SKIN & BEADS IN FILM AND FASHION

Skin and beads, the name I gave this post, is based on what Marilyn Monroe called her Jean Louis-designed gown from 1962, the one where she sang Happy Birthday Mr. President to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden. Indeed, the main advantage of a dress made of glass bugle beads is that their weight presses against the skin. You either see the skin left exposed, or you clearly see the contours of the wearer since the beads hug the figure with from the gravity of their weight. And the beads not only reflect light, but are themselves translucent, and sewn onto the sheerest of silk chiffons. They are made of cut glass, an can be colored or lined in silver or gold. Marlene Dietrich below knew how to pose in a gown made of bugle beads. This one was designed for her by the costume and fashion designer Irene. Little skin actually shows, yet you feel that all of her is showing.

 

Beads Marlene_Dietrich_Irene

 

The tubular bugle beads can be sewn solidly on a dress, or they can be used sparingly for decoration. Bugle beads shared the same limelight as sequins in the 1920s, when glitter was in favor (did it ever go away?). Sequins don’t let the light through, and they are much lighter in weight, an advantage in cost of production and wearability. But sequins don’t flatter the screen figure like beads do. Below a young Joan Crawford wears a fur wrap and nude souffle (not pronounced soufflay) dress bodice, both decorated in bugle beads and sequins, here in a photo by Ruth Harriet Louise from 1926.

Beads Joan-Ruth Louise 1926 classicfilmheroines

 

With Jean Harlow, Adrian had the perfect figure on which to mold a nightgown made of bugle beads, accented with ostrich plume sleeves. The contrast of the shiny, reptilian skin of the beads, along with the fuzzy-nest sleeves of the nightgown, provided the perfect symbolic duality of the good-bad girl that was Jean Harlow. The photographer Harvey White captured this essence perfectly in the photo below from Dinner at Eight

 

Harlow Dinner at 8

 

While rarely paired on film, Jean Harlow and Clark Gable made a compelling couple in films like Red Dust. The chiaroscuro of black and white photography by Hurrell captures their radiance. The Adrian-designed gown of bugle beads reflects the light as it reflects her figure.The two stars are perfectly comfortable with each other. This type of dual portrait photography is a lost art.

 

Beads Harlow_Gable

Photo by Photofest

 

Adrian designed another knock-out gown of solid bugle beads for Joan Crawford in The Bride Wore Red, 1937, It was made of red bugle beads, and provided a key role in the plot of the film. Vintage beaded movie gowns rarely survived.  Due to their weight, they would rip apart if left on hangers for long. This one miraculously survived at MGM because a wardrobe lady had placed it in a drawer where it was forgotten for decades. It is now in the collection of  the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

 

Joan Red Bride

The Bride Wore Red gown in all its red glory is shown below in London at the V&A Museum’s Hollywood Costume Exhibition from 2013. The exhibition went on the road and finished its tour in 2015 at the future site of the Museum of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

 

Hollywood costume V&A Bride Wore Red

 

The photo  below shows Carole Lombard in a beaded gown designed by Robert Kalloch for Brief Moment, 1933, from Columbia Pictures. Travis Banton had designed her Paramount movies and then Irene took over her wardrobe designing until Lombard’s untimely death in 1942. She was always photogenic and looked great whether in glamour or everyday clothes.

 

Beads Lombard - Brief Moment

 

The bugle beads these fabulous gowns were made from were usually silver-lined, which gave them their highly reflective quality. But the beads could be made of colored glass. Jeanette MacDonald below wears an Adrian designed gown of blue bugle beads in the film Sweethearts in 1938. The back of the gown shows just enough skin to be tantalizing, and with Jeanette’s back framed with a yoke and swags of beading, it emphasizes Adrian’s favored V-line silhouette. The front was very close-fitting like Joan Crawford’s red-beaded gown in The Bride Wore Red.

