5 Mar 2010

Screen Icons: Greta Garbo

One of the most enigmatic figures to ever take Hollywood and fashion by storm is the intriguing Greta Garbo, a powerful woman who caused a sensation in tinseltown for just two decades before escaping the glitz and bitching for a life of relative reclusivity in New York before declaring "I want to be (left) alone."

Garbo may have left
Hollywood in body, but never in spirit, as the effect of her sensuality, independence and that knowing look in her eye was enormous. It’s in no doubt that Garbo was an absolute stunner, but what set her apart from other dames was the allure of her desire to preserve her privacy which, of course, only served to peak interest in her even more. Greta Garbo is a particularly relevant screen icon to discuss at the moment as an exhibition dedicated to her style and enviable relationship with footwear genius Salvatore Ferragamo has recently opened in Milan, just in time for fashion week don't cha know!?

The style of Garbo is akin to Katherine Hepburn in that she favoured what was a masculine style of dress for the time, however, Greta's look was somewhat softer, which may be due to her come-to-bed eyes or the fact that movie-goers knew that she had a killer set of pins seen in films such as The Temptress, The Single Standard or Flesh and the Devil under those practical slacks! It was the trench coat and beret that really characterised the Garbo look though in the 1930s, both elegant items that hint at sexuality and attract attention whilstallowing the wearer to sultrily hide away from the world.

Garbo was blessed with some truly amazing costumes in films including Ninotchka, Mata Hari, Grand Hotel, Anna Karenina, Queen Christina, The Painted Veil and Camille, all of which saw the so called Swedish Sphinx play aloof, intense yet devastatingly attractive heroines, qualities reflected in her attire. Much like her own trademark beret, hats and even a turban were often used to frame Garbo's famous face, whilst costume designers seem to have loved dressing her in slinky fabrics such as silk and higher necklines to hint at seduction.

Some of Garbo's most dramatic costumes were on show in Mata Hari, with heavily bejwelled caps and glamorous gowns sitting alongside mere whisps of chiffon that left little to the imagination of a young man in 1931! The films Camille and Romance also proved that Garbo was more than just an adept clothes horse, the cool screen goddess wearing elaborate outfits with ease and grace, imbuing them with her own special blend of attraction and assertiveness.

Though her on screen wardobe may have been full of camera ready clothing Garbo sought out understated and classic items for everyday wear, and she found a loyal and apt collaborator in Salvatore Ferragamo . The skilled designer created his first pair of custom made shoes for Garbo in 1927 and it was a relationship that lasted throughout her life, with a succession of low heeled, closed toe designs typical of her personal taste.

A screen icon or even goddess should leave a legacy, something to be remembered by.

All that was left by Garbo, very deliberately since at the height of her fame she never signed autographs, gave interviews or answered fan mail, was a mystique carefully crafted by her intriguing face, talent and timeless style, which really is all we need.

Apollonia Gish

All photos of the legendary Garbo are from garboforever.com

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