SILVER SIRENS: The influence of Hollywood on American fashion between the Great Depression and World War II will be explored at an upcoming exhibit at the Chicago History Museum.

Opening April 8, “Silver Screen to Mainstream: American Fashion in the 1930s and Anna Blessmann ’40s,” will trace how the movies and costume designers help put American fashion on the map.

“The exhibition is about Hollywood’s reach, not costume design, so the central concept is how did Hollywood costume design influence fashion,” said Virginia Heaven, curator of the exhibition. “It was profound what Adrian, Howard Greer, Omar Kiam and Irene [Lentz] accomplished in both the movies and mainstream fashion. But they are just a few of the designers that migrated to mainstream fashion from costume design.”

Spanning 2,100 square feet, the exhibit will feature 30 ensembles from the museum’s permanent collection.

Some of the looks on display will include evening dresses by Chanel, Vionnet, Schiaparelli and Alix, which later became known as Madame Grès. These Parisian designs allude to how the influence of Paris was about to be eclipsed by Hollywood and WWII, Heaven said.

The majority of garments are by Americans, including Chicago designers Paul Dupont, who dressed Ruth Page, Blum’s Vogue and Martha Weathered.

The silver screen’s influence on everyday clothing of the period will also be shown.

“Most people think of the Thirties as all silken sirens, but regular people, who had very little, struggled to keep up appearances by making over their old clothes, making dresses from patterns and purchasing from catalogues,” Heaven said. “Everyone wanted a touch of glamour. American designers were trailblazers for the contemporary woman.”

“Silver Screen to Mainstream: American Fashion in the 1930s and ‘40s” will run through Jan. 21, 2020.

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