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Costume designer Adrian influence in fashion and the movies

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Adrian Adolph Greenberg (March 3, 1903 — September 13, 1959), most widely known as Adrian, was an American costume designer whose most famous costumes were for The Wizard of Oz and other Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films of the 1930s and 1940s.

Ilona Massey in Adrian
Ilona Massey in Adrian

During his career, he designed costumes for over 250 films and his screen credits usually read as “Gowns by Adrian“. On occasion, he was credited as Gilbert Adrian, a combination of his father’s forename and his own.

Garbo wears Gilbert Adrian
Garbo wears Gilbert Adrian

Adrian was hired by Rudolph Valentino‘s wife Natacha Rambova to design costumes for A Sainted Devil in 1924. He would also design for Rambova’s film, What Price Beauty? (1925).

Adrian became head costume designer for Cecil B. DeMille‘s independent film studio. In 1928, Cecil B. DeMille moved temporarily to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Adrian was hired as chief costume designer at the studio. While DeMille eventually returned to Paramount, Adrian stayed on at MGM. In his career at that studio, Adrian designed costumes for over 200 films.

adrian

During this time, Adrian worked with some of the biggest female stars of the day like Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, Jeanette MacDonald, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford. He worked with Crawford 28 times, Shearer 18 and Harlow 9. He worked with Garbo over the course of most of her career . Adrian was behind Crawford’s signature outfits with large shoulder pads, which later spawned a fashion trend.

Katharine Hepburn in Break of Hearts (1935)
Katharine Hepburn in Break of Hearts (1935)

Adrian was most famous for his evening gown designs for these actresses, a talent exemplified in The Women. The Women (1939), filmed in black and white, originally included a 10-minute fashion parade in Technicolor, which featured Adrian’s most outré designs; often cut in TV screenings, it has been restored to the film by Turner Classic Movies. Adrian was also well known for his extravagant costumes, as in The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and opulent (if not historically accurate) period dresses such as those for Camille (1936) and Marie Antoinette (1938).

Greta Garbo in Adrian
Greta Garbo in Adrian

Adrian is perhaps best known today for his work on the 1939 movie classic, The Wizard of Oz. Adrian designed the film’s red-sequined ruby slippers for Judy Garland.

adrian

Adrian left MGM in 1941 to set up his own independent fashion house, though he still worked closely with Hollywood.

Adrian | Costume for “Marie Antoinette” | c. 1936
Adrian | Costume for “Marie Antoinette” | c. 1936

Though he was openly gay, he married Janet Gaynor in 1939, possibly in response to the anti-gay attitudes of the movie studio heads and the sex-negative atmosphere created by the Production Code. They retired to their ranch in Brazil and remained married until his death in 1959.

janet-adrian

After leaving MGM, Adrian  established his own fashion house. Some of his designs were sold through Macy’s.

Gilbert Adrian, Joan Crawford in Sadie McKee
Gilbert Adrian, Joan Crawford in Sadie McKee

He only returned to MGM for a final film, 1952’s Lovely to Look At. Despite his success, Adrian was never nominated for an Academy Award. He came out of his retirement and returned to the States in 1959 to design the costumes for the upcoming Broadway musical Camelot. In the early stages of this project, Adrian died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 56.

Greta Garbo in "Camille", 1936 Costume design: Adrian
Greta Garbo in “Camille”, 1936 Costume design: Adrian
Black printed silk "Roan Stallion" evening gown by Gilbert Adrian, American, 1945. Label: "Adrian Original"
Black printed silk “Roan Stallion” evening gown by Gilbert Adrian, American, 1945. Label: “Adrian Original”
Alma Rubens - Designed By Gilbert Adrian
Alma Rubens – Designed By Gilbert Adrian
Katharine Hepburn in Adrian Dress
Katharine Hepburn in Adrian Dress
Adrian - 1948
Adrian – 1948
Joan Crawford in Grand Hotel, 1932 Costume by Gilbert Adrian
Joan Crawford in Grand Hotel, 1932 Costume by Gilbert Adrian
1949 black vintage dress - costume designer Gilbert Adrian
1949 black vintage dress – costume designer Gilbert Adrian
Adrian gingham gloves and applique
Adrian gingham gloves and applique

 

1940’s. Dusty pink silk having asymmetrical semi boned bodice with diagonal drape ruched into side seam, trained skirt with three pleated gores and lower back
1940’s. Dusty pink silk having asymmetrical semi boned bodice with diagonal drape ruched into side seam, trained skirt with three pleated gores and lower back

 

Rita Hayworth in "Gilda". Gown by Adrian
Rita Hayworth in “Gilda”. Gown by Adrian
Joan Crawford dressed in Adrian
Joan Crawford dressed in Adrian
Joan Crawford, “Letty Lynton”, 1932 Photographer: George Hurrell Dress by Adrian
Joan Crawford, “Letty Lynton”, 1932 Photographer: George Hurrell Dress by Adrian
~Taffeta ballgown by Adrian. Vogue November 1948~
~Taffeta ballgown by Adrian. Vogue November 1948~

 

Gilbert Adrian, 1950-55
Gilbert Adrian, 1950-55

 

Gilbert Adrian, 1950
Gilbert Adrian, 1950
PAULETTE GODDARD WEARING ADRIAN FOR THE WOMEN 1939
PAULETTE GODDARD WEARING ADRIAN FOR THE WOMEN 1939
 Greta Garbo in evening dress designed by Gilbert Adrian, c.1931.

Greta Garbo in evening dress designed by Gilbert Adrian, c.1931.

 

Adrian suit, 1940s.
Adrian suit, 1940s.
Gilbert Adrian costume design for George Cukor's 1939 film The Woman
Gilbert Adrian costume design for George Cukor’s 1939 film The Woman
Gilbert Adrian Woman's Wedding Dress and Veil, 1937
Gilbert Adrian Woman’s Wedding Dress and Veil, 1937

 

Adrian Evening Gown 1948.
Adrian Evening Gown 1948.
Norma Shearer in a gown by Adrian, 1934.Photo by George Hurrell.
Norma Shearer in a gown by Adrian, 1934.Photo by George Hurrell.

 

Jean Harlow in "Dinner at Eight" 1933. Costumes by Adrian.
Jean Harlow in “Dinner at Eight” 1933. Costumes by Adrian.

 

Jeanne Harlow in "Dinner at Eight" 1933. Costumes by Adrian.
Jeanne Harlow in “Dinner at Eight” 1933. Costumes by Adrian.

 

Joan Crawford in Dancing Lady (1933, MGM). Designer: Adrian
Joan Crawford in Dancing Lady (1933, MGM). Designer: Adrian

 

Adrian, evening gown, 1948
Adrian, evening gown, 1948

 

1940s GILBERT ADRIAN GOWN
1940s GILBERT ADRIAN GOWN
norma in gilbert adrian
norma in gilbert adrian

 

Dinner Suit, Gilbert Adrian, 1942, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Dinner Suit, Gilbert Adrian, 1942, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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