Not everything about the late Fifties early Sixties was pastel-hued and innocent in a Doris Day kind of way. Unconventional stars like Jayne Mansfield were bolder, brasher and more modern. Nell Darby takes a look at Mansfield and her style.

Mansfield was born in 1933 as Vera Jayne Palmer in Pennsylvania, and had acting ambitions from a young age. She initially started off competing in beauty contests – becoming Miss Photoflash amongst other thing – but soon broke into the movies. In 1957, she starred in her most famous film, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?. She appeared in elegant dresses and costume jewellery, but her peroxide hair and red lips gave her demure costumes a sexy edge.

Mansfield was a contradiction in terms, a sexy, modern star with a racy image, who also had a high IQ and was a proficient musician. She became infamous for becoming the first mainstream US actress to appear nude in a starring role on film, when she stripped off for Promises! Promises! in 1963. Nude pictures from the film were then used for a centrespread in Playboy.

Her home on Sunset Boulevard matched her public persona: it was a brash place, painted pink, with a pink heart-shaped bathtub and swimming pool.

Mansfield saw her main rival as Marilyn Monroe, another peroxide blonde with ample physical assets. But their personalities and looks were quite different. In fact, Jayne was more confident about her looks and would use them to get publicity and attention. She happily traded on her looks and figure, and when she made nightclub appearances, her beauty guaranteed attention and audiences.

seeShe was tall, with long legs and a large chest, and her public outfits included transparent clothes, leopard-skin bikinis (with her then husband, Mickey Hargitay, accompanying her dressed as Tarzan), and tight satin dresses.

In private, she was a bit more demure: sleeveless striped dresses worn with a black belt to emphasise her small waist, a white trouser suit with thin black stripes, the jacket short and fitted.

Another picture shows her in a patterned, fitted Chinese Tang Dynasty style embroidered jacket with three-quarter length sleeves teamed with black cigarette pants and flat black sandals. At home, she liked jackets with bracelet-sleeves, and simple shapes, quite a demure look for someone with so outrageous a screen persona.

Jayne Mansfield’s look was of its time, and her film career took a nosedive when tastes changed. However, Mansfield herself remained popular, and the actress continued to make appearances on stage and in nightclubs, until her tragic death in a car accident in 1967.


2 Responses

  1. Mike Abbott

    Discover Diana Dors – as visually exciting as Jayne and a very successful,actor (in the 50s)