20th Century

A confession

I have a confession based on last week’s Liz Taylor Rate the Dress.

I don’t think Liz Taylor is particularly attractive.  And I really don’t think that she did the clothes she wore any favours, particularly the nipped-waist body-conscious frocks they put her in in her heyday.

Also, she let someone style her hair like this, which would be major points against anyone

There, it’s said.  You can now gasp in horror and question my taste forevermore.  Or rush to the comment function to add that you feel the same way and have never been brave enough to say it before!

So what’s this about?

Well, first I feel that when she was quite young, she was generically pretty, but never interestingly or memorially beautiful.  There was always something too round and bland about her face for it to be really striking or notable.

And then she aged so quickly.  At 17 she looked, 25, and at 25 she looked 35, and by the time she was 30 she looked like she was in her mid 40s.

18 year old Liz looks 26 in Father of the Bride

35 year old Liz Taylor looks 50 in Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf

And her face always reminds me of those chicken breasts that the pump water into so that they look jucier.

Waterlogged Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

In addition, I’ve never understood the fuss about her figure.  Yes, she had a tiny waist and full breasts and hips, but she was shortwaisted, and had a large, square ribcage, so looks thickwaisted from most angles (and I say this as another shortwaisted woman with a large, square ribcage).

There is a reason they always photograph Liz from this angle

Someone said she could make a potato sack look good, and that I actually agree with:  She looked better in the figureless A-line shift dresses of the late 60s, than the nipped-waist ’50s glamour frocks


With all that said, I do think she was a pretty awesome person.  She had a very hard childhood, wasn’t really given the tools to develop mature, supportive adult relationships which would have sustained her, but still devoted much of her later life to humanitarian efforts.  And she didn’t just pick glamourous, popular, media friendly causes:  she championed things that were taboo or unpopular, but most needed her support.

So that’s it.  Her looks don’t do anything for me, I don’t see her as a style icon, but as a person, and for what she actually did, I respect her.

And that must be worth more than just thinking she was beautiful.


  1. Lacrima_lamiae says

    I’ve got to admit, I never considered her outstandingly beautiful as well.
    The wedding dress she wears in the second pic is pretty amazing, though! 😉

  2. I think she is/was a fabulous actress, and when I see stills of her I see her in a movie. She had so much energy and fire, and her violet eyes were, I think, a big selling point.
    I can’t help but feel that while looks were a big deal for Hollywood, most of the really memorable actresses were talented, interesting and often fiery women. They were a package. And of course her relationship with Richard Burton helped, in the same way that the public seems endlessly fascinated by Bradgela and maybe that makes them so much more than they really are.
    So yeah the phenomenon that is Liz Taylor is so much more than the sum of her parts, and whatever it takes to become that icon beyond logic or reason, she had it. And I do think she was beautiful, really beautiful, and I love the maturity of her looks. And I just realised how much Stockard Channing looks like her!

    • Elise says

      Is Bradgela Brangelina in NZ? I hope so–it sounds like fun!

      Its funny, but Liz Taylor and Michele Bachman have this magical quality in common where you just cannot tear your eyes off of them. ( I know there there are many women who have that quality, but with MB on TV so much, here, she comes to mind first.) Taylor is conventionally pretty, mind you, but it’s that inner light that just makes her fabulous!

      I agree with Mrs. C that the package transforms the pieces. (Mind, I agree with just about everything she says.)

      • I think that is a typo on Mrs C’s part 😉

        And I also think that in one important way you and I are wired differently. Clearly we don’t have the same views on people magnetism! Politics, and politicians like MB in particular (not her party, her style of politics) make me want to shoot myself (if I don’t fall asleep first). I just think MB is boring and irritating! Liz Taylor isn’t irritating, but I do find her acting boring. It just makes me want to fall asleep!

        • Elise says

          You have no idea how embarrassed I am to watch her! But every time she speaks on TV, I just..can’t stop watching–not in a train-wreck way–just in a…I turn into a zombie way. If only she would use her powers for good! But…that’s another kind of blog. Costumes and clothes are more fun to talk about, anyway!

        • Heheh, yup, I’ve not much time for the Brangelina thing and couldn’t remember what they are called! QED 😉

  3. Aurora Celeste says

    I’ve always felt that looking 10 years older was a hallmark of 50’s fashion. I think the ideal look then is one that makes us think “mid-30’s” now.

    • What an interesting idea. I always felt that it was quite a youthful look: womanly bodies, but young faces. Very mid-Victorian in a way.

