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The Art of Dress
Costume in Detail
Couture: The Great Designers
Couture Sewing Techniques
A Dictionary of Costume
From Queen to Empress
Gowns by Adrian
Patterns of Fashion 1
Patterns of Fashion 2
The Way We Wore

Gowns by Adrian
By Howard Gutner

Many are familiar with Gilbert Adrian's work as costume designer for movies like The Wizard of Oz, Marie Antoinette, Pride and Prejudice (1940), and the man behind many of Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford's lavish movie costumes. This book is a wonderfully illustrated look at the genius of a Hollywood designer.

If you're looking for hardcore fashion history, you won't find it here. Since Hollywood is renowned for 'tweaking' historical as well as contemporary designs to suit the needs of the silver screen, one can easily tell that Adrian took liberties in his designs. However, the creative concepts and interesting details illustrated are eye candy for those interested in design. The book itself is over 200 pages, and hardly a page is left without a photograph of a movie star, a sketch done by Adrian, or film stills. This is a very visually rich book.

Gowns by Adrian does have its flaws, however. My main quibble with the author is his tendency to lapse into psycho-analyzing movie plots and the people behind them. Particularly of caution to younger and more sensitive readers is the author's persistent reading of adult themes into plot lines (though nothing horrendously lurid). While I'm sure they existed (especially in some of the films that were vehicles for Garbo and Crawford), I think he could have abstained from going into detail. Another problem I have with the book, is that Mr. Gutner mainly focused on gowns that Adrian designed for three actresses: Norma Shearer, Garbo and Crawford. There is only a small mention of the work Adrian did for The Wizard of Oz and his designs for Katherine Hepburn's role as Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story. Considering the wide array of designs he did in his career at MGM, the author could have done a little better instead of taking so much space explaining the plots of films.

Other than that (and the occasional 'gossipy' tones the book takes, which is typical for books on Hollywood and actors), it is a great book for those that are either a fan of the Golden Age of Hollywood or are interested in design and being inspired. Skip the text, and enjoy the pictures is my advice.--Reviewd by Miss C.


3 stars out of 5

Artwork is October (1877) by James Tissot, courtesy of CGFA.

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2003 Across the Ages