Style Heroines: Jane Russell

I wouldn’t say she was a style icon, but Jane Russell – the sassy, statuesque sexbomb star of the 1940s and 1950s, who died yesterday – should be remembered in the fashion world for her services to the halterneck. Here’s a selection of some of her prettiest halternecks – starting with this simple monochrome dress she wore in the 1951 film noir His Kind of Woman.

It was probably not her own idea to showcase her magnificent bosom in this style – but it was no doubt written in to her contract that her cleavage be shown off in every film. Designer Howard Greer kept things tasteful and on the elegant side with the His Kind of Woman clothes (unlike The French Line wardrobe) – witness this pretty sundress…

My own favourite of her halterneck ensembles is the simple black halterneck top and trousers (with high heels – natch) that she sports for her only solo number in the wonderful musical-comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in 1953.

Raven-haired Russell was also unusual in the fact that she also wore a great deal of black onscreen – even, as in the case of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in colour movies. She wears two black evening gowns in the movie, including this sparkling halterneck. The idea was no doubt to direct viewers’ eyes towards the colourful new star the studio was trying to promote …

Appropriately enough, for a couple of stars ultimately both known for their halternecks (Marilyn’s most famous was yet to come – the white “subway” dress in The Seven Year Itch), Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell turned up to leave their mark on the Hollywood Walk of Fame wearing … you’ve guessed it – halterneck dresses!

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