About a week ago, Nicole of Young Love contacted me about taking part in a project about inspiring women and fashion – and of course, I said yes! This is my contribution to the project. There are seven other bloggers participating, so be sure to head over to Nicole’s blog and give them some love and attention. They all highly deserve it.
The first time I ever heard of Marlene Dietrich was a few years ago, when I read a famous quote of hers that someone had posted on the Internet: “I dress for myself. Not for the image, not for the public, not for the fashion, not for men.” Immediately, I knew I had to learn more about her, because that is such a powerful statement about the way that women should view fashion. It shouldn’t be about what’s trendy or about what men want to see you wearing. It’s about you, about what makes you happy.
For those of you who don’t know, Marlene Dietrich was a German actress and singer. In 1920s Berlin, she began her career by acting on stage and in silent films. Her big break came in the form of a role as a cabaret singer named Lola-Lola in a film called The Blue Angel. After the film achieved international success, Marlene moved to the US to work in Hollywood. During the 1930s, Marlene was approached by members of the Nazi Party, asking her to come back to Germany, but she refused and became a US citizen instead. When World War II broke out, Marlene was one of the first celebrities to raise war bonds by touring the US. She is said to have sold more war bonds than any other star. She also traveled abroad to perform for Allied troops in Italy, England, France, Algeria, and even over enemy lines in Germany! In recognition of her wartime work, she was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the US and the Legion d’honneur by the French government.
Even as she grew older and her career as a performer came to an end, Marlene still kept busy. She participated in the creation of a documentary about herself and continued to give interviews and record introductions to songs. She was also politically active, regularly chatting with world leaders on the phone and giving her opinions about different political issues! As a girl with a strong interest in politics, this is one of the things that I admire most about her.
Another thing about Marlene that I derive inspiration from is the way she played with gender through her clothing. Marlene looked stunning in both very femme and very masculine attire. Often, she would begin her stage shows in a sexy dress and change to a top hat and tails by the end of the show! Marlene was continually reinventing herself and never limited herself to one type of fashion – but she always looked perfectly glamorous and comfortable in her own skin.
If you’ve read my post about what I like to call tomqueen style, you’ll know that I love and am inspired by seeing women dress in ways that embrace both their feminine and masculine sides. Marlene was a talented, glamorous, and strongly opinionated woman who did just that! She is the perfect example of what my invented word tomqueen means to me, and I look up to her not only for her style choices, but for the influential and strong human being that she was.
To wrap up this post, I pulled a few items from my closet and put together a Marlene-Dietrich-inspired ensemble. This was so much fun to do because I got a chance to dip into my stash of very formal menswear that I don’t get to put on just every day. Here I am wearing a top hat (Ebay, customized by me with a ribbon), a MINA by Chaplin tuxedo shirt, a Talbots Collection Petites suit, and glitter Oxford shoes by Charles Albert. These photographs were taken by my lovely muse, Edie.
Thank you again to Nicole of Young Love for inviting me to participate in this wonderful project.