Monday, December 8, 2014

Irene Lentz: Jacket c. 1949

This suit jacket by the MGM costumer and fashion designer Irene Lentz was probably sold in 1949. The label lists Bullock's Wilshire, located in Los Angeles, as the high end department store where it was shown. In July 1947, before her career at MGM terminated, Irene began a fashion business designing for a group of 25 department stores who helped to finance her business. With exclusive rights to Irene, Inc. for their stores, located across the country, they would make her fashion designs available to affluent women who patronized them.

She tried for two additional years to work for both MGM and establish her own “Irene, Inc.” business at the same time. After that she left the film industry to devote her creative energy to Irene, Inc, starting her wholesale business with 20 department stores showing her line. By 1951 she would have 37 stores that carried the Irene label.

This close up view of the jacket shows the layered crescent shaped collars that she designed which were accented by buttons. She used nine covered buttons in this design.

Crescent shapes disguised conventional darts and princess seam lines.

The business took off quickly, no doubt boosted by her reputation and well honed design and tailoring skills practiced during the years at MGM. She won the Neiman-Marcus fashion award in 1947 for her excellent work, the other recipient that year was Christian Dior.

A suit advertised for spring of 1949 shows slightly broad, but rounded shoulders on a tightly fitted jacket with long peplum skirt to cover the hips. This silhouette was typical for suits from that era.

By 1951 her business, design and showroom, had moved to a modern design and production facility at 3550 Hayden in Culver City. It had a fabric vault to store her valuable textiles, imported from the best European collections. Her fine suits used English wools and domestic textiles by such notables as Pola Stout (who also produced the graphic wools used by Adrian). She worked with a design staff that had been with her for many years. Her first pattern maker was Nancy Baker, a long time employee. Tailoring was done by John Deverling who had started with her during the Bullock’s Wilshire years.

This line drawing clearly shows the working details of the design with its dramatic crescents and over-lapping collars.

During this era, her light weight worsted wool suits had a slim, molded appearance, fitting close to the body. The shoulder line was softly tailored, not sharp, and the waistline was fitted. Early 1950’s showed face framing collars and turned back cuffs. The suiting textile she often used was all season light weight worsted wool, making it wearable year round.

It was the many couture level details, fine imported textiles, and feminine silhouette that made Irene's designs stand out from others during her era. This post WWII suit is especially dramatic and an excellent example of her fine workmanship.

Irene Lentz: Pinterest collection of images

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