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A noteworthy event of 20th century American fashion was the emergence of the film costume designer as an influence on everyday fashion. Prior to the 30s, Hollywood imported European fashion designers to bring some much needed style and class to their offerings after the excesses of the 20s. When the Paris designers returned home, Hollywood designers came in to their own designing both period epics and modern fashion features.

Due to the success of both the film industry and the untiring efforts of the studio publicity departments, many costume designers became house hold names and used this recognition when they made the shift to fashion design. They were certainly helped in the USA by the absence of French and English fashion during the war years. By the time their houses closed in the 50s and 60s, the influence of film designers on retail fashion had begun to fade. Today even most fashionistas can’t name a film costume designer. And yet in their day designers such as Howard Greer, Adrian, Irene, Helen Rose, Edith Head and Travis Banton were as well known in the US and even internationally as many Couture designers.

The greatest of them all was possibly Adrian, whose work in film and fashion influenced much of American fashion in the 1940s. His fashion work commands serious attention to this day. Greer was an earlier star, but his work went on for years, and was seen as recently as 2005 when Sarah Jessica Parker wore a black and pink Greer dress to the CFDA awards. Both Irene’s and Helen Rose’s work continues to be highly collectible. Banton and Head, while influential, never attempted their own wholesale houses.

Read more about notable designers in the film industry

Howard Greer
Helen Rose

Bibliography and reading list for Film and Fashion

Click the titles to buy the books. As an Amazon Associate the VFG earns from qualifying purchases.

American Fashion: The Life and Times of Adrian, Mainbocher, McCardell, Norell, & Trigeré Edited Sarah Tomerlin Lee, The Fashion Institute of Technology. Quadrangle/the New York Times Book Co. 1975.
California Couture, Maureen Reilly, Schiffer Publishing, USA, 2000.
Costume Design in The Movies, Elizabeth Leese, BCW Publishing LTD, Isle of Wight, 1976
Designing Male, Howard Greer
The Fashion Book, Phaidon Press Ltd. 1998 London, New York
Hollywood and History Costume Design in Film, Edward Maeder, Thames and Hudson & Los Angels County Museum of Art, 1987
Hollywood Costume, Dale McConathy with Diana Vreeland, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York 1976
Hollywood Costume Design, David Chierchetti, Harmony Books, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1976
In Vogue, Georgina Howell, Schocken Books, Conde Nast, 1976
Just Make Then Beautiful, Helen Rose, Dennis-Landman Publisher 1976
Those Glorious Glamour Years, Margaret J. Bailey, Citadel Press, 1982
New York Fashion: The Evolution of American Style, Caroline Rennolds Milbank, Harry N. Abrams, Inc Publishers NY. 1989

The Vintage Fashion Guild offers sincere thanks to the following contributors:

Linda Ames of Vintage Textile,
Lizzie Bramlett of
Deborah Burke of, Antique and Vintage Dress Gallery
Couture Allure Vintage Fashion
Bret Fowler of Main off 5th, Stroudsburg, PA
Janet Schwarz of

Joan Crawford & Norma Shearer costumed for 'The Women', 1939 - Costumes by Adrian

Joan Crawford & Norma Shearer costumed for ‘The Women’, 1939

Costumes by Adrian