Inspiration ~ Vintage Hollywood

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I am often asked about where I find inspiration for hat design. Sometimes it's found in nature or in an art gallery, in architecture or on the fashion runway. Frequently, though, I find inspiration in vintage fashion as found in magazines, period costume collections, and movies from Hollywood's Golden Age.

My favorite style decade is the 1930's and one of the films that immediately comes to mind when I think of movies and millinery is The Women (1939). The film has an all-female cast and stars Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell. Costumes were designed by Gilbert Adrian, who was the chief costume designer for MGM from 1928-1941, when he retired from Hollywood and opened a ready-to-wear boutique in Beverly Hills.

Adrian's numerous film credits include Mata Hari (1931), The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The Wizard of Oz (1939). "Watched by millions of fans in the United States and abroad, Adrian’s costumes were thought to have been, at the height of his film design career, the most copied clothes in the world." (Museum at FIT)

MGM Costume Designer Adrian

Costume Designer Gilbert Adrian

Looking at the extravagant gowns and headwear in Adrian's films, it should come as no surprise to learn that he grew up surrounded by beautiful textiles and trims. His parents owned a millinery shop in New England and young Adrian often helped out in the shop after school.

Rosalind Russell and Norma Shearer

Rosalind Russell and Norma Shearer on set of The Women


Rosalind Russell

 Rosalind Russell in The Women



Rosalind Russell as Sylvia Fowler & Norma Shearer as Mary Haines



 Joan Crawford as Crystal Allen


In The Women, there are smart fedoras, tilt hats, draped turbans, felt toques, cocktail hats and cartwheel brims. There are fabulous feathers, yards and yards of silk veiling, wired bows and lots of sparkle.

The black and white film includes a 10 minute Technicolor fashion show featuring some of Adrian's more outrageous, at times often surreal, designs. The color combinations are striking. I would love to know the colors of ALL of the costumes in the film!

Technicolor Fashion Show 1930's

Technicolor Fashion Show 1930's

The Women Fashion Show Scene

If you would like to watch the fashion show segment, it is available online here.


The aptly-named "Adrian" hat from my Spring 2017 collection is an example of late 1930's style reinterpreted for today. It's made of red sinamay straw, which has been free-form sculpted into a tilt hat with a high crown, vertical points and a spray of wispy red emu feathers.

Red Sinamay Free Form Tilt Hat

1930's Adrian costume design fashion history Gilbert Adrian hats hollywood inspiration millinery the women

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