Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor is known today for her numerous ailments, her amazing head of hair, briefly grey but usually jet black despite her being aged 77, her friendship with the late Michael Jackson and her numerous failed marriages. Yet in her heyday, she was a beautiful, stylish icon, as Nell Darby explores.

Elizabeth Taylor was born in Hampstead, London in 1932, the daughter of two Americans who were living in England. After World War Two broke out, the Taylors returned to the US and settled in Los Angeles. They made friends with numerous stars, and their movie industry contacts became interested in the young Elizabeth. This was largely based on her looks; as one critic said of the young girl, “She can’t sing, she can’t dance…” – but she was strikingly pretty and photogenic, with black hair and large violet blue eyes.

Taylor enjoyed a successful career as a child star with her films including Lassie Come Home in 1942 and National Velvet in 1944. But she was one of the rare actors who successfully managed the transition from child star to adult actress. She was best at playing icy yet sensuous roles, such as that of Angela in A Place In The Sun (1951), starring with the equally good-looking Montgomery Clift, or as Leslie in Giant, with James Dean as her co-star.

catTaylor’s career was boosted by performing with the big names of the day, forming glamorous duos with Dean, Clift, Rock Hudson and Paul Newman. She starred with the latter in 1958’s Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, where she mesmerised audiences with her depiction of Maggie, clad memorably in a simple white half-length slip that was designed to make her look innocent and virginal, yet actually managed to make her look curvaceous and incredibly sensual.

Even in a white, short-sleeved shirt and a simple pencil skirt, she looked both stunning and sexy. This was because of the detail in her wardrobe. Her shirts only had a couple of buttons, with a low collar, allowing a hint of chest, and the pencil skirts made the most of Taylor’s then-tiny waist. In another scene of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof she wears another white outfit, a Grecian-inspired dress that again makes the most of her assets whilst still remaining a simple design.

 

youngTaylor is famously a lover of expensive jewellery, and has often been pictured with her shoulders bare, or showing an expanse of décolletage, in order to show off striking necklaces. In her heyday in the late Fifties, she was often pictured in plain colours – red, black , emerald green or white – to show off her striking colouring. The liking for red clothes has continued throughout the decades, her red tops often being adorned with pearl or diamond necklaces.

Striking red lipstick was another of her favourites throughout the Fifties but Taylor would keep the rest of her make-up simple: strong but perfectly neat eyebrows, and mascara and a touch of eyeliner. In the Sixties, she wore more, blue eyeshadow to show off her eye-colour and pastel pink lipstick.

If you want to copy Liz’s the style from her Fifties heyday, go for the bright jewel-coloured clothes and a signature piece of jewellery. However, it would be wise to give the fur coats and wraps that she has been fond of since the Seventies a miss – even style icons have the odd off day!

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