 

Jeanette MacDonald 5 JPG

 

Lana Turner, another platinum blonde, always looked smashing in black. Irene designed her wardrobe after Adrian left MGM, including this black bugle-beaded gown for Slightly Dangerous in in 1942.

 

Slightly Dangerous (1943) Directed by Wesley Ruggles Shown: Lana Turner

Photo by Photofest

 

Things became more colorful in the 1950s, especially when Marilyn Monroe was on the scene. Blonds were still popular, which Marilyn cast in cement for several more decades, especially in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953. Jane Russel was the brunette serving as contrast. The gowns were designed by Travilla. Marilyn’s gown sold at the Debbie Reynolds auction in 2011  for $1.44 million.

 

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) Directed by Howard Hawks Shown: Marilyn Monroe (as Lorelei Lee), Jane Russell (as Dorothy Shaw) Song: A Little Girl from Little Rock

Photo by Photofest

 

Marilyn Monroe had some fabulous designers working with her: Charles LeMaire, Travilla, Orry-Kelly, and Jean Louis. The black souffle dress below is decorated with strands of bugle beads. It was designed by Orry-Kelly for her in Some Like it Hot, 1958.

 

Beads Marilyn Orry-Kelly

 

Pictured below is the famous 1962 Happy Birthday Mr. President dress designed by Jean Louis, otherwise known by her as the “skin and beads” dress. Actually it was made of a flesh-colored souffle, and decorated with rhinestones, not beads. But Marilyn’s point was that it was tight enough to be her skin. It sold at auction at Christie’s New York for $1.2 million in 1999.

 

Beads Marilyn birthday dress

 

Glass beads are expensive but ever in style. The famous model Verushka of the 1960s wears this outfit in the legendary film Blow Up, in 1966. In this outfit, which is actually a short nightgown with open sides, Verushka poses for the photographer played by David Hemmings.

Beads Blowup Verushka

The glamour of beaded gowns has moved from the screen to the red carpet in recent years. Two striking examples are shown below.

 

Beads Selena Gomez 2014

Photo courtesy WENN

Selena Gomez wears a gold beaded Pucci at a 2014 Oscars after-party. The Pucci runway gown was modified to add the cutaway at the bust and to reveal more skin along with the beads.

 

Beads Blake-Lively-Beaded-Zuhair-Murad-Couture-Gown

Photo by Tinseltown/Shutterstock

Blake Lively wears a figure-hugging Zuhar Murad Couture nude- colored gown with black bead stripes  at the movie premiere of Savages. The stripes are wild and not many could pull off this look but Blake Lively is one of them.

Glamour never dies, nor does the influence of classic Hollywood costume and fashion design.

 

This post was modified from the 100th post of my former Silver Screen Modiste blog. It’s now my 48th of Silver Screen Modes.

COSTUMES FROM THE GOLDEN AGE OF HOLLYWOOD EXHIBITION

The Museum of Brisbane in Australia recently completed a hugely popular exhibition based on the Nicholas Inglis collection, Costumes from the Golden Age of Hollywood. As its title denotes, it was devoted to the costumes designed and worn on the screen during Hollywood’s Golden Age of film, from the 1920s through the 1960s. The exhibition ran from November 2014 through May 2015.  Over 200,000 people visited the exhibition, one of the most ambitious the Museum of Brisbane ever held. To say the least, Nicholas Inglis is a passionate classic film fan and serious, even fanatic, classic film costume collector. The fortuitous story of how the Museum and the Collector collaborated (although they were in the same city these things do not just happen in museums), is told in this interview.  The exhibition was initiated by Museum Deputy Director Christopher Salter when he approached Nicholas Inglis about a possible exhibition, which started a three year project, which also involved co-curator Dr. Nadia Buick.  I recently spoke with Nicholas about the exhibition and asked him for an interview for the Silver Screen Modes. Nick and I have been communicating long distance for many years over the subject of classic Hollywood costume design and designers, and have both been collecting in that field. I also had the privilege of writing an essay for the catalogue of the exhibition, which completely sold out. Here is Nick’s interview, along with a sampling of his own photos. Many more can be found at Nick’s own blog The Vintage Film Costume Collector

Nick Collection Photo 1

Nicholas Inglis poses in front of his costumes at the exhibition

What is it about the Golden Age of Hollywood that appeals to you so much?

