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Joan Crawford-movie Icon

January 7, 2015

One thing you could never accuse Joan Crawford of being is shy and demure. While many of her peers during the forties where submissive and alluring, Crawford was her own woman. Many of us remember her only as the nightmarish mother from “Mommie Dearest,” but in fashion terms, she was much more than an ogre.

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford – Thirties style icon

Although for many, the most abiding memory we have of Joan Crawford is the forties hair, thick Cupid bow eyebrows and those oh so high shoulder pads, in the thirties, she was at the height of her fashion icon status. She looked a very different woman to the one we would come to recognize as Mildred Pierce.

Born to shine

Joan Crawford was born Lucille Fay Le Sueur in 1905 on the 23rd March. She was very much a leader of fashion rather than a follower, right from the start. Her flapper girl phase was a triumph and started off her reputation as a very modern woman. She was no shrinking violet, she was assertive, independent, ambitious and seductive. All the right ingredients to get on in Hollywood.

Stylist and movie star – a perfect partnership

Like Rita Hayworth and Jean Louis, Joan Crawford would begin a career long relationship with Gilbert Adrian, considered one of the finest costume designers in Hollywood at the time. He had the nous to enable Crawford to enhance her assets, such as the big eyes, high cheekbones and wide lips. Thin perfectly shaped eyebrows would enhance her eyes, as would wide brimmed hats, from which her eyes would smoulder beneath. Padded shoulders helped to enhance a broad back and tall silhouette.

A long partnership – Joan Crawford and Adrian

Adrian and Joan Crawford would create a formidable fashion partnership that would survive over 30 movies, creating some unforgettable costumes that would go on to be copied by department stores all over America for the adoring public, who desperately wanted to emulate Crawford’s style.


Adrian’s white ruffle shouldered gown for Joan Crawford’s role in Letty Lynton in 1932 was one such example. Adrian had his own inimitable style, he also held accessories in high esteem and would waste no time in ensuring his protégée wore the right ones for each costume. This would include fur wraps, hats, stoles, belts and elbow length gloves.


Joan Crawford certainly held her own body in high esteem, for it was her fortune. She spent much time in ensuring all her shots were taken in the right lighting and worked with Hollywood’s best photographers to get the best pictures.She had a fierce diet and exercise regime, and reputedly included massaging her body with ice cubes. Not for the faint hearted.

Joan Crawford’s stamp on the fashion zeitgeist

The thirties were Joan Crawford’s best decade ensuring her status as a style icon, it would shape the personality and character she wanted the public to see – a strong, assertive, sassy, strong woman, not afraid to stand up for what she believed in when required. She was dedicated to creating the right image for her movie roles too, and in the forties, in order to prepare for her role as Mildred Pierce, she bought her own wardrobe for the film in order to create a convincing portrayal of a down at heel woman.


She would do the same for Johnny Guitar, creating an androgynous look with short hair and close fitting pants, and carrying a gun.

Joan Crawford- Strong and stylish

There was nothing submissive about Joan Crawford, she was all woman, a strong woman. The forties saw her padded shoulders and forties dresses matched by forties waves and those much thicker, perfectly shaped brows which defined her eyes so well.This is the way most people remember Joan Crawford for the forties – but take a look at the decade that preceded it, to see the fashion icon at her best. Those dresses, the hair, the carefully drawn pencil thin eyebrows and the hair beautifully teased into shape. The peekaboo pillbox hats and those big eyes staring down – pure glamour.


If you want to emulate Joan Crawford’s style – you can go forties or try for a thirties look. Always remember to make sure you’re confident, sassy and assertive to carry the dominant, heart stopping elegant look that Crawford created – and knock ‘em dead.



mommie dearest Movie photo


1932, photo by George Hurrell

in Letty Lynton-credit-MGM

as Mildred Pierce

in Johnny Guitar

Joan Crawford photo