It seems I have always been fascinated with the story of Mata Hari, I guess I thought she had a very glamorous life probably because of seeing Greta Garbo in the movie Mata Hari, dressed magnificently by Adrian.
Well, the real story of this doomed woman really isn’t glamorous at all and that she was executed by a firing squad for allegedly being a spy during the First World War most certainly doesn’t make for a romantic story.
Mata Hari in a costume by Erte (I am profiling Erte in my Fashion Flashback post on Friday), while he was working for Paul Poiret.
The new novel by acclaimed author, Paulo Coelho, whose 1988 novel, The Alchemist, is still found on the New York Times bestseller list having sold over 65 million copies. His works have sold over 200 million copies and are published in 80 languages, www.paulocoelhoblog.com
I found The Spy to be an interesting read. It begins at the end of Margaretha Zelle’s (Mata Hari’s real name) life and is told in her “own words” as a letter detailing her life from an early sexual assault while still in school to an abusive husband to using men to get ahead and to become the infamous dancer, as we know her, of the early 20th century. Her life was one of extreme heartbreak, of becoming an independent woman using men to not only survive but to advance her thriving career.
When she is accused of being a spy, she is confident that she will be released, but realizing that may not be the case she writes her “memoirs” as a letter. Coelho has obviously used facts, brilliantly, to create his fiction but reading this book gives you the impression that everything you are reading really happened (did it??) I would definitely recommend the book if you like intrigue, reading about a liberated woman before it was fashionable and life at the beginning of the twentieth century. Coelho recommends several books on Mati Hari in his authors notes, they also sound like must reads. This novel certainly put a different spin on how I perceived this exotic woman.
A couple of thoughts I had while thinking about this posting…who would have dressed this unconventional woman, of course, it had to be Paul Poiret, the star of the fashion world at that time and who better to dress Greta Garbo in the film but Adrian, the star of the costume designers of the Hollywood Studio system Doing a little research I found an image of Mata Hari in a Poiret garment as you can see in the photo below, in addition, I wanted to share a couple of the costumes for Greta Garbo.
Mata Hari in Paul Poiret “lampshade” garment
Greta Garbo costumed by Adrian in Mati Hari
The 1931 romantized MGM film was before code.
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