The showpiece of the exhibition Birds of Paradise is Marlene Dietrich’s swan down coat, a loan from the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin. She first wore it in 1957 at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas and numerous times thereafter in the 1960s.
The feathers of over 300 swans were needed to make the coat, which was 360cm long from collar to tail. The coat was worn over a dress that was made of 227.000 rhinestones. The designer, Jean Louis of Hollywood, was head designer from Columbia Pictures and had worked with Marlene Dietrich since 1953 to make her movie costumes, personal dresses and the outfits she wore in her shows in Las Vegas. Dietrich, the ultimate perfectionist, was a very demanding client and didn’t leave much room for the designer’s creativity. She considered her costumes to be works of art and she took very good care of them.