I have always had a love for the film classics of the 30’s and 40’s and 50’s. As a teenager I used to write to the performers for autographs. I also grew up watching the film classics. My Aunt owned the Dawn theatre at Chermside (Brisbane) so I got to watch some amazing films there as well. For me the Golden Age of Hollywood represents a time in movie making that no longer exists, a time when movies were special, they were an event for those going to the movies and were made with performers who were stars in every sense of the word. It was also a time in movie making when the quality of the talent both on screen and behind were at the best and when the studios had the resources to  make films that were the best of their kind and indeed that today continue to be seen and enjoyed.

Nick Collection Photo 4 jpg

There were 69 pieces are on exhibit as part of the exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane. How many pieces do you actually own?

There were 300 costume pieces in the collection. I have never really stopped to count them and it was only during this process of bringing the collection out to display that the whole collection was catalogued in such a way that it was counted and documented. The collection also includes stage worn pieces, posters, autographs and other film related memorabilia.

Is it difficult to maintain a collection of that size?

The costumes are stored in a facility, in acid free boxes and tissue paper. They are reclined to give them the best chance of survival. Being fabrics they do have a shelf life so it is important to ensure you are doing everything you can for them in terms of their ongoing survival.  Luckily you can also fit a number of costumes in a storage box thanks to their being fabrics and can be layered. They are not stored on mannequins.

 

Nick Collection Photo 6 jpg

Do you intend to extend your collection beyond the Golden Age of Hollywood?

I have collected and purchased from what could be described as more modern day films. I really only venture into that side of things if it is a film I have loved or have enjoyed a great deal. I have costumes worn by Bernadette Peters and Aileen Quinn from the film “Annie” and I have pieces worn by Robin Williams and Nathan Lane from “The Birdcage”. I also have a Nicole Kidman period costume from ‘Portrait of A Lady”. I am happy to say that I also have costumes from an modern day Australian classic with a trio of costumes worn by the main stars in the film ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”. So really for me sometimes it is a matter of I don’t know what I may want to add to the collection until I have seen it!

 

Nick Collection Photo 7 jpg

 

How much involvement did you have in selecting the pieces shown for the exhibition?

When the museum approached me, they asked to see all the pieces that made up the collection. From there they then went away and put together a proposal of pieces that represented the story of not only my collection and how it came to be here in Brisbane but also in relation to the history of film in the Golden Age as well as the costumes which made this era so fascinating. I did hint a number of times in relation to the pieces which were perhaps favourites and they were included in the exhibit. It was a wonderful selection of pieces from my collection and the museum and the curators Christopher Salter and Nadia Buick have done an amazing job in putting together this feast for the senses.

What did you want people to get out of seeing the exhibition?

I wanted people to see not only the great craftsmanship and talent that went into the making of the costumes that were used during this era, but also to give people an understanding of what it was to be a star in the Golden Age of Hollywood and how the studios spared no expense in terms of creating these treasures for the screen.  Coming up close to the pieces you also get an idea of the detail and time that it would have taken to put these pieces together and only to be seen on screen sometimes for just a few minutes. I am also happy to say that visitors to the exhibition have also gone away wanting to connect with some of the films that are represented so hopefully I am sparking a whole new generation of people wanting to see and enjoy some of these great films.

 

Nick Collection Photo 9 jpg

Travis Banton designed costume for Claudette Colbert in CLeopatra, 1934

Was it difficult to choose which ones you would include and which ones you wouldn’t?

