During the 1920s and 1930s, with the rise in popularity of Hollywood movies, screen idols became role models for the masses. Most major fashion trends no longer were dictated only by the top Paris-based fashion houses. The clothes and hairstyles worn by glamorous movie stars, both on and off the screen, grabbed the attention of American and European moviegoers and launched countless fashion fads.
The influence of Hollywood on fashion began during the silent film era, which ended in the late 1920s. Pola Negri (c. 1894–1987), a popular actress of the 1920s, purchased white satin shoes that she had dyed to match her outfits. Once this was publicized, women by the thousands followed her lead. Clara Bow (1905–1965), another silent screen star, helped to popularize bobbed hair, sailor pants, and pleated skirts. Gloria Swanson (1899–1983) made fashionable high-heeled shoes decorated with imitation pearls and rhinestones.
Hollywood costume designers played a crucial role in dictating fashion trends. Between 1928 and 1941, Gilbert Adrian (1903–1959) headed the costume department at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, then the most prestigious Hollywood movie studio. Not only did Adrian create the signature styles of the studio's top actresses, but he launched various fashion crazes. One was the popularity of the gingham dress, a cotton fabric dress featuring a checked or striped pattern, which he designed for Judy Garland (1922–1969) to wear in The Wizard of Oz (1939) and for Katharine Hepburn (1907–2003) in The Philadelphia Story (1940). Another famous Hollywood designer was Hubert de Givenchy (1927–), who was a favorite of influential actress Audrey Hepburn and dressed her in such movies as Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Sabrina (1954), and Funny Face (1957).
Outfits worn in movies were quickly copied by retailers. A woman who found a dress or gown worn in a movie appealing could purchase a low-priced copy in a department store or from a Sears catalog. Magazines published clothing patterns based on film costumes, allowing women to sew their own Hollywood-style frocks. The era's most favored pattern reportedly was a dress worn by Vivien Leigh (1913–1967) in a picnic scene in Gone with the Wind (1939), one of the era's most popular and publicized movies.
Individual performers became associated with clothes or hairstyles that became their trademarks. In the early 1930s sultry Jean Harlow (1911–1937) was famed for her platinum blonde hair, which was a very light, almost-white blonde color. In fact, Platinum Blonde (1931) was the title of one of her early film successes. The platinum blonde effect was achieved by bleaching the hair. When Harlow ascended to stardom, women began coloring their hair in order to copy her look. In the 1940s Veronica Lake (1919–1973), a rising star, launched a trend by wearing her hair in peek-a-boo bangs, with her long blonde locks falling over one eye. Dorothy Lamour (1914– 1996) popularized the sarong, a one-piece, wraparound garment worn primarily as a skirt or dress, when she played the exotically beautiful title character in The Jungle Princess (1936).
If Harlow, Lake, and Lamour represented sex appeal, child star Shirley Temple (1928—) personified sweetness and innocence. During the mid-1930s Temple enjoyed a run as the movie industry's number-one box office star. Mothers dressed their daughters like Temple and styled their hair to copy her trademark ringlet curls. No little girl's toy chest was complete without a Shirley Temple doll, of which over six million were sold. Meanwhile, the great popularity of cowboy movies, particularly among the young, hiked the sales of western-style shirts for adults as well as children.
Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo (1905–1990), and Marlene Dietrich (c. 1901–1992) were strong-willed personalities, both on and off the screen. Each preferred wearing trousers at a time when females were expected to convey their womanliness by donning dresses and skirts. Hepburn's, Garbo's, and Dietrich's choice of attire communicated to women that they neither would squander away their femininity nor be any less appealing to men if they chose pants over dresses.
Occasionally what stars chose not to wear had a major impact on fashion trends. In the early 1930s men commonly wore undershirts. Then Clark Gable (1901–1960), one of the era's top stars and most influential male icons, appeared in It Happened One Night (1934). At one point