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.
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.
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).
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