Thursday, March 28, 2013

Reviving Irene

When I think of legendary costume designers of old Hollywood, Edith Head immediately springs to mind. The clothes that she put up on the silver screen are mesmerizing and never seem to be dated.

Edith Head

I have a new costume designing legend to admire.

My issue of The Hollywood Reporter arrives on Thursdays each week and this week there is an article about the reinvigoration of a clothing line created by another legendary Hollywood costume designer, Irene Lentz.

Irene Lentz

Irene began her career as a silent film actress and then opened up a small dress shop. After her first husband died, she began designing costumes for the studios and dressed stars like Lana Turner, Hedy Lamarr, Rosalind Russell, Ava Gardner, Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe and Doris Day. When she became frustrated by the limitations the studios placed on her designs (she wanted artistic perfection, the studio heads wanted economic savings), she started a mass line that was sold in luxury retailers alongside the latest Chanel lines. The line was a smash success and one of the most impeccably tailored, luxurious and modern lines of the mid-twentieth century. Irene pieces are hot commodities at the L.A. vintage store Decades and Tory Burch recently wore an Irene gown to a New York charity function.

                                                  Doris Day in Lover Come Back


                                                 Loretta Young in Bedtime Story

Ginger Rogers in Shall We Dance

Marlene Dietrich in Seven Sinners

Carole Lombard in Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Rita Hayworth in You Were Never Lovelier

Irene's success was marred by unhappiness late in life. Irene met a tragic end after drinking two pints of vodka and jumping from the 11th floor of The Knickerbocker hotel (the same hotel where I Love Lucy actor William Frawley was dragged after suffering a heart attack in the street). Irene's friend Doris Day, speaking of Irene's death in her autobiography, said that Irene had revealed to her that she had been in love with Gary Cooper who had died the year before Irene's suicide. Whether Cooper reciprocated those feelings is unknown. Irene's death may have been caused by unrequited love or a broken heart or mere unhappiness.

Whatever caused her end, her work is now being revived in a line by Greg LaVoi with the blessing of Irene's surviving family and the results, while not on par with the real Irene designs,  have made me want to rewatch some of my favorite old movies and think of the beautiful style and tailoring that will now have a second act.

                Tory Burch in a Vintage Irene design purchased as Decades Los Angeles

Incidentally, Irene Lentz was not the only famous Irene to make a name for herself in the golden age of Hollywood. Irene Sharaff, winner of 5 Academy Awards and 1 Tony award, was also involved in making clothes for some of Hollywood's biggest stars (and the two Irenes are often confused with one another...take The Hollywood Reporter article, an article that describes Irene Lentz designing for Barbra Streisand when Streisand dealt primarily with Irene Sharaff).

Irene Sharaff

Sharaff designed costumes for Meet Me in St. Louis, An American in Paris, Cleopatra, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Guys and Dolls, The King and I, Funny Girl, and West Side Story. In the spirit of designing Irenes, here are a few highlights from her career as well.

                                            Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis

                                                   Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra

                                             Leslie Caron in An American in Paris

                                            Gertrude Lawrence in The King and I

                                                      Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl

Monday, March 4, 2013

Girl Crush: Sasha Adler

Sasha Adler is a Design Director at Nate Berkus Associates and her style (classic with a twist...a description I feel is overused but is incredibly apt and seriously unavoidable when it comes to Ms. Adler) is flawless. Whether she is designing for others, designing her own home or picking out her outfit for the day, her personal flair is always evident. For my first post post-exam and in honor of finally being free to enjoy my own picture perfect New Year, a look into the coffee-table book perfect world that belongs to (one of) my girl crush(es), Sasha Adler.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Study Break

No, I am not on vacation and no, I have not lost interest in you, dear readers. I am currently studying for a test and will not be logged on until it is completed at the end of February. Please return on March 1 when I resume my posts.

Thank you for understanding and until we meet again.