Jean Louis (born Jean Louis Berthault: October 5, 1907 in Paris, France – April 20, 1997 in Palm Springs, California, USA) was a French-born, Hollywood costume designer and an Academy Award winner for Costume Design. Before coming to Hollywood he worked in New York for fashion entrepreneur Hattie Carnegie, where the clientele included Joan Cohn, the wife of Columbia Pictures studio chief Harry Cohn. Louis worked as head designer for Columbia Pictures from 1944 to 1960. His most famous works include Rita Hayworth’s black satin strapless dress from Gilda (1946), Marlene Dietrich’s celebrated beaded souffle stagewear for her cabaret world tours, as well as the sheer, sparkling gown Marilyn Monroe wore when she sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to John F. Kennedy in 1962. The dress was so tight that he actually had to sew it while she was wearing it. The idea of dresses being a nude color with crystals coating it, stunned audiences. It gave people the illusion that the wearer was nude, except for discretely placed rhinestones covering them head to toe. Louis had originally designed a version of the dress for Marlene Dietrich, who wore it in her concert shows, and an impressed Monroe asked Dietrich about it who told her how the dress’s illusion worked, and sent her to Louis’s to design a similar dress for her Kennedy appearance. While Dietrich had been seen wearing her version before Monroe, the press coverage surrounding Monroe’s appearance at Madison Square Garden in her style of gown swept the globe. In 1993, four years after the death of his second wife, Louis married former client Loretta Young; they remained married until his death in 1997. He had designed Young’s wardrobe for her TV program The Loretta Young Show (1953–61), an anthology show noted for Young’s show-opening and closing scenes that had viewers tuning in especially to view her high-fashion outfit for that week. Young was known as the best-dressed actress in America at that time.
Louis designed the beautiful dresses for Loretta Young in her television show, “The Loretta Young Show”. He later married Miss Young and her major fan base would tune into the show just to see the new extravagant dresses she would show off at the entrance of every show. He switched from designing for private clients to becoming head designer for Columbia Pictures and then later Universal studios. For over forty years, Louis designed clothes for almost every star in Hollywood. Around sixty of his designs appeared in movies, and he was eventually nominated for 13 Academy Awards. Some of his clients included Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Vivien Leigh, Joan Crawford, Julie Andrews, Katharine Hepburn, and Judy Garland. Some of his film credits included, “A Star is Born”, “Ship of Fools”, “From Here to Eternity”, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, and he won an Oscar for his designs in “The Solid Gold Cadillac” in 1956. In 1937, a year after Louis moved to the United States, he designed a suit that became an icon in the fashion world. The Carnegie suit was one of the first fashions to become very well-liked as an American name design. The fitted blazer and long pencil skirt was worn by several actresses and society women at the time. The Duchess of Windsor became one of his most reputable clients as well as the First Lady Nancy Reagan in the 1980s. He was known for his simple but elegant designs that had few irrelevant details. He liked to design dresses that were very form fitting, sleek, and with beading designs to make the simple cut of the dresses stand out.
- October, 05, 1907
- Paris, France
- April, 20, 1997
- Palm Springs, California