“There used to be rules. What you wore depended on where you were, what you were doing and with whom you were doing it. Now there are no rules, not even a faint suggestion of what’s correct.” So spoke costume designer Edith Head, “her eyebrows vanishing completely beneath her bangs,” to WWD in a July 14, 1981, story on the loss of Hollywood glamour. “She observes with despair,” the Los Angeles correspondent continued, “ ‘the American public’ — men, women and children in scruffy T-shirts and cut-offs.”
According to Head, the first nail in the coffin was the introduction of the talkies. “With no sound, you had to tell a character by just looking at the players,” she explained. “The one with the bosom out was the enchantress, the little girl with the organdy dress was the heroine.” Other factors? Time and money. “In the old days, I would meet with a star like Marlene Dietrich at least two months before shooting started,” Head continued. “Now, they tell me, ‘Shooting starts in two weeks, and the girl won’t be in from Czechoslovakia until two days before we start.’ ”
This story first appeared in the December 6, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Not everyone was so discouraged, though. While Bob Mackie agreed that costumers were essentially “shoppers” now, he thought there were still glamorous women around — though, WWD noted, “he is not beyond criticizing their tastes.” For instance, Raquel Welch tried “too hard to be trendy” and Barbra Streisand “doesn’t look as sure of herself as she used to.”
The paper interviewed costumer Jean Louis — he did Rita Hayworth’s famous “Gilda” gown — who was looking forward to the upcoming Faye Dunaway-as-Joan Crawford “Mommie Dearest” film, with clothes by the Academy Award-winning Irene Sharaff.
“Sharaff, however, does not think her re-creation of the Crawford look will start any fashion trends,” WWD wrote, “because ‘wide shoulders have already happened again.’ ”