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Hollywood Makeovers

Louise Brooks’ bob. Claudette Colbert’s bangs. Lucille Ball’s carrot top. Who’s the mastermind behind these tressed-for-success stories? Let’s give it up for Sydney Guilaroff, MGM’s longtime hair designer. He coiffed an army of iconic heads, from Cary Grant and Joan Crawford, to Fred Astaire and Vivien Leigh; he did Grace Kelly’s ‘do for her 1956 wedding to Prince Rainier; and reportedly, Guilaroff was one of the trusted friends Marilyn Monroe called the night she died.

But it was Lucy – more than any other star – who owes her fame to a henna-rinse reboot. Prior to that, Lucy was just another blonde Hollywood hopeful in the 1930s. By the 1940s, Lucy reverted to her natural color (brunette), yet seemed destined to remain “The Queen of the Bs” (B-movies). Then, in 1943, Guilaroff’s idea to “ginger up” Lucy’s locks for Du Barry Was a Lady turned an eye-popping transformation into Lucy’s trademark.

Barbara Stanwyck credited Edith Head with leveraging her assets and leveling-up her style. On her Stars and Letters site, my fellow blogger Janet (a.k.a. Clarissa Saunders) scores the scoop: “[Stanwyck] possessed what some designers considered to be a figure ‘problem’ – a long waist and a comparatively low rear end,” said Head. "By widening the waistbands on the front of her gowns and narrowing them slightly in the back, I could still put her in straight skirts, something other designers were afraid to do, because they thought she might look too heavy in the seat. Since she wasn’t the least bit heavy, I just took advantage of her long waist to create an optical illusion."

What’s more, Janet explains, “Head's costume designs for Preston Sturges' The Lady Eve (1941) proved career changing for Barbara. Playing two very different types – con artist Jean Harrington and British aristocrat Lady Eve Sidwich – Barbara had twenty-five costume changes, which made The Lady Eve her first ‘fashion picture’ and also changed her image from ‘plain Jane’ to sexy. From then on, regardless of what studio she was working for, Barbara included in all her contracts that only Head was to design her clothes...”

Speaking of fashionistas, few can rival Hubert de Givenchy, the designer who created Audrey Hepburn’s signature look (on screen and off). Both Givenchy and Audrey were twentysomething newbies just starting their careers when “Miss Hepburn” booked an appointment at Givenchy’s Paris shop to scout costumes for Sabrina (1954). Givenchy was psyched. Imagine what a huge break it would be for him to dress the legendary Katharine Hepburn!

When the other Miss Hepburn arrived, Givenchy was like “Wut?!” (en français, of course). Fortunately, they hit off, and Audrey became not only Givenchy’s close friend, but a walking billboard for his label. (Catty sidebar: When Edith Head shamelessly swiped credit – and an Oscar! – for Givenchy’s Sabrina designs, Audrey was so upset, she vowed to use him in every film she could.) Audrey wasn’t Givenchy’s only fan: He went on to dress many famous women, including First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who wore a black Givenchy suit to JFK’s funeral.

Of course, makeovers aren’t just for women only. Without surgeons (to tack back his ears), dentists (to yank his skanky teeth), and hair pros (to de-grease his mane), Clark Gable would have spent his life working in oil fields, like he did before he switched to acting. Instead, sexed up and ready for his close-up, Gable reigned as the screen’s undisputed “King” for 30 years.

If only the rest of us mere mortals had access to Gable’s glam squad!

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