Saturday, 27 December 2014

I dress for the image, not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men

From The Observer, March 1960:
The murmur in the quiet hotel bar froze. Quite suddenly, in a few silent strides, Marlene Dietrich was there.

She really is quite something. She was wearing a wild mink coat; a black Balenciaga dress embroidered, at the left breast, with the scarlet bar of the Légion d'honneur; a stiffened black tulle hat; white kid gloves; black patent leather pumps; and a black crocodile handbag. That's all. But the quality of her body gave the mink a luxury no advertiser could ever buy: the black dress was littler and subtler than volumes of Vogue could imply, and her single decoration was somehow more worldly and wicked than all the jewellery in Paris, London and New York put together.

Unlike the sculptured image of films, in which only the voice moves, she is alert and friendly. Her face has got lines, luckily: two deep ones from nose to chin and several on the forehead. It is alive with warmth and humour. She ordered coffee and the waiter brought it and watched tenderly over the first mouthful.

"I dress for the image," she announced. "Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men." The image? "A conglomerate of all the parts I've ever played on the screen. When I was in 'The Blue Angel' people thought that was me: they really thought that was me!

"If I dressed for myself I wouldn't bother at all. Clothes bore me. I'd wear jeans. I adore jeans. I get them in a public store – men's, of course; I can't wear women's trousers. But I dress for the profession. I get my clothes in Hollywood and Paris, and if I can't come to Paris, I wait.

"For the past five years, I have got my clothes for the profession from Jean-Louis in Hollywood. We go together to these places where they import materials and pick what we like. I know what I want to look like and he makes the dress.

"When I come to Paris, I get my clothes at one house or another. I went to Dior when he started. There hasn't been any fashion since that. There is fashion in magazines, but where are these dresses we see in them? I never see them being worn. They belong to a different sect. But since Dior made his great revolution, what change has there been? Waist here, waist there, flat – what does it mean?

"I never go to a collection. It takes too long to pass. They know me now and they show me only the clothes that are mine. I never consider money when I order clothes. Before I had money? I don't remember.

"I have always had to have clothes made for me because of my unusual shape – broad shoulders, narrow hips. I have never made a mistake. I can see if something goes wrong during the making. And I stop it.

"I have no fur coat. I haven't the courage any more. This one isn't mine. Balenciaga sent this over because he thought it was cold."
Marie Magdalene "Marlene" Dietrich (27th December 1901 – 6th May 1992)


  1. Nice post, Jon! Oh, and if you happen to run into Balenciaga, you might let him know that I've been a little chilly myself lately...

    1. There's a queue, young lady... Jx

  2. Remember Dietrich's fabulous Dior outfits in "Stage Fright?"

    1. More marabou than a girl could ever need!




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