It was at first difficult knowing that only a limited number of pieces would be in the exhibition but it was really never the case that they could all be. There was just too much to show. The museum did have trouble in choosing what would go in for that very same reason, that there was so much too choose from. Some amazing pieces didn’t make the cut but hopefully that will be for another exhibition. What was used for the exhibit was a wonderful selection and representation of my collection.

You’ve been collecting since 1995. Have you ever missed out on a piece you particularly wanted?

Yes and it happens quite a lot. There are dedicated auction and houses around the world that specialize in entertainment memorabilia and when the auctions or sales come along, pieces are highly sought after and in demand. I have missed out on a many a piece over the years. There is one piece in the exhibition for example, a Carmen Miranda costume from the film ‘Nancy Goes to Rio’ and made at MGM studios in 1950. I had to bid on the piece three times over a number of years and at three different auctions until I was able to acquire it. So third time lucky!

Nick Inglis Hayward Smash Up

The smashing outfit was designed by Travis Banton for Susan Hayward in Smash-Up: the Story of a Woman.

You have various pieces from particular actresses such as Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor. Is there a particular actor or designer you are drawn to when hunting new pieces?

When you are collecting for a number of years, you do eventually start to step back and ask what is it that you are missing or what is it that would you like. There are a number of performers that I am still searching for, a Marlene Dietrich costume piece for example. I seem to be drawn to some performers more than others and do have multiple costumes from stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Susan Hayward and Maureen O’Hara. I expect there is something about them as performers that drives me to add pieces from their films.

If I was to mention a designer, Walter Plunkett is a favourite. He designed for some film classics including ‘Gone with the Wind’ and ‘Singin in the Rain’. He was the best of the best when it came to period design in film which is an area of film making that I love. There are a number of pieces in the exhibit designed by Plunkett including an amazing period gown worn by Lana Turner in the MGM film ‘Diane’ and a Katharine Hepburn costume from the original film version of ‘Little Women’  made in 1933 at RKO studios.

Nick Collection Photo 8 jpg

Walter Plunkett design for Elizabeth Taylor in Raintree County, 1957

 

Nick Collection Photo 13 jpg

Walter Plunkett design for Lana Turner in Diane, 1956

 

Nick Collection Photo 17

Walter Plunkett design for Katharine Hepburn in Little Women, 1933

What’s the most expensive piece you’ve ever bought?

I have been a very lucky collector when it comes to being in the right place at the right time. I have bought from private collectors and have found items on auction sites such as eBay. A pair of boots for example worn by Judy Garland and made for her role as Annie Oakely in ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ 1950 were on display and were an eBay purchase. I picked them up for $200. I also have a photo of Judy Garland wearing the boots which were also on display. So it is really a matter of looking for those hidden treasures!

Have you ever bought something sight unseen and it’s turned out to be a complete disappointment? 

Quite often the pieces you are buying have had a number of lives, some can be as old at 80! And where the have been or where they have been stored since leaving the studios is seen in terms of their state today. They do come torn, altered, dirty, discoloured, or even as has happened on some occasions, literally falling apart in your hands. The thing about costumes is that they were made for a limited purpose, to be seen on screen for a short period of time and for the actor to perform their role. After that the costumes went back into storage to be used again on another actor, or redesigned or resized for alternate use. Costumes have been stored in attics, been hanging on hangers for 50 or more years, and have time has taken its toll. It is only in the past 40 years really that collectors have seen the need to preserve as much as is possible of what has remained of this film history.

Nick Collection Photo 12 jpg

Adrian design for the film Marie Antoinette

What are some of your favorite pieces from your collection?

I have always had difficulties answering that one. It is hard to pick a favorite. I do have favorite genres such as the movie musicals or the period films so I drawn to those and you can see that from the exhibit. I do have a Barbra Streisand piece as worn in the film ‘Funny Girl’ which I love for a number of reasons including that it is a film favourite, that it just looks amazing, and that it came from Ms Streisand herself. There are occasions when performers are able to retain pieces from their films and Barbra did just that. It is great to have that history trail to go wit the piece. The piece is also in the exhibition.

