I rarely buy books on a whim, but was killing time at a thrift store a few weeks ago and picked up Diana McLellan's nonfiction title The Girls: Sappho Goes To Hollywood, having been immediately intrigued by the first couple of pages. Focussing on Greta Garbo, Alla Nazimova, Tallulah Bankhead and Marlene Dietrich, it explores "lesbian chic" throughout the first half of the 20th century, Sappho being a 7th century BC poet from the Greek island of Lesbos whose poems expressed her love and affection for women. (I've added quotation marks around "lesbian chic" because no, I did not coin the term - it's actually used in the book and yields a fair amount of relevant results via Google, which I found a bit odd.)
Reading The Girls inspired me to choose Marlene Dietrich as this week's Style Icon. Although the German-born actress began her career in Berlin in the 1920s, both on stage and in silent films, Hollywood didn't take notice until she starred in director Josef von Sternberg's 1930 tragicomedy The Blue Angel. After the release of the film, and with Sternberg's encouragement, Dietrich signed a contract with Paramount Pictures and moved to the United States. Interestingly enough, the studio intended to market her as the German version of Swedish actress Greta Garbo, an MGM sensation at the time. Why so interesting, you ask? Well, although the two actresses adamantly claimed to have never met, The Girls details a hidden affair in Germany, also revealing the Hollywood lovers they shared throughout the 1930s and '40s. It's a fascinating read so far, to say the least.
Not only was Dietrich one of the greatest female film stars of all time (as named by the American Film Institute), she also had impeccable style (as named by me). The fashion industry has emulated her approach time and time again, and her domination of both masculine and feminine styles remains unmatched to this day.
Digging our Style Icon series? It's a Thursday habit we can't seem to break, so be sure to check back next week! We also love suggestions, so if there's a particular gal you'd like to see featured, let us know by commenting below.