      I have noticed that in love triangles Taylor was always paired opposite women who were older than her by quite a few years (Eve Marie Saint in Raintree County – 8 years, Joan Fontaine in Ivanhoe – 15 years, Donna Reed in The Last Time I Saw Paris – 11 years)

      • Aurora Celeste says

        Well, it is just a personal feeling, so it may just be something wrong with my age guage 😛 To describe better what I see: the ideal woman to society was a mother of seven-to-ten year olds, which would be late twenties or early thirties from the age women got married back then. Also the amount of makeup worn by “fashionable” women, models, starlets, etc, always makes me think women are older because it settled into lines and looked a bit more fake and unnatural.

  4. Stella says

    Yes, respect is better than simply thinking she was beautiful. But for me, a personality worth respecting is what really makes someone beautiful.

    To me, she looks interesting and intelligent. She has a face that suggests a strong personality, in contrast to so many “beautiful” celebrities whose faces are vapid and empty (photoshop doesn’t do anyone as many favours as they think it does). For that, I think she’s gorgeous.

  5. I’ve been lurking on your blog for a couple of months now, and I love it! But sadly today I finally finished reading all your previous posts. You are a fantastic blogstress, you combine just the right amounts of history, how-to, wit, charm and whimsy. The only bad part about reading your whole blog was that I now will have to wait for updates like everyone else; but even that you do with such regularity. So thank you and keep up the great work!


    • I did the same thing months ago and felt the same way. It took a few days, but I adjusted.

      • Oh, thank you both of you! That’s pretty amazing that you managed to read every post. And I’m glad to hear that my daily blogging is appreciated, not overwhelming!

        • It was a fun few days…I got obsessed. I always plummet into disappointment when the blogs I follow aren’t updated everyday because I love hearing from everyone!

  6. Honestly, I think she was a very beautiful woman, appearance wise and personality wise, but, hey, if we all had the same opinions, the world would be a very boring place (not to mention that Rate a Dress would loose all of the fun)!

    • Oh come on, we are all waiting for a Rate the Dress where everyone leaves the EXACT SAME rating and comment 😉

      Well, it would be fun once!

  7. BTW, LOVE the wedding dress from father of the Bride. It’s hard to tell if the overdress look is functional, but it would be cool if it were.

  8. I really like what you did in this post as a writer. I think you’re on to something…. You set me thinking about the women I admire and why.


  9. Helène says

    I’d be interested in knowing your point of view about Vivien Leigh. I think Gone With the Wind was reinforcing my interest for costume when I was young and sawing it for the first time.

    I also spent several days, weeks ago, reading every evening your blog, page after page. I admire your ability of creating costumes, and I think you do it very quickly when I compare the dates between the costume beginning and end.

  10. Dark hair, pale skin,dark brows, light eyes. Is this the rarest combination of colouring for a person? (Well, aside from redheads/blondes with brown eyes?) Maybe that’s one of the reasons that Elizabeth Taylor was SO FREAKIN’ GORGEOUS ALL THE TIME. All. The. Time. She’s a timeless beauty!

  11. I think she was beautiful but I agree she aged so fast! I don’t know much about her but I think she was a heavy drinker. If she started young that could be why.

    • She tanned A LOT! Which seemed to be a major factor; alcohol as well I’m sure.
      In Virginia Woolf they purposefully made her look older and unattractive. I never understood the hype about her either. Maybe it was just that she was super sexy during a very repressed time.

  12. Janet says

    Her looks were amazing but she had a ‘little girl’ voice and her acting had no ‘spark’. She was a product of the Hollywood machine of the era and we all know what was done to women like her and Judy Garland. Greta Garbo was right to want to be alone.
    It was not until the UK ‘kitchen sink’ films of the late 50s/early 60s like Look Back in Anger/Room at the Top/Woman in a Dressing Gown that women were portrayed in a more realistic manner.

  13. i think she was much prettyer than the anorexic looking stars of today. she may have been short waited and aged fast but still looked much better than angelina with all he ones sticking out . also i realy think people back then just looked older. i have pictures of my mother at 16 in the 60’s looking like 25. perhaps it was the fashion…..

  14. jackiead says

    I have to agree Elizabeth Taylor did age fast I think that was due to her troubled emotional life. By the time she was 35 years old she had already been widowed once and divorced from three previous husbands and at the time married to Richard Burton after having had an on going affair with him. It didn’t help that Burton was an alcoholic and she too. I remember when I was a young teenage and went to see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf, I thought what happened to the young and beautiful Elizabeth? I think she had become the real Virginia Wolf at that point in her life. I still love to watch her earlier performances from the forties and fifties when she is at her best.

    • I hadn’t thought of that. What a sad take on it. Rita Hayworth also aged fast due to alcohol and a troubled emotional life.

  15. Lol! I went through a phase about 5 years ago where people kept saying I looked like Elizabeth Taylor. One fellow called me Elizabeth. I used to joke that I took after her later years when she was having issues but secretly I was flattered. Apparently I may have needlessly falttered and should have been crushed!

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