22 January 2011

The Dress That Jamie Lee Snipped?

Marlene gave Jamie Lee Curtis one of her old evening dresses to wear to the 1983 or 1984 (sources differ) Academy Awards. Curtis was at the time engaged to one of Dietrich's grandsons.
Apparently, the gown had originally been made for Marlene to wear in 1942's The Lady is Willing; for the Oscars, Curtis had the gown altered and shortened.
Is this the dress?
The shortened version of the gown was sold by Christie's in 1999 for $ 9 200. The auction house credited it as a Jean Louis creation. Jean Louis only started to work at Columbia Pictures in 1944.
In the film, Dietrich's gowns are credited to Irene.


  1. How wrong to have altered it!

    1. Here's a photo of Jamie Lee Curtis at the 1983 Academy Awards. Is that the same dress? It looks more white than the above cream color. Whatever the case may be, it looks stylish for the early 1980s, which justifies the alteration, I guess. If you search "jamie lee curtis 1983 academy awards" (without the quotes) in Google Images, you'll see some watermarked photos of Jamie in the dress and with J. Michael Riva at the Oscars.

  2. Jospeh, thanks for that link. Certainly looks like the same dress, maybe it's lighter because of the flash?

  3. I happen to actually know something about this! I don't know the origin of the garment -- if it was made for a Dietrich film or nightclub act, or her own personal use -- but it had been worn by her and was eventually came into the possession of Academy Award nominated costume designer Donfeld. He leant it to Curtis on the provision she only wear it for the Awards Awards ceremony, and NOT to the Governor's Ball it was a fragile vintage garment with great history, and she would conceivably be dancing, and getting up and down a lot. He was angry that Curtis went back on her word and wore the dress to the party afterwards, which he discovered when pictures from the event were published in the following weeks. There is no way he would have allowed Curtis to shorten the garment; she was only borrowing it for the night. So it must have been that way already. Occassionally a clothes conscious star like Dietrich would order a duplicate or a variation of a costume they liked during pre-production for their personal use, and she herself may have requested it be made knee length. (Or she could have ordered two, both long, and short.) I do not know this last bit as fact, but it's possible Dietrich gifted the designer with this dress as a Christmas present, as she had with another of her dresses at least once. I don't know what the pair's connection was, but Donfeld knew practically everyone in Hollywood and was very well liked.