Fashion Flashback: Adrian

Collages473Fashion Reverie looks back at the Hollywood’s famed fashion designer and costumer Adrian. Among the many fashion designers that costumed some of Hollywood’s leading ladies of the 1930s and 1940s, Adrian Adolf Greenberg, professionally known as Adrian, was, perhaps, the most esteemed. He was best known for his costumes designs in such classic films as the Wizard of Oz, Letty Leyton, The Women, Anna Karenina, Marie Antoinette, Grand Hotel, Pride and Prejudice, The Philadelphia Story, and Woman of the Year.

Adrian's costume designs from "The Women" and "Letty

Adrian’s costume designs from “The Women” and “Letty Leyton”

After studying fashion design at the New York School of Design and Fine Art (now known as Parsons School of Design), Adrian got his first design job for Irving Berlin’s The Music Box Revue. Later, Adrian design costumes for George White’s Scandals on Broadway.

One of his first assignments in Hollywood was designing costumes in 1924 for Natacha Rambova’s, Rudolf Valentino’s wife, film A Sainted Devil. In 1928, Adrian was hired to design costumes for MGM. And according to Margaret Bailey in Those Glorious Glamour Years “… Adrian was not afraid to test surprising new styles or have a bit of fun with a design. He maintained it would either be fashionable by the time the movie was reviewed or be so unusual that it was exempt from fashion.”

Collages471Many of the costumes designs by Adrian were repurposed and adapted for retail and sold in New York City department stores. As detailed in, Adrian’s work for Greta Garbo starting with A Woman of Affairs was noticed by Seventh Ave., and featured in Women’s Wear Daily. Garbo’s slouch hat and trench coat were sold cross country, as well as her little pill box hats from As You Desire Me and her “Eugenie” hat from Romance. His work for Joan Crawford was copied extensively as well, especially her organdy dress from Letty Lynton. His costume sketches were often published in Vogue. Adrian left MGM in 1942, and returned only once, 10 years later for Lovely to Look At in 1952.

Images courtesy of

Images courtesy of

In 1942, Adrian opened his own boutique, Adrian, Ltd in Beverly Hills with his designs appearing in Bonwit Teller, Garfinckle’s, Marshall Fields, and Stanley Marcus. “During the decade of Adrian Ltd., particularly during the war years, he was one of the American designers capable of making an individual statement. His influence was felt in every showroom and store in the country; his trim jackets and slinky crepe dresses were reproduced in every price bracket. To judge by his imitators, he was the most influential designer in their copybooks. For them he took the place of Paris”, posits Robert Riles in American Fashion.

A serious heart attack forced the prolific designer to retire to Brazil and after a brief return to design costumes for Broadway, Adrian died of a massive heart attack in 1959.






  1. Uh, good post I guess. Not sure I agree with you 100% but I guess without different views the world would be a pretty boring place ;\
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