Cocoanut Grove dress Cocoanut Grove dress (detail)

Cocoanut Grove dress

Barton's crowded caricature scenes, conveying the tempo and glamour of metropolitan life, became fashionable in an age intensely preoccupied with style. The Stehlisilks Corporation chose one of his designs for its "Americana series" of silk fabrics. "A Tuesday Night at the Cocoanut Grove," originally published in Vanity Fair in June 1927, spotlighted the film-world elite dining at one of Hollywood's legendary restaurants. At one table, such movie magnates as Louis B. Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn, D.W. Griffith, Jesse Lasky, and Cecil B. de Mille communed with mock, "Last Supper" solemnity. Another table accommodated writers-Theodore Dreiser, H.L. Mencken, Anita Loos, Carl Van Vechten, and others-while a third gathered together child actors. Famous profiles of Clark Gable, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Mary Pickford, and Eddie Cantor pop out of the picture. The "Cocoanut Grove" design inspired at least one young woman to make a simple flapper's frock from the silk. Somewhat stained from its partygoing career, the dress advertised its owner's affiliation with current celebrity culture and modern taste.

Ralph Barton silk dress
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Richard Merkin and Gallery purchase
Image also courtesy of Diana B. Franz

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