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Historic Costume Gallery presents "The Joan Crawford Effect"

October 3, 2017

Hollywood star Joan Crawford and costume designer Adrian Adolph Greenberg were the dynamic fashion duo of the 1930s and 1940s.

Greenberg, who was known simply as “Adrian” in the fashion world, helped create Crawford’s signature broad-shouldered look, a design crafted to conceal the actress’s naturally broad shoulders.

The Stephens College Costume Museum and Research Library’s latest exhibit, “The Joan Crawford Effect,” looks at the collaboration between Crawford and Adrian and how the pair influenced glamour, style and sophistication. The designer was adept at transforming leading actresses, such as Crawford, Jean Harlow, Norma Scherer an Greta Garbo, into glamorous movie stars. The exhibit also includes never-before-exhibited archives related to Crawford’s short time as a student at Stephens College in the 1920s, including handwritten letters from Crawford to Stephens President James Madison Wood.  

The show opens Oct. 6, 2017 with a reception from 5-9 p.m. in the Historic Costume Gallery on the mezzanine level of Lela Raney Wood Hall, 6 N. College Ave.

“In the ’30s and ’40s, filmmakers were appealing to women moviegoers and so would release publicity stills of the stars in their costumes to get moviegoers excited about the upcoming movie,” said Lori Hall-Araujo, an assistant professor in the fashion program and curator for the Stephens College Costume Museum and Research Library. “This led to costume copies and home-sewing patterns being sold in connection with a film, sometimes these were even sold before the film was released.”

The exhibit includes 1930s and 1940s suits and evening gowns from the permanent collections—including a gown inspired by the one Crawford wore in the 1932 film “Letty Lynton.” Dress history has it that more than 50,000 copies of the original white cotton organdy dress with large ruffled sleeves, puffed at the shoulder that Adrian designed were sold at the New York Macy’s store alone.

At the time Vogue reported: Every little girl, all over the country, within two weeks of the release of Joan Crawford’s picture, felt she would die if she couldn’t have a dress like that.”

“What we have is a gown that appears very much to have been inspired by the ‘Letty Lynton’ gown,” Hall-Araujo said. “Moreover, I am able to date it to within three years of the film’s release.”

If You Go

Gallery Dates: Oct. 6-Dec. 17, 2017

Gallery Hours: 12-1 p.m. Wednesdays, 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursdays, and 12-3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Closed during Stephens College holidays. 

Location: Historic Costume Gallery, mezzanine level of Lela Raney Wood Hall

The exhibit is free and open to the public. 

Opening Reception: 5-9 p.m. on Oct. 6 

More about the Gallery. 

More about the School of Design and fashion program. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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