Back from a recent trip to New England where I was very fortunate to catch the Hollywood Glamour exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. On display were gowns designed by some of the early movie industry’s most famous costumers. I can’t begin to describe how excited I was to be so close to such amazing creations, outfits that were actually worn by legendary actresses of the 20s, 30s and 40s. And since cameras were allowed, I was able to take photos to share. I’ve broken the post up into two parts since I got a little carried away with the picture taking. So come back to see the rest of these beauties!
This lamé gown was front and center of the exhibit and was simply breathtaking in person.
Attributed to Travis Banton, who designed this for actress Mary Ellis in the movie
Paris in Spring (1935).
FUN FILM FASHION FACT – In the very early years of film, designers had to experiment with ways to make the costumes really stand out on black and white film. And some designs were problematic for the camera, such as dresses heavily embellished with jewels. So often they used cold cream to dull the finish on stones so they would not cause camera glare.
Chanel designed for stage and screen. And in the early 1930s she created costumes for a few films at Metro Goldwyn Mayer. But according to the studio her design aesthetic of simple, elegant silhouettes didn’t translate well on the silver screen. So, though she is one of the most famous fashion designers of all time, her Hollywood costume design career was short lived.
Another Travis Banton beauty. This silk chiffon gown is completely embroidered with bugle beads and silver metallic thread. The tiny beads created a luminous, shimmering effect on film. Plunging necklines and backs were a hallmark of 1930s fashions, and the figure hugging silhouette could only look its best with no undergarments worn beneath. Being as it was pre-code, racy dresses like this were still allowed on the screen.
This luxurious black silk velvet gown with bejewelled neckline that Greta Garbo is wearing was designed by the famous Gilbert Adrian for her role in Inspiration (1930). Adrian began dressing Garbo when he came to work for MGM in 1928. The style of clothing he designed for Ms Garbo helped form her onscreen persona, which was often that of a mysterious, devastatingly alluring, femme fatale.
In the movie Bombshell Gilbert Adrian was going for a good girl/bad girl look for Jean Harlow. Sensuous silk satin was used that would caress the actresse’s curves, a low neckline and plunging draped back combined with the flowers and multi tiered peplum is a wonderful contrast of sexy and sweet.
FUN FILM FASHION FACT– This is the gown Jean Harlow wore when she added her hand prints in the wet cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in 1933.
This stunning evening jacket, designed by Robert Kalloch for Norma Shearer to wear for Her Cardboard Lover (1942), is made of a rayon twill with silver metallic threads and embroidered with intricate bugle beads and sequins. Robert Kalloch was not quite as well known as some of the other Hollywood designers like Adrian, Banton and Orry Kelly, but he did have an impressive career in fashion, which began with him designing extravagant evening gowns for royalty, the social elite and costumes for stage actresses. Eventually Columbia Pictures brought him to Hollywood to add some style and class to their films. He also designed for MGM studios from 1941-43.
That’s all for now! Part 2 coming soon…..
Hope you enjoyed my little show and tell on Hollywood fashion history!