Saturday, April 9, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra (1963)

It is a widely known bit of trivia that Elizabeth Taylor has the record number of costume changes in this movie: 65. This roster of fabulous costumes includes a dress made of 24 carat gold cloth. This is an amazing epic film and as the title character, it is all about Elizabeth Taylor! She is voluptuous and brazen and bold in the style choices in this film.
However, most of these costumes are not wearable except in a very costume party way. But -- I did find at least one that could be adapted for wearing to a cocktail party without costumes. The outfit I choose to re-create is the toga-like ensemble that she wears to chastise Rex Harrison (Julius Caesar) about accidentally burning the Library of Alexandria. Here it is: Click the image for a larger more detailed version.

And here is my interpretation:

Dress: Arden B, One Shoulder Grecian Dress, $69
Sandals: Nine West, Sheik Ankle Strap Sandal in Light Gold Fabric via, on sale for $43.42
Bracelet: Ancient Bronze Cleopatra Bracelet, $30 via Etsy seller starflowerssilver
Belt: Arden B, Twist Front Chain Belt, $39
Total: $181.42

The historical Cleopatra was Greek by heritage. She was member of the Ptolemaic dynasty which was from Greece and ruled Egypt for almost 300 years. This costume and my interpretation of it incorporate both Greek and Egyptian stylistic elements.

For instance, while I don’t think it would be possible to do a long toga dress and not look like a costume, the short version updates this look nicely. All of the accessories I selected to be gold, following the film itself. The ancient Egyptians believed gold to be the color indicating divinity and it is of course an important color in the film’s plot. (Cleopatra wants to be dressed in her solid gold dress after she is dead so that Antony can see her coming from a great distance in the afterlife.)

The shoes I wanted to be a sandal and strappy but not to look too spindle-like. For the belt, I really wanted to have a snake belt, as an homage to the end of the film and Cleopatra’s suicide. But I couldn’t find one that looked and felt right, so this rope-like twisted belt works instead.

Lastly, I wanted some sort of bracelet, preferably something bold that could stand on its own and possibly by worn high on the arm, as Elizabeth does in the film. I got lucky with this one from Etsy because of the wave-like, triskelion motif in it. You can see in the picture from the film that this motif is actually on the doors behind her while she is wearing the dress! I think this piece is particularly lovely and the price is great.

This look is very sophisticated, sexy and affordable. This would be great to go out to dinner, to a nightclub or a cocktail party. Or – you could just as easily incorporate Egyptian jewelry motifs into your existing wardrobe – or – have one knockout Greek piece to wear, if this felt too costumey. Do you think this look is wearable for you?

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