When it comes to Hollywood stars, their beauty regimens go to extreme lengths in order to get red carpet-ready. From form-fitting shape-wear to double-sided tape, the women of Old Hollywood were some of the first to pioneer the tricks of the trade when it comes to looking glamorous both on and off-screen. Take a tip from Old Hollywood legends, dressing well isn’t as easy as it looks.
Singer-actress Mae West was known for her larger-than-life personality on the Vaudeville circuit during the early 1900s. That same personality transcended to motion pictures when she became a Hollywood sensation during the ’30s. The actress had a few secrets to her look, including lots of coconut oil and some excessive footwear. West (at a mere 5 feet tall) wore customized Pepenie double-decker Mary Jane heels made in Los Angeles, adding around nine-and-a-haf inches of height. When worn with a long gown, she swore this custom shoe gave her the curvy silhouette for which she was known.
Another mega Hollywood star who had an affinity for shoes was Marilyn Monroe. Much of her famed allure actually came from the tricks she integrated into her massive shoe closet. Monroe owned a whopping 40 pairs of Salvatore Ferragamo‘s four-inch pumps. Ferragamo also kept a wooden model of her foot in his studio to create shoes for her as he pleased. The trick to her effortless hip-swinging walk was all in the shoes: Monroe would file one of the heels of the shoes lower than the other so she had an angle to her step whenever she walked. “I don’t know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot,” she once said.
Jean Harlow was one of the first bombshells to ever grace the silver screen during the 1930s. The actress was nicknamed the “Blonde Bombshell” and the “Platinum Blonde” for her peroxide blonde hair. Harlow favored wearing monochromatic lighter colors for their luminous effect and curve-hugging shapes to show off her figure. She believed in minimalism and owning few pieces of quality clothing staples. “It saves you money in the long run to get a good dress of which you’re always proud,” Harlow said. She avoided accessorizing her looks with jewelry, believing that dresses should be able to stand alone. However, she always had to wear an anklet as her good luck charm.
Many of Hollywood’s biggest divas made names for themselves for their distinctive fashion sense, one of the most notable being German-born actress Marlene Dietrich. An fashion icon due to her early embrace of androgynous fashion, she was also an innovator of fashions in many ways. Dietrich was one of the first to use the red carpet beauty trick of taping the temples back into the hairline so the face appears lifted. Dietrich’s mini-facelift also wasn’t the last of her creations. During her 1950s tour in Las Vegas, she sewed bras into her dresses to improve movement. The actress also developed a boa of ultra-light swansdown for a dramatic fashion statement that wasn’t weighted on the body.
In one of the many Old Hollywood designer-muse collaborations, Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy’s relationship was important throughout both of their careers. In Hepburn’s first of many collaborations with Givenchy, she desired an authentic Parisian wardrobe for the film Sabrina, so she was sent to Givenchy. Hepburn selected pieces from his 1954 collection, one of them being a black cocktail dress with ribbons tying the shoulders. The design of deeply carved armholes and a horizontal neckline hid the collarbones, a point of insecurity on Hepburn, who once said she had fragile neckline. Hepburn loved the style and permanently made it part of her wardrobe. “What used to be called a décolleté bateau,” Givenchy said. “Afterward it was called the décolleté Sabrina.”
On the opposing side, French femme fatale Brigitte Bardot was an early wearer of the off-the-shoulder top dubbed the Bardot neckline. This particular type of neckline accentuates the décolleté and chest, and became a signature of Bardot’s. She was known to wear the style of top with everything from midi skirts to cropped trousers, showing the true versatility of an item that still remains a closet staple to this day.
Elizabeth Taylor, queen of the diamonds, had a notably incredible jewelry collection featuring some of the rarest stones in the world. It’s said that for Taylor, it was all about the accessories. She would first choose what piece of jewelry she wanted to wear and then style the rest of her outfit around her selection. Many of her best looks throughout history match the color or shape of her gowns to the stones on her iconic jewelry pieces, like at the 42nd Annual Oscar Awards where she played with the shape of her low neckline against a large teardrop diamond.
While walking on nine-and-half inch heels sounds ridiculous (especially on a morning commute), we can learn a thing or two from the Old Hollywood legends. These are the woman who took control of their image, finding ways to add to their fame as movie stars but also as fashion icons. Many of the secrets that lie in the wardrobes of Old Hollywood’s biggest starlets might be kept a secret forever, but the ones that were left behind range from outrageous to simply genius.END
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