In fashion, whether on the street or on the screen, its often all about the silhouette.
The fashion above was designed by Alexandre Herchovitch for his spring-summer collection 2009-2010 and shown in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The shoulder emphasis is very similar to Adrian's "Letty Lynton" gown worn by Joan Crawford in 1932 in the film of the same title. That gown was knocked off in all segments of the fashion industry at the time and in other film costume designs as well. Its silhouette still reappears today.
Joan Crawford in Adrian's Letty Lynton gown.
The modern look of glamour and sexual allure developed in the Hollywood movies of the early 1930s. The look had been brewing in the late 1920s, where the idea that the sexual allure of the movie stars, as emphasized by the best designed wardrobe, sold movie tickets. The combination of talents such as those of designers Adrian, Travis Banton, and Irene, and blond bombshells like Jean Harlow, Marlene Dietrich, and Carole Lombard, created icons of glamour. Jean Harlow is shown above in 1935. The silhouette was sleek and shimmering, with bias-cut satin used to shrink-wrap the fashionably new slim but curvy body. It was only ten years before this image of Harlow in an Adrian gown came out that the fashionable silhouette was of boyish flappers with flattened chests in straight sided, drop-waisted dresses. Glamour was born in Hollywood, created by the studio costume designers..
Another popular material used frequently in film fashion was the glass bugle bead, hand-threaded and sewn into gowns that hugged every curve and shimmered under the bright studio lighting. The wait of the beaded gown contoured the body, and a gown's train emphasized the star's legs when she walked. Joan Crawford's red bugle-beaded gown above was designed for The Bride Wore Red. She poses here with Franchot Tone and Robert Young. The gown still exists and is in the collection of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
The boad-shouldered look pioneered by Adrian continued with his designs for the woman's suit. Florence Rice is shown here on the MGM lot in 1938. The silhouette's appeal was strengthened by the emerging importance of women's roles during the Great Depression, soon to be enhanced even further by their omnipresence in the workplace during WWII.
After Adrian opened his own fashion business in 1942, he specialized in women's suits as well as beautiful evening gowns and day dresses. His silhouette for suits was called the V-Line: broad padded shoulders, slim waist, and pencil skirt. He won the Coty/Fashion Critics Award for the look in 1944.
After World War II, the "New Look" of Christian Dior became popular. The symbolism of the new silhouette indicated that women no longer had to carry the load on their broad shoulders, but rather had to look feminine. The look also called for cinched waists and plentiful petticoats to emphasize fertility, with a new emphasis on breasts and wider hips. Edith Head's design for Grace Kelly in Rear Window served as a beautiful example, although Elizabeth Taylor was also often seen wearing the look on film. It was the basic silhouette of the young woman of the 1950s.
The sleek silhouette had always appealed to costume and fashion designer Irene Gibbons. The design above for her own label in 1960 shows the contrast between the ultra-slim pencil skirt and the full broadtail jacket. The 1960s were just beginning, and the fashion silhouette would continue to change.
The slim and shapely figure continued to be the ideal in the 1960s. Only the 60s silhouette now called for more of it to show. The mini-skirt became the vogue, and the fashionable silhouette was all about the legs. Mini-skirts and dresses themselves were mostly boxy. Legs represented freedom - to run, to dance, or to sit and be crossed. Shown off with boots, and in colored or textured hose, legs grabbed attention. Model and actress Charlotte Rampling shows off her legs in a mini-skirt in 1967.
The fashionable silhouette is not cyclical. It moves like a spiral. Adrian's V-line silhouette returned with Yves St. Laurent and Marc Bohan in the 1970s, and with the Armani power suits of the 1980s. And wide shouldered silhouettes again became fashionable in 2009. Since in the fashion spiral nothing is exactly the same, the model at the top of this post wears Adrian's Letty Lynton shoulders from 1932 and a pouffed mini-skirt with traces of the 1960s and Christian Lacroix's 1987 short pouff skirts. Fashion spirals, but never out of control.