31 January 2011

A Million Grains of Golden Caviar

That's what Diana Vreeland called this breathtaking, beaded gown when she exhibited it at the Metropolitan Museum in 1974 as part their Costume Institute's "Romantic and Glamorous Hollywood Design" retrospective.
The dress, designed by Travis Banton for Marlene to wear in Angel, was reportedly inspired by the mastery of Fabergé. It cost $8 000 to produce in 1937 -- too expensive for Paramount executives to allow Marlene to add this one to her personal collection, as was her usual custom. Altered, it appeared in several Paramount movies long after its original model had vacated her dressing room on the lot. By the 1990s, the gown was in such fragile condition that it required extensive restoration. It is said that the gown is now preserved in a private collection.

When Vreeland first contacted Marlene about the latter's old movie costumes, the star seemed less interested in golden caviar than in exactly who had told the ex-editor in which hotel she was currently staying:

UPDATE: To see a sketch of this costume, look here!


  1. Here's another update, quite belated: a blurb about Vreeland's exhibit in the November 25, 1974 issue of New York Magazine. So it was a two-piece?

  2. Thank you for your comment. If you are referring to the source for the details of the beaded gown worn by Marlene Dietrich in Angel, my sources were this article, (which I simply forgot to include in the bibliography), and one of the books I mention in the credits. I would be happy to rectify any inaccuracies if that is the case.

    If you happened to read some other of my Style in film posts, you might have noticed that I always credit my sources, unlike the majority of the sites and blogs writing about similar subjects. Thank you.

    1. I started to write a response to you here but felt it better to turn it into a blog post.