The Museum at FIT’s Adrian: Hollywood And Beyond

Last month at the Museum at FIT along with the two other exhibitions I covered, Adrian : Hollywood and Beyond was on display. Known originally for his costume creations  at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer,  Gilbert Adrian went on to create his own fashion line. During his career as a costume designer he created costumes for over 250 films, dressing stars like Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford. Many of the films were blockbusters whose costumes inspired ready to wear designs. Stores like Macy’s  opened “cinema shops” that showcased outfits inspired by these costumes. Throughout the exhibition you see the respect Adrian had for the art of fashion, fabric and all the details needed to create memorable pieces.  The relationships he had with textile manufacturers allowed him to create some of his most “awed at” pieces. A glossary guide provided by the museum helped all who saw the exhibition  understand the intricate techniques Adrian used in his costumes and fashion line. If you are an retro movie lover like I am, you will recognize some of the costumes and movies as well.

When Adrian opened his first fashion boutique in 1942 in Beverley Hills his clients were not movie stars, but the everyday American woman. Adrian’s time as a costume designer led him to understand prints and how to cut and sew them to their full potential. For the movie the Wizard of OZ his understanding of patterns and how they stood out on a black and white film led him to make memorable costumes. Dorothy was purposefully outfitted in the blue and white gingham (check) dress that popped in the black and white film and in Technicolor.

Gilbert Adrian

Applique’: A new design created when a small piece of fabric or contrasting material is applied to the original fabric. Cuts are attached through stitching the edges to the original fabric.

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In this gown Adrian allowed the print to be the focal point. He used Draping and Applique to create the shoulders shadow effect.
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Adrian used draping for the back of this dress.
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Adrian original evening dress 1947. Print designed by Salvador Dali for Wesley Simpson, Inc. Textile by American Enka Corporation.

 

 

Bias: When fabric is cut on a bias or at a 45 degree angle instead of the straight (Parallel)or cross-grain (perpendicular) the fabric has more elasticity. This elasticity allows the fabric to drape easier.

HOLLYWOOD FASHION
Adrian Original wool suit jacket 1950. In this jacket Adrian used inset strips of bias cut fabric. This intricately sewn garment includes pockets constructed of six separate pieces.

 

 

Design Repeat: An aspect of all patterned fabrics. Design repeat refers to the distance between where the pattern starts, repeats and begin again. Sometimes hard to distinguish in certain patterns.

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1944 Time and Country ad. Adrian collaborated with Bianchini- Ferrier a French textile mill in NYC. Adrian not only created the dress but helped create the design repeat print on the dress.
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An example of a collaboration and print Adrian used.
Bianchini-Ferier, Inc Warp-Printed silk taffeta, circa 1949 and printed rayon circa 1949.
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On the right you see that Adrian chose the print in silk taffeta to make an evening gown that was featured in Vogue 1949.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Draping: A form of constructing garments. Fabric is placed directly on the form or model, the designer then begins folding and pinning parts of the fabric to create the desired form. The fabric can be removed to create a pattern of the draped fabric or left draped as the final result.

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Adrian Custom couture evening dress silk jersey 1942. Adrian used silk jersey in both his costumes and fashion line. For this dress he draped a single width of jersey on the bias. The bias created the front drape while the rest of the fabric falls over the shoulder.
For this costume worn in the 1952 movie “Lovely to Look At” Adrian manipulated the silk jersey. The pleating he created allowed the textile to stretch and create a hood and sleeves.

 

 

Inset: A design similar to applique’. A small shape is cut out of a larger piece of fabric, where another textile is cut and sewn into the cutout, filling that space. The purpose of the inset can be functional or decorative. The inset can help with fit or create an interesting pattern. The inset can be the same pattern as the base fabric or entirely different.

HOLLYWOOD FASHION
Adrian Original wool suit jacket 1950. In this jacket Adrian used inset strips of bias cut fabric. This intricately sewn garment includes pockets constructed of six separate pieces. The insets include the strips on the upper chest bodice and pockets.

Mitering: When two pieces are gathered diagonally, preferably at a corner. This manipulation of the fabric allows crisp corners in garments. Mitering is also used to create dramatic prints.

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Adrian original Day Dress 1943. The mitered stripes create a chevron pattern. Adrian’s construction narrows at the waist and widens at the shoulders. This was the trend of the moment.

 

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Piecing: Much like solving a puzzle, in piecing different shaped pieces of fabric are sewn together forming one fabric. It involves measuring and cutting each piece of fabric so they fit perfectly into each other.

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Piecing: Adrian Original Rayon Crepe 1945
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For this three piece ensemble Adrian pieced together shapes like a puzzle to create the illusion of a print. Many of these creations were inspired by art work by Picasso and were named after artists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screenprinting: A technique that creates prints on fabric. This multistep process includes covering and protecting the parts of fabric not meant to receive the print. Then a mesh screen is placed on top of the fabric and the first color is applied. The colored ink is pushed through the screen onto the fabric. The fabric is dried and the process is repeated until the final print desired is created.

Adrian Original Two Piece evening ensemble 1944. This print distracts from the couture techniques. Adrian manipulated the fabric.
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Adrian Original Printed Rayon crepe circa 1947. Adrian added dramatic swags at the sleeves and skirts. The print is of classic theater scenes.

Screenprint can also be seen in the evening dress above under the term applique’. The screenprint was designed by Salvador Dali for the Wesley Simpson, Inc.

 

Tailoring: A form of construction used to make suits and garments with structure. This technique is used to design suits and jackets. The designer uses a mannequin to pin, stitch , mark and trim fabric creating a template. The template is traced on paper creating the pattern needed to create a garment.

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Mittered Stripes
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Middle Ensemble: Adrian Original suit 1945. Textile by Pola Strout Wool circa 1945. This suit appeared in Vogue and was part of Woman’s everyday look. The stripes are mitered and the textile is pieced together.

Textile Converter:  Textile conversion companies create masters of textiles. The masters are suitable for weaving and printing at textile mills. The design masters are original creations or replicas of artists like Dali that are printed on plain unfinished fabric known as “griege”. The fabric can then be manipulated or altered in  any form a designer wishes.

Fashion at the Muesum at FIT
Adrian original evening dress 1947. Print designed by Salvador Dali for Wesley Simpson, Inca. Textile conversion by American Enka Corporation.

Textile Design: The image, color, texture or design that is on a textile. Textile designs are created through printing or weaving. Stripes, plaid and ikat are all forms of textile design. Textile design fabric can then be finished with dyeing, printing, embroidery, beading and applique’.

 

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Adrian Original circa 1951. Adrian placed the fabric at right angles so that the stripes of the silk mousseline would be visible. The silk also adds volume, a trend of the 1950’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Textile Regulation: During WWII materials like fabric were needed for military  supplies. In 1942 the War Production Board imposed Regulation L-85. This imposed restrictions on the use of cotton, silk, nylon, wool, leather and rubber for anything other than parachutes, uniforms and other supplies. Designers also had restrictions on the amount of material they could use. To keep up with the newest trends, designers became resourceful through shortening lengths and narrowing cuts.

This print distracts from the couture techniques. Adrian manipulated the fabric. As the dress was made in 1944, it was during a time of textile regulation.

 

Adrian’s costume’s in the movies  1938 “Sweethearts” , 1939 “The Women”, and  1952 “Lovely to Look At”.

As I walked through this exhibition I felt like I was back in my textile class in college. One of my favorite classes, as the creating of fabric and what you can make with one length of it is endless. As Adrian showed in his costumes and collections, with respect and knowledge for fabric and its creators there are endless creative possibilities in fashion.

T.S.

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