Hollywood costumes and couture have beguiled us for over a century. Larger then life, looking up to the silver screen, beauty and glamour. Though largely in black and white, fabulous gowns jumped off the screen into the imagination. One important figure helped imprint our memories, of dressing some of the most stunning and imposing actresses. Howard Greer.
Born in Nebraska, USA in 1880. Enamoured with fashion at a young age, he graduated in 1916 from the University of Nebraska.
Greer’s path to Hollywood splendour began working in the shop Lucile in 1916 before being sent to France for WWI. Most enlisted men could not wait to flee the horrors of war and return home. Greer elected to stay and thrived among the fashion houses of Paris. Working still with Lucile but he also frequented Paul Poiret, Molyneux and theatrical costumes. Finally finishing his tenure in 1921. Once back in US, Greer landed a chief designer job at Famous Players Lasky Studio. After much take overs and merging became Paramount Studios.
With Hollywood clients; included Ingrid Bergman, Theda Bara, Pola Negri, Jane Russell and Katherine Hepburn needed Greer’s expertise for not only professional but private use. He also provided a full wardrobe for Greta Garbo, in edition to wedding dresses for Gloria Vanderbilt and Shirley Temple. ‘One of Greer’s greatest assets was his ability to understand the vibrant personalities of Paramounts ladies and translate them into clothes’.
In 1927, following the end of his contract. Greer decided to step out of the constraint of the studio. Greer Inc was founded 1928, becoming the first major costume designer to have his own couture house. In addition to dressing Hollywood actresses; socialites could now dress like their favourite Stars even if they were without talent. To ensure exclusivity, only selected shops around America. 1951 saw Greer publish his autobiography ‘Designing Male’. Greer bowed out professionally in 1962. Greer died on 7th April 1974.
Since Greer Inc has ceased to trade the only recent outings of his coveted couture have been by vintage aficionado Dita Von Teese. Like Juel Park, maybe Greer Inc will be restored by someone who appreciated what he gave the world.