“Film noir” describes a highly stylized and suspenseful genre of movies which had their golden age in the 1940s and 1950s. A lot of them take place in the shadows of a big city and feature captivating, malevolent female characters known as “femmes fatales.” Today, let’s take some notes from the sultry outfits of these black-and-white seductresses (if not from their webs of deceit and betrayal).
In The Killers (1946), two hired hitmen disrupt the goings-on of a small town, where they go looking for an ex-boxer known as “The Swede” (Burt Lancaster) and murder him. Through a series of flashbacks, an insurance investigator puts together the pieces of the puzzle and discovers that The Swede’s ex-girlfriend, Kitty, (Ava Gardner) played a huge role in his death. SHADY! Though Kitty is one double-crossing lady, her outfits are outta-control gorgeous! Whether she’s in an unforgettable satin, single-strap gown or button-up work shirts and sweaters, her wardrobe is all-around fierce. Here are some ways to cop her look for yourself:
There’s also a scene where she wears a stolen diamond-encrusted spider brooch that The Swede takes the rap for. Obviously, the dude was crushing way hard. If you are too, steal Kitty’s style by wearing a cool rhinestone spider brooch of your own like the one above! It’ll look great as you carry off your own evil plots and schemes.
In Touch of Evil (1958), a cop (Charlton Heston) investigates a bomb explosion even though he’s on a honeymoon with his new wife (Janet Leigh). Dat workaholic! Bad idea, since they end up on the bad side of a corrupt police chief played by the film’s director, Orson Welles. Fun fact: Welles asked his pal Marlene Dietrich to film a small cameo at the last minute, so she gathered up a bunch of jewelry and accessories from different films she did to create the PERFECT LEWK for her character. What was supposed to have been a tiny part turned into a major supporting role, with Dietrich as a tarot-reading madame. Could it have been her cool accessories?! Mayhaps! Take a cue from Marlene and accessorize a crocheted robe with gold hoop earrings, a badass ring game, and loads of bangle bracelets:
With this fortune-teller as your guide, you’ll definitely steal the show!
Dark Passage (1947) tells the story of Vincent Parry (Humphrey Bogart), who is convicted of murdering his wife. He breaks out of jail to seek revenge and prove his innocence, so in order to escape recognition, he undergoes some bootleg plastic surgery. Irene (Lauren Bacall), a woman with an interest in his case, takes him in and cares for him during his recovery, and the two fall for each other. Irene’s outfits are impeccably polished. She wears structured coats and perfect chignon hairstyles, but even if you prefer a less pulled-together look, you can channel her gorgeousness with bold plaids and simple accessories like these:
No one will suspect you’re harboring a dark secret!
The plot of Double Indemnity (1944) sounds like it could be a modern-day Lifetime Original Movie: Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck) has blond baby bangs that might make her look innocent, but she’s got dollar signs in her eyes and lust and betrayal in her heart! She seduces an insurance salesman and convinces him to help murder her husband so she can get dat cold hard cash. Scandalous! Her wardrobe is also bad to the bone—it includes a silk jumpsuit, cashmere cardis, dresses with strong shoulders and beautiful details, and some chic sunglasses. Take some inspiration from Phyllis and wear a sophisticated dress similar to the one below from Trashy Diva, plus these other sexy pieces:
It’s no surprise the clothing in this movie was on point—Rookie heroine Edith Head was the costume designer! That’s enough of a ringing endorsement of the femme-fatale aesthetic on its own, wouldn’t you think? Now go put on your finest satins, costume jewels, and beautiful, murderous scowls, and GO BREAK SOME HEARTS! ♦