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The Biggest Little Fashion City Ithaca & Silent Film Style

Irene Castle Corticelli Fashions 

Irene Castle and Robert E. Treman

Castle and Treman were the “it” couple of Ithaca 1919 – 1923. While rumor has it that the two eloped in Pickens, North Carolina in May of 1918, the public wedding took place on May 3, 1919. As a wedding gift, the Treman family presented Irene with a Greystone mansion in Cayuga Heights, complete with a salt water swimming pool. The home’s exterior also made it into the movies as the field headquarters for a French military unit in WW I for the production, A Romance of the Air (1918). Treman partnered with Edwin Hollywood to create Holtre Productions, which funded three films starring Irene.

In addition to film, Irene and Robert shared many interests: both were athletic, loved animals, enjoyed swimming and horseback riding and loved fashion.

Treman’s hunting ensemble and Castle’s gold lame jacket, rhinestone and silver lame headdress, and seed pearl “Castle Band” all show the aesthetic concern with decorative detailing that proved critical to the personal styles of Treman and Castle.

(right) Treman on a horse in his hunting ensemble shown below

Irene Castle Corticelli Fashions

When Irene Castle formalized her relationship with Corticelli Silk Mills in 1917, she was at the height of her fame: she had recently filmed the serial Patria (1917) and celebrated the success of The Whirl of Life (1915); her co-authored best selling book, Modern Dancing (1914); and the Broadway hit Watch Your Step (1914). Irene was an arbiter of fashion, outfitted almost exclusively by Lady Duff Gordon and was voted the first “Best Dressed Woman in America.”

As early as 1914, silk companies like Mallison and Corticelli began using film actresses to promote their products; however, Castle was the first film star to create a line of clothing. The line launched in tandem with the serial, Patria, and Satin Patria was the fabric promoted in the early dress designs. Initially Lady Duff Gordon was the ghost designer, but as the fashion line developed Irene took over the creative side and Corticelli advertisements emphasized her role as designer. In reality, Irene remembered in her memoirs, “I had an endorsement contract with the Corticelli Silk Company which required very little of me. I helped them design the clothes.” In the later advertisements, Corticelli claimed that the dresses were duplicates from Irene’s wardrobe. “The same delightful effect of quality which distinguishes the wraps and frocks of ‘America’s Best Dressed Woman’ is found in every ‘Irene Castle Exclusive Model,’ read a 1923 advertisement. Fall/Winter 1927 was the last season of Irene Castle Corticelli Fashions and the Corticelli Silk Mill would close soon after the start of the Great Depression.

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