Old Hollywood is romantic. Be it the black and white tints of the screen, the honey-like smoothness of the music or just the notion that America was at its absolute best, one can’t help but look to the Golden Era of film nostalgically.
And as women, we also can’t help but be inspired by Hollywood heroines and their effortless yet glamorous senses of style when curating our wardrobes. History smiles quite fondly on legends like Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly, but there are other stylish starlets that can sometimes slip through the cracks.
Here are four Hollywood actresses of old who have influenced our style and our society more than we may realize:
This “Mexican Spitfire” made a name for both herself and Mexican actresses during the silent film era. Lupe Velez began her show business career as a dancer in Mexico but moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting. Velez later became one of the first Mexican A-list actresses of Hollywood, being cast as the leading lady in motion pictures like Wolf Song (1929), The Girl From Mexico (1939) and, of course, The Mexican Spitfire (1940-1943) series.
Get Her Look
While a fiery force to be reckoned with on-screen, we can say the same for her savvy style off-screen. Velez managed to accentuate her curly bob with cloche hats reminiscent of her era and fabulous fur coats over mid-length dresses. While the fur coat (we prefer faux) may be a little hot for the current season, you can still capture Velez’s style with a French-inspired cloche and a well-tailored, mid-length dress.
Wear your Lupe combo at your next brunch date with friends or jet-setting rendezvous, as Velez certainly took part in back in her day. You’re surefire to look like a spitfire.
This Italian bombshell is the Hollywood success story of rags to riches. Raised by a single mother outside of Rome, Sophia Loren lived under her grandparents’ roof where she shared a bedroom with eight other people. Her life of poverty altered when she struck silver — on the silver screen, that is.
At fifteen years of age, Loren’s mother moved them to Rome to break into the industry. After several smaller films, Loren established herself as an “up-and-coming” actress as the star of The Gold of Naples (1953). Four years later, she acted alongside debonair actors, Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant in The Pride and the Passion (1957). But her most notorious role, one she drew on from personal experience, was in Two Women (1960), a film about a mother-daughter duo trying to stay afloat financially during World War II. Through this motion picture, Loren became the first actress to win the “Best Lead Actress” Academy Award in a foreign film.
Get Her Look
Besides being regarded as one of the “world’s all-time most attractive women,” Loren knew how to dress to accentuate her features, and her style continues to provide vacation inspiration today. From floppy hats to statement pearl necklaces, Loren knew how to properly spice up a summer dress. You can, too.
Walk the beach this summer in a flowy, floral summer dress similar to Loren’s. Add a flimsy hat, statement necklace and bold lipstick to embrace your inner Italian fashion guru!
Anna May Wong
Known as Hollywood’s first Asian-American star, this silent film siren graced the films of Shanghai Express and The Toll of the Sea (1922), an Academy Award-winning Technicolor rendition of the musical, Madame Butterfly. Due to her heritage and the stereotypes that sprung from the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882), Anna May Wong dealt with discrimination from her days in school to the screen, despite being born an American citizen.
Rather than landing roles as the benevolent protagonist, Wong either was cast as the vixen-like villain who attempted to steal love from the Caucasian lead or did not find love whatsoever. Similarly, when positive Asian roles were available, such as “Star Blossom” in The Son-Daughter, Wong was regarded as being “too-Chinese” for the part. Despite her hardships, Wong displayed her talents in the roles given to her. That sort of perseverance and can-do attitude is something women of any background can deeply admire.
Get Her Look
Wong may have been better known as the Lotus flower of Hollywood, but she was also the Jasmine flower of jewelry. The actress truly knew how to play up a simple ensemble with many statement rings, fun headpieces and standout necklaces.
We can thank Wong for the new embellishment trend that will be this summer’s staple. You cannot go Wong (pun completely intended) with Anna May’s signature pearl headband. Move over, Blair Waldorf.
During an era where most women of color were cast as background characters, Dorothy Dandridge proved that her skin color looked best directly under the limelight. In fact, Dandridge turned down a role in The King and I (1956), because she refused to play a slave. She starred as the lead in blockbuster titles like Carmen Jones (1954) and Porgy and Bess (1959).
Dandridge even became the first African-American woman to be nominated for Best Actress and graced the cover of Life Magazine a year later.
Get Her Look
In addition to being a stellar actress and singer, Dandridge was also an impeccable dresser who we can thank for our recent favorite trend: the off-the-shoulder. From dresses to tops, Dorothy taught us modern women that showing off your neckline and shoulders are foolproof style strategies to communicate “I’m attractive and classy.”
In Carmen Jones, Dandridge wore an off-the-shoulder black top with statement hoops and high-waist red trousers with a matching flower hairpin for a tropical look. You can beat the heat in Dandridge’s “cold shoulder” top this summer with similar pairings.
Which of these styles do you prefer?
Featured image of Dorothy Dandridge; LIFE Magazine