Lauren Bacall’s passing was not just the death of an old-time Hollywood style icon. It was another nail in the coffin of old-time Hollywood glamour and style.
In the days before every actress had a stylist, stars dressed themselves for better and for worse. Some, like Bacall, Audrey Hepburn, Kathryn Hepburn, and a few others, always looked well turned-out. They knew how to put themselves together. They were the epitome of style and glamour.
Today when we say an actress has great style, we are really saying her stylist has great style. This prevents style bloopers like we used to see on the red carpet. Stars are no longer objects of laughter and derision as when they dressed themselves. But the downside of everyone having a stylist is that most dress generically. They look as if they came off an assembly line. How sad.
If pink is the prevailing color, most stylists will put their clients in pink. If a floral motif is in, then you can be sure that’s what they will be wearing. Every stylist wants her client to wear what’s in style. No one is willing to wear something outstanding. It’s far better to play it safe.
Before the advent of stylists, I used to love to watch the Oscars to, as I used to say, make fun of all the stars who dressed laughably. Remember the 1980s? But at least they all looked like individuals. They didn’t look as if they were adhering to a dress code. I’m reminded of the saying that even bad taste is better than no taste at all.
Of course, Bacall, in addition to having excellent style sense, was able to hone that sense when working as a model.
Audrey Hepburn was another who was born with style sense. As a baby, she probably wore her diapers with style. As a star she primarily wore Givenchy. One of the reasons she and Givenchy were such great friends was that the first time she visited his salon he could see her tremendous style sense.
Gene Tierney was another great style icon. Having married Oleg Cassini undoubtedly helped to her fashion sense. Cassini designed all of Tierney’s clothes, and years later he also designed Jackie Kennedy’s trend-setting outfits.
As long as stars continue to work with stylists, we will probably never see anyone dressing horribly, but neither will we see anyone again who will be considered a style icon.
Miriam Silverberg is a freelance journalist and owner of Miriam Silverberg Associates, a boutique publicity firm in Manhattan. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org