Recently we’ve received a number of comments applauding the return to more ladylike dressing. So we thought it might be a good time to look back at some of the best-dressed gals of all time….checking out their accomplishments as well as their fashions.
Everyone can agree that the golden age of Hollywood was awash in glamour, style, beauty and elegance. In this era, when stars were truly stars, the studios carefully controlled their images, styling them and selecting their wardrobes to protect the glamour quotient. Fur was ever-present, framing the most beautiful faces in the world. On and off screen women reached for their fur stoles, wraps and coats to emulate their favorite silver screen icons and feel polished, regal and just plain beautiful!
Let’s take a quick look at several of our favorite silver screen sirens who transcended “movie star” status to become icons that influenced the way women dressed and carried themselves throughout the decades.
The eyes have it and so did actress Joan Crawford whether she was featured in silent pictures, or in speaking roles. Perhaps equally recognized for her piercing and profoundly expressive eyes and her trademark shoulder padding, Joan Crawford was known for her roles in films like Grand Hotel (1932), and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), winning an Academy Award for her role in Mildred Pierce (1945). During her heyday she was dressed by Adrian Adolph Greenberg (or Adrian as he was known), MGM’s most prominent costume designer, also credited for his work in The Wizard of Oz and other Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer pictures.
Pencil thin severe arching eyebrows accentuated her trademark features and created her global appeal as a self-assured and powerful vixen. Unfortunately, after Crawford’s passing in 1977 she was more readily known for a far less glamorous role, that of a heartless and abusive mother as portrayed by Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest.
Marie Magdalene Dietrich von Losch, or Marlene as we know her, was born in Berlin, Germany on December 27, 1901. Characterized by her deep and sensual voice, this alarming beauty was often seen wearing tuxedos, men’s hats, and men’s tailored suits; perhaps that explains her famous quote “I am at heart, a gentleman.” Marlene was at the forefront of feminism not only with her unconventional, liberal and nonconforming way of thinking, but also how it translated into her strong and almost androgynous choice of dress. Fur made her image even more powerful!
The “other blond bombshell,” Lana Turner, was somewhat of a hero of her time. Famously dubbed the “sweater girl,” Lana dressed up many soldiers’ walls during World War II in a series of iconic wall posters. It was in the 40s that the woman’s bust line first came more into focus and the fitted knit sweater took shape. Using her role as pin-up girl to gain notoriety, Lana also won favor with casting directors looking for beautiful, lust worthy female leading actresses. Starring in films such as The Great Garrick (1937), The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938), Love Finds Andy Hardy (1939), and These Glamour Girls (1939) firmly positioned Lana’s place in history as a sex symbol. Her star turns continued in Peyton Place (1957) and Imitation of Life (1959).
Hour glass shape and all, Lana flaunted her curves and mesmerized men with her doe-like smile. But her acting abilities were often questioned and she was not seen as having much depth or range in her talent. Could it be that her beauty overshadowed her talents? In any case, it certainly helped her give into her romantic whimsies, marrying 7 different times!
Accomplished songstress is just one of the many titles that this iconic beauty holds. A true trailblazer, Lena Horne broke ground with many firsts in her time for African Americans. First black star to receive a long-term contract with a studio, first black on the cover of Motion Picture magazine, first star whose picture could be pinned up by black GIs in their lockers; this lady was not only beautiful and talented, she transcended stringent racial barriers. Debuting in MGM’s Panama Hattie (1942) she performed the much loved title song of Stormy Weather and instantly became a beloved talent.
An ardent proponent of the Civil Rights Movement, Horne often refused to perform for non-integrated audiences. An 8 time Grammy Award Winner, and recipient of numerous lifetime achievement awards and honors, Lena was in a class all by herself. Recognizing her iconic status, Blackglama®, world renowned for their sought after mink, crowned her as their 1969 spokesperson for their global “What Becomes a Legend Most?” campaign.
Even though she retired from Hollywood at the young age of 36, Greta Garbo stands as one of the most influential movie stars of all time. A self-proclaimed recluse, Garbo was known for her infamous phrase; “I want to be alone” from her 1932 film “Grand Hotel”. A queen of both silent films and talkies, Garbo was an elusive beauty that found great success and adulation on the silver screen—not bad for someone who never had any interest in acting. She played in over 25 films and is most famous for her roles in Mata Hari (1932), Christina (1934), Grand Hotel (1932), Anna Karenina (1935), Kameliadamen (1936) and Ninotschka (1939).
Seeing this collection of powerful women makes us yearn for the glamour days of old Hollywood. As we briefly peer into the lives of these style icons, we can definitely see their indelible mark on fashion.
Who are your favorite film glamour gals?
For more great reads about fashion in the silver screen era read our posts on:
- Elizabeth Taylor: Silver Screen Legend, 20th Century Icon
- New York Fashion Week, Part 2: Making the Mark
- Stuff of Dreams | I. Magnin
- Vintage: 1940′s Style
- Vintage: 1950′s Style