Silent Era Inspiration


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Gloria Swanson and Rachel Zoe in turbans

The refined appeal of the silent era has never fully left the masses.  The panache of the jazz age is still valued as the bee’s knees of the fashion world with major houses, including Chanel and John Galliano, continually referencing our influential past.  As the darker days of winter approach, now is the perfect time to sample the splendor of silent era style either in your upcoming wedding or your everyday fashion.

Sshhhh…. behold the beauty of the silent era.

Gloria Swanson’s Turban

Gloria Swanson, famous for her piercing eyes, was a legend of the burgeoning cinema world and the embodiment of fashion on a grandiose scale during the 1920s.   Though she didn’t invent the turban, she certainly brought a degree of popularity to the somewhat difficult to pull-off head wear.  The turban trend comes in waves and will likely make its return yet again.

Gloria Swanson and Rachel Zoe in turbans

The Clara Bow Lip

Before silent films, and the heavy make-up that came with them, it was a definite no-no to apply cosmetics in public.  However, the widely dispersed images of fully made-up starlets changed everything and soon retouching lipstick was the thing to be seen doing.  During the silent era there were no lips more sought after than that of the original Hollywood “It” girl Clara Bow.  Painting her lips in her signature cupid bow shape, Bow ushered in the sex-charged 1920s.

Too much for a wedding? Perhaps. But inspirational nonetheless.

Clara Bow and Lady Gaga with cupid bow lips

Brows of Greta Garbo

Though her highly rounded eyebrows were considered the archetype of the 1930s, she actually had them throughout the silent era while her star was quickly rising.  This is particularly noteworthy in an era that was populated by a flood of actresses wearing pencil thin brows that tended to move straight across the eye then taper down.  Garbo nailed the pencil thin brow, but her incomparably high arch brought with it a new strength that clearly inspired the following generation of women coming up in the 1930s and beyond.

Greta Garbo and Angelina Jolie

Pola Negri’s Vamp Appeal

There were many vamps during the jazz age, but Polish actress Pola Negri was at the top of the fame and money game.  Having tabloid relationships with Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino fueled her fame, but her vamp persona and sex-appeal kept her mystique alive.  With porcelain complexion, jet black hair and bright green eyes, Negri became the model upon which future Goths fashioned their style.

Pola Negri and Evan Rachel Wood

Over-sized Elegance from the Clowns

Modern men may not always have the same impact on fashion as women, but they do change the course of style in their own way.  Over-the-top theatrics dominate today’s runway shows and many classic-swayed collections are not unlike the exaggerated styles of the top clowns of comedy, notably Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.  With their feet firmly planted in the three-piece suit preferences of their time, Keaton and Chaplin took fashion liberties by donning baggy pants (a trend in recent decades) and taking complete ownership of distinct hats, a pork pie for Keaton and a bowler for Chaplin; both of which became stylish again in recent years.

Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, John Galliano menswear spring/summer 2011

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