King Louie's icon: Rita Hayworth (1918-1987)

From Gilda to marrying Orson Welles and becoming Fred Astaire's dance partner: During the 1940s, Rita Hayworth was a true Hollywood icon and she certainly knew how to dress like one.

 

It probably is one of the most iconic movie scenes from the forties: Rita Hayworth answering the question ‘Gilda, are you decent?’ as she rises from out of nowhere and shakes back her hair in her unique and admirable way. ‘Me?’ she says radiantly, with her big eyes and her red curls still bouncing on her shoulder. During those days, men fell in droves for ‘the love goddess’, as she was often called after her blockbuster Gilda. Her pin-up photograph in which she poses in a satin negligee on a bed adorned many soldiers’ barracks during the war. In short, Hayworth in the late forties was hot and happening.

Margarita becomes Rita

Still, she was more than a pin-up girl with bags of sex appeal. Born as Margarita Cansino, the daughter of a dance couple, she practically grew up on stage – not in the least because her Spanish father forced her. That is how Columbia film studios discovered her, surrounded by castanets and flamenco dresses. Columbia quickly brushed off her southern roots and gave her a more American look. Her dark curls were died red and Margarita was changed to Rita. She also took her mother's maiden name and, as Columbia wanted, she decided to dress glamorously whatever day it was. It was the birth of Hollywood icon Rita Hayworth. ‘You would often see actresses like Katherine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, and Margaret Sullavan in dungarees and polo-shirts, scowling at the cameraman. But never Rita.’ is what a fan magazine wrote about Hayworth at the time. ‘She gives them a bang for their buck.’

Feathers and sequin dresses

We have to admit, there are few pictures of Hayworth on which she is not elegantly dressed. Even in photographs taken at home, with her second husband Orson Welles, she still poses in high-waisted, wide pants with rolled-up legs and a vichy check blouse. In other pictures, we see her in flamboyant circle skirts and feminine flowery dresses. Woolen tops on high-waisted pants, polka dots, and flower prints – her hair always styled with the famous forties waves, her lips perfectly painted red.

But Rita is mostly remembered as Gilda, in feathers, sequins, gorgeous strapless evening gowns, and the long gloves that she takes off while singing sensually, all according to the forties’ prudish standards. British newspaper The Independent chose this specific ‘striptease’ scene as one of ten best fashion moments in the history of moving pictures.

 

Hollywood couple

Most of the photographs taken of Rita are from the time she was married to Orson Welles. Like the one of the couple walking along a pier on Miami beach. Her tanned legs, they are smiling – even the usually grumpy-looking Welles looks relaxed and cheerful with his flip-flops and Breton striped shirt. Even so, the viewer's eyes are still instantly drawn to Hayworth in her flower-printed hot pants and matching top. She has quickly scrunched her hair into a beachy knot, her lips are, of course, perfectly painted, and so she sells the story that they are not a casual couple promenading along the beach. Here we see a Hollywood couple.

Troubles

People must have lapped up these carefree pictures. Especially because everyone knew that Hayworth's life was everything but carefree. She married men who were old enough to be her father, got divorced multiple times, met a real prince, married again, battled in court to get custody over her daughters, and ended her life destitute. Her audience followed her troubles meticulously. Not because they found it entertaining but mostly because people believed that she deserved a better life. They wanted to see her parading along the pier. Or tap dancing with Fred Astaire on the big screen. ‘All I ever wanted was just what everybody else wants, you know, to be loved,’ she said. And that is what happened – maybe not by all the men in her life, but she was certainly loved by her fans.

King Louie's Asha:

'The clean and luxurious feeling of Rita Hayworth is something that inspires us. You can see that clearly in the palazzo pants: she liked to wear them and that elegant silhouette is reflected in our current collection.'

 

Dress like Rita Hayworth:

  1. Emmy Dress Capitola
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  4. Garbo Pocket Pant Tuillerie
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  5. Emmy Dress Carmel
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