Elizabeth Taylor’s Style Evolution: How She Embraced Her Power Through Fashion
Elizabeth’s strong sense of self emboldened her fashion choices throughout the years. While her style fluctuated and flowed through professional, romantic, and political environments, she always conserved her personal flair.
Starting at a young age, Elizabeth explored her personal taste without constraint. Having nearly the entire wardrobe department of MGM Studios at her fingertips, Elizabeth worked closely with designers and stylists, developing her own taste and discovering what made her feel confident and beautiful. During her childhood and teenage years, Elizabeth preferred a subtle approach to fashion, opting for refined and polished looks, following the trends of the day while adding tons of flirty finesse into everyday looks. As she grew older, her inclination to embrace her femininity grew into a significant part of her identity. We can trace the introduction of some of Elizabeth’s favorite silhouettes, such as her iconic cinched waist, back to this time. However, while under contract with MGM, the studio held great authority over her public appearance. It was not until Elizabeth secured herself more agency in her contracts, and more success in her career, that she gained the freedom to dress to her heart’s content - fully leaning into the glamour that became synonymous with her name.
Along with Elizabeth’s expanding collection of couture fashion and jewels came a series of husbands, each of whom influenced her style throughout the time of their unions. During the scandalous beginning of her relationship with Eddie Fisher - who was married to actress Debbie Reynolds at the time - the media portrayed Elizabeth as a homewrecker, a treacherously seductive woman who could not be trusted. In response to this unsavory image, combined with the lingering grief that preceded the relationship due to the death of her previous husband Mike Todd, Elizabeth ditched her signature plunging necklines.
However, being the resilient and independent woman that she was, this trend did not last long - and neither did her marriage to Eddie Fisher. Her skirts became shorter and her diamonds even more flashy in keeping with the new fashion trends which was encouraged during her next marriage to the great love of her life, Richard Burton. Knowing he had one of the most beautiful women in the world on his arm, Richard enjoyed showing Elizabeth off. He also influenced her style by introducing her to designer Vicky Tiel who helped accentuate Elizabeth’s effortless enchantments. Richard was also notorious for gifting Elizabeth extravagant jewels to be adorned at the many occasions they attended as a couple.
While she always had this taste for opulence within her, her growing salary and fame helped to illustrate the true power of embracing movie star status, particularly through fashion. Elizabeth’s well-known approach of “more is more” was a mindset she carried with her all the way to Washington D.C. Knowing that her celebrity status would be an enormous resource in her fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic and its social stigma, Elizabeth always dressed to the nines when approaching government officials, including the entirety of Congress and the President of the United States at the time, Ronald Reagan. During these political occasions, Elizabeth often wore Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel, she methodically chose sophisticated yet feminine looks that demanded attention to the severity of the AIDS epidemic, and her dedication to eradicate it. She knew that, in order to be taken seriously by a room full of powerful politicians, she had to command respect from them with her legendary star-power, as well as astute professionalism and deep understanding of the science.
Gaining conviction every step of the way, Elizabeth’s style journey enabled her to become somewhat of a chameleon. Adapting to any situation and making it her own, Elizabeth often found her power and voice through her sartorial choices. Having lived her entire life in the public eye, she knew that her appearance would always be scrutinized and critiqued. Still, throughout her many twists and turns, she learned to value her own comfort above all else. Feeling equally feminine when dressed in flowy caftans and jewels the size of the moon, or form-fitting dresses and heels, Elizabeth explored her sense of fashion with confidence and a sense of fun, because underneath it all she was simply herself.