How do you acquire pieces for your collection?

See above re: the auction houses, internet auction sites, from other collectors and people who were at the original film studio auctions.

Nick Collection Photo 11 jpg

What happens to the collection when it’s not on exhibit?

When not on show, the items are in storage, preserved and protected from the elements, and until they can come out again and to be enjoyed.

Since the Exhibition has finished at the Museum of Brisbane. Do you intend to show it elsewhere?

I would dearly love to continue this journey of displaying pieces for the public to enjoy so I am hoping that museums across the country not only get to see the exhibition but also hopefully take an interest in displaying these amazing pieces of Hollywood history. The exhibit has been very successful with over 200,000 visitors to the exhibit since it opened in late November 2014. It is wonderful to see so much interest in the collection!

Nick Collection Photo 10jpg

Helen Rose design for Lucille Ball in The Long Long Trailer, 1953

 

What are some of the pieces you own that people didn’t get to see in the exhibition?

Some other pieces that are not in the exhibition include a Mae West period gown designed by Travis Banton and worn in her 1934 film ‘Belle of the Nineties’. Another rare piece is a costume worn by Theda Bara in the 1917 silent version of the film ‘Cleopatra’. The film itself is now considered lost however it is amazing for me that the piece survives and that I have been able to find so many photos of the costume being worn by Theda Bara. There is certainly enough pieces for further exhibitions and a few times over! There is also so much in terms of the collection that displays can be put together based on so many different subjects.

 

Nick Collection Photo 15

Two of Esther Williams bathing suits designed by Irene (center) are displayed next to Ann Miller’s dance dress designed by Helen Rose from On the Town, 1949

 

Do you collect anything else or are Hollywood costumes your  only specialty?

This area is more than enough!

 

 

JOAN CRAWFORD AND ADRIAN

This post is prt of the Summer Under the Stars Post Blogathon hosted by  Journeys in Classic films

Joan Crawford started almost at the birth of MGM, in the silent, show-girl and flapper days of 1925. She even started before she was Joan Crawford. Her film career began under the name of Lucille Le Sueur, but when Louis B. Mayer noticed the vivacious and pretty Charleston dancer, he thought the name Le Sueur sounded too much like sewer, and so had it changed to Joan Crawford.

Joan had her first starring role in Sally, Irene and Mary in 1925, playing fast-living chorus girl Irene along with Sally (Constance Bennett) and Mary (Sally O’Neill). They each have their personalities, loves, and adventures, but it’s Irene that has the tragic end. Her next starring role was as the circus gypsy girl Nanon in The Unknown in 1927. Due to Lon Chaney’s acting it is as intense a silent film as you’re ever likely to see. Joan said she learned how to act from working with Lon Chaney in this film.

And then came Our Dancing Daughters in 1928, Joan’s first big starring role and the movie that made her a hit with young women across the country. Adrian had just been made Head Costume Designer at MGM, having come to the studio with producer Cecil B. DeMille that year. Adrian designed her costumes for the sequel film, Our Modern Maidens,  and her next 28 films at MGM, creating her look on screen and off. About Adrian Joan Crawford later said, “Dear Adrian, he was the greatest costume designer of them all. There will never be a greater one.”

Joan realized early the importance of the star-making machinery, of which costume design was a foundation. Adrian’s talents extended beyond his fashion art, but embedded in his work was his understanding of the needs of the role, and significantly, the psychology of the actress and what it would take her to create that extra spark of creativity on the screen. In Joan’s flapper days, such as in Our Dancing Daughters (designed by David Cox) and in Our Modern Maidens, shown below, Joan embodied the notion of the flapper and was dressed perfectly as one. Later, when she played the sophisticated “kept woman” in Mannequin, Adrian dressed her in a completely different style for that role. And Joan absorbed these lessons in style and stardom eagerly. She wanted to pattern her stardom  after Gloria Swanson, the greatest star from years before. Gloria Swanson was a fashion icon, always well dressed – always the star – a role played on and off  the lot.

