Anyone who has ever wanted to step into the shoes of a glamorous starlet can get a taste of the razzle-dazzle of Hollywood at a new exhibit coming to Vision Gallery in Chandler.

“Hollywood in the Desert” will be on exhibit from March 8 to April 6 at the gallery at 10 E. Chicago St., downtown in the City Hall complex.

Curated by Robert Black, who owns a vintage-style clothes boutique in Scottsdale, the display will feature clothes designed in the 1940s to the 1980s by designers who dressed Hollywood stars.

One dress, designed by Sophie Gimbel, was worn by Dorothy “Dottie” McGuire of the singing trio The McQuire Sisters, when Dorothy met the queen of England in the 1950s. Dorothy had lived in Paradise Valley.

Another dress designed by Gimbel that Dorothy owned, as well as three other dresses of Dorothy’s, designed by Norman Norell in the mermaid style he was known for, will also be part of the display.

Also on display will be a suit from designer Gilbert Adrian.

He was “one of the most famous designers in Hollywood,” creating actress Joan Crawford’s suit dresses with padded shoulders and the tight wasp waist, Black said.

People also can see a gold lame pleated dress designed by William Travilla in 1980s.

Travilla designed dresses for Marilyn Monroe, including the famous pleated ivory cocktail dress Monroe wore in the 1955 movie “The Seven Year Itch” that blew up around her as she stood on a ventilation grate as a subway train passed.

“He was a favorite of hers for films, and the dress we have is very similar to the one he did for her in ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,’” Black said.

“It’s going to be really, really fun,” he said. “This is the third exhibit we’ve done with the Vision Gallery. I love the glamour of Hollywood.

“It’s actually a collection of designers that worked in the studio system, dressed probably the most famous movie stars in history and also had ready-to-wear,” he added, promising:

“You’re going to see their lines that were available to the general public and learn about the history of who they were.”

Black owns Fashion by Robert Black, which has primarily women’s clothes from the 1920s to 1980s. He once owned international model and talent agency Ford Robert Black Agency.

The public can also see one of designer Bob Mackie’s gowns at the exhibit.

Mackie is a fashion designer and costumer known for creating the wardrobe for Carol Burnett on “The Carol Burnett Show,” as well as for dressing Cher, Joan Rivers, RuPaul, Barbara Eden and Bette Midler.

Black said he found the clothes for the exhibit through contacts in the industry in Hollywood and New York, but the public can find them online.

“I’ve always had an interest in Hollywood,” Black said. “Hollywood designers always had a little bit of flair and drama.”

He said the public will probably be “shocked at how modern the clothes are today and how beautiful the fabrics and design are.”

Some of the clothes in the exhibit might be sold at Black’s boutique, but they will not be sold at the gallery.

Adding to the sophistication of the exhibit, actress Susan Claassen will portray costume designer Edith Head at the opening reception and fundraiser for Hollywood in the Desert from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, at Vision Gallery.

Claassen has starred in the one-woman show “A Conversation with Edith Head.”

“I think people who are into fashion will like it, people who are interested in Hollywood, who have seen some of the older movies,” said Peter Bugg, visual arts coordinator for the City of Chandler of the exhibit.

Bugg said the opening reception will be “a special event” and will raise money for programs in Vision Gallery.

This will be the third exhibit Vision Gallery has done with Black.

“I love working with them,” Black said. “I love how forward they are as a gallery. They always have very interesting exhibits and interesting art there. Fashion to me is art. It’s just a nice combination.”

Bugg returned the compliment to Black.

“We’ve worked with Robert Black twice in the past,” he said. “The past two have been pretty successful and that’s why we’re working with Robert again. He brings something unique to the gallery.”

The clothes will be displayed on mannequins and placards will have information on the designer near them.

“I just think it’s going to be really fun,” Black said. “There’s a variety of styles of fashion.”

People who attend the opening reception are encouraged to wear cocktail or Hollywood glam attire. A live auction will take place and raffle tickets will be sold. Champagne will be served.

Anyone who wants to attend the opening reception, which is free, should RSVP to or by calling 480-782-2695.

The exhibit also is free. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. most Saturdays, being closed on some holiday weekends.

The exhibits are changed on a regular basis at the nonprofit gallery. Vision Gallery, as well as its sister gallery at the Chandler Center for the Arts, is a fine arts gallery that represents over 300 regional artists.

The galleries are also home to two Art-O-Mats, vintage machines filled with hand-crafted artwork dispensed at nominal prices by pulling a handle.

Sculptures, jewelry, ceramic pieces and a variety of other original artwork are on display at the galleries.


Originally published in the SanTan Sun News