Easily Italy’s most recognizable movie star, Sophia Loren is a true style icon. Her retro fashions of the ‘50s and ‘60s solidified her bombshell status, and they can do the same for you.
Loren would become known as the most famous movie star ever to come out of Italy, but long before that, she was raised in poverty-stricken Naples in an Italy that was just recovering from World War II. She grew up without her father and with little food to go around the house. At the time, she was Sophia Scicolone.
How Loren Became Famous
Her early career consisted of being in fotoromanzis, which were magazines that showed romantic stories through the photos. But it was in her role as a slave girl in Quo Vadis? under the direction of Carlo Ponti, whom she would later marry, that Sophia Loren was born.
She would star alongside the likes of Clark Gable and Paul Newman in films like It Started In Naples and Lady L. She was perhaps best known for her role in Houseboat, where she was the leading lady to Cary Grant. Those roles would launch her to international superstardom where she would become known not only for her beauty but for her merits as an actress.
She would stay married to Ponti until his passing in 2007, and the two had two children together. Her son Eduardo is now a director and even had her star in one of his movies.
Loren remains one of the big names of the Old Hollywood starlets. Loren was famous for her exotic looks and had great longevity as Italy’s biggest actress. Many probably wouldn’t believe that she was once told she would never make it because of the very looks that made her famous, saying, “her nose was too long” and “her mouth was too big.” She may have failed the screen test, but it turned out to be a terrible indicator of success for Loren.
And so the famous actress would one day have her exotic looks praised by many, but not without a signature style to complement them of course. Her look is unquestionably Old Hollywood glamour.
The Bodycon Dress
When you look at pictures of Sophia Loren, she always seems to be in a figure-hugging dress. The silhouette of the dress is perfect for Loren’s curvy figure, but it could work for you even if you don’t have her same body type. While the straps and sleeves on her dresses vary quite a bit, the ones she wears almost always have a sweetheart neckline. The neckline is perfect for a romantic dinner or even just a girls night out. It’s perfect to help you feel extra feminine.
The best part is that there are a lot of options for sweetheart necklines around right now and all the time because it’s such a classic so it should be easy to get your hands on. If you pay attention you can also make sure that you find a dress that sits where you want it to, so you can avoid feeling like you're constantly pulling it up. This is where the fitting room might come in handy!
As fall turns into winter, you may even want to try out this dress in a velvet material for a holiday-esque touch. Tights and a coat will help to keep you warm. A fitted cardigan for when your coat comes off is also a smart choice if your dress doesn’t have long sleeves. Layers are a girl’s best friend! (This look can also be done with a top that has a sweetheart neckline if you’re looking for something more casual. Just add jeans and ankle boots and you’ve got a really great outfit for a night out.)
Clockwise from top left. Fallen Shoulder Midi Dress at Asos. Linka Off-Shoulder Dress at Selfie Leslie. Reagan Midi Dress at Revolve. Bonjour Black Button-Front Midi Dress at Lulu's.
A Sweater and White Pants
Don’t underestimate the power of a classic combo. A simple sweater and white pants are something that can work year-round. Wearing one that has stripes like Loren’s is the perfect subtle detailing you need without adding any other accessories. A lot of people might shy away from wearing white pants for the fear that they’ll get dirty, and honestly, they probably will, but this is where bleach and modern-day washing machines come in handy.
White pants are a classic. There are a lot of ways to wear this to make it work for your lifestyle. For a more casual look go for denim. If you’re looking to dress it up a bit, you could wear white trousers or even chinos (kind of like what you might see on the golf course).
I always recommend getting sweaters from J.Crew because I think the quality is great, but you can find a striped sweater at almost any price point. J. Crew also happens to have seven different styles of white jeans, so you should be able to find the fit that’s perfect for you. You’ll find that this sort of combination is popular with many style icons (see Kate Middleton or Brigitte Bardot). In other words, it’s a style worth investing in. And if you have several sweaters, that allows for great versatility without a lot of thought.
Clockwise from top left. Dinah Sweater at Revolve. Chevron Crop Sweater at Topshop. Martie Pant from J. Crew. High Waist Skinny Crop Pants at Loft.
A Big Hat
Sophia Loren loved her accessories. She was never one to shy away from a big dramatic hat. She often wore straw hats. You may already have one of these in your closet! She preferred her straw hats to have detailing like flowers or a ribbon that she could tie around her neck. However, Loren also had a flair for the dramatic, and it was not uncommon for her to wear a black hat with veiling. Jennifer Behr makes a few different headband versions with this veiling. The company describes it as modern veiling, but if you aren’t sure how to wear it, they make a few in white that would work well for your big day.
If headbands aren’t your thing Gigi Burris happens to make a structured black hat with veiling along the lines of something Loren might have worn. The veiling might be a little (or a lot) too out-there for many, so the main thing to keep in mind is that a Loren hat will have some type of detailing to make it stand out. It can be as simple as a ribbon tied around it or all the way to veiling. All you have to do is find your sweet spot.
If she didn’t have a hat on, you can bet that one of the biggest parts of Loren’s look was big, voluminous hair. The kind of great hair you might find in a Pantene commercial. Unfortunately, as we’re not all blessed with her incredible level of hair density, that look can be harder to achieve for some.
Try out different texturing sprays. You can find some at the drug store. Oribe also makes one that’s reputed to be great if you’ve tried everything and still feel like the products just aren’t cutting it. Depending on your hair type, mousse can also work really well to help you get volume in your hair without all the breakage that comes with teasing it like it’s the ‘80s. A curling wand or iron will be very helpful, as will making sure that you lift the roots up when you’re blow-drying your hair to create that fabulous lift you’re looking for. With a little practice and the right products, you can find what works for you.
Loren was truly the original bombshell beauty, and with a little strategy, you can recreate some of her best looks. Just add a cat eye and confidence, making sure you have on a great dress, of course. And if you aren’t able to manage her voluminous hair at first, remember a hat with the right detailing will get you her look just the same. Sophia-Loren-level-chicness, here you come.