I kind of adore Tracey at Pale Page and am inclined to agree with her about many and various things. But this post is a great and magnificent thing about which she is SPOT. ON. I adore her. I adore Cinders the piglet who appears in this story. I am beside myself with glee reading about this little porcine beauty who clearly knows exactly what she wants in life and is satisfied with herself, indeed.
She is a piggy who loves her shoes. She is MY KIND OF PIG.
She was the original self-made icon. Long before Marilyn altered her voice, washed her face 12 times a day and wore vaseline to catch the light of the camera, Dietrich was crafting an image for herself. She knew exactly how she should be lit and demanded control over lighting and camera angles when being filmed or photographed. She knew the menswear angle worked for her, with her lithe frame, sharp features and deep husky rumble of a voice, and she ordered suits with trousers in every color at a time when no other woman was wearing slacks. In fact, she also sent pantsuits to other women (like Rosemary Clooney, whom she befriended early in the "girl singer's" career), encouraging them to follow suit. She oversaw every detail of her image, both onscreen and off. Couturiers spoke of how she not only made certain every thread was perfectly in place on the exterior of her clothing, but would have an article fit and refit until the seams in the lining were flawless and lay perfecty smooth. If she liked something, she bought it in every possible color and bought multiples so she wouldn't be without it. If she couldn't find something, she had it created. She was crafting an image both beautiful and completely unique unto her.
For whatever reason, that absolute control over her physical appearance and that minute attenton to detail fascinates me. She wasn't the most beautiful woman on screen. She was talented but she wasn't by any means the most talented actress around. And yet, somehow she not only became an enduring icon, but maintained that sultry image well into later life. She knew how to reinvent herself to follow the times. As Wikipedia puts it, "She managed to remain popular by continually re-inventing herself through her long lasting career. During the 1920s she began her work as a cabaret singer, chorus girl and film actress in Berlin. In the 1930s, she became a Hollywood actress, a World War II frontline entertainer, and lastly an international stage show performer from the 1950s to the 1970s. She accomplished the great achievement of managing to become an entertainment icon of the 20th century by the end of her career." For the cabaret routines of her later years, she had bodysuits made of sheer material in order to display her figure to it's best advantage under revealing costumes and present an illusion of ongoing youthfulness in her physique. Even the changes of age and time were things she sought and found new ways to control.
I cannot imagine the effort and energy that went into the image she created, but her life WAS her art. Her hard work and keen eye set an almost unattainably high bar for personal style and made her into a lasting cultural icon.
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