These Hollywood starlets were anything but old-fashioned.
Growing up, I wasn’t a huge fan of watching black-and-white movies. They seemed so outdated, the lack of color made it difficult to follow the story, and I found the actresses’ strangely half-British-half-American accents confusing. As I grew older, of course, my perception of these old movies shifted.
I began to understand that these films weren’t as boring, stuffy, and old-fashioned as I’d thought. The storylines were human, the dialogue was smart, and the actresses were poised and lovely, the kind of woman that younger women might emulate. While we often look to old Hollywood film stars for fashion inspiration, we tend to overlook the sage advice they had to offer about life, success, and even flirting.
These classic film stars were young once, too, right? So what can the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich teach us about flirting?
“There is more to sex appeal than just measurements. I don’t need a bedroom to prove my womanliness. I can convey just as much sex appeal, picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain.” — Audrey Hepburn
Perhaps I’m just biased (I’ve always considered myself an Audrey), but to me, Audrey Hepburn is the picture of elegance, refinement, and charm. Her effortless beauty translated into the witty, respectable women she often portrayed, giving her a charisma that’s hard to beat.
And her views on flirting and femininity are ones to look up to. While Audrey possessed a gravitas that demanded respect and she saw the value of being a woman, she also had the corner on classy sex appeal, seeing her body not as something to sell, but rather to be regarded as beautiful. Instead of flaunting what she knew she had, Audrey kept up a mysterious allure by remaining modest.
“Sexiness can be the way you pick up a teacup.”
— Sharon Tate
Despite a tragically early end to her promising career, Sharon Tate left her mark on Hollywood. As a young, beautiful bombshell, Sharon was no stranger to garnering a great deal of admiration for her body, often landing roles that only highlighted that fact.
And yet, she also knew that her physical appeal didn’t need to be expressed explicitly, that a woman is perfectly capable of flirting and being sexy without hitting someone over the head with her attractiveness. Rather, she saw that flirtation was achievable in the smallest, most understated ways — perhaps in the way you crack a smile, or even pick up a teacup.
“Your clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman but loose enough to show you’re a lady.”
— Marilyn Monroe
As one of the most famous film stars of all time, Marilyn Monroe not only knew how to call attention to herself in the moment, but how to keep its spotlight on her for decades to come. Her playfully seductive, sparkling presence often led her to play women whose sex appeal was undeniable.
But despite being one of Hollywood’s most well-known sex symbols who fully embraced the beauty of her full, womanly figure, Marilyn also knew that sometimes, just a little mystery can be more appealing than none at all.
“Being beautiful can never hurt, but you have to have more. You have to sparkle, you have to be fun, you have to make your brain work if you have one.” — Sophia Loren
Often regarded as one of the most beautiful women of Hollywood’s golden age, Sophia Loren spent her younger days competing in beauty pageants and was crowned Miss Italia at just 15 years old. Her fiery presence led her to star in numerous hits, playing deeply captivating women onscreen.
While Sophia knew the power her good looks held, she was also well aware that women could be, and should be, much more than just lovely. She understood that a woman’s glowing personality, fun-loving attitude, and sharp wit could take her a long way. It’s easy to rely on looks, especially for someone like Sophia Loren, but a woman ought to have a lot more than that.
“Darling, the legs aren’t so beautiful, I just know what to do with them.” — Marlene Dietrich
Known for pushing boundaries and working hard for her success, Marlene Dietrich was a force to be reckoned with. The German-born beauty often played the femme fatale, perfectly suited for the enigmatic, provocative, charismatic woman she was.
However, Marlene wasn’t haughty about her looks. Instead, she saw that a great deal of flirtation and physical appeal is the attitude behind it, the confidence with which it’s asserted. A woman who sees what she naturally has, and knows exactly how to work with it possesses a radiance that’s undeniable.
Although these women lived what seems like so long ago, their advice on love, life, being a woman, and flirting remains relevant today.