The Nazi's claimed many causalities in WWII, including the fashion houses of Paris, which remained closed for the remainder of the war.  America's costume designers were suddenly the only force in global fashion and joined Hollywood in a patriotic campaign to keep the home fires burning and cheerful.  Costume designers joined the studio stars on the whistle stop tours that criss crossed the country.  While the celebrities were selling war bonds, the designers were showing women how to tailor their wardrobes to meet with war imposed fabric rationing, how to paint seams down the back of the legs to give the illusion of silk stocking, as well decorating safety pins with beads in lieu of the scarce supply of buttons.

Not long after our boys came home, a young man named Christian Dior unveiled his "new look" in 1947. This signaled another match in the fashion tug-of-war: the French took home the trophy this time. A few years later, a young ingénue, dressed for her first major film, was exquisitely gowned by Parisian couturier.  The ingénue was Audrey Hepburn, the film was "Sabrina," the designer was Hubert de Givency.  That marked the beginning of a life long association that remains one of the most stylish legacies in history of film glamour. Then television arrived.

Elois Jensen, or more specifically the wardrobe she assembled for Lucille Ball's tenure as Lucy Ricardo, remains amongst the strongest images of Americana.  The same can be said to for the pearls of Donna Reed, the sweaters of Perry Como, the leather jacket of the Fonz and the bathing suit of Pamela Anderson. Bob Mackie, perhaps the greatest contemporary costume designer for television, inherited the mantle from movie studio creators, giving most notably Cher and Carol Burnett the complete tinsel town treatment, ironically in costumes often spoofing the illustrious designs of his predecessors. 

While Hollywood's golden age has long tarnished in the modern reality of cable television, pay-per-view movies and music videos, one thing remains the same; we all want to look like stars.
Even if we never make it Hollywood, costume designers and their influence on fashion make it possible for us all to dress the part.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions?
I would love to hear from you!
harlan@todoahora.com

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