Enduring Fashion: Irene Lentz from MGM to The Closer

Pictured: An original  Irene hat and gown. This cut would be super slimming on most women and shows the designer’s genius for design.

As some of my readers know, I am lover of  “Vintage Vogue.” One of my particular favorites, is California designer Irene Lentz.  Looking for  “Irenes” at Vintage stores in California has become one of my epic quests.  Every now and then a beautiful Irene appears at DecadesTwo or on an eBay auction.  Earlier this year, I was fascinated by the sight of  Parker Posey in  a Vintage Irene evening gown at the Costume Designers Guild Awards in Beverly Hills. If you’ve never heard of Irene, then you need to check out the website Irene Lentz, lovingly maintained by her great-niece, and look at Irene’s elegant designs. Many of the garments feature incredibly detailed hand work.  British Vogue called Irene’s designs “Californian elegance.” Irene was a California original, living and working here in Los Angeles and selling her designs here at  the exclusive Bullocks-Wilshire department store  in the special “Irene salon.”  Chanel was the only other designer with such an exclusive salon at the art deco, exclusive Bullocks-Wilshire.

 Pictured: An original photo of Irene’s signature label for Bullocks-Wilshire.

Saturday, I will be heading to Bullocks-Wilshire, which is now part of the Southwestern School of Law to learn more about Irene and her salon.  The school bought the Bullocks building but, every year, they have an annual tea and tour of the old department store. Click here for information on the Bullocks tour on July 31st.  I am so excited to set foot in the Irene salon.  Best of all, another Irene lover will be accompanying me on the journey.  I’ll be meeting fellow Irene affecianado, Greg LaVoi at Bullocks to take the tour.  Greg is a twice Emmy-nominated costume designer, who currently creates the quirky looks for Kyra Sedgwick’s character Brenda Leigh on the TV series The Closer . On the show, guess what Vintage designer is part of Brenda’s distinctive look ? Well, Vintage Irene from Bullocks Wilshire of course! Greg has collected many wonderful Irene suits which Brenda wears on the show.  When I spoke to Greg about why he choose Irene for Brenda, he shared with me what he imagined as Brenda’s fashion journey in Los Angeles.  He said, ” I created a story for Brenda.  To me, Brenda came to Los Angeles, as someone who didn’t spend much time on fashion or clothing. Later, I imagined that after Brenda had been in LA for awhile, she wanted to expand her wardrobe, but she would not want to spend a lot of money on clothes.  So, I imagined that Brenda would go shopping at Vintage stores, and that she would feel better buying older suits, than she would going to a department store and buying expensive, off the rack items.”  Thus, the beautiful fashion partnership between Irene and  Brenda’s modern style began. I’m sure that Irene, who was once the head costume designer at MGM, would be thrilled that she continues to play a part in Hollywood style and film costume. Where does Greg find all those Irenes?  “I try and snap every one up that I see on e-Bay or in Vintage stores,” he says.

Kyra Sedgwick as Brenda on TNT’s The Closer in her chartruese vintage Irene jacket.  Irene’s style is timeless and looks quit modern. (photo courtesy of the Fashion File Blog, on TNT’s The Closer site
by Greg LaVoi)

Look for another update on Irene after I take the tour of Bullocks-Wilshire.  I’ll be interviewing Greg about his extensive collection of Irenes and taking photos of some of the suits. And if you love Vintage styles, be on the lookout for “Irenes” at Vintage stores, and on eBay. Every now and then, you might just discover some that are reasonable priced.  In 2009, the LA Times showed off an Irene from Bullocks listed on eBay for only $9.99.  If only there had been “Buy It Now” on that auction! :)

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3 Comments

  1. Sandra @ Debutanteclothing.comJuly 30, 2010 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Oh what a wonderful event! I hope I can make it.I have only owned one Irene. It is the most amazing jacket I have ever laid my hands on. The details! It's a 1940s heather gray jacket with a diamond shape panel on the breast. I found it at my favorite thrift. It sits in the “good vintage” closet. ; ) Can't wait to read you interview.

  2. KarlynJuly 30, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    A wonderful homage to Irene Lentz.. Thank you! I think you will have a great time on your Bullocks Wilshire tour and look forward to reading/seeing your post on that when you return.

  3. dining tablesAugust 22, 2010 at 1:55 am | Permalink

    I agree. It is a wonderful event. I wish I wish I can join that special event. I still don't imagine how it is going to be. I know that is it going to be so great.