Most of us can recognize a dangerous woman when we see one. She has a mysterious air and seems to attract trouble (and the men who can help her out of it). She’s deadly and always dresses the part. A fitted pencil skirt or tailored dress, a long trench and dark glasses are her uniform for day. At night, she emerges in slinky dresses and fur coats.
Flash and frills are the antithesis of the vixen’s wardrobe. Between seducing the detective on her case to covering up her latest crime scene, she never has enough time for frivolity. She avoids ruffles, floral prints and rarely wears bright cheerful colors. She’s demure and glamorous, with the right blend of femininity, class, and toughness: Rita Hayworth, Gene Tierney, Lana Turner and Lauren Bacall embodied the femme fatale look and attitude.
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In Gilda, Rita Hayworth’s hot-tempered vixen famously dances to “Put the Blame on Mame,” removing her long black gloves in a sort of demure striptease — but that’s enough to rile up her ex-lover, who quickly drags her away from the crowd. In this scene, she wears an iconic black strapless gown with a sweetheart neckline, which has become synonymous with vampy women.
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
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As Cora Smith, Lana Turner uses her charms to convince a young drifter to murder her husband. This sinful seductress dresses in all-white, a ploy to mask her darker nature. One of the most memorable moments in the film is when Cora intentionally drops her lipstick as she enters her diner. In this scene, the camera slowly pans from her lipstick to her peep toe heels, then all the way up to her white turban. Talk about making an entrance.
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Gene Tierney’s mysterious character exists as a shadowy portrait in the beginning scenes of this noir classic, but her image alone is enough to win the affection of the detective assigned to her case when she goes missing. In the portrait, her natural beauty shines in a simple, one-shouldered black evening dress. When she suddenly returns one rainy night, she is wearing a classic trench and a floppy hat.
The Big Sleep (1946)
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When a reckless party-girl gets herself tangled in a murder, her older sister Vivian (played by Lauren Bacall) teams up with a private detective to solve the case. Vivian’s cool, no-nonsense attitude is reflected in her pared-down wardrobe. Her signature day look is a houndstooth blazer and matching pencil skirt. By night, she wears simple, drapey gowns that bare some skin, whether it be a midriff or a plunging neckline.