German-American singer and actress Marlene Dietrich was frequently known for her interesting clothing and costume choices, and often spent days with a costume designer to get the right look on a film. She shocked audiences when she wore a tuxedo in Morocco in 1930, and her “Illusion Gowns” in A Foreign Affair were so popular that stars such as Marilyn Monroe asked designers to create their own illusion gowns, which would go on to become famous in their own right.
Dietrich was extremely outspoken againt the Nazis during WWII, and like many other Hollywood stars, she went on tour to entertain the troops. She approached designer Irene to create several dresses for her to take on her tours of Britian, France, Germany, Italy and Algeria. Irene would later design costumes at MGM, but many stars used her not only for their onscreen wardrobes, but for their off screen wardrobes as well. These dresses had to be extremely well made, as they had to hold up to a good deal of travel and be worn repeatedly for numerous shows. The Illusion gown in the image above was commissioned by Dietrich for her USO tours. The image of Marlene entertaining troops is from a series of photos by Life Magazine that were shot in February 1945 in Germany. Several years later Dietrich starred in the 1948 film A Foreign Affair, where she played Erika Von Schluetow. Though the costumes for this film as credited as being designed by Edith Head, Dietrich chose to use her former USO wardrobe for use in the film, utilizing at least three of Irene’s former creations.
To read more about Dietrich’s USO tours, or her impact on the popularity of the illusion gown in Hollywood, check out this wonderful article from GlamAmor.