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Dressing for a Dinner Night Out in Old Hollywood Glamour

Dressing for a Dinner Night Out in Old Hollywood Glamour

Dressing for a Dinner Night Out in Old Hollywood Glamour

Written by Hannah Mae Webster

Old Hollywood glamour defines a style popularized during the golden age of Hollywood, usually the period between the 1920s and the 1960s. Film stars flaunted dramatic gowns, elegant jewelry, and timeless hair waves, the epitome of glamour. The irresistible nature of the Old Hollywood image gained momentum and was featured in countless influential movies. Although these dazzling looks faded over the years, many styles are still greatly influenced by the glamorous Old Hollywood era.  

When selecting an Old Hollywood inspired ensemble, it is important to review the inspiration. Studying iconic gowns is a good place to start due to the abundance of different styles and silhouettes featured on-screen.

Rita Hayworth dominated Old Hollywood and was an actress recognized by her powerful femininity and glamour. In the 1946 movie, Hayworth starred as the unforgettable femme fatale character Gilda. During her iconic performance of “Put the Blame on Mame,” Rita Hayworth wore a black gown by Jean Louis featuring a strapless neckline, structured bodice, and bow. The simple yet striking dress was designed with practicality in mind as Jean Louis included a harness to sit underneath to allow for Hayworth’s movement during the musical scene. 

The little black dress has been a classic statement since the 1920s, with its versatility fueling its success. Rita Hayworth’s signature side parting, voluminous waves, and red lipstick remain an Old Hollywood inspired favorite and a subtle way to incorporate the style into a modern setting.

Learn more about the little black dress?

Rita Hayworth, “Gilda,” 1946
Rita Hayworth, “Gilda,” 1946

Embellishment was another signature of Old Hollywood glamour, reflecting the flamboyance of stardom. Marlene Dietrich wore a dazzling gold gown in the 1948 movie “A Foreign Affair,” featuring long sleeves and padded shoulders. 

Padded shoulders were a key element found in many Hollywood gowns and reflected female empowerment as bolder, more masculine shapes were adopted. Although masculine influences were introduced, they were seamlessly incorporated into curve-hugging, highly feminine dresses, offering a powerful interpretation of femininity. 

Embellished pieces and even semi-sheer looks are another way to add Old Hollywood glamour to an evening look. 

Marlene Dietrich, “A Foreign Affair,” 1948

For a more androgynous Old Hollywood icon, take a look at Katharine Hepburn’s range of on-screen style moments. Katharine Hepburn was known to lean into both feminine and masculine styles on screen and, like Marlene Dietrich, became an androgynous style inspiration.

Examples of Katharine Hepburn’s on-screen style:

Wide leg trouser ensemble in “The Philadelphia Story” in 1940. 

“Keeper of the Flame” 1942 

Katharine Hepburn
Katharine Hepburn

In the 1953 movie, ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’, Marilyn Monroe stepped out in one of the greatest, most recognizable gowns in cinematic history. The hot pink strapless showstopper was designed by William Travilla and remains a great inspiration today. The gown was styled with long matching evening gloves and featured a giant bow on the back.

Long evening gloves are a fabulous accessory to style for an Old Hollywood inspired night out. They can be worn with a matching mini dress for a more updated look, or even a form fitting maxi dress. Opting for black or muted colors is an understated way to include gloves, a bolder vintage addition, into a modern wardrobe. 

Marilyn Monroe 1950s

In 1939, Vivien Leigh starred as the unforgettable Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind,” stepping out in a phenomenal wine-red gown. The velvet dress was designed by Walter Plunkett and featured glass beads, a sweetheart neckline, and dramatic ostrich feathers. 

This gown is a stunning example of the classic Old Hollywood red dress, a color associated with passion, sensuality, and the femme fatale aesthetic. Injecting deep red into vintage dinner outfits and matching with a red lip can exude Old Hollywood glamour in a modern setting. Try to find a slim-fitting red dress with a vintage inspired neckline or a dramatic puff shoulder. A backless red gown is an excellent idea for a more revealing and alluring look, and velvet is an undeniable Old Hollywood inspired statement.

Vivien Leigh, “Gone with the Wind,” 1939
Vivien Leigh, “Gone with the Wind,” 1939

- Sweetheart

- Halter

- Cowl 

- Off-the shoulder

Another lesson in on-screen Old Hollywood style can be found in the 1937 movie, “Angel,” starring Marlene Dietrich. 

Dietrich embraced both feminine dresses and more androgynous trousers suits. Dietrich had an unconventional allure as she could effortlessly pull-off typically masculine styles whilst maintaining her powerfully feminine charm. 

Marlene Dietrich, “Angel,” 1937

30s: bias cut gowns, an increased emphasis on the female form, revealing elements such as low backs. Cowl necklines were a popular addition. There was a great “art deco” influence on 1930s Hollywood dresses — geometric, streamlined styles were abundant. 

40s: accentuated curves, padded shoulders, more structured styles. Strapless gowns, plunging necklines, and pleated elements were popular. 

50s: lavish materials and embellishments following the end of the war, the influence of Dior’s “New Look” triggered an emphasis on the hourglass figure and curve-accentuating gowns. The illusion of a small waist was further created through the addition of fuller skirts. 

Materials: velvet, satin, silk, embellishment, sheer fabrics, lace, appliqué. 

Colors: red, metallics, silver, gold, black, nude, white. 

Alternatives to gowns: suits, pants, jumpsuits, blouses, skirt suits

Once the initial inspiration has been decided, adapting these styles and trends for a modern setting is the next step. Old Hollywood styles are known for their drama and often theatrical nature, so refining and updating these iconic looks is essential when creating a more subtly vintage inspired outfit.

Top tips for creating an Old Hollywood inspired look:

- Evening gloves are a great statement. To avoid overly formal vintage dinner outfits, style them with more playful modern pieces such as mini party dresses and miniskirts. Black evening gloves are the perfect vintage addition to an outfit for a night out, try them in velvet for an even more impactful look. 

- Accentuating curves is important to achieve an Old Hollywood inspired look. Embrace your natural shape by selecting curve-hugging silhouettes. Belts are useful for highlighting the waist, whilst padded shoulders and fuller skirts can help create the hourglass illusion. 

- Hair and makeup are key when creating an Old Hollywood look. Try red lipstick, winged eyeliner, and creating the illusion of high-arched eyebrows. A glowing base can be created with highlighter.

- Accentuating the Cupid’s bow is another defining makeup addition. Rollers are an effective way of achieving voluminous waves. Style hair in a deep side parting in the style of Rita Hayworth. 

- Select materials such as satin, silk, velvet, and embellished fabrics to exude a strong sense of glamour and create a show-stopping party look. 

- Emphasized and padded shoulders are another way to reflect the bold style of on-screen stars. 

- If searching for a more masculine inspired ensemble, take inspiration from Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich by choosing sharp silhouettes with broad shoulders, and perhaps a pair of wide leg trousers.

- In terms of jewelry, pearls, diamonds, and even costume jewelry are great additions to most minimalistic outfits. 

- Try vintage inspired handbags such as miniaudières, velvet clutch bags, and embellished bags. 

30s Satin Dress 

Styling: red lipstick, miniaudière, voluminous waves, pearls. 

Judy Puff Sleeve Blouse

Vivien Satin Blouse 

Styling: wide leg pants, tailored cigarette pants, pencil skirt, red lipstick, voluminous waves, pearls, velvet clutch bag. 

Alla Mini Dress 

Styling: evening gloves, pearls, red lipstick, waist-accentuating belt, cat-eye sunglasses (try our Grace sunglasses).

Grace Sunglasses

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