Domestic embroidery is a rarity in modern American fashion.
High costs and the small number of skilled workers available in
the United States have forced most American designers to
outsource their embroidery work overseas. Yet embroidered and
beaded gowns of exceptional quality were designed by Hollywood
costumiers, such as Gilbert Adrian of MGM, who liberally
incorporated surface ornamentation.
Adrian’s red gown and cape made for Joan Crawford in The Bride Wore Red (1937)
are marvels of workmanship executed by hand, entirely in the MGM studio workrooms in
Los Angeles. Later designers no doubt felt Hollywood’s influence. Norman Norell made his
celebrated glittering gowns, known as Mermaids, out of knitted silk jersey covered with a
dazzling pavé of hand-applied sequins. They were modern and luxurious fashions, readily
accessible at the retail level.