Vintage Gilbert Adrian 1940s Custom Evening Gown
He was born Adrian Adolph Greenburg, in Naugatuck, Connecticut, on March 3, 1903. Adrian trained at the Parsons School of Fine Arts. It is rumored that songwriter Irving Berlin hired the then 18 year old designer for a Broadway presentation of "The Music Box Revue" after seeing his creations in Paris. It was Natacha Rambova, the wife of Rudolph Valentino and movie art director, who gave Gilbert Adrian access to Hollywood royalty in the 1920’s. He designed for two of Rudy’s films and the rest is history.
Gilbert Adrian turned ordinary actresses into immortal icons during the age of Hollywood glamour. His reported favorite was Greta Garbo but his clientele also included Joan Crawford, (yes, he gave her those unforgettable shoulder pads),Norma Shearer and Jean Harlow. He designed costumes for all of MGM’s lead actresses for 13 years and then opened his own shop in Beverly Hills. He is credited for having given many of those same actresses the "look" for which they were known.
His design emphasis was on simplicity but he had the ability to drape fabrics that is still unrivaled to this day. He was a 1944 Coty award winner and unfortunately never won an Oscar because the category of costume design wasn’t created until after he left MGM. He was the head designer for over 250 movies and had an illustrious career dressing some of the world’s most famous women. One of my favorite of his accomplishments is that he designed costumes, including the ruby slippers, for The Wizard of Oz. He married the actress Janet Gaynor and they lived in Brazil in the last years of his life. Sadly, he died at the young age of 56 of a heart attack.
You can learn more about Adrian if you are a vintage clothing lover! Click on the links below to read more about the mastery of this groundbreaking designer.
The Met's spotlight on Adrian
The Hollywood Heritage Museum's Special Event Adrian, Nothing from a Store
Kent State's bio on Adrian in The Artistry of Adrian
New York Times Design Review: Adrian, whos elegant styles were movie scene-stealers
This absolutely phenomenal dress is an example of Adrian’s creative ability to use silk fringe to transform a relatively simple black rayon crepe dress into a masterpiece. There are a few snags and some very minor underarm discoloration. Remarkably good condition! The custom label was used for his one of a kind and couture pieces. You can have the privilege of owning a piece of fashion and Hollywood history!
Sleeve opening: 8”
Shoulders: 22” across the back
Back: 18” from center back
Skirt: 42” from waist to hem
Bodice: 23” from center front to waist
The Fashion Library has a vintage Gilbert Adrian Sewing Pattern available!
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