Jean Louis (born Jean Louis Berthault; 5 October 1907 in Paris, France – 20 April 1997 in Palm Springs, California) was a French-born, Hollywood costume designer and an Academy Award winner for Best Costume Design.
Jean-Louis Berthault dit Jean Louis est un créateur de costumes français, né le 5 octobre 1907 à Paris et mort le à Palm Springs (Californie).
Ayant fait l’essentiel de sa carrière à Hollywood, il est célèbre entre autres pour avoir créé la robe fourreau en satin noir de Rita Hayworth dans Gilda et la robe couleur chair que Marilyn Monroe portait le 19 mai 1962 lors de l’anniversaire de John Fitzgerald Kennedy au Madison Square Garden.
Jean Louis was born in Paris, after graduating from l’École des Arts décoratifs, started his career as a sketch artist for the Agnes-Drecoll couturier. In 1935, when he travelled to New York, he was noted by fashion entrepreneur Hattie Carnegie and got a job there to add some Parisian touch to her collection. He showed his talents for the Carnegie suit he designed in 1937, 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, and its fitted blazer and long pencil skirt was worn by several actresses and society women at the time.
It was also in Hattie Carnegie where he acquired his clientele, including Hollywood stars Irene Dunne, Joan Crawford, as well as The Duchess of Windsor who became one of his most famous clients. But his most important client was Joan Cohn, the wife of Columbia Pictures studio chief Harry Cohn, who later persuaded her husband to hire Jean Louis.
In 1944, Jean Louis started to work for Columbia Pictures as assistant costume designer and became head designer a year later when the then head designer Travis Banton left Columbia. For the next 13 years, he created some of the most iconic gowns of Golden Hollywood.
His most famous works include Rita Hayworth's black satin strapless dress from Gilda (1946), Marlene Dietrich's celebrated beaded souffle stagewear in The Monte Carlo Story(1956)
In 1958, Jean Louis left Columbia picture for Universal Studio, where he designed for Universal stars like Doris Day and Lana Turner.
For over forty years, Jean Louis designed clothes for almost every star in Hollywood including:
Around sixty of his designs appeared in movies, and he was eventually nominated for 14 Academy Awards.
But his most famous design, was not for any of the film he worked for.
While working with Universal, Jean Louis also worked with other Hollywood studios on a freelance base, thus had the chance to work with Marilyn Monroe for her last films The Misfits (1960) and Something's Got to Give (1962, unfinished).
In 1962, Marilyn Monroe went to Jean Louis to design a special gown for her to go the President John F. Kennedy's birthday party, an illusion gown she has seen on Marlene Dietrich, who sent her to Jean Louis.
And what Jean Louis designed was a body hugging column gown in flesh color, similar in silhouette and style to what he had designed for Marlene Dietrich, and the dress was designed to be so tight it was believed that it had to be sewn on Marilyn's body. It was in that almost nude gown Marilyn Monroe sang, or almost whispered "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" in front of 15,000 people at Madison Square Garden.
That gown would become one of two most iconic outfits of Marilyn Monore(another is her white halter necked dress from The Seven Year Itch), and the most famous gown designed by and identified with Jean Louis . In 2016, the gown was sold for 4.8 million dollars.
Besides films, Jean Louis also worked with TV programs since the 60s, and his most famous collaboration was with Loretta Young.
Jean Louis has designed for Loretta Young before, both for her film, as well as for her TV program The Loretta Young Show(1953-1961) where Loretta showcased different outfits in each episode.
But in The New Loretta Young Show(1962-1963), Jean Louis designed all outfits for Loretta Young, and the two remained close friends even their collaboration ended in 1963.
In 1993, four years after the death of his second wife Maggie, Jean Louis married Loretta Young; they remained married until his death in 1997.
Diplômé de l’École des Arts décoratifs, Jean-Louis Berthault fait ses débuts dans la couture chez Agnès-Drecoll. Lors d’un séjour à New York en 1935, il est remarqué par la styliste Hattie Carnegie qui l’engage pour apporter une « touche » parisienne à ses collections. Il a comme premières clientes l’actrice Irene Dunne et Joan Cohn, la femme de Harry Cohn, fondateur de Columbia Pictures, ce qui va lui ouvrir les portes des studios hollywoodiens.
En 1945, il prend la direction du département costumes de la Columbia puis, quelques années plus tard, de celui d’Universal Pictures avant de s’installer à son compte, créant sa propre maison de confection. À partir de 1958, il travaillera surtout pour la United Artists.
Nommé 14 fois aux Oscars, il ne reçoit la statuette qu’une seule fois en 1957 pour Une Cadillac en or massif de Richard Quine.
Marié pendant plus de trente ans, il épouse à la mort de sa femme en 1993 l’actrice Loretta Young. Il meurt à 89 ans le 20 avril 1997.