A dress to die for? Marlene Dietrich would have literally gone to great lengths just for the show.
In a recently resurfaced 1958 correspondence to costume designer Jean Louis, Dietrich reveals herself as quite a fashion tech pioneer: “…My main reason is the effect. We have to find a way to have the dress glow,” she demanded.
A meticulous show orchestrator, Dietrich caused stirs when she first stepped out in her Fifties Las Vegas cabarets in a seemingly “naked dress” — the very one that would inspire Marilyn Monroe’s for John F. Kennedy’s birthday in 1962.
But Dietrich wanted more than just the illusion of nakedness: “Marlene wanted a fashion tech dress. But she was ahead of her time and the technical means couldn’t meet her vision. In the letters, she describes the exact design and displays very precise knowledge of electricity circuits and batteries. She wanted a dress that glows, she wanted to be able to control it herself from the stage and she knew she could have died of an electric stroke had it ever been realized,” said Lisa Lang, founder and chief executive director of ElektroCouture, a fashion tech start-up with a growing roster of international fashion clients.
On the 25th anniversary of her death, the company produced her vision of the glowing naked dress for French-German broadcaster Arte’s documentary “Das letzte Kleid der Marlene Dietrich” (“The Last Dress of Marlene Dietrich”), airing on May 7. Based on sketches of Jean Louis and Dietrich’s descriptions, the design by ElektroCouture’s designer-in-residence Anja Dragan features 3-D-printed flower embroidery and glowing crystals with LEDs made in collaboration with Swarovski. An additional capsule collection of glowing accessories and looks inspired by Marlene Dietrich will be launched by ElektroCouture in late spring.