brown velvet around the bulge. Strap on tape with application of transparent rhinestones throughout its length. Metal clasp sewn on the sides.

Later, this garment was altered by Carmen Miranda's hands to be used in other shows.

Green striped skirt
Evase skirt in crepe pierced in the front worn by Carmen Miranda. Three layers of ruffles. Shorter in the front. Embroidery with sequins in vertical green stripes and floral motifs. Application of fabric in the form of embroidered leaves with green sequins in the shape of stars. In the outline of the beam, row of green sequins. Beige crepe beads also embroidered with stripes. Nylon beads with silver and green metallic wires. Zipper closure and bracket on the back.

Carmen learned in her adolescence skills of cutting and sewing, besides having learned how to embroider. When the shooting ended, she bought the costumes and used them at her shows. Many of them she modeled in her own style.

Customized striped Blouse
Striped blouse in vertical stripes fabric in green and light beige worn by Carmen Miranda. Embroidery with sequins of the same colors. Composed of two stripes, one covering the bust and one greater, on the first, below the shoulders. Wrong, elastic at the top and bottom, close to the hem.

This blouse was first acquired and the sequins added later.

Green striped scarf
Scarf back cloth type, in cream gauze, embroidered with green sequins, striped in the longitudinal direction.

Scared Stiff
1952

It is a costume that refers to a 'baiana rumbeira' dressed by her character Carmelita Castina, who represents the cultural identity of an indefinite Latina.

Shoulder frill
Shoulder frill worn by Carmen Miranda, with eleven tufted stripes of nylon and nylon overlapping layers, the first in gray, followed by dark pink, purple and another dark pink, glued to them, sequins in gold and pink. Elastic fringed bands at the top forming ruffles, the ends being applied with flowers armed in wire and sewn to tulles embroidered by green, pink, white and gold sequins round and pink stars. Metal clasp at the ends.

Straight skirt with side slit
Straight skirt with side slit, in pink crepe embroidered with gold sequins and silver thread.

Detail of a loop formed by sequins on the left side, close to the waist.

Drops on the bar, shorter front. Three layers in nylon and tulle in pink, beige and purple embroidered with sequins in the same colors. Zipper closure and bracket. Part of the lining next to the bar in beige satin.

Shows in Cuba
1955

Carmen began to use this type of stylized 'baiana' after the film Copacabana. This costume is part of a collection of four baianas from the collection of the Carmen Miranda Museum that represents the last stage of the artist's shows.

Shoes
Clog in silver pelisse. Open toe, peep toe style. Gasses and heels with application of gold thread and rhinestones. Platform heel with slope on the front and back; Rhinestones glued to the contour of the entire upper part; Five stones sewn in the back.

Baiana' skirt worn at Havana' show
Flared skirt in golden lame with waistband.

Dress with embroidered ornaments in gold sequins and applications of velvet fruits of different colors, embroidered with sequins, beads and pearls.

Waistband in beige tulle filled with rhinestone embroidery forming lozenges. Beige voile lining. Zip closure and metal closure at the back. Petticoat in nylon fabric with golden lace on the bar.

In early 1947, after shooting Copacabana, Carmen inaugurated a golden phase in her career, becoming the biggest show-woman in the United States.

Scarf - back cloth type
Scarf back cloth type, in pale pink tulle, with applications of pink and golden sequins..

Top
Bustier in bra shape, heart neckline worn by Carmen Miranda. Bulges structured in circular ring. Embroidered with sequins in brown covering the whole piece; transparent rhinestones sewn in the central contour of two bows; in the center, beige satin ribbon. Cotton jersey lining on the sides. Metal clasp sewn on the side bands.

Baiana's Turban
Turban embroidered with silver sequins. Topped with nylon basket arrangement and silver sequins with leaves and fruits with embroidery and sequins application: oranges, apples, bananas, strawberries, grapes, pineapple.

A bunch of grapes hangs on the right side.

The Jimmy Durante Show
1955

Costume worn by Carmen Miranda in Dallas (1952) and used on the TV show The Jimmy Durante Show on the night of August 4, 1955, being her last show recorded.

Green top
Bustier in bra shape worn by Carmen Miranda, heart neckline. Bulges structured in circular ring. Application of embroidered white tulle with sequins in green covering the whole piece. Cotton jersey lining. Metal clasp sewn on the side bands. Shoulder frill sewn on the sides of the bumps.

Blue tulle skirt worn at the last show of Carmen Miranda
Shirred skirt in blue nylon tulle with sequin applications in vertical stripes and flowers with rhinestone core worn by Carmen Miranda. Embroidered tulle blade with colorless sequins with three rows of rhinestones on the waistband, zipper back closure and hooks. Three layers of petticoat in blue, yellow and lilac tulle with ruffles on the bar.

Shoulder frill
Shoulders frill worn by Carmen Miranda, with seven layers of tulle superimposed in layers in blue, yellow and beige with gold sequins and glued rhinestones. Elastic bands at the top, forming ruffles. Stitched to bustier.

Shoe
Green velvet shoes. Open toe, peep toe style. Handle fastened near the heel in two points, clasp by mooring. Application of stones in blue and mirrored, gluing of sequins in the upper and the heel. Platform heel with slope on front and back.

Pectoral green necklace
Bead-studded pectoral-like necklace, used by Carmen Miranda,with studded green stones, pearly beads, rhinestones and green glass pendants. Upper part (neck) in beige fabric, on cloth, round and oval stones, interspersed with pearls. Below, laced more open, in stones of various shapes, green and colorless rhinestones and pearly beads, ending in length in rosette range. Finished in green glass pendants. Cover covered with pearly beads with square brackets.

Turban
Turban with application of green sequins worn by Carmen Miranda. Encased by arrangement of flowers, leaves and buttons with sequined application in the colors green, blue, red, gold, pink and rhinestones. At the top of the cap, leaked circle. Cotton lining

Career highlights

In 1948, Carmen Miranda completes her memorable season at the London Palladium. Her last film is released in 1953, where she appears alongside Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. In the same year she toured in Europe, including 14 Italian cities. She was one of the first artists to perform at the newly opened Las Vegas casinos and participate in the new media vehicle, television.

Shoe worn on the London Palladium Show (1948)
Gold pelisse shoe used by Carmen Miranda, left foot. Open toe, peep toe style. Strips fastened at two points of the upper, crossing in front and passing through strips on the sides of the heel, clasp by mooring. Straight platform heels, slightly sloping front and S-shaped back.

Carmen's legacy
On August 5, 1955, Carmen died after filming The Jimmy Durante Show. Carmen Miranda left for posterity remarkable records in Brazilian Popular Music, in addition of being one of the most performative artists of all time. She left in the history of the twentieth century the joy and music of the Brazilian people, through her presentations and dress, introducing the 'baiana' figure to the world imagination. The Carmen Miranda Museum keeps alive the memory and joy of this extraordinary artist who showed a little of Brazil to the whole world.
Credits: Story

Carmen Miranda's Museum
César Balbi

Anita Mantuano Arts Foundation of State of Rio de Janeiro/ Rio de Janeiro State Department of Culture
André Lazaroni

Museum Superintendent
Raphael Hallack Fabrino

Curatorship
Laura Ghelman
César Balbi
Vivian Fava
Clara Paulino

Composition
Laura Ghelman

Photography
Cerne Sistemas

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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