Bette Davis Movie style iconMarch 1, 2015
Bette Davis is perhaps not necessarily the first person that springs to mind when talking style icons, after all she was better known for her incredible acting, and was certainly one of the most celebrated actresses of her era.
However, although even though Davis herself didn’t rate her looks, she had a certain strong, uncompromising style that was always evident in all her films and in whatever she wore, on-screen or off.
Most of all Davis gave the impression of a fierce intelligence with stubborn haughtiness that made her stand out from her contemporaries. There was glamour in Davis’ look, but it was mixed with a smartness you wouldn’t see in Betty Grable or Rita Hayworth. Bette Davis wasn’t the type to be messed around by a man and you knew she’d give as good as she got.
Her career was a long and rewarding one throughout both the 30s and 40s, and once famously said that “Hollywood wanted me to be pretty, but I fought for realism.”
An amazing actress
And Bette was certainly “real” in every sense of the word, her onscreen magnetism made it immaterial that she was no classic Hollywood beauty. She revelled in playing characters with issues and extreme emotions and her intensity lit up the screen.
She was known for her style throughout the 30s and 40s and her look was always dramatic with faux fur, gloves, pill-box hats and those eyes topped with pencil thin eyebrows.
In the forties, her look was typical of the decade, with hair piled up on top, with shoulder padded suits and smart mannish shirts. And what really sticks in the mind for me, is her hair in Now, Voyager, with that rolled back look at the front and combed up at the back. Suits with large brimmed hats and glamorous full gowns were worn with Davis’ eyes peeking from beneath.
“Until you’re known in my profession as a monster, you’re not a star.”
There’s no room for shrinking violets if you want to emulate a Bette Davis style. It’s not so much the clothes, her dress was typical of the decade she was in, typical 30s suits and hats for the 30s, with thinly penciled eyebrows and tightly curled and sleekly combed back hair, and suits with mannish wide trousers for the 40s.
It really was more about how Bette Davis carried herself, the way she walked into a room and commanded attention. The way she looked at men, the way she lit a cigarette. It was all confidence, a performance no one forgot.
All About Eve
In All About Eve, Davis is defiant in typical forties hair, parted at the side with soft waves, the red lips curling with contempt, worn with an off the shoulder dress. Davis is all attitude. Davis pulls her fur coat close to her jaw, hugging its warmth to her, as if someone might steal it from her at any moment.
In Dark Victory, Davis loses her man and her sight, but she commands the screen throughout, her outfits carefully chosen to reveal a woman who’s strong, uncompromising and proud. Her character never wavers from what she must do and gives an intensely dramatic performance.
You need both confidence and attitude for a Davis style of dress
If you fancy some Bette Davis style of your own and you have a love of either the 30s or 40s, then get some confidence, attitude and an unapologetic frame of mind. Walk tall, walk proud and never take no for an answer. You can copy her 30s look or emulate her sense of style in the 40s, the choice is yours, just remember – you’re in charge, no one else. Make a dramatic entrance, that’s what Bette Davis would have done.