Gloria Swanson remains at the top of my list for favorite screen stars. She just personifies style! Gloria was born in 1899 to a doting mother and father. Her mother treated her as her own personal Barbie doll, sewing her the most magnificent and dramatic clothes. Gloria exemplifies the power of personal style.
In her autobiography, Swanson on Swanson; Swanson tells the story of spending her last $300 dollars on a gorgeous green suit before she was about to leave Hollywood as a failure. Her only reason for purchasing the suit was because she loved it! What more reason does a girl need? She made one last trip to the studio on an errand and Jack Conway, a famous director of the time, spotted her. He snatched her up right then to play the lead in his new movie, Smoke. When Gloria asked if he was sure she was what he was looking for, he replied, "Never surer. your hair, your face, the way you sit, the way you smoke a cigarette, that fantastic green suit you're wearing.....even your name is stylish. You're exactly what I want." Sometimes a splurge is not a splurge it's simply an investment in yourself!
Gloria was continously cast as a clothes horse. It just goes to show you how the more things change the more they stay the same. Just like women love to watch Sex and the City today, in large part, for the clothes.....the women of the early 20's were no different. They LOVED seeing Gloria Swanson in her movies as much for her wardrobe as for her stories. In fact, most of the time, the storylines were built around her fabulous clothes and NOT the other way around.
Gloria Swanson's style is timeless and unique. When she once lost an earring that she loved, she simply wore two different earrings, so as not to waste the unlost mate! Her strength was that she knew what looked good on her and was unapologetically individualistic. She was a very petite woman and dressed for her frame, insisting upon perfection in tailoring. By watching her, I've learned to just be me. If I like a look and the way it looks on me, own it! Style has no patience for timidity. Sometimes, I'll find myself getting dressed and then frettingly going back and forth to the mirror wondering if I'm overdressed or is it just too much. If Gloria Swanson could see me, I'm sure she'd laugh and say, "If you love it and feel gorgeous in it, then just wear it and forget about it!"
I love that she so unabashedly loved clothes! For her small stature she was absolutely regal! You know when people compliment others and say, "I really like her. She doesn't take herself too seriously." Well, that would definitely NOT describe Ms. Swanson! She took herself so very seriously while still keeping a refreshing and sharp sense of humor.
So many women love to be the center of attention. I count myself in that category! But not often is a woman comfortable being the center of attention. We love the focus but almost feel like we have to apologize for it. NOT Gloria! She reveled in it! She had issue with her charisma and what makes her so likeable is that she had no issue with the charisma of other women. Effusive in compliments and quick to point out the virtues of another woman, Gloria was a girls' girl. Okay, Rose Kennedy may take issue with me on that point, but I think she may be the only exception. (Gloria Swanson and Joe Kennedy had a notorious and very public affair)
I could go on and on about this amazingly elegant woman. Her personal style, her philosophy on life, and most of all.....her ability tojust keep getting back up. Long before Madonna became famous for "reinventing herself"; Gloria Swanson was the Queen of reinvention. Referring to herself as a "mental vampire", she was voracious in her quest for learning. She never seemed afraid to take a risk that she believed in and if it fell through; she didn't lose the lesson.
Her elegant yet eclectic sense of style is just as much relevant and appropriate today as it was some 90 years ago. For an absolutely fantastic read, check out Swanson on Swanson. It's one of the best selling autobiographies of all time and filled with great personal photographs. Normally, I never read a book more than once; but I've read this one three times already!