Friday, April 19, 2013

The Skinny: Gilbert Adrian

"Tigress Ensemble", from Adrian's 1949 collection
A Connecticut native, Adrian Adolph Greenberg began designing costumes while a student at the New York School for Fine and Applied Arts (now Parson's) in the early 1920s. He transferred to the school's Paris campus, where his designs caught the eye of Irving Berlin, who hired Greenberg to do the costumes for The Music Box Revue in 1922 and 1923.

Although he continued to produce costumes for Berlin's endeavors, his first real movie job was designing for an MGM production called The Merry Widow in 1925. The same year, he was commissioned to design custom costumes for Rudolph Valentino, as well as the wardrobe for the introduction to The Gold Rush. This work brought him to the attention of Cecil B. DeMille, one of the most famous film directors of the era (and possibly all time), who hired Greenberg to be the head of his wardrobe department. In 1928, DeMille signed with MGM, taking the designer with him, and when DeMille parted ways with the studio, Greenberg signed a contact directly with MGM, and worked for them until 1942.
Adrian gown for Eve Arden, Ziegfeld Girl (1941)

Adrian gown for Joan Crawford, Letty Lynton
Greenberg created a pseudonym using his father's name and his own first name, and was frequently credited as "Gilbert Adrian" for his costume work. However, the majority of his films simply stated "Gowns by Adrian" in the credits, and the name "Adrian" became known as a fashion institution of the 1930s and 1940s. In fact, when stores began producing knock-offs of his designs, the tag or advertisement often stated that the piece was "Adrian style" or "Adrian cut."

Adrian draped brown taffeta gown
His work is legendary--not only did he design the costumes for The Wizard of Oz (including the infamous ruby slippers!), he did gowns for Katharine Hepburn in Woman of the Year and The Philadelphia Story, as well as Marie Antoinette (1938) and The Women (1939), which featured a dazzling fashion show of Adrian's finest designs. Other films featuring costumes by Adrian include Ninotchka (1939), Broadway Melody of 1940, Lady be Good (1941), and around 242 other films. Leading ladies like Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Greta Garbo, and Norma Shearer frequently wore his designs, and he is credited with creating Joan Crawford's iconic "triangle" look, with broad shoulders and a tiny waist. In fact, his looks for Joan Crawford are among his most famous, particularly those featured in The Bride Wore Red and Letty Lynton. He also perfected the classic 1930's-style bias-cut gowns that became Jean Harlow's signature style.

Beaded ensemble for Joan Crawford, The Bride Wore Red
Katharine Hepburn, The Philadelphia Story

Adrian gown for Marie Antoinette
Greta's Mata Hari costume weighed 50lbs.

Adrian also designed ready-to-wear for exclusive stores in several cities. He was particularly known for his hooded suits, which added an air of mystery to the woman who wore them.

And in case you are unfortunate enough to have never seen The Women (the original, of course, as the new one is a waste of film), you can view it here:

*Information obtained from and

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On the Radar -- Ahoy!

Aye, aye, Gene!
There are certain common themes we Blackbird girls are always drawn to -- and nautical is one of those.  Maybe it's because Gene Kelly just looked so gosh darn sexy as a sailor, or maybe we just love the classic color combo.  Whatever it is, if we see a sailboat, or a whale, or a stripe, or a polka dot, we're probably going to buy it.

However, from Michael Kors to Lacoste to Coach, this spring everyone else has jumped on the nautical bandwagon, keeping American sportswear very classic. Designers have flocked to the traditional red/white/navy, with accents of yellow or black.  Stripes, anchors, whales, and sailboats abound.  Rope and boat hardware also make appearances.

So, here's a round-up of some of my favorite finds -- maybe you'll find something you just have to have!

Lacoste, Pre-Fall 2013

Michael Kors, Spring 2013

Coach, Spring 2013

Land of Nod

From Cathy Davey on Etsy, available here.

From our shop!  Available here.

Vintage YSL cotton scarf, also from our shop.  Available here.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Junk Love Monday: Week-End at the Waldorf

In the Blackbird house, we watch a lot of movies. We buy them on DVD, watch them on television, stick them in the Netflix queue.... I guess you could call it a form of collecting. Our tastes are pretty varied, but we love classic movies. If we had to downgrade our cable package to offer just one channel, it would be Turner Classic Movies.

A few weeks ago, I was channel-surfing. I basically give a channel around 1.4 seconds to catch my interest before I move on. Sometimes, it takes my brain a little more time to get caught up to what I just saw. So, I pushed the button, moved on, and then said "Wait, was that Ginger Rogers?" I headed back to good old TCM, and sure enough, Ginger Rogers was on the screen, in a 1945 film called Week-end at the Waldorf. We love her. We make it a point to watch her movies whenever we can. And neither of us had ever heard of this movie (we have no idea how this is possible).

I liked the plot of the movie, but even better was the wardrobe. There were several moments that I had to rewind and watch again, just to bask in the glory of the outfits (gotta love the DVR!).

Not only does it feature the spunky and glamorous Ginger Rogers, it has Lana Turner, Van Johnson, and Walter Pidgeon. What a cast! Even worse than the Blackbird girls not knowing about a Ginger Rogers movie, this was a Van Johnson movie that we had never heard of. And we definitely try to keep up with his career (he's so sexy!).

Faced with this shocking (and embarrassing) lapse in our classic movie education, we dutifully dropped everything we were doing and watched the movie. It was fantastic. And did I mention those clothes? Le sigh....

Lana Turner is gorgeous!

Ginger's suit is even better....

Check out the hair!

And, in case you've never seen it, here is the original trailer for the movie: