Adrian Firebird Dress, 1940s

Don’t get too excited for me, because this is not my dress.  It is in the shop of Guermantes Vintage.  This is a fantastic dress, but it gets even better because there is also a great story attached.

It all started when Guermantes Vintage posted photos of the dress on Instagram.  Jan always has the most incredible stuff, and so she has over 33,000 followers who stay tuned to see what her latest find happens to be.  A day or so ago, one of the persons tuning in was @jupeculotte, who is fashion historian Caroline Rennolds Milbank.  Guermantes posted the photo above, which @jupeculotte recognized as an Adrian dress she has examined in the collection of the Smithsonian.  What makes this so fantastic is that Guermantes’s dress is missing its label, and so she did not know until Caroline commented on the photo that she actually had an Adrian dress.

Caroline then sent to Germantes the documentation on the dress she had photographed at the Smithsonian.  Above you can see the photo of the Smithsonian’s dress, along with the card from the museum catalog.  No doubt that this is the same model dress.

What is really interesting is that another person, Melissa of @meloovintage had this dress years ago, and it too was missing the label.   Could it be that the labels were sewn in a spot that was uncomfortable for the wearer?  Maybe the apprentice sewing in the labels did a poor job and they came loose and were lost?

And this is why I love Instagram.

With all the unpleasantness one encounters on the internet, it’s wonderful knowing that the fashion history and the vintage people seem to be in it for all the right reasons.  Sharing knowledge in this way helps educate us all


Filed under Curiosities, Designers, Viewpoint

19 responses to “Adrian Firebird Dress, 1940s

  1. WOW! GREAT STORY! I wish I could remember the significance of the “firebird”. Those symbols were a part of the artistic movement of Latin American Art popular at that time late 30’s-40’s. Remember the movies with Carmen Miranda!? The over scaled sequined over print in Now Voyager on Bette Davis evening cape? The labels were coveted and often stolen for black market for copies of original gowns. As late as the 80’s designer labels were guarded . Great find!


  2. Stunning dress. So gorgeous. Great find for sure. Cheers, Michele


  3. Fascinating. Will follow her on Instagram now. At the shop where I work we occasionally encounter missing labels — not cut out with the rim showing, in the Loehmann’s manner, but just gone, while the union label is still there.


  4. Fascinating story, Lizzie – thank you for sharing it and providing the photos.
    Igor Stravinsky wrote an orchestral suite named “The Firebird,” for a ballet (staged by Diaghilev, 1910) based on Russian fairy tales. Details & recordings here:

    Liked by 2 people

  5. That dress is such a stunner! And I love this story.

    For the bad rap the internet gets, I have had (knock wood) only positive encounters on it and on Instagram. And more than once I’ve had help from kind folk (including you!) in identifying pieces.


  6. I also wanted to note the Firebird’s significance in Russian culture, I wonder where Adrian got his inspiration.


  7. Christina

    The style of the dress is very similar to the Roan Stallion evening dress by Adrian which I believe was made in 1943. Is there a date attributed to the Smithsonian dress?


    • I suppose this is the place to mention that there have been some costumes identified as being from the Ballets Russes production of the Firebird.They’ve been up for months for $40,000.


    • I checked and the Roan Stallion dress was in 1945, and the style is almost identical, so I imagine it was made around the same time.


      • Christina

        That’s interesting. The MFA Boston has 1943 for the Roan Stallion dress. The Met has 1945 for their dress.


        • We need to locate an ad for it.


          • Christina

            You’d think this dress would be a stand-out in advertising. Has anyone read Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label by Christian Esquevin? I haven’t but it apparently has a year-by-year account of his company. He had an interesting way of showing collections. The collections were aimed at the ready-to-wear market first with the Adrian,Inc. label. The designs not chosen by store buyers then became an exclusive couture line and custom fit for a client with Adrian Ltd. label. I have seen a reference to one of his early collections in Life Magazine.


  8. A cracking dress and a lovely connect-the-dots story.


  9. Just so you know, I understand the issue and agree with you. However, I don’t allow discussion of individuals here, so I’ll be deleting your comment. You have the right to be annoyed,but she also had the right to monitor her own instagram page. Sorry.


  10. “Roan Stallion” gown was made in 1943 — according to my Adrian book — sold for $365, few copies were sold. “Wings of Victory” gowns were 1945, which have the bird element. I would say “Firebird” was probably 1943-1945. More than amazing find!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have this gown on a oyster white field with magenta and aqua birds, also by Adrian. I have never seen an advertisement with this gown, or the black/yellow/red version, but I was under the impression that the bird pattern was designed by Adrian himself, like the Roan Stallion and other gowns. Adrian elevated the print dress with these designs and won the Coty award for having done so, adding a special touch while conforming to the L-85 material restrictions. I assume it was self-belted, but I have never seen a copy, including the Smithsonian’s, with its belt in place.

    Richard Adkins, author “Adrian – American Designer, Hollywood Original”


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