There are few celebrities whose style immediately comes to mind upon mentioning of their first names. There’s Audrey Hepburn, with her black turtleneck and cropped pants; Brigitte Bardot, in cat-eyed liner and gingham; Grace Kelly with a New Look dress and white gloves. And then there’s Liza Minnelli, in sequins.
Of course, we all imagine Liza in her iconic turn as Sally Bowles in ‘Cabaret,‘ a role that won her the Oscar for Best Actress. It’s an image that is in the collective pop culture unconscious — you don’t necessarily need to have seen the movie in order to know Liza’s look. Bowler hat, short hemlines and sheer stockings. Deep necklines, big eyelashes and everything in black.
The image of Sally Bowles became entwined with Liza’s following the movie. Never would you see her without dramatic eye makeup, short hair and, of course, the sequins. She put Halston on the map and the designer, in turn, refined the Liza look. The proportion became a bit shoulder-heavy, with the focus completely on her long legs. She kept this silhouette through the 70s and 80s, then accommodated for the change of time by adding a flowing pant. Yet, the drama remains — whether in the occasional feather boa as the scene-stealing Lucille Austero in ‘Arrested Development’ or in glittering lamé during her appearances on HSN (where she had a line of jewelry and sequined dresses, of course).
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But you have to wonder if the world of glittery style offered her a reprieve from an upbringing that we could only tactfully call “challenging” and a personal life that had plenty of downs to go with the ups. And did she work hard to distract herself, or was it just a wonderful compulsion? No matter because, as Liza once said, “Reality is something you rise above.”
Liza turns 67 on March 12.