How to be Old Hollywood: An Irreverent Style Guide

Hey there toots, dyin’ to make it in the glitzy pictures of yesteryear?

Wanna be a screen siren?

Well kiddo, it’s a tough world out there. You gotta be ready to do whatever it takes, whenever it takes. Just follow these steps and stick with me kid, we’ll turn you into a star. 

* * *

1. Attain that bird-bones, waifish look by suffering childhood malnutrition and narrowly surviving the Second World War.

2. Bleach your hair so bright, that when you start to die of sepsis, people suspect it’s dye poisoning. 

Jean Harlow, the original blonde bombshell

Jean Harlow, the original blonde bombshell

3. Get your own haunting, melancholic glossy eye by nursing a decades-long coke habit.

4. Become a famous model by agreeing to be photographed by questionable and unscrupulous men.

5. Rub Vaseline on your face before wearing makeup for that exquisitely blurred, ethereal look. 

6. Change your name to two first names, preferably from a song or a silent-film title.

Marilyn Monroe, aka Norma Jeane, aka two first names either way ya cut it

Marilyn Monroe, aka Norma Jeane, aka two first names either way ya cut it

7. Only kiss your suitors in slow-motion, up-close shots while maximising your neck extension and emphasising your string of pearls. 

8. Never, ever leave your home without red lipstick.

9. Enter the room leg first, and force people to look at you as though the camera is panning upwards.

Audrey Hepburn, who made wartime malnutrition aesthetics the desired physique of Old Hollywood

Audrey Hepburn, who made wartime malnutrition aesthetics the desired physique of Old Hollywood

10. If you’re going to wear trousers, you’d better commit and be a secret lesbian 

11. Hungry? Don’t be. 

12. Everywhere you walk, be sure that there’s a perfectly hazy, yet sexy cloud of smoke.

13. Speak in a transatlantic accent that oozes money. When people ask where that accent is from, just say “everywhere darlin’” and wistfully smoke your cigarette. If you even think about coughing then get the fuck off my movie lot.

Katharine Hepburn , queen of trousers and probs a secret lesbian (we hope)

Katharine Hepburn, queen of trousers and probs a secret lesbian (we hope)

14. Become pigeonholed as the Ingénue or Femme Fatale until you die of mysterious means before aging out of your typecasting.

15. Spend your final days in a cheap roadside motel in the Mojave desert, making cryptic calls to former lovers from payphones.

Play it As It Lays (1972), otherwise remembered as a long drive through the desert

Play it As It Lays (1972), otherwise remembered as a long drive through the desert

This article appears in Boshemia Magazine: Origins. Buy your copy here.