One of the most beautiful dresses I have seen on an award carpet this season is the vintage Irene gown (above) that Parker Posey wore last week to the Costume Designers Guild Awards. This dress, with its elegant bodice and one shoulder draping, looks amazingly contemporary. I was delighted to see Parker honoring designer and former MGM costume designer Irene with this homage at the Costumer Designers Guild. Her work and design excellence should not be forgotten. “Irene” Lentz was the head designer at MGM from 1942 to 1947. In her career, she did costumes for over 50 films, dressing Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Lana Turner and Claudette Colbert. She was also renowned for her custom designs sold at Bullocks Wilshire in the special “Irene salon.” Chanel was the only other designer with such an exclusive salon at the art deco, exclusive Bullocks Wilshire. Irene was an amazing designer who never won an Oscar for costume design (I think she was robbed. ) It was only in 2005 that Irene was honored with admittance to the Costume Designers Guild . In her time, British Vogue called Irene’s style “California Elegance.” Look at the beautiful costumes she did for Doris Day in Midnight Lace. They are so fresh looking, they could be worn today. The long white gown is certainly Oscar worthy.
Picutred: A vintage Irene gown sketch drawn by Virginia Fischer for MGM from website antiquehelper.com
In 1941, she dressed Best Actress Winner Ginger Rogers for the awards for her “Kitty Foyle” win. The story goes that during the war years the Academy asked designers to scale back on extravagant dresses and imported materials. Many actresses were worried about what that edict would mean for their Oscar wear. Ginger Rogers never had to worry. Irene designed the below dress of gray peau de soie with black American-made lace. This was a bit of a wonder at the time, as lace was traditionally the province of the French. The dress was a model of wartime restraint, but was still elegant enough to be striking, befitting the special occasion.