You may not have heard of him, but believe me you know his designs!
Gilbert Adrian was a major Hollywood costume designer from the 1920's to 40's.
He designed costumes for Rudolph Valentino and Cecil B. Demille, eventually moving to the mega Hollywood Mecca that was MGM.
It was here that he became know as one of the greatest film designers having designed costumes for over 230 films.
Fully beaded gown worn by Joan Crawford in The Bride Wore Red
Jean Harlow in Dinner At Eight
Katherine Hepburn in Philadelphia Story
Greta Garbo in Inspiration
Hedy Lamarr in Ziegfeld Girl
Lana Turner in Ziegfeld Girl
The Wizard of Oz
Adrian became a favourite collaborator of icons such as Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, Jean Harlow and Lana Turner to name but a few.
He is the man responsible for giving Joan Crawford her legendary strong shouldered silhouette in the 1939 movie The Women.
I recently watched this movie and was blown away by the costumes and in particular the technicolour fashion show in the middle.
He was also the designer on The Wizard of Oz and Philadelphia Story. (Two more personal fav's!)
Unfortunately he never won an Oscar for his work but that was because "costumes" weren't added as a category until after 1948.
Hi costumes were extravagant from angular, crisp, tailored suits to Ostrich plume and crystal embellished gowns. They were just what the depression era audiences were craving. Full-on indulgent glamour!
They actually went crazy for his looks, Macy's sold half a million reproductions of the frothy shouldered gown that Joan Crawford wore in Letty Lynton. A staggering number at that time...and what were all those ladies wearing that dress to???
Joan Crawford in Letty Lynton
As a designer he wasn't afraid to experiment. He used bold colour blocking, unusual prints, elaborate beading and he even showcased some Gothic themes!
Adrian's most famous legacy the "coat hanger" silhouette became a key look of the 1940's: padded shoulders, a slim jacket with details that emphasised the shoulders and a pencil skirt. Pretty much an inverted pyramid!
So now you know who Adrian was, or at least what he did.
He is one of the reasons we adore watching vintage movies:
Their jaw dropping and extravagant fashion; make us wish we lived in Old Hollywood, a land of make-believe glamour and opulence...
To see a few more instances of his work check out these YouTube videos:
This one is particularly informative: