LIGHTS, CAMERAS: Going Hollywood meant a one-name moniker for the costume designer Adrian, who was more often than not associated with Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow and the other marquee actresses he dressed.
That part of his portfolio, as well as his ready-to-wear designs, will be explored in “Adrian: Hollywood and Beyond,” an exhibition that bows at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology on March 7 and runs through April 1. Researched by graduate students in the Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice program, the show will home in on Adrian’s unexpected use of textiles, such as a Wesley Simpson cloth that was illustrated by Salvador Dalí. That will be among the garments showcased with textiles, ads and film clips that show Adrian’s use of printed textiles and unexpected construction methods. At the height of his career at MGM Studios, the designer’s creations were believed to be the most copied clothes in the world, since millions were tuning in to watch the big names, he suited up for the silver screen. His knack for translating Paris fashion trends for a star and magnifying the look for a dramatic effect that enhanced a film’s narrative distinguished his work from others.
Adrian also had an extended run with his own rtw collection in Beverly Hills, introducing fragrances Saint and Sinner and running his own New York boutique at one point. Before becoming a master designer, creating costumes for “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Women” and other flicks, and winning the Coty American Fashion Critics award in 1944, the designer was born Adrian Greenberg. Health issues spurred him to spend more time at a home in Brasilia in the late Fifties. Although nearly 60 years have passed since Adrian died of a heart attack at the age of 56 in 1959, his influence endures, as evidenced most recently by Tory Burch taking inspiration for her fall collection from “The Philadelphia Story,” the 1940 George Cukor film starring Katharine Hepburn in Adrian designs.