Friday, June 17, 2016

Style Inspiration: Lauren Bacall

Being this cool is always in style.

Lauren Bacall's designer in To Have and Have Not was Milo Anderson
(But she'd have looked just as good in a potato sack.)

I've always been a huge movie buff.  Consequently, as I grew up I tended to take fashion cues from films rather than magazine covers.  This made me a bit of an oddball because many of the movies I loved were made in the 1940s, and the kids in my junior high probably didn't really understand my imitation of Lauren Bacall's look in To Have and Have Not.  (In my defense, I really rocked a side part and WW2 era shoulder pads...)

What I love about Lauren Bacall is the fact that she looked great in everything she wore, but she never looked like she was following anyone's fashion rules other than her own.  She started out as a department store model and ended up a screen goddess known for her original style.  Early on, she was inspired by the uncomplicated lines of Diana Vreeland's designs ... but she wore them in a way that was anything but simple.  In fact, Vreeland once said of her, "She's perfect all over, and yet she looks like nobody else."

A notorious lover of fashion, Lauren Bacall once hosted a TV show to introduce French couture to the American audience.  But that doesn't really explain her nuanced, signature fashion choices.  Even as a model, she was never just a clothes hanger.  Her style was irreverent, glamorous, elegant, and  often rule breaking.  (She wore sequins during the day decades before Sarah Jessica Parker.)

It never seemed like Lauren Bacall was trying to be different.  She made everything look effortless -- even marching to a meeting of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Lauren Bacall was definitely one of the best dressed actresses of her generation, but you never get the feeling she gave a damn about what any of her beloved fashion gurus said.  That's exactly what made her stand out.  Her life, her rules.  As she grew older, she kept her signature flowing mane despite living in an age that shuddered at the very idea of women over 40 having long hair.

She was so fearless, she even wore a midriff-baring dress in 1941:

Whenever I revisit Lauren's films, I rediscover why she is one of my all-time favorite fashion crushes.  She was just so undeniably cool.  Here's a great post from Glamamor showcasing classic To Have and Have Not Lauren Bacall style.  It's amazing how modern Lauren looks in the film, even though it was shot over 70 years ago.  Check out ten more classic Lauren Bacall looks here.

While I've been known to bare my own midriff on occasion, I really love to wear this tweed gingham jacket from Boden when I'm in a smart-aleck, tough-girl Lauren Bacall mood:

It's just the right 1940s tweed gingham.  I switched out the small buttons for bigger ones, and now it's even more like this one that Lauren made famous.  Add a pencil skirt, and I'm ready to channel my inner Slim.

The icon

Cheap imitation.  (How'd I do?)

While we're at it, let's look at that midriff-baring dress again in another fantastic To Have and Have Not  scene.  I'm not even going to get started on her perfect hair.

By the way, Lauren Bacall was an inspiration for more than just her dauntless style.  Her book By Myself and Then Some is one of my favorite autobiographies.  Her friends called her Betty, and reading this book seemed like reading a long, funny, poignant, fascinating letter from a true pal.  Get to know the real Betty Bacall:

For many more examples of style inspiration at every age, check out my Fabulous Women: Style Inspiration board on Pinterest.  

Want to leave a comment about your style inspiration?  Head on over to the Chic Contraire Community Forum and start a conversation!