by Nathalie Azoulai
Born in Paris in 1907, Jean-Louis Berthault attended l’Ecole des Arts Décoratifs, trained at Agnes Decroll and left France in 1936. It was a one way ticket for he never came back. In New York, he started along with Hattie Carnegie and soon designed clothes for Wallis Simpson and Hollywood tycoons’s wives such as Joan Cohn. In 1944, he moved to Hollywood and learned movie costume design with Travis Banton. A very skilled assistant, he became head designer of Columbia. Among the big stars he dressed, Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Lana Turner, Katharine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Loretta Young, his second wife. Among his most unforgettable creations, let’s name Gilda’s strapless black satin sheath that brilliantly disguised Hayworth’s pregnancy, or the ''beads and skin'' dress, he designed for Marilyn Monrore in 1962 and in which she wished John F. Kennedy, a « Happy Birthday, Mr President ». We usually think that Hollywood designers were influenced by couture designers except for Jean Louis whose influence obviously reached Yves Saint Laurent, Thierry Mugler or Gianni Versace.