The 50s and 60s marked a pivotal time for fashion consequent to the introduction of quiet, classic glamour portrayed by legendary queens of the silver screen. The understated and wholesome style of Grace Kelly, coupled with the classic and timeless look of Audrey Hepburn, defines an era whereby perfection and femininity were embraced in an approachable manner.
Furthermore, decades later, these, amongst other influential 50s style icons remain just that, fashion icons emulated by millions. From the 17th April until 26th September, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum will be home to the ‘Grace Kelly: Style Icon’ exhibition, showcasing iconic costumes from her career as a Hollywood actress to her years as Princess Grace of Monaco. This exhibition will undoubtedly intensify the trend of quiet glamour throughout the summer.
Christian Dior states that the key to timeless, good dressing stems from three key fundamentals; simplicity, grooming, and good taste. All of which are evident in the styles of these legendary woman, and more importantly achievable for all. Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Marilyn Monroe are undeniably three of the most influential fashion icons who exude 50s glamour but in individual ways. Below is a guide to how you too can achieve their timeless styles.
Grace Kelly Fig 1
With coiffed hair set into a sleek shape and contrastive dark lips, Grace Kelly’s style was evidently groomed, but by far overstated. She opted for simple cuts which accentuated her hourglass figure and womanly silhouette, teamed with simple pearl accessories. Her style portrayed her as a humble American sweetheart typically characterised by the full length flared skirt, and reinforced with the avoidance of heavy embellishment or extravagant frosting. Grace’s wardrobe consisted of many classic black items, but those aside, she preferred pastel shades as opposed to garish brights.
Fig 2 Grace’s daytime look above was casual yet infused with elegance. Try teaming a pair of your tailored high waist jeans with a crisp pastel coloured or patterned blouse. French Connection’s spotted nova voile front shirt with puff sleeves and front tie waist is available in candy floss pink or pastel blue and costs £45. Add a pair of black ballet pumps, and finish with simple pearl earrings to recapture her refined good taste.
Audrey Hepburn Fig 3
Audrey was often seen in black or white simple pieces, and probably her most iconic garment was her little black dress created by Givenchy for her role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Audrey demonstrated how accessories can transform an entire look by wearing a plain black dress and adding a glistening statement necklace and diamond hair clip which instantly screamed extravagance and glamour. Off screen however, Audrey did tend to take a more minimal approach with her jewellery and would often opt for a simple pair of diamond studded earrings. Audrey’s influence in hand with Vogue denoting the Lbd as the core to every collection in 1952 has positioned it as a staple garment in every woman’s wardrobe even to this very day. DKNY’s black, textured, sheath dress is a modern take on Audrey’s classic style. Costing £258 from my-wardrobe.com certainly makes it an investment piece, but it’s also multi-purpose therefore accounting for the hefty price tag. Adding a black belt around the waist to help you resemble Audrey’s Givenchy dress further and reinforce your womanly silhouette, makes it the perfect piece to wear to work or even for an interview. Alternatively, accessorising with a statement necklace such as Topshop’s 4 row stone collar necklace at £30, will transform your look from daytime sophistication into night time glamour.
Marilyn Monroe Fig 6
Marilyn’s iconic red lipstick in hand with her figure hugging dresses to make the most of her curvaceous body are the elements which constituted to making her one of the first ever sex symbols. Clothing in the 50s was defined by structure, and her hourglass figure was therefore further emphasised via corset type undergarments to minimise the waist and accentuate the hips. Pencil skirts, and halter necks featured heavily in her wardrobe, and were often accessorised with bows in order to inject more femininity. Mixing glamour and sexuality was easy for Marilyn with her sweetheart necklines, fur wraps, and diamond frosting. Reiss’ Zena, cream, tuck-front dress for £135 Fig 7 creates curves in all the right places and simultaneously disguises any problem areas. It’s a classic daytime look with a subtle sexy edge. Team with a pair of nude peep-toes, of which Marilyn was a huge fan, to lengthen and accentuate the legs, and of course finish with some trademark red lipstick.
A Screen Queen’s Five Essentials
1) Red lipstick: Make-up in the 1950s reinforced the ideals of perfection and glamour, and due to the introduction of colour motion pictures, the general public could now truly see the vivid colours that their idols were wearing. Marilyn Monroe’s trademark red lipstick consequently inspired one of the biggest make-up trends of the 50s. The ‘Lip of Luxury’ champagne infused lipstick by Two faced, in shade ‘drop dead red’, does not only feel as luxurious on the lips as it sounds, but also comes in a glamorous diamante encrusted case. It’s available at selected Debenhams’ stores and at twofaced.com for £16. Fig 8
2) Liquid eyeliner: Wear sweeps of thick, bold liquid eyeliner, flicked out at the corners, and compliment with precise eyebrows.
3) Peep-toe shoes: This versatile and classic style was worn by most legendary Hollywood actresses. They served as a means to complete Grace Kelly’s sophisticated look, or contrastively add a provocative touch to Marilyn’s ensemble. Fig 9 Try the ‘Amelia’ peep-toe court shoe, available for £75 by Kurt Geiger in classic black, luxurious champagne, or daring orange.
4) Sunglasses: No true Hollywood look is ever complete without a good pair of oversized sunglasses. Audrey Hepburn was never without hers, and in turn the Ray-Bans that she wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s are purely iconic of this era. Fig 10 To steal her exact look, Net-a-porter.com has these large Wayfarer acetate sunglasses by Ray-Ban for £140.
5) Clutch bag: The legendary Hermès Kelly bag was so named after Grace Kelly herself in 1956, making elegant arm candy an essential amongst the masses. Fig 11 As a cheaper alternative to one of the extravagantly priced originals, opt for Accessorize’s black, earth piping detail, leather clutch for £40. Definitely a timeless piece!