Travis Banton (August 18, 1894 – February 2, 1958) was an American costume designer. He is perhaps best known for his long collaboration with actress Marlene Dietrich and director Josef von Sternberg. He is generally considered one of the most important Hollywood costume designers of the golden age.
Born in Waco, Texas, Travis Banton moved to New York City as a child. He was educated at Columbia University and at the Art Students League of New York where he studied art and fashion design.
An early apprenticeship with a high-society costume dressmaker earned him fame. When Mary Pickford selected one of his dresses for her wedding to Douglas Fairbanks, his reputation was established.
He opened his own dressmaking salon in New York City, and soon was asked to create costumes for the Ziegfeld Follies. In 1924, Banton moved to Hollywood when Paramount contracted with him to create costumes for his first film, The Dressmaker from Paris.
Beginning with Norma Talmadge in Poppy, Banton designed clothing for Pola Negri and Clara Bow in the 1920s. When designer Howard Greer left Paramount in 1929, Travis Banton was promoted to Head Designer and was responsible for dressing the studio's most illustrious stars.
Glamour, subtle elegance, and exquisite fabrics endeared Travis Banton to the most celebrated of Hollywood's beauties and made him one of the most sought-after costume designers of his era. As viewings of such films as The Gilded Lily (1935) and Desire (1936) reveal, his costume designs were marked by form-flattering cuts (often on the bias), rich fabrics (such as satin and lamé), and extravagant textures (beads, fur, and feathers). He collaborated closely with directors and actresses in order to fulfil their vision.
His position as head designer at Paramount, while gave Banton rare prestiges, put him under constant pressure of designing on time, he started drinking and his alcoholism worsened over the years. In 1938 Banton was forced to leave Paramount(according to some commentators also at the instigation of his assistant Edith Head)
In the 1930s and 1940s Banton designed for such stars as Kay Francis, Lilyan Tashman, Sylvia Sidney, Gail Patrick, Helen Vinson, and Claudette Colbert. Ultimately, Banton may be best remembered for forging the style of such Hollywood icons as Carole Lombard, Marlene Dietrich, and Mae West. Dietrich and Banton had an especially close and successful collaboration. His work for Dietrich is still frequently referenced by designers.
From 1939 to 1941, Travis Banton worked for Twentieth Century-Fox as Howard Greer's assistant, then shortly for Columbia Pictures. From 1945 to 1948 Banton worked as head stylist for Universal Studios.
In more than two decades working for Hollywood, Travis Banton has created costumes for many of the Hollywood stars of his era, including:
Renowned and remembered as Marlene Dietrich's image maker in history, Travis Baton had a more intimate relationship with Carole Lombard for whom he designed her off screen wardrobe as well as her on screen ones.
Travis Banton died of throat cancer on February 2, 1958, in Los Angeles. He was buried on February 4 at the Little Church of the Flowers in Glendale, California. An extensive collection of Banton's drawings is housed in the Brooklyn Museum.
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