Gowns by Adrian!

Posted by Christina Stewart May 22, 2013 2 Comments 22861 views

Adrian was the first designer to use “Gowns by…” as a film credit. He was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s head costume designer from 1928 to 1941. During this time he worked on over 250 films, designing outfits for some of Hollywood’s most beautiful and glamorous leading ladies. Adrian made Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Norma Shearer, and Marion Davies the Hollywood icons they are today.

Still image from "Adrian"

Adrian, ca. 1935

Still image from "Adrian"

Greta Garbo and Adrian going over costume sketches, 1929. Garbo is wearing one of his costumes from “The Kiss” (1929)

Fellow costume designer Natacha Rambova, the subject of a recent PCF Fashion Column, brought Adrian to Hollywood from New York in 1924. They were to work on films for Rambova’s husband Rudolph Valentino, but their first film The Hooded Falcon (1924) was never finished. Adrian would go on to work with Rambova once more on her now lost film What Price Beauty? (1925) and twice more with Valentino on The Eagle and Cobra, both in 1925.

Still image from "The Eagle"

Vilma Banky and Rudolph Valentino in “The Eagle” 1925

Still image from "Cobra"

Nita Naldi and Rudolph Valentino in “Cobra” 1925

After his time with Rambova and Valentino, Adrian worked as a fashion designer for Cecil B. DeMille’s independent production company, DeMille Pictures Corporation, from 1926 to 1928. With titles like, Gigolo (1926), Vanity (1927) and His Dog (1927), these films were unremarkable, but they did add another layer to Adrian’s foundation as a Hollywood costume designer. DeMille loaned Adrian to Fox Pictures for the film Fig Leaves (1926), which starred Olive Borden as a housewife who becomes a model in a fashion house. Adrian also contributed designs to, but was not credited for, DeMille’s epic King of Kings (1927).

Still image from "For Alimony Only"

Leatrice Joy in “For Alimony Only” 1926

Still image from "Fig Leaves"

Olive Borden sizing things up in “Fig Leaves” 1926


When DeMille moved from the Paramount Pictures lot over to MGM in 1928, he took Adrian with him. MGM, still a young company at the time, borrowed Adrian to design for some of their productions. It worked out so well Adrian decided to remain with MGM when DeMille returned to Paramount a short time later. This was the beginning of a very glamorous and productive time for both designer and studio.

Still image from "Adrian"

Adrian and Greta Garbo on the set of “The Single Standard” 1929

Still image from "Joan Crawford"

Joan Crawford, 1929

Not only did Adrian gown Garbo, Crawford, Harlow, Shearer, and Davies, but also Hedy Lamarr, Rosalind Russell, Myrna Loy, Loretta Young, Jeannette MacDonald, Ann Harding, Eleanor Powell, Margaret Sullivan, Katherine Hepburn, and Judy Garland in their most rememberable films. The credit list from these collaborations includes such classics as Mata Hari (1931), Letty Lynton (1932), Blondie at the Follies (1932), Midnight Mary (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), The Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935), Double Wedding (1937), Marie Antoinette (1938), Sweethearts (1938), The Women (1939), The Wizard of Oz (1939), The Philadelphia Story (1940), and Ziegfeld Girl (1941).


Adrian left MGM in 1941 to open his own fashion house Adrian Ltd., in Beverly Hills. He returned to MGM in 1952 to create the gowns for his last film Lovely to Look At. To this day, Adrian was and is synonymous with MGM, the MGM look, and with the leading ladies of the most glamorous studio in Hollywood.

Still image from "Mata Hari"

Greta Garbo is a stunning “Mata Hari” in beaded velvet, 1931

Still image from "Letty Lynton"

Joan Crawford in the famous ruffled sleeve dress from “Letty Lynton” 1932. Macy’s reportedly sold over 50,000 copies of this dress after the films release.

Still image from "Blondie of the Follies"

Marion Davies, a Ziegfeld Follies alum, plays “Blondie of the Follies” 1932

Still image from "Dinner at Eight"

Wallace Berry and Jean Harlow in “Dinner at Eight” 1933. No one in Hollywood could wear a silk bias cut gown like Harlow.

Still image from "Midnight Mary"

Loretta Young wears a silk gown with fringe down the back in “Midnight Mary” 1932

Still image from "Broadway Melody of 1936"

Eleanor Powell in “Broadway Melody of 1936” 1935

Still image from "Double Wedding"

Myrna Loy in detailed tailored suit, “Double Wedding” 1937

Still image from "Marie Antoinette"

Norma Shearer is “Marie Antoinette” 1938

Still image from "Marie Antoinette"

Gladys George in “Marie Antoinette” 1938

Still image from "The Women"

Joan Fontaine, Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Mary Boland, and Paulette Goddard are “The Women” 1939

Still image from "The Women"

Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Norma Shearer, and Joan Fontaine are “The Women” 1939

Still image from "The Wizard of Oz"

Billie Burke as Gilda and Judy Garland as Dorothy. Adrian designed all the costumes for “The Wizard of Oz” 1939.

Still image from "The Wizard of Oz"

Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, designed by Adrian, now reside in the Smithsonian Museum instead of Oz

Still image from "The Philadelphia Story"

Katherine Hepburn in “The Philadelphia Story” 1940

Still image from "Ziegfeld Girl"

Hedy Lamarr in “Ziegfeld Girl” 1941

Still image from "Ziegfeld Girl"

Lana Turner in “Ziegfeld Girl” 1941

Still image from "Two-Faced Women"

Constance Bennett and Greta Garbo in “Two-Faced Women” 1941. This would be Adrian and Garbo’s last film together at MGM.



About Christina Stewart

A film archivist by day and a film buff by night. What more needs to be said?

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There are 2 Comments

  1. Karen Sheeler
    - May 23, 2013
      -   Reply

    I love “Gowns by Adrian” in the credits. My absolute favorites, included here, are the Norma Shearer – Marie Antoinette gown, Jean Harlow gown from Dinner At Eight, Kate Hepburn’s dress from Philadelphia Story, and Hedy Lamarr in Ziegfeld Girls.

    • Christina Stewart
      - May 25, 2013
        -   Reply

      I know Karen! Adrian is hands-down my favorite designer. He made all stars of MGM looks so wonderful and glamorous!

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