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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
What do you think?