Travis Banton (August 18, 1894 – February 2, 1958) was the chief costume designer at Paramount Pictures. He is considered one of the most important Hollywood costume designers of the 1930s.
He opened his own dressmaking salon in New York City, and soon was asked to create costumes for the Ziegfeld Follies. In 1924, Travis Banton moved to Hollywood when Paramount contracted with him to create costumes for his first film, The Dressmaker from Paris.
Beginning with Norma Talmadge in "Poppy," Banton designed clothing for Pola Negri and Clara Bow in the 1920s. In the 1930s and 1940s Banton designed for such stars as Kay Francis, Lilyan Tashman, Sylvia Sidney, Gail Patrick, Helen Vinson, and Claudette Colbert. Ultimately, Travis Banton may be best remembered for forging the style of such Hollywood icons as Carole Lombard, Marlene Dietrich, and Mae West. Dietrich and Banton had an especially close and successful collaboration. His work for Dietrich is still frequently referenced by designers.
Glamour, understated elegance, and exquisite fabrics endeared Travis Banton to the most celebrated of Hollywood's beauties and made him one of the most sought-after costume designers of his era. As a viewing of such films as The Gilded Lily (1935) and Desire (1936) reveals, his costume designs were marked by simple but stylish cuts (often on the bias), rich fabrics (such as satin and lame), and extravagant decoration (beads, fur, and feathers). He collaborated closely with directors and actresses in order to fulfil their vision.
When Designer Howard Greer left Paramount, Banton was promoted to Head Designer and was responsible for dressing the studio's most illustrious stars. Because of his alcoholism and reputedly also at the instigation of his subordinate Edith Head, Banton was forced to leave Paramount. He started his own business and also designed for Twentieth Century-Fox from 1939-1941 and Universal from 1945-1948.
Notable design projects
- Clara Bow in It and Wings, 1927
- Kay Francis in Trouble in Paradise, 1932
- Mae West in I'm No Angel, 1933 and Belle of the Nineties, 1934
- Claudette Colbert in Cleopatra, 1934
- Loretta Young in The Crusades, 1935
- Marlene Dietrich in "Morocco", 1930, Shanghai Express, 1932, The Scarlet Empress, 1934 and The Devil is a Woman, 1935
- Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey, 1936 and Nothing Sacred, 1937
- Alice Faye in Lillian Russell and Tin Pan Alley, 1940
- Carmen Miranda in Down Argentine Way, 1940, and That Night in Rio, 1941
- Linda Darnell and Rita Hayworth in Blood and Sand, 1941
- Betty Grable in Moon Over Miami, 1941
- Rita Hayworth in Cover Girl (film), 1944
- Joan Bennett in Scarlet Street, 1945
- Merle Oberon in A Song to Remember, 1945
- Lucille Ball in Lover Come Back, 1946
- Joan Fontaine in Letter from an Unknown Woman, 1948
- Linda Darnell in The Mark of Zorro, 1940
Chierichetti, David. Hollywood Costume Design, Harmony Books, 1977. ISBN 0-517-52637-9.