Print-Mixing 101 with Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich collage

“Glamour is assurance. It is a kind of knowing that you are all right in every way, mentally and physically and in appearance, and that, whatever the occasion or the situation, you are equal to it.”
~ Marlene Dietrich


Class is in session. Marlene Dietrich–Head Professor of Glamour–is leading the class with her stunning polka-dot print mixing outfit.

Ms. Dietrich was an internationally acclaimed movie star, known for her magnetism and alluring sexuality. According to her obituary in the New York Times, when she wasn’t dressed in Hollywood gowns that showed off her legs, she wore trousers and masculine styles. She set the trend and led the way for women to wear pants in public. The look she created with menswear gave the illusion of broader shoulders and narrower waist. This style became known as “the Dietrich silhouette.” 

Marlene Dietrich wearing a Chanel suit. Photo linked from the best fashion history website out there, Glamourdaze.com.
Marlene Dietrich wearing a Chanel suit. Photo linked from the best fashion history website out there, Glamourdaze.com.

For today’s class, though, Ms. Dietrich is not here to show off her masculine style. She’s here to demonstrate the art of mixing prints.

Marlene Dietrich polka dot jacket

Her sleek jacket, with the fabric that just seems to glow, is dark with large white polkadots. Her scarf, made of material similar to her jacket, is the opposite — white with small, dark polkadots.

Other key features that make this look So-Very-Thirites are:

  • The length of her jacket, which hugs her hips;
  • The cinching cut at the waist;
  • The wide collar.

Note, too, that she’s wearing separates — not a single dress. This was something that became more common in the 30s. I would argue her outfit is anything but common, though.

This look was so enchanting and inspiring, I decided to give print-mixing a try for myself.

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Oh, how I would love to pull off Ms. Dietrich’s glamour and gorgeousness! But, alas, it was not meant to be.

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The prints I mixed are too similar. They’re okay together, but the scarf gets lost in the print of the jacket. I should have done a darker scarf with a lighter print, or maybe something with a bit more color. More zing and pop are needed here.

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In addition, I feel like the jacket is just too boxy for my frame. Perhaps if it cinched at the waist like Ms. Dietrich’s blazer, it would look better.

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All is not lost, however. I can still dance. And the whole thing looks so much better when doing a jig.
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At least the skirt swishes when I dance and the shoes are fun!
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So, I may have only gotten a C-minus in Ms. Dietrich’s print-mixing class, but I’m going to take another stab at it in the future and see if I can do better next time. This is just a beginning. Stay tuned for more prints, more color, more glamour (?), and definitely more dancing!

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Shop This Look:

Blazer: My blazer is more than 10 years old. It’s Zenobia of Canada, a label that sadly went out of business years ago. It can sometimes be found on eBay. Below is a jacket from Talbots that is a mix between my jacket and the one Marlene Dietrich wore in her photo.

Black and white polkadot jacket from Talbots.
Similar from Talbots.

Skirt: My skirt is also Zenobia of Canada. A similar skirt can be bought at Talbots or Nordstrom.

Black flounce skirt at Talbots.
Similar at Talbots.
Black Ellen Tracy skirt at Nordstrom
Similar at Nordstrom.

Scarf: The scarf, from what I can tell, is one of a kind. I bought it on Etsy from Olimpias. Here’s a similar scarf from Etsy to the one Marlene Dietrich is wearing:

Similar white scarf with black polkadots.

Shoes: I bought these on Amazon. I saw them and fell completely in love with them. They’re French Sole FS/NY Women’s Ora Dress Pump.

Brooch: The brooch, if you can see it in the photos, was given to me by my dad after my grandmother passed away. Here’s a similar one from Talbots:

Brooch from Talbots.
Similar from Talbots.

Playlist:

Coming soon!


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  • It may not be the end product of what you were going for, but I really don’t think all is lost!
    I think this print mixing, is one that is a little more subtle and possibly if you were wearing more of a taupe skirt—then it might pull it all together (I realize you went with black for the copy of Marlene’s—but just sayin’)
    And the dancing moves really made me smile girl!! Because having fun and not taking yourself too seriously is really what life is all about, right?
    How fun that the skirt is asymmetrical and the jacket is a great print. Have you ever tried a belt over the jacket (like a bright red one?)
    XOXO
    jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • Thank you, Jodie! I think a belt over the jacket would have been just the thing to bring it all together! And if I had gone with a different color skirt, it might have worked better as well. But I do love the swish of that asymmetrical skirt! 😃 And I’ve decided, if I have to be serious all the time to be glamorous, I’ll never pull it off! Life is too fun for that!

      Hugs,
      Sherry

  • I’ve long been a Dietrich groupie. She is, to me, the epitome of a sexy, empowered woman, and the perfect example of how one can remain feminine and sensual in a pantsuit. I did not, however, know what a master she was in pattern playing 🙂 I quite adore your rendition as well, Sherry, little jig et al 🙂

    • I totally agree with you, Sheela — Marlene Dietrich was bold and sexy and all woman. I would love to embrace that part of myself as much as she did. Maybe that’s what this blogging thing is all about anyway–learning how to own our personal style and rocking the world because we’re tuned into our best selves.

      – Sherry

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