Today: Jun 17, 2024

Glitz and glam: The fashion of Elizabeth Taylor

Steve Miller, Opinions Editor:
It was a cold winter morning in Newport, Rhode Island, when I had my first encounter with Miss Taylor.  While visiting a friend, I decided to make a trip, trudging through the foot of snow left from the previous day’s storm to Armory Antiques, a local antique shop downtown.  Normally, whenever I visit an antique shop I’m in search of any hidden treasures, which in my case are brooches and gaudy knick knacks not unlike the one’s found littered around a grandmother’s living room. As I walked through the aisles, a photograph of a stunning woman caught my eye.  She was lavishly dressed in a mink coat, pearl earrings, and a dress printed with small overlapping patterns of zodiac symbols.  The curls of her hair fell perfectly over her face, and her smile told of a confident and mysterious woman.  On the back, a small handwritten note read, “Elizabeth Taylor ‘A Place in the Sun.’” Even though the picture itself was a bit out of my price range, something in her eyes, convinced me that I just had to have it.

Photo courtesy reelthinker.com

Since then, Elizabeth Taylor, one of Hollywood’s most recognized icons, has been a constant source of inspiration to fashion lovers worldwide.  While she may have been known for her charm, numerous marriages, and talent as one of the greatest female actresses of all time, it was her physical presence on film and in real life that had the public spellbound.
When it came to style in everyday life, Taylor was fearless.  The jewels, plunging necklines, and mesmerizing seemingly perfectly placed waves of hair—every element of her personal style became the epitome of yesteryear’s old Hollywood glamour.  Enough is never enough was her motto and even her obsession for glitz and glam particularly draped flowing dresses, emeralds, and diamonds, lead to a jewelry company, House of Taylor, a perfume, White Diamonds, and a book, “My Love Affair with Jewelry.”  As she grew older, her personal style continued to grow.  In the 70s it was tight miniskirts, the 80s feather boas and elaborate makeup, and even in her 70s being bound to a wheelchair, Taylor would be seen in draped in the finest of furs and silk.
But on-screen, mixes of minimal and lavish are what she came to be known and adored for.  From her simple white slip in “Butterfield 8,” which made a simple female garment at the time look like the sexiest piece of clothing in the world, to the ornate Egyptian and Mod infused Irene Sharaff headdress worn in “Cleopatra,” considered one of the most extravagant American-made films of all time.  Taylor’s constant dedication and love for beauty shined through both on and off screen with an absolute assertion of personal style that could turn simple into sexy and elegant into exotic.
But despite her proclaimed fashion iconography and fabulous demeanor Taylor modestly never considered herself a style icon but a woman who dressed for her passions but more importantly—for herself.
“Fashion icons are the geniuses I was fortunate enough to work with,” she said.  “I never worried about good or bad taste; I dressed to please myself, the man in my life, or the character onscreen.”

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