This red gown, inspired by 18th century fashion,  has a interesting history to it.  It was first designed by famed costume designer Adrian for the 1938 film Marie Antoinette, starring Norma Shearer.. This particular gown was worn on Ruth Hussey as the Duchess de Polignac. 

The gowns for Marie Antoinette were some of the most lavish to come out of Hollywood at the time.  Adrian created hundreds of gowns, each with heavy embroidery, beading and sequins. Some of the gowns were so elaborate that they weighed over 100 pounds.   

Because of the expense, the gowns from the film were used again whenever possible, making appearances in many films over the next ten to fifteen years.

This particular gown was reused again in 1951. Ava Gardner was photographed by photographer Man Ray while wearing the dress. One of those photos was used in the film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman in order to create the miniature of Ava that is seen in the film (She never wears it in the film itself). Ava seems to have liked the photograph, and appparently had a painting based off of the photo commissioned by artist Antonio Diaz.

The third time the gown was used was on an extra in the background of the famous fight scene in the 1952 film Scaramouche.

The gown is now in the collection of Mary Strauss. To learn more about where the gown is on display, go here. To learn more about the photographs of Man Ray and Ava Gardner, go here. To see the listing for the painting in the Ava Gardner estate, go here.

Costume Credit: Michael

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