“My only problem is finding a way to play my fortieth fallen female in a different way from my thirty-ninth.”
Old School Hollywood is full of mesmerizing leading ladies who capture our attention like nothing else. There are a few greats who we don’t consider iconic solely in terms of black and white film, but who deserve the title in every era of cinema. Barbara Stanwyck was not the girl next door. She wasn’t an ingénue. I can’t imagine her reacting to Clark Gable taking his clothes off in It Happened One Night in the same blushing surprise as Claudette Colbert. I doubt I would’ve believed her playing the lost princess as Audrey Hepburn did in Roman Holiday. But just because she became the femme fatale per excellence, doesn’t mean she was without vulnerability. In fact, it’s the combination of her brazen sensuality and the slight sadness in her eyes that makes Barbara unforgettable.
This queen of the silver screen played strong roles at a time when the movie business was under several limitations, including the censorship codes. Through her smile, husky voice, and expressive eyes, she was able to present all the sensuality that the morality laws were prohibiting from showing. That being said, it wasn’t just her acting and personality that has remained throughout the years. Her outfits, both on film and off, were groundbreaking and quite similar to what we now like to wear on a night out.
You might not be a fan of the vintage look, or you might be slightly afraid to try it out. But Barbara’s style is one that is actually quite timeless that it doesn’t feel like your digging through the back room at Salvation Army. Take a peek at her fashion and get inspired to release the film noir dame you’ve been dying to try out.
Little black dress with statement accessories.
If what you want is to make an entrance, while keeping it casual, try to add belts, brooches, pins, or any other accessory on your outfit to turn an everyday basic item into a showstopper.
Tassels and pompoms
When we think of flappers and the roaring twenties, we think of those dresses full of movement. Before embarking on her acting career, Barbara was a dancer at the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway, as well as a dance instructor at an LGBT speakeasy during the early twenties. Even if you’re unsure of going all out on the tassels, a little touch of something that gives your look some movement can make all the difference.
Sparkles and sequins
You’ve probably heard someone tell you about that one item in their closet they call their “Vegas” dress. Usually it’s gold or metallic. It’s short, tight, or both. But more than likely, it stays on the hanger because it’s too risqué. If you have an outfit you’re saving for a day you can wear it, take it out! Don’t wait for a moment that may or may not come.
Okay, so here is where it gets tricky. Because see-through is a little harder to pull off. If you feel too exposed wearing it over a cute lacy bra or bralette, wear something layered on top. A cardigan or crop top can let you control which parts to show off and which you prefer to keep covered.
Anyone who’s seen “The Lady Eve” has enjoyed watching Barbara’s character seduce Henry Fonda’s shy ophiologist. The film includes plenty of crop tops paired with evening or casual wear that provide a carefree style that is never boring.
Hats and veils
A little flair for the dramatic can bring out that leading lady confident strut from within you. You can pair this finishing touches with an equally stunning outfit or liven up your skinny jeans and t-shirt ensemble.
Most of us are a little weary of trying out an entirely floral outfit. We don’t want to look cutesy but want that old school classic yet casual air. If you keep the accessories to a bare minimum, maybe even add a dark raisin lipstick, you’ll avoid the pitfall of getting confused with a maypole.
Okay, so sadly there’s not that many places where we can wear a ball gown these days. Weddings are pretty casual affairs, New Year’s Eve is more about glitter, and who has balls anymore? But, what about keeping one gown that is not too trendy but just classic and cool? Have one you can keep in your closet, knowing it will always be in style.
Gloves and evening wear
Contemporary life is a casual affair, but what happens when you want an extra oomph or va-va-voom factor? A pair of gloves can change your outfit from the inside out. Not only do they look amazing, you’ll feel like you can seduce even the most reluctant detective.
Barbara Stanwyck was more than her style. Her character and demeanor, both on and off screen, have made her an icon that continues to be remembered as the woman who could make anyone fall in love with her. Her legacy reminds us to work with what we have, to refuse self-pity, and be in constant search for our next opportunity.
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