Fashion Designer Gilbert Adrian (1903-1959 born in Naugatuck, USA) was Hollywoods’s foremost costume designer during the 1930s and ‘40s. He studied art at the Parsons School of Applied Arts and Design in Paris. In 1921, American composer Irving Berlin spotted 18-year-old Adrian’s costume on a model while attending the Beaux Arts. Berlin was looking for fresh designs for his “Music Box Review”,and asked Adrian to come to New York and work on some costume designs for the show. Later he worded with Cecil B. DeMille when he began working in Hollywood at Pathe Sudios and in 1925, when DeMille transferred to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Adrian went with him. As studio designer at MGM studios (1928-41), he crated glamorous clothing for such stars as Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, and Katharine Hepburn, his opulent designs dominated American fashion in the 1930s and 40s. In 1939, Adrian married Academy Award-winning actress Janet Gaynor. Their son, Robin, was born in 1940. In 1945, he won the Coty Award for his contribution to world fashion. When he retired from MGM, he opened Adrian Ltd. in Beverly Hills, CA, in 1942 and ran a fashionable salon until 1952. In addition to custom work, Adrian did a ready-to-wear line. To make the ready-to-wear line more exclusive, he allowed only one store in each city to sell his clothes. Adrian’s design successes in California were often mirrored on New York’s Seventh Avenue, which “translated” many of Adrian’s movie clothes into American ready-to-wear outfits. Adrian “knock-offs” were seen everywhere. Some manufacturers would produce similarly fashioned garments which they called the “Adrian silhouette”. After suffering a heart attack in 1952, Adrian closed his business, and he and his family retired to a ranch near Brasilia, Brazil, devoting time to painting landscapes. He returned to California in 1958 to design costumes for the film musicals “Grand Hotel” and “Camelot”. Before competing “Camelot”,Adrian suffered a second heart attack and died on September 14, 1959. What movie stars wore was of interest to a large segment of Americans. Broad-shouldered suits and coats for Joan Crawford became very popular and widely copied. The huge puffed sleeves for the dress Joan Crawford wore in the 1933 movie “Letty Lyndon” caused American women from coast to coast to buy puffed-sleeve dresses. Adrian contributed greatly to establishing Hollywood as the glamour capital of the world. Adrian sparked new attitudes toward American style in the use of ordinary, everyday fabrics, such as checked gingham for tailored suits and cotton organdy for ball gowns. A beaded dress from Adrian Ltd. was designed to sparkle at a dinner table even when the conversation lagged.
Gilbert Adrian Greenberg
New York, USA