THE POWER OF ILLUSIONS IN ADVERTISING
There were two versions of the Ultra Violet ad I have been discussing lately made by Revlon in 1946 featuring Dorian Leigh. This is the second one. I love the way she looks and the colors in the ad, but I think some of the flowers are lilacs, not violets! Both types of flowers are purple so they are alluding to violets through color. Lilacs are tougher than violets and probably held up better under the hot photographic lights used on the sets in those days. They do appear to have used real flowers because you can see them drooping in places. They don’t seem to be holding up during the shoot as as well as Dorian did! The poor little things look like the heat from the lights was wilting them. Meanwhile, Dorian looks fresh as a daisy!
Also, I can tell that Dorian is wrapped in a violet colored sheet, not a beautiful designer gown. This disappoints me! I want to see her in an exotic creation ~ a dress or evening gown by Charles James or Christian Dior or Cecil Beaton for example. Cecil Beaton is the photographer here. I wonder why he wasn’t asked to make a special violet gown for this occasion? (Budget constrictions, perhaps?) She is wearing real jewels which were loaned out for the occasion by Harry Winston. She is every bit as beautiful as they are!
It is interesting to note, here, that Cecil Beaton was a costume and fashion designer par excellence and also created magnificent hats. He later did the costumes for the film My Fair Lady which included spectacular dresses and hats for the Ascot Races. He could have designed something magnificent for Dorian to wear in this campaign had Revlon been up for that! I’m sure it would have been worth the extra money!
Given that they had only a cotton sheet and a straw sun hat (again not a designer creation!) to work with for costuming, she and Beaton did a pretty good job of creating the illusion of glamor in these two photographs that made Revlon over $3 million dollars in 1946! Wow! On this one color alone! Ultra Violet was quite popular. Dorian was so elegant and charming that she could sell anything even wrapped in a sheet! They draped and tied it around her like a giant scarf, so this is an example of creative scarf tying and styling! Cecil Beaton was a master of illusion as a photographer, stage and costume designer. Between them, Dorian and Cecil were able to trick the female public into seeing this ridiculous set up as glamorous and treating themselves to the Ultra Violet cosmetics so that they could look just like Dorian.
Considering the amount of money Revlon spent on the ad campaign and the amount of profit they made back from doing it they should and could have sprung for a decent dress for their top model! Charles Revson was infatuated with Dorian and wanted to marry her. She turned him down repeatedly. I wonder why? Don’t you? I haven’t found out the reasons yet, but will post that juicy tidbit of information when I do. I suspect she may have found him cheap! Suzy Parker, Dorian’s sister, complained that Revlon paid them “peanuts” for modeling for these ads. The girls knew that Revlon was nothing without them, but Revlon hadn’t realized the value of its models yet. They didn’t until Lauren Hutten came along in the 1970’s and demanded an exclusive contract. That was the beginning of the big money for women who modeled in cosmetic ads.
This getup has gotten me thinking that I could make an Ultra Violet Girl costume to wear for Halloween! I always try to come up with a violet theme being Lady Violette. All I would have to do is apply my makeup like Dorian’s vintage makeup design in the picture; then, dye a white sheet violet in Ritt dye in my washing machine, artfully wrap and drape it as they have done in the photograph, pile on some costume jewelry, plop my big violet colored straw hat on my head and cover myself with artificial violets and lilacs which can be bought in garlands or individual stems at craft stores. I could even make myself a round box like the powder box she is holding, label it Ultra Violet, and hold it out for my treats! A little small for candy? I don’t want candy! I want big girl treats ~ some of those Harry Winston treats like Dorian’s will be just fine and should fit perfectly and discreetly in my little treat box!