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Famous Faces in Fur: The 30s, 40s & 50s

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!

Fur stoles and wraps were a mark of the elite in the 30s, 40s and 50s, but were also an aspirational purchase that women of all walks of life aspired to make.

Fur stoles and wraps were a mark of the elite in the 30s, 40s and 50s, but were also an aspirational purchase that women of all walks of life aspired to make.

Women wearing fur

Women wearing fur

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.

JOAN CRAWFORD

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.

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce

Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

Sublime Joan

Sublime Joan

Portrait of Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce

Portrait of Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce

MARLENE DIETRICH

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!

Marlene Dietrich defined cool elegance and self confidence like no other

Marlene Dietrich defined cool elegance and self confidence like no other

Marlene Dietrich 1930s

Marlene Dietrich 1930s

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich wearing her trademark men's suit

Marlene Dietrich wearing her trademark men’s suit

Marlene Dietrich in a men's suit

Marlene Dietrich in a men’s suit

LANA TURNER

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!

One of Lana Turner's famous Sweater Girl posters

One of Lana Turner’s famous Sweater Girl posters

Lana Turner draped in fur from head to toe

Lana Turner draped in fur from head to toe

Lana Turner

Lana Turner

Lana Turner in her movie role Imitation of Life

Lana Turner in her movie role Imitation of Life

LENA HORNE

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.

Lena Horne in 1943 singing No two ways about love

Lena Horne in 1943 singing No two ways about love

Lena Horne with Lennie Hayton

Lena Horne with Lennie Hayton

Lena Horne

Lena Horne

Legendary Lena Horne

Legendary Lena Horne

Lena Horne a timeless beauty at any age

Lena Horne a timeless beauty at any age

Lena Horne as the the spokesperson for the 1969 American Legend Blackglama Campaign

Lena Horne as featured in the 1969 Blackglama Campaign

GRETA GARBO

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).

Greta Garbo from 1932

Greta Garbo from 1932

Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo with her mother in 1939

Greta Garbo with her mother in 1939

A pensive Greta Garbo from 1930

A pensive Greta Garbo from 1930

Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo

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:

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