Born as Betty Joan Perske on September 16, 1924, in New York City, Lauren Bacall turned out to be one of the most glamorous actress and fashion icon of the ‘40s. The daughter of William Perske, who was born in New Jersey to Polish Jewish parents, and Natalie Weinstein-Bacal, a Romanian Jewish immigrant, Bacall soon became famous.
Stepping Into Stardom
After finishing high school, Lauren started studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Even though she stayed in the academy for just a year, it offered her the opportunity to star in some small roles in off-Broadway productions.
After she became the cover girl for Harper’s Bazaar – a popular magazine in U.S. at the time – Nancy Gross, the wife of famous director Howard Hawks, saw Lauren Bacall’s picture and convinced her husband to give her a screen test. Lauren successfully passed it which marked the start of her acting career.
Hollywood Fame and Love Story
Even as a 20-year-old, Lauren Bacall had a striking beauty that matched her amazing talent as an actress. Some would say that her prestige was on par with the Hollywood greats of the ‘40s, including Joan Fountain, Vivian Leigh, Judy Garland, Olivia de Havilland, Ingrid Bergman, Katharine Hepburn, and Joan Crawford.
For her first movie, director Hawk chose Humphrey Bogart to be her leading man in the film To Have or Have Not (1944). It was on the set of this production that Humphrey “Bogie” Bogart and Bacall fell in love.
On May 21, 1946 they got married in Richmond County, Ohio. Lauren was 20 and Humphrey 45 – but the 25 years age difference did not matter. They never divorced; in fact, Lauren Bacall became a young widow at age 32 when her husband passed away from cancer in 1957.
Lauren Bacall appeared in the public’s eye at about the same time that American sportswear was establishing its roots. It was suddenly possible and acceptable to wear something else than the fancier – and much more formal – French fashion.
The classic looks we’re about to present are more simple than showy, and they suited Bacall perfectly as she wore them both on and off screen. They enhanced her already famous beauty: The cascading golden wave, the amazing brows and the unmistakable voice.
Lauren Bacall is certainly not the typical fashion icon that people love to emulate. Her posters are not hung on bedroom walls, and you won’t find her on trendy T-shirts at Target. What’s certain is that the famous Film Noir actress was mysterious and carried a serious look.
You can tell her deep and brooding eyes that she was not the bubbly or cute movie star. But when it came to fashion, Bacall never missed a beat. Her career was marked by various apparitions, most of them featuring a distinct style of broad shoulders and fluid silhouettes of midi skirts and long gowns. She also adored the popular-at-the time wide-legged trousers and looked exquisite in silky blouses.
Before passing away in 2014, Lauren Bacall donated 700 clothing pieces to New York City’s Museum at FIT. In March 2015, the museum opened an exhibit dedicated to one of the greatest stars of Hollywood.
Bacall put her signature on the crisp white shirt when she wore it with a circle skirt (Key Largo, 1948). She also gave the beret an American accent (The Big Sleep, 1946). Even though there was only one Lauren Bacall, there are many ways to channel her unforgettable style.
There’s nothing wrong with celebrating Marilyn and Audrey. But we’re excited to feature some of the most iconic outfits that best show off Bacall’s classic and minimalistic style. Which look is your favorite?
Chic and Iconic
Just like Kathryn Hepburn, Lauren Bacall quickly became known for her bold fashion choices. She often wore menswear-inspired trousers, for example, pairing them with simple collared tops.
This retro look has made quite a comeback as high-waisted, wide-legged pants are definitely on the scene for 2016. Complete the outfit with a silky blouse in a monochromatic color and put on chunky wedges for height. There’s no other way to pull off a wide-legged pant.Steal her chic pants look!
In Bacall’s own words, her personal style is represented by “studied carelessness.” She especially avoided any faff in her outfits, preferring streamlined tailoring, clean lines, and sporty elements as her signatures.
Emulate Lauren’s perfect style with this striking midi skirt outfit (she originally wore it in Key Largo). It’s a match for an office outfit today; just add a white button-down, a black belt, and cute boots to keep the look modern.Steal this look!
Flaming Red Look
In the words of Ralph Lauren: “Lauren Bacall had a kind of legendary glamour that was all about who she was – beautiful, bold and independent.” This was probably never more visible than when she wore this red stunner.
Bacall, a screen siren, was glamorous in the high neck and broad shoulders dress. Add a pair of nude wedges and a floral clutch to complete the look. Who knows – red may be your color!Steal this look!
Ultimate French Vibe
Even though Lauren Bacall was a fan of sportswear in her private life, her on-screen apparitions often involved gorgeous formal suits – just like this one. A fashion favorite at the time, the broad shoulder two-piece suit looks fantastic on the actress.
You can imitate the retro style – including the beret – for a formal event. Finish the look with a pair of black high heels and keep the whole look black and white.Steal this look!
Black and Dangerous
Lauren Bacall was often portrayed as the business woman – sharp and always on-point. However, she also had another side of her: she was one badass and sexy woman. Her iconic golden wave looks brilliant in this portrait, but you mustn’t despair.
You can recreate the look by pairing a black suit blazer jacket with elegant curls. Slide on some pumps and skinny jeans and your look is complete. Lauren Bacall would be proud of you.Steal this look!
Bacall was adamant about dressing age appropriately. As she grew older, her taste in fashion matured to perfection; fashion seemed to flow in her veins. However, look #6 brings us a taste of a young and serious Lauren Bacall.
Surprisingly modern, this summer outfit beautifully highlights the actress’ slim figure. From the black high-neck frock and the white and short-sleeved top coat to the gorgeous accessories and the gladiator sandals, Lauren is a sight for sore eyes. She’s all about contrasts while keeping things light.
It’s not difficult to mimic this late summer look. Perfect for any beach event or party, the Roman sandals can be paired with a black and white outfit. Put on some red lipstick and embrace your inner star.Steal this look!
Little Black Dress
Speaking of her more mature tastes, this black bodice dress did Lauren Bacall justice. Her sublime waist was put in the spotlight and that gorgeous choker could not be more modern. The plunging cleavage might have been a little bit ahead of its time, but it keeps things classy nevertheless.
While keeping the dress shoulders slightly draping, you can go either for a maxi-dress or a knee-length one. Add the necklace of your choice and your night as the woman in the little black dress is on. As far as the cleavage is concerned, you can opt for a conservative V-neck or a plunging one.Steal this look!
Classy Dress & Pants Combo
Lauren Bacall was the queen of wide-legged trousers, which she matched so effortless with various tops or – why not – monochromatic dresses. With that pair of ballerina shoes, the look is instantly complete.
Black pants will never go out of style. You just have to be brave enough to wear whatever you like. Pairing them with the right dress can make for a brilliant outfit. You’ll be ready for any casual or semi-formal event in the blink of an eye.Steal this look.
Probably one of the most iconic features about Lauren Bacall was her glare. The provocative yet classy glare made quite a few apparitions in the actress’ movies, and it was partly responsible for her charm.
If you don’t know what we’re talking about – or are too young to remember Lauren Bacall in all of her glory – look again at the picture above. She mastered that gaze to perfection, as a final touch to many of her photoshoots. Her simple outfit is highlighted by a multi-strand pearl necklace and a gorgeous bracelet.Steal this look!
The industry of fashion is richer having had Lauren Bacall as one of its messengers. Her style will forever be remembered, even though the memory of other actresses of the time seems to shine brighter. She was a classy lady, making us wish there were more of her in today’s Hollywood business.