Flappers Joan 1

Adrian found Joan Crawford fascinating. Like the MGM star he loved most to dress, Greta Garbo, Joan presented him with the androgynous beauty that sparked his creativity. She had a beautiful figure with broad shoulders that Adrian admired, a “regular Johnny Weismuller” he reportedly said. She had normal hips, not wide as has often been reported, so there was no need to widen her shoulders in order to balance them out. Greta Garbo had wide shoulders too and Adrian used wide-shoulder costumes for both of them from 1929 on, just because he liked a wide-shouldered look on these two powerful women. Indeed, Adrian was always fascinated by polarities, and the contrast between the beautiful yet strong, almost dominant face of Joan Crawford below illustrates that characteristic.

 

Joan Crawford

The costume designed for Joan Crawford that made Adrian famous was the “Letty Lynton” dress, named for the 1932 film of the same title. It has not been seen in decades due to a copyright dispute, but the puffed-sleeve (or shoulders) white organdy dress was worn by Joan on a ship’s deck when Robert Montgomery compares her to an angel and asks her to marry him. The dress was knocked-off by  American designers and sold at every price-point. Parisian designed copied it too, as did other costume dessigners. Edith Head stated it was the single most important fashion influence in film history. The Cinema Shop at Macy has often been cited as selling 50,000, or even 500,000 copies of the dress, although both figures are gross exaggerations done for marketing reasons. Versions of the dress can still be seen as wedding gowns.

 

Letty Lynton 2

The photo below is another gown from Letty Lynton, although it was shot on the set of Grand Hotel.  The gown is made of white crepe and black bugle beads, with one section forming a wrap tied at her hips. The other, forming a true assymetry on her left side. The image itself is a master-work of Hollywood set photography, with Joan forming a crucifix at the swinging art-deco doors of the Grand Hotel.

 

011

In Grand Hotel, 1932, Joan played a secretary. Adrian dressed her  simply in black dresses. Her predominant costume was the one shown below. Its large white collar emphasized her face, and its open structure showed her vulnerability to the advances of Preysing.

Greta Garbo also starred in Grand Hotel, although they did not share a scene. Garbo was notoriously reclusive and Joan had never talked with her on the MGM lot, and was rather intimidated by her. One day during the filming of Grand Hotel, Joan ran into Garbo on the stairs of the old MGM dressing rooms. Joan, locked in place and spellbound by Garbo, just said hello. Garbo put her hand to  Joan’s face and said, “What a pity, our first picture together and we don’t work together.  I am so sorry. You have a marvelous face.” Years later in retelling this story Joan said, “If there was ever a time in my life when I might have become a lesbian, that was it.”

Joan Grand hotel

Adrian used the symbolic power of the modified trench-coat on Joan Crawford, just as he had with Greta Garbo since 1928. Below Joan is shown in Possessed, 1931. The Coat is only slightly feminized with the bow at the collar and at the belt, which is neutralized by a floppy cloche hat serving as a sort of fedora. She wears this outfit as she stands up to hecklers admitting that she’s the mistress of Clark Gable/ the character Mark Whitney, running for governor, but that he is an honorable man that once belonged to her but that now belongs to the people.

Joan Possessed

Joan Crawford, like many young actresses at MGM, had gone through voice class to lose her native twang and regional accent. While Joan had developed a beautiful speaking voice, there was no mistaking that she was a working class girl, and always seemed natural in the many rags to riches roles she played. It was also a factor in her popularity with the many young women moving into the cities and who were entering the workforce in the late 1920s and 30s.

