The Italian actress, singer, dancer and TV host died at 78 last month. Born in Bologna in 1943, Raffaella Maria Roberta Pelloni, known as Raffaella Carrà, studied dance and acting, starring first in a few peplum films and appearing in Mark Robson’s “Von Ryan’s Express” (1965).
Later she became more famous as a singer, dancer and co-host of programmes on Italy’s state TV Rai. Her songs, dance, music numbers and outfits made history for inspiring freedom, empowering women. At the end of the 1970s Raffaella became very popular in Spain and Latin America. Televisión Española hired her to conduct the live show “Hola Raffaella” between 1992 and 1993. In 2018, the king of Spain made her a dame, “al orden del mérito civil”, for being “an icon of freedom”. Her blonde bob and costumes became her signatures. Raffella Carrà’s myth developed with her wardrobe, created by costume designers who were loyal to her throughout her career – Corrado Colabucci, Luca Sabatelli and Gabriele Mayer.
Cinema and fashion are closely related types of artistic creativity. On the one hand, fashion largely affects the creation of images of movie characters and even in historical tapes, signs of the time of filming appear from the type of actors, their posture and plasticity, their costumes and characters. On the other hand, cinema, as the most popular, accessible art, affects the tastes of wider audience. Thus there is a circulation of images from real life on the screens and vice versa.
The image of the actress became one of the archetypal in the history of fashion of the twentieth century. It combined the elegance of the Belle époque and the depravity of the 1920s, glamorous art Deco and severity during the Second world war, new look 1950’s and unisex of the 1970’s. All this, after the star, imitate millions of her fans, guiding the imagination of designers and defining both high and mass fashion.
In Hollywood, the cult of stars was strongly supported by film studios, which were systems of “production” of condensed, crystallized models for mass worship and imitation. Therefore, Marlene was created as a kind of artistic artifact. Before meeting with the Director that “opened” Dietrich – Joseph von Sternberg – Marlene was lively and cheerful chubby brown-haired girl. But Sternberg, sensing the trend of the time, made her lose weight and bleach her hair and “sculpted” her image until man-made replaced natural beauty. As a result, the slender strong beauty with hollow cheeks, half-lowered eyelids and clearly defined lips became an iconic image not only for the 1930s, but also set the fashion trend for the following decades and timeless stylistic direction, relevant at the beginning of the XXI century.
Dietrich often brought her images to the level of a cartoon, created a theatrical carnival effect. If in the “high society” elegance is synonymous with hidden luxury, the excess of the actress was designed to impress the masses. And the threat to seem vulgar was overcome by refinement of taste, authenticity of luxury and extraordinary meticulousness to the smallest details: ancient lace, selected furs, catchy jewelry –everything was real. For Marlene, it was a kemp – the way of ironic aesthetic elevation over mass taste.
From Marlene, as the Hollywood star, public expected not only external attractiveness and provocative behavior, she also belonged to “swim in luxury”. The indispensable attributes of stardom were richly furnished mansions, limousines with personal drivers, cruises and travel, unreasonably huge expenses-all this was expressed by the concept of “glamour”.
Glamour became an escape from the complexities of interwar life. Turning stars into a kind of concentrate of glamour, the cinema system attracted to the screens all, who dreamed of a beautiful life. Glamour Girl ratings were made by the press and advertising departments of the largest film studios. The glamourising of film stars was conducted on well understandable rules: exaggerated femininity and ostentatious luxury materialized shades and colors, which create effect shines on (brilliant bronze, dark gold, shining silver and platinum), expensive tissue (satin, chiffon, velvet), fur, lace, ubiquitous sequins and rhinestones, form-fitting silhouettes, tightened in corset waist, high gloves off and heels, jewelry. Glamorous images began to be displaced from the cinema by realistic looks only in the 1950s and 1960s, when the stars were freed from the framework of a well-defined image and began to play diverse roles and often change their image in real life. Marlene Dietrich was one of the few who remained true to the style of refined flashy luxury. The roles she played allowed her, in the constant musical numbers of her heroines, carried the actress beyond the limits of the plot space and time, demanded from her the usual entertainment, not believability.
Marlene Dietrich, from the very beginning of its popularity, has become a “style icon” – a person who sets the tone in fashion. She has always been the center of attention of photographers and journalists, who did not leave unnoticed any of her outfit, focusing the attention of supporters on every change in appearance and in every detail of the costume of the actress. So, being replicated on huge audiences, its individual consumption acquired socially significant character and turned into the phenomenon of culture. Her cars, her clothes, her cosmetics, her jewelry, her watches, even her food and drink rose to status, determining her supporters’ preferences.
In 1987, Dietrich’s talent was evaluated by The Fashion Foundation of America award for her lifetime contribution to fashion. After the death of the star in 1992, her colossal wardrobe moved to the Museum of Film and Television in Berlin and the Galliera, the Fashion Museum of Paris. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Dietrich the ninth greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema.
This is the translation of my article: Образ Марлен Дітріх в контексті тенденцій моди // Культура і сучасність: Альманах Державної академії керівних кадрів культури і мистецтв, 2010, №1, С. 174 – 178.
What does that mean “French elegance”? Chic. Charm. Sensibility. Intellectual femininity. But that are only abstractions. Who really has it? Coco Chanel, Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin, Catherine Deneuve. All of them have very different styles. But Jeanne Moreau hasn’t a signature style – so called «trademark look». She was different in her roles and off-screen situations. She was blond, red-haired and brunette. Every garment she choose for a reason, even if that reason was known only to herself. And that’s exactly that charming bohemian spontaneity of free and timeless “French elegance”.
Peggy Moffitt (born 1940) is American model and actress, who’s unique look has become iconic of the 60s fashion. Peggy worked very closely with fashion designer Rudi Gernreich. She developed a signature Pop Art style with asymmetrical hair cut (created by Vidal Sassoon) and Kabuki-like makeup.