Joan Blondell as leopard woman with the real thing, 1930's Warner Bros. publicity still.
For as long as fashion has existed, animal metaphors have been an indispensible part of the designers language. Hollywood, during its golden age, a leading arbiter of taste, heightened and refined the animal metaphor with brilliant costume designers turning ravishing movie stars into expressions of animal desire.
Theda Bara, born Theodosia Goodman, holds a peacock feather in a still from “Cleopatra” (1917). Bara is wearing a costume consisting of a bustier and sarong with a long peacock feather train and headdress. Only ten seconds of this elaborate film have survived and we have no idea who designed the costumes but still photos testify to one ravishing costume after another.
In Greta Garbo's, born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, first American movie, “The Torrent” (1926) she plays a gingham clad peasant who goes on to become a glamorous opera star. Wrapped in a gigantic fur Garbo seems like she's about to leap from hibernation.
Director Josef von Sternberg, born Jonas Sternberg, obsessively costumed his leading ladies in feathers, like birds of prey. Evelyn Brent, born Mary Elizabeth Riggs, a sultry leading lady of the 20's and 30's, was the first movie star to get the von Sternberg treatment. This is a still from “Underworld” (1927) where Brent plays a gun moll named Feathers McCoy. Costumes by Travis Banton.
In Marlene Dietrich von Sternberg found and costumed his ultimate muse and tragic obsession. Her costume for “Shanghai Express” (1932) perfects the bird of prey metaphor. Costumes by Travis Banton.
We don't think of Myrna Loy, born Myrna Adele Williams, as a star possessed of animal magnetism. That's because we view her as the well-bred but plucky Nora Charles. But early in her career Loy was typecast as an oriental vamp. In this feathered costume Loy projects as a dangerous seductress.
This is a still from the brilliant screwball comedy “Twentieth Century” (1934) in which Carole Lombard, born Jane Alice Peters , plays a spoiled actress. Her leopard accented costume, and especially the fur muff, underline her sensual narcissism. Costumes by Robert Kalloch, uncredited.
Joan Crawford, born Lucille Fay LeSueur, swathed in a world of furs, like a lioness ready to pounce, gives full expression to woman as animal. Still from “Letty Lynton” (1932). Costumes by Adrian, born Adrian Adolph Greenberg.
Last week, right before Shabbat, Offspring #3, born REDACTED, went shopping, for shoes. These leopard print heels by Aqua will never go out of style.
Karen and I wish all our friends and relatives a lovely and inspirational Shabbat.