“We have to find a way to have the dress glow.”

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich was an internationally acclaimed actress, a role model to many women, a live performer and much more—she was a FashionTech visionary. She dreamed of inventive and avant-garde ideas that were ahead of her time.

How Marlene planned her stage performances were phenomenal and she was also known as the master of lights. Besides meticulously planning her dresses with her haute-couture designer, Jean Louis, she would also make plans for the stage lighting. She truly wanted viewers to be awed by focusing on the effect of her ideas whether it be through fashion, lighting or both.

In her letters in 1958 to designer Jean Louis she wrote about a dress, which should glow and be interactive. Her wish for a glowing dress was clearly defined in her personal letter to Jean Louis she wrote:

If you are worried about the technical side, let me just say that I make the contact with my foot (on wire running to a small plate on the sole). The contact plate, which is fed electricity by the main line, is on the floor of the stage. This way, I can light up and take the light off at will. This will puzzle the people, which is good. They will not know if they imagine the light or if they are there.

 

Marlene was very hands-on in the development process of a dress and would go to great lengths to make sure that every detail was perfect, so much so that she learned about electronics to conceptualize her glowing dress. Her notes, scribbles and letters at the archive of the Deutsche Kinemathek document her tedious workflow.

Unfortunately, Marlene’s vision of a glowing dress could not be created at the time she was living due to lack of technological advances. But she clearly had taken a lot of time to think through her avant-garde idea.

Then in 2017 the Founder & CEO of ElektroCouture, Lisa Lang, found Marlene’s personal letters in the archive of the Deutsche Kinemathek.

Fashion for the Future

To mark the 25th anniversary of Marlene’s death, the ElektroCouture team decided to fulfill her wish and Marlene’s last dress was finally realized. For the creation of the dress, we collaborated with Swarovski on custom-made crystals, which suit perfectly with the material and e-broidery® technique by Forster Rohner Textile Innovations that utilizes Osram LEDs.

In all, the dress required a combination of new technology and traditional craftsmanship and required 151 LEDs, 313 flowers and 2371 specifically developed crystals by Swarovski. The dress glows can switch to different light patterns to match Dietrich’s different songs.

The Last Dress of Marlene Dietrich

The incredible story of Marlene’s dress was captured in ARTE’s documentary “Das Letzte Kleid der Marlene Dietrich” or “The Last Dress of Marlene Dietrich”, which publicly screened on May 7, 2017. Still, you can watch the official documentary on the right.

Deutsche Welle also created a documentary on the glowing dress, the Deutsche Kinemathek archives and the ElektroCouture team.

Since creation Marlene’s dress has been featured in Forbes, ModeLab, Deutsche Welle, Vodafone, and many other publications. For media information on our glowing Marlene dress, please visit our Marlene Media Kit or email us at contact@elektrocouture.com.