Is the Resurgence of Old Hollywood 2021’s Biggest Trend?

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Put on your red lipstick, take out your curlers, and dab some Chanel N°5 on your pulse points because it’s official: Old Hollywood glamour is back. That’s right, the most timeless, beloved, and classic era of fashion has returned in full-force. On the red carpet, social media, and the runway, the trends and styles from cinema’s golden age have experienced a recent resurgence, to both fashion and vintage-lovers’ delight. Although in recent years the styles of the 1990s and 1970s have dominated, they now appear to be taking a back seat to those of the 1950s and 1960s.

This renewed obsession with Old Hollywood aesthetics undeniably reached its apex at the 2021 Met Gala. The theme of the event was “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” and several attendees aptly interpreted it by channeling their inner 1950s starlet. For instance, Billie Eilish paid homage to the most famed American cinema star of all: Marilyn Monroe. In a voluminous nude tulle gown by Oscar de la Renta and a tousled blonde bob, she simultaneously honored Monroe’s black dress at the 1951 Oscars and her hair in the 1962 photoshoot with Bert Stern, “The Last Sitting.” Likewise, supermodel Anok Yai and actress Yara Shahidi looked to the renowned American-born French entertainer Josephine Baker for inspiration with their Oscar de la Renta and Dior gowns, respectively. Other Old Hollywood references included Kendall Jenner channeling Audrey Hepburn, Gemma Chan referencing Anna May Wong, and Eiza Gonzalez looking to Rita Hayworth.

However, numerous celebrities have carried this aesthetic on beyond the Met. Perhaps the most enthusiastic of the group is none other than the camp queen herself: Lady Gaga. After releasing her second album with close friend and collaborator, Tony Bennet, “Love for Sale,” and returning to her Las Vegas residency with a new jazz show, Gaga has wholeheartedly embraced the styles of Old Hollywood. The looks for her Vegas show are spectacularly glitzy, combining all of the shimmer of the Ziegfeld Follies with the sophisticated glamour of classic nightclub singers like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. For instance, one such ensemble sees the House of Gucci actress in a large pink ostrich feather coat and heavily stoned opera gloves, while another sees her don a sexy black sequined gown with a plunging neckline and a high slit up one leg with an oversized black feather headpiece. Each of these stunning looks is finished with a classic red lip, a sleek blonde updo, and large diamond earrings, making it abundantly clear that Gaga means to pay homage to the starlets of Hollywood’s golden age.

Another iconic songstress to dabble in the Old Hollywood look is Beyoncé. Via her Instagram, we have all been privy to a slew of images from Queen B’s recent vacation in Venice. Against the already jaw-dropping background, her looks convey an unbridled essence of cinematic glamor, akin to those of Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 thriller To Catch a Thief. In a sensual black and green satin dress, a bright red lip, and sparkling emerald and diamond collar necklace, she looks as though she just stepped off of an Oscars red carpet in the 1950s. Likewise, in a light blue satin cowl neck gown and considerable diamond necklace, B flawlessly emulates the stunning simplicity and glamour of the era.

Additionally, Beyoncé’s recent campaign with husband Jay-Z for Tiffany & Co. saw her directly channel Audrey Hepburn in her beloved 1961 film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In a tailored black column dress, sheer black opera gloves, and simple updo, she aptly reflected the timelessness and sophistication of Hepburn’s Holly Golightly for a contemporary audience. Further, the Crazy in Love singer also donned the famous Tiffany Yellow Diamond for the shoot, which Hepburn herself wore in the promotional photos for the film in-question, 60 years prior.

However, on the red carpet, there is no better representative of Old Hollywood than British actress Anya Taylor Joy m. At the 2021 Golden Globes, the Dior ambassador honored the era with a shimmery emerald green gown and matching coat that hung off of her shoulders and billowed behind her. She continued tapping into this timeless aesthetic, carrying it over to the Venice Film Festival, where she walked the red carpet in a hot pink midi dress with asymmetric draping and a matching pink netted fascinator. Finally, at the 2021 Emmy Awards, the “Last Night in Soho” star appeared as the classic Hollywood starlet in a pale-yellow column dress with an oversized sunshine yellow shawl, deep red lip, and large diamond clip earrings.

On the runway, there is perhaps no better example of the return of this era than the Gucci Spring 2022 collection. Held in Los Angeles on the iconic Hollywood Boulevard, the show put a Gucci twist on several staple Old Hollywood styles. For example, a pale pink sheer gown with long sleeves saw an ombre of orange feathers cascade down the bottom half of the skirt, culminating in fluffy plume of purple ostrich feathers lining the hem, emulating the over-the-top glitz of 1950s showgirls. Another look saw feathers appear as a pale-yellow boa, accompanying a mermaid-cut satin dress in the same shade and a pair of black patent leather opera gloves, putting a contemporary spin on a classic red carpet ensemble of the era. The same was true of a light green sheer lace gown in a relatively simple column shape, which was layered under a sizeable white faux fur coat. Thus, with this show, Creative Director Alessandro Michele honored Old Hollywood with an abundance of shimmer, voluminous garments, and classic silhouettes, altogether epitomizing our current collective appreciation for this aesthetic.

But what does this dramatic resurgence of Old Hollywood glamour mean in-relation to our current state? Why are we bringing back the styles of cinema’s golden age at this particular moment in time? The most likely explanation for this fashion phenomenon has served as the explanation for nearly everything over the past two years: COVID-19. As we emerge from more than a year under pandemic restrictions, we now have an overwhelming collective desire to dust off our most glamorous and extravagant garments and dress up again in a glamorous and extravagant manner. Considering this, there is no better era that embodies this desire than Old Hollywood. One could say that this abundance of red lips, big jewels, voluminous silhouettes, sparkling fabrics, and simple, clean-cut gowns reflects our high levels excitement about entering the world again and celebrating our re-gained freedoms after an extended period of sweatpants and hoodies. Thus, from the red carpet, to social media, to the runway, fashion’s biggest names have brought Old Hollywood to 2021 to celebrate this return to normalcy in the most glamorous way possible.

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