Costume and Fashion Designer Oleg Cassini (1913-2006)

Oleg Cassini (1913 – 2006) was an American fashion designer born to an aristocratic Russian family with maternal Italian ancestry. He came to the United States as a young man after starting as a designer in Rome, and quickly got work with Paramount Pictures.

Cassini established his reputation by designing for films. He gained additional renown by designing for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. “The Jackie Look” was highly influential in American design.

He also designed for Rita Hayworth, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood and Gene Tierney whom he married in 1941; they separated after the birth of their first daughter. She began a romance with John F. Kennedy. Their romance was short lived as he could never marry her because of his political ambitions. She reconciled with Cassini and they had a second daughter. This marriage lasted until 1952 and they remained friends.

After his divorce Cassini and Grace Kelly were briefly engaged, but her family would not approve the marriage as he was 16 years her senior, twice divorced, had 2 children and was non-catholic.

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Oleg Cassini designed this gown for Gene Tierney, though a speedy elopement meant it was never made and worn. Five years later, the gown saw the light of day for Gene’s role in the movie Razor’s Edge (1946), for which Oleg designed her costumes.

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Marilyn wore a smoldering red Oleg Cassini velvet gown to accept her Best Young Box Office Personality award in 1951.  She later wore it for a sensual publicity portrait.

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Grace Kelly at the premiere of Rear Window, 1954.

Her dress was designed by Oleg Cassini who was her escort that evening.

Photo by Frank Worth.

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Oleg Cassini dressing Lana Turner

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Jackie Kennedy Onassis in iconic 1961 Presidential Inauguration gown by Oleg Cassini.

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Rita Hayworth wearing the “Amado Mio” two-piece costume for noir film Gilda (1946)

Gilda is a 1946 American black-and-white film noir directed by Charles Vidor starring Rita Hayworth in her signature role as the ultimate femme fatale.

The two-piece costume worn by Hayworth in the “Amado Mio” nightclub sequence in the film was offered as part of the “TCM Presents … There’s No Place Like Hollywood” auction November 24, 2014, at Bonhams in New York.

It was estimated to bring between $40,000 and $60,000. The costume sold for $161,000.

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Rita Hayworth wearing the two-piece costume for Gilda (1946).

Photo by Bob Landry.

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The “Dress Doctor” Edith Head

Edith Head (1897 – 1981) was an American costume designer who won a record eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, starting with The Heiress (1949) and ending with The Sting (1973).

Born and raised in California, Head managed to get a job as a costume sketch artist at Paramount Pictures, without any relevant training. She first acquired notability for Dorothy Lamour’s trademark sarong dress, and then became a household name after the Academy Awards created a new category of Costume Designer in 1948. Head was considered exceptional for her close working relationships with her subjects, with whom she consulted extensively, and these included virtually every top female star in Hollywood.

After 43 years she left Paramount for Universal, possibly because of her successful partnership with Alfred Hitchcock, and also adapted her skills for television.

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Edith Head 1930s

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Edith Head’s costume for Anna May Wong in Dangerous to Know directed by Robert Florey, 1938.

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Grace Kelly wearing her Oscar dress by Edith Head. Photograph by Philippe Halsman.

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Edith Head’s costume for Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd directed by Billy Wilder 1950.

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Audrey Hepburn (with Edith Head in the background) puts on her tiara and necklace while on the set of Roman Holiday, 1952.

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Hitchcock and Head on the set of Family Plot (1976).

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Amazing Old Hollywood Costumes by Travis Banton

Travis Banton (1894 – 1958) was the chief designer at Paramount Pictures. He is considered one of the most important Hollywood costume designers of the 1930s.

An early apprenticeship with a high-society costume dressmaker earned him fame. When Mary Pickford selected one of his dresses for her wedding to Douglas Fairbanks, his reputation was established.

He opened his own dressmaking salon in New York City, and soon was asked to create costumes for the Ziegfeld Follies. In 1924, Travis Banton moved to Hollywood when Paramount contracted with him to create costumes for his first film, The Dressmaker from Paris.

Glamour, understated elegance, and exquisite fabrics endeared Travis Banton to the most celebrated of Hollywood’s beauties and made him one of the most sought-after costume designers of his era.

Because of his alcoholism and reputedly also at the instigation of his subordinate Edith Head, Banton was forced to leave Paramount. He started his own business and also designed for Twentieth Century-Fox from 1939-1941 and Universal from 1945-1948.

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Marlene Dietrich in “The Devil is a Woman,” 1935. Costume by Travis Banton.

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Claudette Colbert in “Tonight is Ours” 1933, costume by Travis Banton

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Anna May Wong in “Limehouse Blues” 1934, costume by Travis Banton.

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Lucille Ball in “Lover Come Back” 1946, costume by Travis Banton

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Carole Lombard in “Rumba”, 1935, costume by Travis Banton

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Lily Elsie in the operetta The Merry Widow (Dressed by Lucile)

Lily Elsie (8 April 1886 – 16 December 1962) was a popular English actress and singer during the Edwardian era, best known for her starring role in the hit London premiere of Franz Lehár’s operetta The Merry Widow.

Early 20th-century fashion designer Lucile designed the costumes (including the plumed hats that became an extraordinary fad) and thereafter used Elsie to promote her fashions, designing her personal clothes and costumes for several of her other shows.

Lucile later wrote:

“I realised that here was a girl who had both beauty and intelligence but who had never learnt how to make the best of herself. So shy and diffident was she in those days that a less astute producer than George Edwardes would in all probability have passed her over and left her in the chorus.”

The production opened in June 1907 and ran for 778 performances at Daly’s Theatre. The show was an enormous success for its creators and made Elsie a major star.

Lily Elsie in The Merry Widow dressed by Lucile, 1907

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NPG x135274; Lily Elsie (Mrs Bullough) as Sonia in 'The Merry Widow' by Foulsham & Banfield, published by Rotary Photographic Co Ltd

Lily Elsie in The Merry Widow dressed by Lucile (1907)

by Foulsham & Banfield

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NPG Ax160392; Lily Elsie (Mrs Bullough) as Sonia and Joseph Coyne as Prince Danilo in 'The Merry Widow' by Foulsham & Banfield, published by Rotary Photographic Co Ltd

Lily Elsie as Sonia and Joseph Coyne as Prince Danilo in ‘The Merry Widow’ (1907) by Foulsham & Banfield

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Amazing Movie Wedding Dresses – Vintage Photographs

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Bebe Daniels. Reaching for the Moon (1930)

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Claudette Colbert. It Happened One Night (1934)

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Olivia de Havilland. They Died With Their Boots On (1941)

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Joan Fontaine. Jane Eyre (1943)

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Gene Tierney 1946. The Razor’s Edge (1946)

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Audrey Hepburn. Funny Face (1957)

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Marilyn Monroe. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

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Gina Lollobrigida. Come September (1961)

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