Elizabeth Taylor’s wardrobe in 1963’s Cleopatra is as legendary as her performance.
Fifty-five years later, it’s difficult to point to films that can match its sheer, over-the-top opulence. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of Elizabeth Taylor’s apparel.
The record-breaking costume budget of $194,000 equates to around $1.4 million today. With capes brushed with 24 carat gold, it should be no surprise that Cleopatra was the most expensive film ever made up to that point in time. Taylor underwent around 65 costume changes over the course of the four hour epic, each one unbelievably grandiose and instantly iconic.
With this in mind, the enormous influence the movie has had over fashion can only be guessed at. Every once in a while you get an unexpected reference, such as Rihanna’s memorable sweatshirt emblazoned with a still from the film. But broadening the lens, Cleopatra‘s impact is far more widespread. In fact, it’s on par with the fascination for the real Cleopatra, who stands as one of the world’s most intriguing and mysterious historical figures.
So how to go about channeling Elizabeth Taylor’s interpretation of Cleopatra? Can it be done? Oh, yes it can! Intricate beading and elaborate headdresses are a step in the right direction, just for a start.
There are two basic elements to the Cleopatra-style look: a blunt bob and dramatic cat eye makeup. Combine them and there’s no mistaking the allusion. And that goes for whether the wearer’s tresses are jet black, like in the film, or any other color ranging all the way to pure white.
Flawless, straight cut bangs are the most direct homage, but piecey bangs like Emma Watson’s can do the trick too, especially when paired with a mantle of metallic jewelry.
It’s worth zooming in for a close-up look at Elizabeth Taylor’s eye makeup in the film, specifically. It was, as crfashionbook.com put it, “a watershed moment for cat-eye enthusiasts everywhere,” after all.
Stars today mimic the theatrical effect with statement shapes of their own. Remember, the shape of a person’s cat eye is said to be revealing of their character. Every cat eye is as unique as the wearer, but the Cleopatra-style cat eye is distinguished by an extra long tail harkening back to actual ancient Egyptian makeup techniques.
It’d be difficult to pick a more intimidating, yet rewarding fashion icon to emulate. Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra stands as a towering testament to the absolute heights of luxury, power, and style. You don’t just look at Cleopatra, you behold her. — jas