Jean Harlow’s Black Thoughts, 1935
Jean Harlow, tragic blonde bombshell, died only 2 years after this article was printed. In 1937, kidney failure took her at the ridiculously young age of 26. “Jean” was actually her mother’s name, she was born with the very original name of “Harlean”.
This woman knew a strong look when she saw one, and here she is discussing something close to my heart, the joy of wearing black, which looked exceptionally striking against her platinum blonde hair. The intricately-described outfits sound like the most dizzyingly perfect of 1930s creations. This is from The Gloucester Citizen, which also published Katharine Hepburn’s Beauty Tips.
“Newer and more original colours may come and go, as fashion predicts, but black, in so far as I am concerned, is always first favourite. There was a time, of course, when blonde-haired girls carefully avoided black for summer and springtime wear. But clever draperies, cool accessories, and diaphanous materials have succeeded in making black look as cool, if not cooler, than its pastel and white competitors.
In fact, cooler – because nothing looks more ungainly to the eye on a hot day or evening than a rumpled, soiled gown that started to a social function or on a shopping jaunt, as fresh as a flower, and will inevitably return “dashed” looking, and with its owner in a “dashed” temper because she knows she is not looking her best.
Here are descriptions of three of my favourite additions to a Springtime wardrobe. The first is that enviable possession – an evening gown. Of sleek, heavyweight crepe de chine, the long, slim skirt flares out at the hem, which is only half an inch from the ground, and ends in a tiny train. The “top” or jacket, which is waist-length and is attached to a stitched belt of its own material, is covered with gleaming paillettes, which look like jet “bugles”, but are actually manufactured from cellophane and are much more durable than bead trimming.
Sleeves are elbow-length and again trimmed with the paillettes. A long, turn-back collar has a daringly low V-shaped décolletage. This creation can be worn with an evening hat, a toque of dull crepe with a design of the paillettes sewn on at one side and decorated with tiny wisps of paradise.
Then for the “little occasion”, there is long, sleek gown on crepe romaine or heavy georgette, over a white satin slip. A bloused effect, rather high-waisted, and with plenty of fullness, has tiny pleats each side. The sleeves are composed of sets of minute pleats drawn into a tight cuff at the elbow, finished with a turn-back fold of white silk pique. A high-cowl collar, with a fold of the white silk pique next to the face (for a youthful look), dwindles away into nothing at the back but a set of crossed-over “braces” of the silk pique. The skirt is long and narrow and affects no fullness until it gets to below the knees, when it frivolously flares out round the feet.
For afternoon wear or a game of bridge comes a gown as austere as a man’s. Fashioned from very fine wool crepe de chine, the whole garment is simply a series of cartridge pleats. A long finely pleated gown from shoulder to bottom hem line, drawn in at the neck line with a silver cord, and at the waist line by a beaten silver belt of Russian design. Voluminous sleeves, cut high on the shoulder line and drawn in at the wrists with tiny silver cords. No jewellery or embellishments but one thin strand of seed pearls around the neck.
Three black thoughts, but elegant ones, I can assure you.”