TCM’s Summer Under the Stars is also playing Sadie McKee, a story where Joan starts out as a household maid, then becomes a dancer, and finally the wife of a rich man, though not the man she loves, played in the film by Gene Raymond.  This was another film where Joan co- starred with a future husband, in this case Franchot Tone. She had previously co-starred with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in Our Modern Maidens (1929), whom she first married. And then of course there was Clark Gable, with whom she co-starred in eight films. They never married, although they carried on an affair that lasted many years. They always seemed well paired in their roles together, and their chemistry was always hot.

Joan & Gable 2

Joan Crawford and Clark Gable in Dancing Lady

 

Sadie Mckee features a rare Adrian-designed gown that bares Joan’s shoulders. The sequined halter adds a  lot of dazzle to the long black gown.

Sadie McKee (1934) Directed by Clarence Brown Shown: Joan Crawford

Sadie McKee. Photo courtesy Photofest

Probably the film where costume plays its most important role ever is The Bride Wore Red (1937)directed by Dorothy Arzner and starring Joan Crawford with Franchot Tone and Robert Young. Simply, an aristocrat character bets that he can take a tavern singer played by Joan and through a good wardrobe can pass her off as a high-society heiress at an exclusive mountain resort. His theory is that only luck separates the characteristics of the rich from the poor, so change the appearance and you change the person. and there ensnare the affections of the Robert Young character who disbelieves this theory. So he gives “Anni” enough money to buy an expensive wardrobe, and she chooses the most eye-popping brilliant-red bugle-beaded gown with matching cape in the store. So in this fractured-Cinderella-fairy-tale she goes off on the train to the Alps, where the postman played by Franchot Tone picks her up in a donkey-cart, her taxi to the resort. The costumes continue to play their significant part in this movie,  not to make the actress feel comfortable in her role, but in this Dorothy Arzner film, to always feel like she has chosen the wrong wardrobe for the occasion.

Joan Red Bride

It’s a bit of an irony that The Bride Wore Red was a black and white film, so who would have known what color the bride was wearing, even though she was not to be the princess bride. The photo below shows the gown as it looks today, miraculously preserved and in the collection of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology, although here shown at the Hollywood Costume exhibition at the V&A Museum in London.

Hollywood costume V&A Bride Wore Red

The roles Joan played after World War II satisfied her less and less. Change was taking place at MGM. Garbo had left, and after that  Adrian. Even her long-time rival Norma Shearer has retired. New stars were getting the choice roles: Katharine Hepburn; Greer Garson; Hedy Lamar; and Lana Turner. After a  long review of her options, Joan had a meeting with Louis B. Mayer and asked to buy out the rest of the time on her contract. So on June 29, 1943, Joan left MGM, her home for eighteen years. Her last task was to clean up her dressing room, not just to pack up her personal belongings, but to physically clean it as well. No farewell party was held to see her off.

Her agent Lew Wasserman got her a contract at Warner Brothers., where a new phase of her career began.  She was once again given more serious roles in this new age of film noir. There was Mildred Pierce in 1945 for which she won a Best Actress Oscar. With new clout, she returned to Adrian for her wardrobe, selecting costumes from among his designs at his new  fashion salon in Beverly Hills. Thus did her next two films, Humoresque, and Possessed, get costumed by Adrian. Joan is magnificently  dressed in Humoresque, showing a mature beauty in an elegant and classic wardrobe.  Possessed calls for a simple wardrobe. In the film Adrian used a technique of reversing a white collar on a black dress, having the points of  the collar turned to the back of the dress. The look has been copied many times since.

Joan Crawford went on to a long career, embodying what it was like to be a star in Hollywood’s Golden Age, and beyond. Adrian’s star burned bright while it lasted, but his health failed him. A heart attack forced him to give up his own influential fashion line in 1952, and a planned comeback was stopped by a terminal stroke in 1959. Fortunately we have those many films to see for ourselves on TCM and elsewhere the art that was created in this collaboration and under the talented umbrella of many at in the Hollywood dream factories.