Movies and photos of famous women from the first half of the 20th century all share one thing in common; an elegant, fearless and undoubtedly feminine air of beauty. Batting their eyelashes, speaking in smooth flowing voices and prancing about in luscious designer gowns, women from this era are certainly icons for the contemporary vintage enthusiast.
Amidst the gloom and despair of the American Depression, singer Kay Starr was growing up in Dallas, Texas. She sang pop and hillbilly on her own 15-minute show and at the age of ten was earning a nightly salary of around $3. She went on to become a much loved Big Band/jazz-based singer as well as experimenting with other genres. Her Native American heritage blessed her with beautifully defined but delicate features. Kay’s graceful but lively charm as well as her voice makes her a memorable character when looking for past inspiration.
Her fresh-faced beauty can be achieved with a little preparation. For those with short hair and a taste for vintage styles, Kay’sDo can be created with some holding product and the use of a round brush when blow-drying. Rollers might even help you get that super curly look!
One of the most definitive female icons for the more spirited and courageous is of course, actress Jane Russell. Marilyn Monroe had glamour, Audrey Hepburn had grace, but for a change why not swap those more conventional icons for a real Outlaw of a woman?
(Russell’s first film ‘The Outlaw’ only had a short lease of life due to her controversial style and clothing in the story).
As one of the sexiest stars of Old Hollywood, she attracted immeasurable attention with her much talked about the bust on the one hand, and on the other showed a philanthropic soul by founding the World Adoption International Fund.
To achieve a look like hers (or one as close to it as possible) you might consider going for a bolder, more arched eyebrow shape. Dark long eyelashes and accurately painted lips are two of her central features, not to mention her ever-revealing necklines. She wore them low enough to showcase her assets, but not low enough to seem vulgar.
Her full-bodied head of dark hair takes a bit more effort and is perhaps best saved for special occasions in the case of the busy modern woman. Gel and pin curl clips covering the whole head will ensure an end result of full-bodied curls that will last a while.
Anyone who is a fan of good old organic American music will be familiar with the one and only, Wanda Jackson. As America’s first lady of Rock ‘n’ Roll, she was a determined female in the male-dominated music industry and perhaps less glamorous than the previous 2 women. But with some glittering diamond earrings, a slick of lipstick and an acoustic guitar at hand, she’s every independent woman’s icon.
She wore her hair mostly shoulder length and curly, similar to Jane Russell, and can be seen wearing bright oranges and reds a lot of the time. It’s the combination of those bold conspicuous colours and casual, uncluttered outfits like a turtleneck and pencil skirt combination that gives her an honest quality as if she’s not trying too hard to seem glamorous.
For Wanda’s smart rockabilly flare, choose a tight-fitting red or orange jumper or cardigan and slip into a neutral coloured figure-hugging skirt. A flashy pair of vintage earrings and some classic red lipstick is all you need to up the glamour factor without going overboard.
When looking to the past for encouragement in your vintage escapades, keep in mind these flamboyant heroines who showed the world, each in their own way, what it meant to be a woman. They had ambition and a profound sense of identity, helping them look beautiful no matter what.