Different opinion on the dress. I didn't notice it when I was a kid, except it was the first movie I saw Harlow in (it was at a college film festival and I bought a ticket) and I knew she was meant to be a sex symbol. I didn't understand why she was a sex symbol based on this film. When I was grown up, I'd seen earlier Harlow films, and knew how she died. In the earlier movies, her clothes are closer to her body and show a lot of skin, so you can see the sex symbol. Here it's completely different. So here's the deal with the dress:
1) It's of the same bias-cut satin as all of her sex symbol dresses, except it covers her head to toe and has a lot of excess material.
2) she also carries a giant spray of flowers almost as big as she is. It's stapled to her side.
Both were to conceal her size. She'd bloated up in the face, the boobs, and the hips. She was only 24-25 here, and should have been able to carry off a body-conscious dress with ease. But her body was a mess because of her illness. They covered her in fabric, made it comic, and also super built out her clothes so she'd look tinier in comparison. For example, the last outfit she wears has enormous fur shoulders and an enormous fur hem, to make her waist look smaller by contrast. She's cartoonish in this movie.
In Saratoga they did some of the same tricks. There's a scene in the train where she has her coat only half off. The part that is still "on" covers half of her body, just as enormous bridal bouquet does in Libeled Lady.
Knowing Harlow's story, it is mystifying to me what the hell people thought was going on with her. The same people designed her costumes and dressed her from the time she got to MGM. She was still just a very young woman at this point - early 20s. Did they think she was bloated due to drinking - or what? Or did people just not think about it or keep their thoughts to themselves? What the hell did Harlow herself think was going on with her body? It was beyond her control