“Anyone can look glamorous. You just have to stand still and look stupid.” – Hedy Lamarr
If only it were that easy! But even Hedy Lamarr, who was most certainly not stupid, needed a little extra help. So do most of us. Then again, most of us will never achieve it in our ordinary lives, so we enjoy the next best thing: watching the glamor parade onscreen.
What do we really want when we pursue glamour? The answer, of course, is “a certain lifestyle” – which, if it doesn’t make problems disappear, would at least seem to make them easier to bear.
Or even forget, something Hollywood counted on during the Great Depression. Although conventional wisdom of the time held that film was a luxury in which few could or would indulge, for an average price of 27 cents per ticket, audiences flocked to the celluloid world of vicarious romance, fashion and rags-to-riches drama before returning home with, as writer John Farr put it, “enough renewed hope to get them through one more week of grim reality.”
Here’s a look at some screen icons whose sartorial style has held us spellbound in good times as well as bad.
Top Hat (1935)
So what if the plot is wildly implausible? Ginger Rogers in ostrich feathers and Fred Astaire in tails; diamonds, furs and endless ballrooms; gondolas and seaplanes and the freedom from seemingly all cares but dancing: Astaire isn’t the only one in heaven for nearly two hours.
Queen Bee (1955)
As in real life, a high-handed manner occasionally accompanies high style. Eva Phillips (Joan Crawford) is, at least outwardly, the epitome of bejeweled, fur-wrapped Southern graciousness on her Georgia plantation, but all her gold can’t gild the bitter pill of a jealously manipulative personality.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Holly Golightly may be a gold-digger and call girl, but the sordidness normally associated with those occupations is missing in this Blake Edwards production. Still, before the ’60s started swinging, Holly’s tiaras, little black dresses, cab drop-offs at dawn and swanky Manhattan parties represented a sophistication that was just a bit dangerous, as well as enviable, to young women.
The Great Gatsby (1974)
Not only did “Gatsby” costumes earn their designer an Oscar, they spawned a Brooks Brothers collection. From “chandelier” sheaths adorned with crystals to arresting feather headdresses, waistcoats and straw boater hats to Jay Gatsby’s pale pink suit, the wardrobe projects had as strong a personality as its wearer.
Glamour, glitz and greed! Dynasty’s storylines contained no shortage of keep-them-coming-back drama, but let’s face it: What we really remember are the sparkling jewels, power suits, designer gowns … and shoulder pads, which star Joan Collins praised for their way of making waists and hips look slimmer. “We went all out,” she said of the series’ fashion sense, adding, “When I started getting very dressed up for every single scene, even in the boudoir, they loved it so much that every other actress was also dressed up to the nines.”
– Lucie Winborne