Greta Garbo´s Ghost

Due to a series of flukeish circumstances, we ended up at Strand Hotel, in the Greta Garbo suite. A hotel suite is like a small flat without a kitchen, giving the guests ample space to lounge and relax. I can´t say it´s something we normally get to do, and it was fun to have a sofa each, instead of trying to be comfortable on the bed while reading the paper or a book. Not that the bed in this suite was anything to complain about, you understand.

Instead of going out to a café in the afternoon, we bought some exotic pastries in the market halls and used the hospitality tray to make afternoon tea for ourselves, just to get the chance to enjoy our surroundings properly.

We still had lots of time for museums, long walks, restaurants, and such. Strand Hotel is so conveniently located, in the middle of town, that nowhere interesting is very far away, really. Just outside our window was Nybro Quay, with it´s old-fashioned-looking entertainment ships. I spotted a wedding party on Saturday afternoon, going on board for a ceremony on the waves, and what looked like a proper banquet. The fine weather didn´t hurt, either, but it´s still pretty cold in the air, you feel it as soon as the sun hides behind a cloud. I felt sorry for those who decided to leave their jacket at home.

The suite was decorated in a way that intended to give the impression that the Divine Garbo was still staying there, just not being in at the moment. There was a handbag on a drawer handle, an evening purse in the window, a few hats resting on armchairs. All the art was all images from her pictures. Like this one, which demonstrates that Garbo really knew the art of spreading herself on a sofa. (And she did actually stay at this hotel.)

There were several coffee-table books on the, well, coffee-table. Luckily for me, the only one that didn´t set my asthma off, was the most interesting one. It was an auctioneer´s catalogue, from a series of auctions in 2010, where all of Greta Garbo´s personal things were sold off. All of it. And from what it looks, she saved everything. There are loads of clothes. And shoes, and handbags. And just ordinary things, like kitchen bowls, Swedish guest towels, and Christmas ornaments.

I became totally fascinated, leafed through it several times, feeling like I was getting to know her a little. She had one of the books that I have. She liked silly toys. And she painted, as a hobby.

Her clothes, most of it, could easily be worn today, you wouldn´t know they were made in the 30´s, 40´s, 50´s, and 60´s. She never got into 70´s and 80´s fashion, not in a big way anyhow, and just as well, probably. She died in 1990, after all. Much of it was designed by Valentina Schlee. According to the book and Garbo´s nephew, Garbo had a good relationship with the Schlees all her life (there were rumours that Garbo had an affair with Valentina´s husband), but some rumours say they avoided each other from the 60´s on, still living in the same apartment building in New York. Since none of them talked or wrote about it, I suppose we will never know what really happened between Garbo and the Schlees.

There is not a single high-heeled shoe in Garbo´s wardrobe. And I don´t count one-inch healed loafers. This didn´t make her any less glamorous, or elegant. It just made her look more powerful, I think. She has a reputation for having been very sensible, but there are lots of clothes and shoes that are on the whimsy side. I really think she would have been an interesting person to know!


  1. i want the yellow loafers and those dance slippers! what a shame they're not my size ;)

    1. I read somewhere that Garbo had a reputation for having large feet. But they were not, and pretty narrow too. Perhaps it was just her preference for comfortable footwear, and being a sexy movie star, that confused people.

    2. i know people have gotten taller over time; maybe their feet are getting bigger and she just had big feet for the time?

    3. There are all kinds of reports about the size of her feet, but this clipping
      from the NY Times 1983 says that she had 6½AA, which doesn´t sound very big to me, even for an older woman. The mom-in-law is 15 years younger than Garbo was and she wears a 7. Looking at pictures of her I believe 6½ rather than 10 or 12 as some say.

      It´s funny though that feet size could have been a way to make a woman look ridiculous.

  2. she was 5'7", though, back at a time when average height for a woman was much shorter. when i go to victorian village here in memphis and see the size of the furniture and the height of the mannikins, i realize i'd have been better able (at under 5') to find clothes that were short enough if i had lived back in my grandmother's day. even the beds were shorter lol

    1. That is true, and even today most actresses and models are taller than average, I think, look at someone like Nicole Kidman, she is huge, though she looks so fragile.

      I once saw the coronation dress (supposedly) of queen Margareta (1353 - 1412), and it wouldn´t fit a ten-year-old today! I don´t think they were all miniature, though, Henry VIII was 6'1-2", and apparently, some of them had the habit of sleeping more or less sitting up, bolstered by cushions.

      And in the old days, we didn´t look for clothes off the racks to fit us, everything was sewn to the customer. This was the case when my mom-in-law was young, and back then they were less worried about their body shapes.;D

  3. yes, back then there was no such thing as a size 10 (or 4 or whatever), and measurements were taken for each person. those were the days.

    i get a kick out of it when i hear an actress is short. i think bette davis and joan fontaine were 5'3", and judy garland was 4'11". it makes me feel a bit less height-challenged lol. katharine hepburn, on the other hand, was 5'8"! almost as tall as humphrey bogart.

    my daughter has my great-grandmother's bed, and when mother tried to buy a new mattress for it she found out they no longer make mattresses that short. the width was a standard double bed width, but the current standard-sized mattresses were too long to fit that frame. she had to have the bed frame lengthened.

    1. We have a bed that is 2,10 meters, due to my husband being on the tall side. However, it´s a drag trying to find linen that fits it. Standard length over here is 2 meters, and standard width for a single bed 0,9 meters. I do know a lot of people with heirloom beds having done just what your daughter had to do, lengthen the frame.

      One thing I have noticed since I was young, is that shoe sizes available at the sales have changed. It used to be, if you were a size 6, 6½, sales were almost impossible, since those shoes were already sold at full price. Now, it´s larger sizes that go first.