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Chicago exhibit reveals when Hollywood became world’s fashion mecca

Chicago, Apr 8 (EFE).- An exhibition at the Chicago History Museum will show the influence films had on fashion in the United States during the Great Depression and World War II, with a variety of dresses created by designers who turned Hollywood into the new Paris.

“Silver Screen to Mainstream: American Fashion in the 1930s and ’40s,” which opens to the public on Monday, shows the fashion trends that went from the big screen to everyday use.

“It’s about the influence of Hollywood on fashion. That’s the key issue here,” guest curator Virginia Heaven told EFE. “So there are some things at the end of show, of the exhibition, that are designed by Hollywood costume designers, but for mainstream.”

Most of the dresses were made by American designers such as Paul Dupont, Martha Weathered and Howard Greer, all from Chicago, which was home to many major catalog retailers such as Sears and Montgomery Ward.

“When they wanted their new attire, they whipped off to Paris, and got themselves couture garments,” said Heaven.

During those years, the best dresses in the world were created in Paris, the birthplace of haute couture, according to Heaven, a professor of fashion design at Columbia College in Chicago.

Those garments were exported to the United States to be sold at exclusive boutiques in large department stores.

But when the Nazis invaded the French capital in 1940, the haute couture industry shut down and many designers emigrated, and some Americans who had gained experience in European workshops moved to Hollywood to pursue their trade.

At the time, the film industry had a weekly market of more than 80 million viewers in the US, and Hollywood made women dream of dressing like the stars or wearing something that could give them “a touch of glamor.”

Among the 30 dresses chosen for the exhibition, which will run until Jan. 21, 2020, is one that was created by Spanish-born Ana de Pombo (1900-1985), a famous fashion designer, writer and dancer, not to mention the private secretary of Coco Chanel.

Her prestige in haute couture gave her an entree into the movie industry and she designed the costumes for many films and made dresses for Mexican actress Dolores del Rio (1904-1983), the first Latin American female star to triumph in Hollywood.

Another dress that stands out is one by Mexican designer Omar Kiam (1894-1954), born in Monterrey to parents from Texas, who designed for more than 30 films, including the first version in 1937 of “A Star is Born.”

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