Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Helen Rose: A Costume Legacy

Helen Rose Sketching 1957

I recently had the pleasure of acquiring a piece of fashion history who's designer is known as well as a few details about the lady who wore it. I rarely have the chance to obtain any sort of information on the designer or the woman who gave a garment it's first life but this time I was blessed to do so. MGM ear Dancer Dee Trunell owned this gorgeous gown and it could be yours, BUY IT

 Helen Rose born in Chicago on February 2, 1904.  She studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and first started to design costumes for nightclub shows.  After moving to Los Angeles in 1929 she designed costumes for Ice Follies and Fanchon and Marco (wiki). After a short stint at 20th Century Fox in the 40's  she was hired by MGM (Metro-Goldwyn Mayer) in 1943 where she spent the majority of her career dressing screen sirens of the MGM era including Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Stanwyck, Lana Turner, Lauren Bacall, Grace Kelly and a whole host of other beauties in addition to the lady who owned the gorgeous dress pictured above, on screen dancer Dee Trunell (Details on Dee's dress in tomorrows post as it becomes available for purchase via EVOLUTION VINTAGE). I read she was a master of chiffon and was famous for her beaded bodices and chiffon dresses. Mrs. Rose said in a 1981 interview with The  Los Angeles Times that she favored that material because of the way it moved and picked up light.

 Designing Women -1957

The designer with Grace Kelly and a costume sketch for The Swan 1956

Helen won two academy awards for costume design for  The Bad and the Beautiful in 1952 
 Lana Turner

and for I'll Cry Tomorrow in 1955 
Susan Hayward

and nominated eight additional times. She was widely known for designing wedding dresses for the women she dressed on screen.

Her two most famous brides:

Elizabeth Taylor (Marries Conrad 'Nicky' Hilton in 1950)
It was Elizabeth's first of her eight marriages. She was 18 with a 20" waist on that day.  Helen Rose had 15 people working full days for almost three months on the garment with its twenty five yards of shell-white satin embellished with bugle beads and seed pearls, trailed by a fifteen-yards of satin train. The dress was a "gift" from MGM to Elizabeth in exchange for press in much the same way fashion houses gift celebrities for the red carpet. This dress sold at auction in 2013 for a jaw dropping $188,000 and was created in 1950 for $1,500.

Grace Kelly (Marries Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956)

I had read it was a gift from MGM. likely for publicity for the studio. During the design process they were working together on what would be Grace's last film High Society. Rose said about Grace "She is a dream to work with...I showed her two sketches of the final design and she chose the one she wanted.  That was all there was to it."

Philadelphia museum of art.

For more details on this garment and Grace's Style pick up the book: Grace Kelly: Icon of Style to Royal Bride

To her Helen has 116 credits for Costume Design for film and 32 for Costume/Wardrobe Department. She went on from film to create her own collection under her label: Helen Rose. Rose’s label dates from 1958/9 – 1976, when she retired. She wrote her autobiography "Just Make Them Beautiful" a line that Louis B. Mayer was often quotes as saying to her and penned a second book called "The Glamorous World of Helen Rose". She left the world a little less colorful place on November 9,1985 at the age of 81 passing away in Palm Springs.

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