Irene (costume designer)

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Irene Lentz
A Tailor-Made Man (1922) - 2.jpg
Irene Lentz, Edythe Chapman, and Charles Ray in A Tailor-Made Man (1922)
Born(1901-12-08)December 8, 1901
DiedNovember 15, 1962(1962-11-15) (aged 60)
Cause of deathSuicide
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Other namesIrene Gibbons
OccupationCostume designer
Known forDesigning costumes for motion picture actors
Irene Inc.
Spouse(s)F. Richard Jones, Elliot Gibbons

Irene Maud Lentz (December 8, 1901 – November 15, 1962) [1] also known mononymously and professionally as Irene, was an American fashion designer and costume designer. Her work as a clothing designer in Los Angeles led to her career as a costume designer for films in the 1930s. Lentz also worked under the name Irene Gibbons.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born in Baker, Montana, to Emil Lents and Maud Walters, Lentz started out as an actress under her birth name, appearing in secondary roles in silent films beginning with Mack Sennett in 1921. She played ingenue parts opposite Sennett's leading comedians, Ben Turpin and Billy Bevan. Lentz was directed in her first film by Sennett's production chief, F. Richard Jones; their professional relationship matured into a personal one. They had been married for less than a year when Jones succumbed to tuberculosis in 1930.

Design career[edit]

Lentz had been taught sewing as a child and with a flair for style, she decided to open a small dress shop. The success of her designs in her tiny store eventually led to an offer from the Bullocks Wilshire luxury department store to design for their Ladies Custom Salon which catered to a wealthy clientele including a number of Hollywood stars.

Lentz's designs at Bullocks gained her much attention in the film community and she was contracted by independent production companies to design the wardrobe for some of their productions. Billing herself simply as "Irene," her first work came in 1933 on the film Goldie Gets Along featuring her designs for star Lily Damita. However, her big break came when she was hired to create the gowns for Ginger Rogers for her 1937 film Shall We Dance with Fred Astaire. This was followed by more designs in another Ginger Rogers film as well as work for other independents such as Walter Wanger Productions, Hal Roach Studios as well as majors such as RKO, Paramount Pictures and Columbia Pictures. During the 1930s, Irene Lentz designed the film wardrobe for leading ladies such as Constance Bennett, Hedy Lamarr, Joan Bennett, Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard, Ingrid Bergman, and Loretta Young among others. She "is generally regarded as the originator of the dressmaker suit" [1] that was popular in the late 1930s.

Through her work, Lentz met and married short story author and screenwriter Eliot Gibbons, brother of multi-Academy Award winning Cedric Gibbons, head of art direction at MGM Studios. Despite her success, working under the powerful set designer Cedric while being married to his brother Eliot was not easy.[citation needed] Irene confided to her close friend Doris Day that the marriage to Eliot was not a happy one.[a] Generally regarded as the most important and influential production designer in the history of American films, Cedric Gibbons hired Lentz when gown designer Adrian left MGM in 1941 to open his own fashion house. By 1943 she was a leading costume supervisor at MGM, earning international recognition for her "soufflé creations" and is remembered for her avant-garde wardrobe for Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).

In 1950, Lentz left MGM to open her own fashion house. After Lentz was out of the film industry for nearly ten years, Doris Day requested her services for the production Midnight Lace (Universal, 1960). The following year she did the costume design for another Day film, Lover Come Back (1961), and during 1962 worked on her last production, A Gathering of Eagles (released in 1963).

In 1962, after Doris Day noticed that Lentz seemed upset and nervous, Lentz confided in her that she was in love with actor Gary Cooper and that he was the only man that she had ever loved.[3][b][page needed] Cooper had died in 1961.

Awards and nominations[edit]


On November 15, 1962, three weeks short of her sixty-first birthday, Lentz took room 1129 at the Knickerbocker Hotel, checking in under an assumed name. She jumped to her death from her bathroom window.

She had left suicide notes for friends and family, for her ailing husband, and for the hotel residents, apologizing for any inconvenience her death might cause. Per her wishes, she is interred next to her first husband, director F. Richard Jones, at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.[5]


In 2005, Irene Lentz was inducted into the Costume Designers Guild's Anne Cole Hall of Fame.[4]

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Notes
1933 Goldie Gets Along Costume designer, uncredited
1933 Flying Down to Rio Costume designer, uncredited
1937 Shall We Dance Gowns for Ginger Rogers
1937 Vogues of 1938 Gowns for Joan Bennett
1938 You Can't Take It With You Gowns for Jean Arthur
1938 Topper Takes a Trip Gowns for Constance Bennett
1938 Vivacious Lady Gowns for Ginger Rogers
1939 In Name Only Gowns for Carole Lombard
1939 Intermezzo: A Love Story Costume designer for Ingrid Bergman
1939 Midnight Gowns for Claudette Colbert
1940 Green Hell Gowns for Joan Bennett
1940 Seven Sinners Gowns for Marlene Dietrich
1941 That Uncertain Feelings Gowns for Merle Oberon
1941 Mr. & Mrs. Smith Gowns for Carole Lombard
1941 To Be or Not to Be Gowns for Carole Lombard
1942 Take a Letter, Darling Gowns for Rosalind Russell
1942 You Were Never Lovelier Gowns for Rita Hayworth
1943 No Time for Love Gowns for Claudette Colbert
1943 Girl Crazy Costume supervisor
1944 Gaslight Costume designer
1944 Meet Me in St. Louis Costume supervisor
1944 Bathing Beauty Costume supervisor
1945 The Picture of Dorian Gray Costume supervisor
1945 Week-End at the Waldorf Costume supervisor
1946 The Harvey Girls Costume supervisor
1946 Ziegfeld Follies Costume designer/supervisor, uncredited
1947 Lady in the Lake Costume supervisor
1947 Cass Timberlane Costume designer
1948 Easter Parade Costume designer (women)
1948 The Pirate Costume supervisor
1949 The Barkleys of Broadway Costume designer
1949 Neptune's Daughter Costume designer
1950 Shadow on the Wall Costume designer
1960 Midnight Lace Gowns for Doris Day
1961 Lover Come Back Gown for Doris Day
1963 A Gathering of Eagles Costume designer


  1. ^ a b "Irene", in Suicide in the Entertainment Industry: An Encyclopedia of 840 Twentieth Century Cases, by David K. Frasier (McFarland, 2005) p156-157
  2. ^ Hall, Mary (March 23, 2009). "Angelina Jolie's Costumes in The Tourist Pay Homage to MGM Fashion Designer Irene Lentz". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
  3. ^ Day, Doris; Hotchner, A.E. (Oct 1976) [1975]. Doris Day: Her Own Story (Bantam mass market paperback)|format= requires |url= (help) (6th printing ed.). New York: William Morrow. p. 237. ISBN 0-553-02888-X.
  4. ^ a b c Irene - Awards and Nominations at IMDb
  5. ^ Michelle Vogel (2012). McFarland (ed.). Lupe V'Lez: The Life and Career of Hollywood's Mexican Spitfire. p. 47. ISBN 978-0786461394.

Irene was the costume designer for the 1942 film, The Palm Beach Story.

Informational notes[edit]

  1. ^ In Doris Day's autobiography, she wrote that in 1962, Irene "had an unhappy marriage to a man who lived out of the state and only occasionally came to visit her."
  2. ^ Day also wrote that she got the feeling that she was the first person to whom Irene had confided this information about Gary Cooper. "Thinking about it now, I cannot honestly say whether Irene's love was one-sided or whether she and Cooper had actually had or were having an affair."

External links[edit]