Friday, February 11, 2011

Gloria Swanson: A 20th century 'New Woman'

Gloria Swanson was an early film actress, born in 1899, she lived through the boom years of the film industry. By today's standards, Gloria was far ahead of most women in her day. Her acting career brought fame and wealth to her, giving her the flexibility to work on many projects that would benefit women and others. One of these was her ongoing design partnership with an American fashion company, Puritan Fashion Corp, from 1950 through 1982 (she would have been 83 years old at the time). For Purtain, Gloria designed for the "Forever Young" label, traveling around the country showcasing her styles and giving women advice on style and beauty.

Gloria Swanson's interests were wide: the arts, politics and inventions are included in her roster or achievements. A champion of natural foods, she campaigned in the 1950's for product labeling and food additive legislation. She also championed women on many levels. Politically she would protest tax rates for single people (1972) and supported the rights of senior citizens (1980's).

Overall, many of her achievements are unknown. In the end, she was obviously an amazing 'New Woman' of the 20th century!

The "Forever Young" labeled dresses seen here show Gloria's best fashion design technique: have texture and visual interest at the neckline, and widen the shoulders so that the hips appear more narrow. Add to that a flared skirt or hipline pockets as artful drapery. The pink lace dress above has a trim in bias cording that is scrolled around the neckline and around a flared skirt hem. The blue linen dress has a neckline trim of dyed to matched textured lace with rhinestone details.

Gloria would design dresses to flatter the average woman's figure. She didn't try to cinch in a waist to tightly or cut sleeve too short. These flattering dresses have a great fit for most women, and continue today to be sought after for their 1950's vintage styling that fit a modern contemporary figure.

Find out more about Gloria Swanson:
Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin:

The Blue dress is currently offered for sale in our shop.
The Pink dress has been sold.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you posted this! I'm currently reading Swanson's autobiography. I always assumed they just used her name on those Forever Young Fashions, but she really did have a lot of say-so on the design end of things.

Jen O said...

There's a book? I'm going to have to look for that too. I found the university web site is very informative on her bio and details as well.