My Retro Beauty Influences (and surprise … they’re all from movies).

Determining who my classic beauty inspirations are proved to be more difficult that I’d expected.  When I say “classic”, I’m talking about figures from the Golden Age of Hollywood (late ’30s-early ’40s) through perhaps the 1960s.  And let’s also be clear about another thing: I’m strictly referring to beauty influences here, not style influences.  If I’m talking style, it’s an entirely different story and it’s much, much longer.  Those who’ve influenced my taste in beauty are much fewer when it comes to years gone by.

I’ve previously posted on more current beauty inspirations (which include Diane Kruger, Olivia Palermo, Keira Knightley, etc.), and figuring that out was easy for me.  I just ask myself questions like Whose hair do I most envy when I read InStyle?  Who do I most try to emulate when it comes to eye makeup?  Who shows up most on my Pinterest beauty board?  And because I’m a magazine junkie, I tend to be most influenced by celebrities and models rather than the classic movie stars when it comes to beauty.  Additionally, beauty was different in decades past.  I’ll be honest- Veronica Lake-type beauty really sends me, but … deep breaths … Kate Moss-type beauty sends me even further.  I’ll be choosing the smoked-out eye and textured hair over the red lip and glossy retro waves forever, and that’s the way it is.  Now, again, do I looooooove the retro look?  Yes.  But is it the defining, foundational influence over my personal taste?  No.  Ideally, my hair would always be second-day hair, with just a bit of grit to it.  Additionally, in this same fantasy, I would always have second-day makeup.  You know those smudges of eyeliner left on your lids the morning after you lazily go to bed without washing it off?  That right there.  That’s the best.

So now that we’re clear about that, let me tell about a couple reigning queens of Old Hollywood that have influenced my preferences in hair and makeup.  And yes, these are, in fact, all characters from films rather than singular actresses/models/dancers/whatever.  Alright then. Spit spot!


The movie Vertigo has influenced in more significant ways than one, but because this is not a cinema blog, I shall refrain from carrying on about the inexplicably HUGE impact that this film’s story/soundtrack/wardrobe/cinematography has had on my imagination and person in general.  Instead, I shall praise the stark, cold, clean beauty of Kim Novak’s character named Madeleine as one of my own influences.  The ice-blonde hair, combined with bold eyebrows and soft peach cheeks (almost as if she’s been pulled out of some freezing cold water or something?) set the aesthetic tone for a sad and dark-minded woman.  There’s nothing gaudy about Kim Novak’s look here, and it worked with the character’s costuming too, which consisted of clean lines and solid, muted colors.  The minimalist, immaculate beauty of Madeleine’s character effectively conveyed a disturbing sense of mystery to me as a child, including the fact that her hair is always pulled back in a perfect, neat coil.

Kim’s beauty in Vertigo has influenced me in the sense that I have an eternal appreciation for the clean and neat.  Yes, I do like myself a bit of grunge, but as those who know me will tell you, I tend to have a heart for simplicity over, well, whatever you’d call “not simple” in beauty.  Moreover, I think Madeleine inspired in me a love for “dark” beauty.  Though her hair is unmistakably blonde, Madeleine’s character is nothing but quiet sophistication.  Alfred Hitchcock taught me that, through characters like Madeleine and the way you style them, you can portray mood through beauty.  And lastly, it’s this character that has had me committing to myself that if I ever do go blonde, it will in this shade.  No lie.  It’s either full ice blonde or nothing.


Yes, THIS scene from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, not that scene, was the one that immediately had me seeing stars.  If I could look like this every day, ear plugs and all, I would.  Audrey Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly is pure McKenna perfection during these moments when she answers the door to meet the film’s leading man.  Her haircut, the highlights near the crown of her head, her glowy, pink cheeks, her lush lashes, and her full, pink lips are something I’d shoot for any day.  There really isn’t much depth to my explanation beyond this, other than me saying that it’s in this look that we see my appreciation for the less-than-perfect, in contrast to Kim Novak’s flawlessness above.  I tend to feel that the opening scene of Breakfast demonstrates what we like to see as perfection, and ironically, that look actually isn’t my favorite.  It’s iconic, yes, but is it the style I have in mind when I get ready to go wander in the early morning?  Nope.  This look is.


Alright, so maybe I really do love some 1960s in my look every once in a while.  Like, really really really do.  And nothing says 1960s and nothing says Italian quite like Virna Lisi.  Not a thing, not no one.  During her How to Murder Your Wife days, Virna seemed to embody THEE look of the decade: voluminous, sassy hair (clearly a job for foam rollers), awesomely thick, black, cake eyeliner, mattified skin, relatively untouched lips, and some seriously bold eyebrows.  I’d like to think that today’s models like Cara Delevingne wouldn’t have a foundation to stand on if it weren’t for beauty like Virna’s first laying the groundwork and providing inspiration.  It’s the aesthetic of Virna, and Brigitte, and Marilyn that seems to have had the most influence on beauty these days if you ask me.  This kind of hair kicked off an evolution that’s landed us with Victoria’s Secret hair.  This kind of makeup has served as a model for countless designers and stylists today, such as Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton.  A cat-eye is an everyday staple these days for every girl-about-town.   In short, the 1960s Italian look is everywhere.  And I love it.

There really are countless other retro influences of mine when it comes to the whole realm of style, but because I’m focusing in on beauty here, I’d say that about sums it up.  It’s hard to distinguish little pieces of a picture that’s so complicated, but this is my best.  I don’t follow Audrey to a tee, but there are traces of her.  I don’t mimic Natalie Wood in The Great Race exactly, but you can find bits of her.  But that’s the point- to be inspired, but to still be you.  xo, MR

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