Queen Norma

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If one reads about the life of Norma Shearer who was born in 1902 we find a lot of contradictory information.

As it seems she won a beauty contest at the age of 14 but was later criticized for her appearance. Apart from short legs and big hips she was cross-eyed. She spent a fortune on the services of eye-doctors to strengthen her week eye.

Still, Norma made it to the top and was the Queen of MGM, the one and only leading lady of the studio’s most important films; a superstar. She was known for her ambition and for her perfectionism.

From Silence to Speech

And her discipline paid off. Unlike many other stars of the silent movie era her career went even better once movies started speaking. Her best known movie is “The Women” from 1939.

Since I watched it I can tell that there is a lot of talk and gossip.

 

A Short Biography

The Pickfords

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Mary Pickford was born in Toronto in 1892. Her father died when she was still a child and Mary found herself the bread-earner of the family. By the name of Baby Gladys she started touring with a Vaudeville show and by the age of 20 she already had played around 140 roles in different short films.

A Talented Family

Although Mary was the most famous sibling the talent for acting and filming run in the family. Her brother Jack directed movies and was an actor while her sister Lottie was a success on the stage and in movies.

The Studio

Mary was one of the very early movie stars. You know the kind that people wanted to see in any movie. Soon she became a top-earner and in 1916 she started working as a film director.

Very similar to Charles Chaplin she maintained control of every detail of her movie productions and only worked with the top-people in their field.

In 1919 Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, D.W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks founded their own film studio: The famous “United Artists” that still exists and is a subsidiary company of MGM.

From Rags To Riches

I choose Mary Pickford as one representative of the beginning of Hollywood but I know I could have taken any of the other three. Given the glory of Charles Chaplin I think you know already more about him than I do.

One more thing: All these people came from very difficult circumstances and made it to the top. I am aware that poverty is a good start for building a legend; but at least Charles Chaplin’s hard childhood with all its deprivations is well documented. However, to me these people are great role models whenever I am about to give up on my goals.

And even people like Mary Pickford seem to have their doubts about themselves. She wanted all her movies to be destroyed after her death because she feared that nobody would care about them anymore. Thank God she was talked out of this and her films still exist. Check Youtube, if you like.

Mary’s Oscar Winning Performance in 1929

For “Joy” & For Sports

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Jean Patou was a very strong competitor to Coco Chanel. Just like her he was very unique and so was the fashion he designed.

Competition

The robes he designed for the elegant lady were longer than Chanel’s but as well very much in demand. Monsieur Patou also used his initials as a decorative element for his creations. If you look at the picture or watch the video you will understand why.

Sports

Besides his most elegant dresses Jean Patou designed sport clothes. And they were not conservative at all. Au contraire; his creations were designed for women like Suzanne Lenglen who was known to be extravagant – a so called flapper. Her tennis outfit consisted of a short, sleeveless dress, white stockings, NO underskirt and shoes. Surprisingly enough, she was still allowed to play.

Joy

His most famous perfume “Joy” that appeared in 1930 was a huge success; despite the recent stock market chrash and its exorbitant prize everybody wanted it. The good news is, that it is still available. If you are looking for me I’ll be in the perfume shop to finally try it.

Suzanne, La Divine

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Suzanne Lenglen born in France in 1899 was one of the earliest – if not the first at all – sports stars. In her time she was referred to as “la divine” (the divine). In the 1920ies she was the most popular tennis athlete and to the present day she belongs to the most successful players of all times. Actually, her father animated her to play sports in order to strengthen her fragile health. Obviously, the cure was quite successful.

When reading about her we find out more about the person she was than about her sportive career.

A Flapper

Her outfit and behaviour made Suzanne a so called “flapper”. Flappers used to wear short dresses without sleeves, put on make-up, smoked and drunk alcohol in public. For most people this was a scandal.

Even to the tennis court she appeared in full elegance; very often in an open fur coat. Moreover, she was an inspiration to the famous fashion designer Jean Patou who designed “scandalous” tennis outfits for Suzanne.

Suzanne fulfilled all the prerequisites to become a legend. She was an extraordinary person who led a loud life and died young.

More About Suzanne

Paul Poiret

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Paul Poiret was born the son of a poor cloth merchant and his wife in Paris in 1879. His parents decided to “purify” him from his pride and condemned him to study the business of an umbrella maker; much against their son’s will who should later design very original fashion despite of it.

The End Of The Corset

Maybe it was the umbrella business that made Poiret dislike stays or he just liked women the way they are naturally built.

However, he was the designer who freed us from corsets by designing kimono-like robes made of colourful fabric with oriental patterns. These robes reached to the ladies toes.

Coco Chanel who popularized the “corset-free” dresses even further did not like Poiret’s models since she preferred simpler cuts,  discrete colours and patterns.

Nowadays there is no big label by the name by Paul Poiret. But not only he was a superstar in his time his importance to the fashion of the 20st century was a great as Picasso’s to the painting.

A Short Impression

Coco Chanel

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“To be irreplaceable, One Must Always Be Different”.

Although she was not the one who freed women from corsets she created some really immortal items which are far more than just fashion. They represent a life style.

But as most of these icons she worked hard for her success. Starting off as an ordinary tailor she created her own style which she stood by even when success failed her at the beginning. Insisting to be different might have its cost but it definitely does have its value.

The New Style

In the beginning Coco Chanel only created hats and accessories. Later she should manufacture clothes for ladies. Her skirts and dresses were about knee-long and would be worn with blazers. The reason was that during World War I women took over jobs since most men were in the field. And for the modern working woman a long dress with a corset was no longer suitable. Coco’s aim was to dress these women elegantly and affordably at the same time.

Chanel No. 5

The perfume Chanel No. 5 was apparently the first scent labeled with the name of its creator. And as we all know by now: it was the only thing Marilyn Monroe wore in her bed.

The Thing We All Need

Honestly, what would our wardrobe be without a simple “little black dress”? It was originally designed as an affordable, simple item which due to its colour and cut was easy to combine. Well, I am off buying a new one since one never knows what tomorrow brings.

Her Life and Time

Please watch the embedded video to learn more about Coco.