Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fascination Magazine - 1946 - "The New Feminine Touch" By Irene

You know the name, Irene...the Executive Designer for Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer from 1942-49. She won 2 Oscars for her work and dressed nearly every movie star you can name.
Here are some of her thoughts on where fashion was headed in 1946. I have included the whole article because what she has to say is very interesting, both about the post war era, but also about fashion in general.

"In the past the motion picture has exerted only a general influence over fashion as a whole. Its future role will be almost paradoxical in its difference. The effect on fashion will be specific. Even in the most fantastic motion pictures, the emphasis will be placed on simple clothing. Of all the ideas which American designers have introduced to the fashion world, their simple designs have been the most successful, and therefore, the most saleable. The "simple" dress has come to be recognized as the unofficial "trade-mark" of the American fashion designer. I believe it will soon become the fashion mark of the designing world.

The soft, feminine suit, the dress which sets off rather than overpowers a personality will be my contribution to fashion designing as far as the motion picture is concerned. The stars which I am entrusted to dress-attractive women like Lana Turner, Judy Garland, Greer Garson, and Claudette Colbert-have all expressed their admiration and approval for the new "simple" cut of my designs. It is my belief that their reactions mirror what will be the feelings of women all over the world. I predict that the "all American" dress will be the choice of the majority of the fashion conscious women of the world once they have been given the opportunity to see it in our motion pictures. Without realizing it, they will slowly begin to adopt the ideas which our American designers will present to them from the screen.

The too, too broad shoulders, the wedge shoes and ankle straps, and the completely "mad" hats, must surely fade from fashion. They will be lost primarily because the motion picture will no longer make pictorial mention of them. Film executives have learned, after many bitter experiences, that in Hollywood, where the camera always has a tendency to over-exaggerate the face and figure, it is dangerous to attempt to do the sensational any longer. Absurd clothing will appear only when it is necessary to establish the identity of a character in the minds of an audience. Certainly no woman wants to be classified as a "character" because of her bad taste in clothing.

Actually, a very definite feeling for longer skirts has been expressed by all the stars for whom I design clothing. Irregular hemlines, dipping points, and wide sash ends that fall below the edge of the skirt will be fashionable during the next fashion season because of this new demand for things feminine.

Naturally, fashion innovations like the dipping points and wide sashes are not new. Every few years there is a variation on these designs, and every good fashion designer knows, whether he likes it or not, that fashion always finds a way to repeat itself historically. Even though this is true, even though many women will find irregular lines in dresses unpleasant to the eye, it appears certain that the new credo will be not to lose sight of the figure and the activity of the modern American woman.

With the lifting of clothing restrictions, we designers anticipate a certain amount of "madness" -even among ourselves. Women "dress" more than they ever have before. Service women, especially, return home with a longing for pretty clothes. All designers want to bring out new ideas-the new ideas which have been bubbling in their sometimes too fertile brains. As a result of this sudden rush, it is only natural that there will be a lack of continuity for a while. Anything and everything will be done, but after a time things will begin to simmer down, the proper trends will take their places, and the regular cycle of fashion will hold sway again.

Before very long a good many women will have their own airplanes, but I doubt that they will want to wear flying clothes. I flew my own plane for a number of years before the war, and am anxious to get back to it now, but certainly I never thought of appearing at a cocktail party in a flying suit. It would have hampered my movements, and caused me no end of self-consciousness as well.

Because of postwar demands, clothing will never again be allowed to binder the activity of a woman. If, during the turning cycle of style, such fads as the hobble skirt return, it will be only as a suggestion of a hobble skirt, and not the actual hobble. With bustles it will be the same thing - just a feeling of fullness in the back. Clothing will have to keep up with the new interests and activities of women.

Having tried using full skirts in several pictures lately, and seeing that they have not been too popular, I have no further feeling for them at the present time. There was no real joy in doing them. Dresses with tight tops and very full skirts always have a Middle European look about them, and clothing should look "American" now, as never before.

We should forget the idiotic importations which will be flooding the fashion market during the next few months. Too many American women dress badly because they attempt to follow French fashions. The best lesson we could learn from the French, (if we must borrow something from them) would be to copy their custom of buying clothes only once, or, at the most, twice a year. No one can deny that the Parisian woman is always well dressed, but few people ever realize that she dresses, in all probability, for far less than what the average American vvoman spends on one month's clothing bills. It's just a matter of careful planning and thoughtful execution, that's all.

Actually, a sensible woman can get by for an entire year on the following carefully selected pieces of fundamental clothing:

Two suits: one for town, the other for country wear.

One silk dress: for all formal occasions.

One "Date Dress": for dates exclusively. This can be interchanged with the silk dress without anyone being the wiser.

Two -wool dresses: for winter wear on all occasions.

One cool two-piece dark dress: for summer; plus any simple and inexpensive cotton dresses which can be picked up in-between.

Two print dresses: one dressy, the other simple, for summer's wear.

One heavy coat: good for dress or business.

And finally, one light coat or topper: to finish off the entire year's wardrobe.

Colors are always very important. Deciding on a basic scheme and sticking to it is the best policy in view of the fact that few women can ever remember the exact color of the hat or coat that's hanging in the closet at home when they're trying to select accessories to match it.

Courses in fashion education would be a very great improvement in our educational system in America. Teaching our younger generation the importance of good grooming and proper dress would, in the long run, repay the taxpayer a hundredfold. Stevens College, a forward school, with an ever ready eye to the future, has already instituted such a course, and found it to be highly successful.

Although it is a slow process, America is becoming increasingly aware that fashion sense is, after all, only common sense. The most ordinary woman can, with a little forethought and ingenious planning, assure herself of an even footing with even her most glamourous sisters. The real trick is to accomplish the unusual and still not be overpowering about it."


  1. the year after this article, Christian Dior introduced the new look, with super wide skirts and tight fitting waists. so much for the simple look!