These days the classic pin-up, sex kitten look seems to be everywhere. With the revival of burlesque pioneered by the likes of Dita Von Teese, vintage sex goddess style has made it onto high fashion catwalks from Chanel to Dolce & Gabbana. But who are the legendary femme fatales that we take our inspiration from? Aneequa has listed 10 women who embody the sex appeal of bygone eras.

1. Bettie Page

Look up the word ‘pin up’ in any dictionary and there should be a picture of this remarkable woman. An iconic figure in popular culture, Page’s trademark jet-black hair with a short fringe, killer curves and cheeky smile are instantly recognisable and saw her become the first well-known fetish model and later burlesque dancer and actress.

Her looks included the classic pin-up style, known as cheesecake, as well as leather and bondage, which made her a pioneer for women to express their sexuality. Page died in December 2008 at the age of 85, however, her legacy lives on.

2. Marilyn Monroe

An obvious choice, Monroe started off her career as a model before becoming an actress and worldwide sex symbol.  Her iconic bleached blonde curls, trademark mole and pillar-box red lips have been copied by admirers for years.

Playing on the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype, Monroe’s best known images include the still from ‘The Seven Year Itch’ in which she stands over an air vent in a flowing white dress.


3. Betty Boop

Despite being an animated character, I just had to include Betty in the list! Betty made her first appearance on screen in the Thirties and was an instant hit with theatregoers.

Famed for her obvious sexual appeal with her curvaceous figure shown off by short dresses and high heels, and teamed with gigantic eyelashes, she remains a big hit today as collectors continue to buy her merchandise.




4. Madonna

Yes, we do know Madonna isn’t technically a vintage sex goddess, although she’s been around for a few decades now.

But the queen of reinvention single-handedly revived the Fifties look in the Eighties, emulating the style of Marilyn Monroe, complete with blonde curls and mole.

5. Rita Hayworth

Referred to as the ‘Love Goddess’, flame-haired Forties musical star Rita Hayworth was famed for being ‘the best dressed girl in Hollywood’.  French designer Jean Louis was responsible for Hayworth’s wardrobe and helped create her elegant image.

Hayworth was a true fashionista, often seen in glamorous off the shoulder silk gowns.




6. Ava Gardner

Stunning green-eyed brunette Gardner is remembered for her elegance and sleek style.  Starring in Showboat and The Killers, she often wore strapless dresses and gowns, and her trademark look included long sexy gloves and lots of jewellery.




7. Elizabeth Taylor

The English born, American actress is known for her beauty as well as her many marriages including that to fellow actor Richard Burton.
We are all familiar with the image of Taylor as Cleopatra in the 1963 lavish 20th Century Fox production complete with dark eyeliner and heavy mascara.  Passionate about jewellery, Taylor is often pictured adorned with expensive pieces.



8. Audrey Hepburn

Known for her classic, elfin features, Hepburn became one of the biggest actresses in the world.  Her role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s propelled her into becoming a true film icon.

The image of her in a black shift dress, hair piled neatly on top of her head and cigarette holder in hand in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, became synonymous with the actress’s name.


9. Dita von Teese

Once known as simply the girlfriend of rock musician Marilyn Manson, fetish model and performer Von Teese (real name Heather Sweet) came into her own when she helped kick-start the neo burlesque movement.

Her look reflects her love for the Forties and classic retro style. Her dyed jet black her is always perfectly styled and porcelain skin flawless. An avid follower of fashion, Von Teese is often seen frequenting the front rows of catwalk shows.



10. Jessica Rabbit

Another cartoon star, Jessica starred in the movie Who framed Roger Rabbitand is famed for her figure hugging red dress and ‘peekaboo’ hairstyle, said to be based on that of the classic film star Veronica Lake.

Sultry, and with her trademark wiggle walk, she joins Betty Boop as one of the famous animated sex symbols.

6 Responses

  1. Robert Jensen

    Sorry, Dita was known as the modern Queen of Pinup long before she ever met Manson.

  2. rachel

    I really like this site, but its really annoying to have to click through so many pages to read the content. You should have your articles all on one page, otherwise people are going to be disinclined to read them.

  3. Bailey

    I’ve never been a big fan of Dita von Teese, nor Betty Page. I think unlike Monroe and Hepburn there lacks a bit of actual talent. I do think Page was a very good fetish model, but it’s hard for me to see her as an icon of an era considering she was rather niche. Some people who go into the vintage/retro lifestyle end up going for the psychobilly sect, which is fine but lacks accuracy. In the end you’re left with a jumbled mash-up of eras with little regard to history and circumstance. I have nothing against Page personally, but I find it rather hard to believe she had such a following as she does now. Von Teese herself would most likely never venture far out of gentleman’s clubs on the Vegas strip if our attitudes hadn’t changed so much over the years.