“My Sweethearts, I am sending you flowers from Italy… on a big full skirt there could be as many as a hundred glowing flowers. All my love and kisses to everyone, Marlene.”
The legendary femme fatale Marlene Dietrich wasn’t just a silver screen and style icon—she was a consummate live performer with the inventive mind of an avant-garde costumier. Her recently resurfaced 1958 letters to costume designer Jean Louis are a fascinating insight into her perfectionist nature. They also reveal her surprisingly future-forward ideas for wearable technology, carefully detailing a gown garlanded with glowing electric flowers controlled by her. She explains, revealing a remarkably good understanding of circuitry:
“If you are worried about the technical side, let me just say that I make the contact with my foot (on wire running to a small plate on the sole). The contact plate, which is fed electricity by the main line, is on the floor of the stage. This way, I can light up and take the light off at will. This will puzzle the people, which is good. They will not know if they imagine the light or if they are there.”
On the 25th anniversary of her death, interactive digital and LED technologies have advanced sufficiently to catch up with her extraordinary ideas. (They are probably a little safer, too!) Enter “The Marlene Project,” ElektroCouture’s spectacular re-imagining of Dietrich’s last dress, designed by Anja Dragan.
Based in Berlin, where the screen legend was born and where she launched her own career, groundbreaking bespoke and ready-to-wear, fashion-tech brand ElektroCouture was inspired to realize its fellow pioneering Berliner’s vision. Together with Swarovski, they teamed up with smart textiles and e-broidery® specialist, Forster Rohner Textile Innovations, to create a one-off anniversary tribute inspired by Marlene Dietrich’s letters.
The result is exceptionally beautiful and utterly mesmerizing: a sheer, flowing column of nude tulle adorned with 3D-printed flower embroidery. Its nakedness is highlighted with specially made LED crystals that interact with their environment and send out sparkling shards of light.
The magic was captured in the French-German broadcaster ARTE’s documentary “Das Letzte Kleid der Marlene Dietrich” (“The Last Dress of Marlene Dietrich”), which aired on May 7. Fortunately, you’ll have the chance to appreciate the gown in person, because it will be exhibited around the world from August. What’s more, ElektroCouture is also launching a light-filled capsule collection so that we can all get the Dietrich look. Don’t miss it at Berlin Fashion Week in July.
Some parting words from the doyenne fan of crystals: “We have to find a way to have the dress glow.” Sixty years later, they finally have!