No other film industry held as much influence as Hollywood – more specifically, the Golden Age of Hollywood. The era was the most powerful and most persuasive style of film-making in the world, when the American cinema industry boomed and rose to fame. When you think of classic Hollywood, perhaps you envision the glitz and glamour of the darling of the studios like Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth, Grace Kelly and more. Certainly, the classic style of these Hollywood beauties became memorable and influential in the fashion world.
When it comes to glamour, the styles of the classic Hollywood stars are the most fitting. Let’s break down the classic and iconic Hollywood glamor dresses per decade.
By the 1930s, a lot of film studios are established in Hollywood. After the Great Depression, people were finding ways to escape from the realities of their daily lives to relax and enjoy.
At the time, Jean Harlow was the epitome of classic Hollywood glamour in the 1930s. She was known as the first “Blonde Bombshell” and started the female lead character stereotype of a very attractive blond woman with sex appeal. In terms of fashion sense, her sexy, slinky, satin bias cut evening gowns became her style trademark. If you want to dress in the style of the 1930s Hollywood glam, just steal Harlow’s looks. She shows off her curves in a body-conscious silhouette with elegance.
Besides the bias cut gowns, Hollywood evening gowns that are on trend during the 30s also include cowl necklines, draped/exposed backs and geometric paneling. They are long and are made of silk or satin that softly drape down the body. Elbow-long gloves, paste jewelry and a small clutch purse are used to complete the look.
During the 1940s, evening gowns became more structured compared to the delicate style of the previous decade. Classic Hollywood glamour gowns of the 40’s can feature cutout sections that expose the waistline, plunging-V necklines and gentle pleating across the bustline for the top part; and then a long skirt for the bottom. The skirt can be straight or full to free the legs to move.
Strapless gowns are popular during the decade, like what the glamorous 1940s star Rita Hayworth has worn in her iconic 1946 film Gilda. Due to the advances in technology that made lingerie become more structured, strapless style in dresses and gowns have become fashionable. When sleeves are employed in gowns and dresses, shoulder pads are used.
The success of the 1939 film Gone with the Wind played a huge influence in fashion of the 40’s. It has seen a throwback of the style of the Victorian age – the princess ball gown. The princess bodice revealed more neck, shoulders and upper chest compared to 1930’s-style gowns. To make the skirts full, a petticoat is used underneath; otherwise, the skirts are simply pleated at the waist, cut wide or layered in tulle. Many 1940s princess ball gowns also feature drop sleeves that are hung around the shoulders. More modest designs have full puff sleeves or short cap sleeves.
Formal, glamour dresses are usually made from rayon and are fastened with zippers or small buttons at the back.
Hollywood glamour dresses and gowns in the 1950s has been varied, as designers explore all manners of creative possibilities in fashion.
One look that was fashionable in the decade was dresses with nipped-in waistlines that enhance the look of the voluminous full skirt. Actress Grace Kelly epitomized this style, showing off grace, femininity and glamour at the same time.
Many big female stars of the decade donned the classic Hollywood style. One of Marilyn Monroe’s iconic outfits is the slender, pink tube gown with a straight neckline and ankle length, which she wore in the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blonds. This style first appeared in the late 1940s, but in the 50’s it often came with a narrow belt at the waist and a big bow on the low back, just like Monroe’s. Audrey Hepburn’s classic silhouette dresses designed by Givenchy also evoke the classic Hollywood glamour. The sleeker dresses are often made of satin, velvet or taffeta.
A lot of tube dresses at the time are strapless, and has either a straight or modest sweetheart dip. If the dress comes with straps, it fastens at the back of the neck halter style or out to the shoulder tips like a Bardot neckline. Many tube gowns also feature a full skirt, but the fullness is only at the back. When the wearer is facing you, it seems like she wears a slender gown, but once she turns around, it looks like a ball gown.
Tube dresses with fullness at the bottom was another trend, which is now known as the mermaid style. During the 1950s, this style had a gathered skirt around the knees down to the ankles or floor, with some having a shorter front and a longer back.
The world of costume design and cinema-inspired fashion has brought a plethora of choices for the modern woman. Looking at most dresses donned by celebrities in the red carpet today, we can see that they are still closely inspired from the looks of the old, especially the 1930’s. As looking pristine and elegant is part of their job, the best inspiration to look for is in the era of the epitome of Hollywood glamour.
Same goes for the glamorous women who love dressing up for social events – you can never go wrong with going “cinematic.” Now, it’s easier to get your own film-inspired apparel, as they can be brought from the local department stores into the closets of ordinary women.