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  • Writer's pictureLindsey

Style Icon: The Life and Style of Ava Gardner


Ava Gardner in actors chair

Rumour has it that Martin Scorsese is planning an epic biopic about the tumultuous lovers Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, and is set to dazzle audiences with its portrayal of Hollywood's golden era. The outfits are bound to be as fabulous as the story will be infamous, so let's delve into the life and style of the vivacious Ava Gardner, known as 'the animal who couldn't be tamed'.


Ava Gardner in slinky black gown

Celebrated as one of Hollywood's ultimate femme fatales, Gardner left an indelible mark not only on the silver screen but also on the world of fashion. Known for her striking beauty, piercing eyes, and sultry demeanor, Gardner effortlessly blended glamour with a casual, yet chic style that made her a fashion icon of her era.


Ava Gardner posing with Hat in silken shirt

Inspired by Ava Gardner's timeless elegance, Stylecamp's Ava two-piece matching top and shorts set pays homage to her bold personality and enduring style. Let's take a look at her most memorable moments and how she helped shape the fashion trends of her generation.



 

LIFE AND TIMES


Ava Gardner movie studio mugshot

From humble beginnings as a poor country girl from North Carolina, Ava Gardner's journey to fame began when she was discovered through a portrait displayed in her photographer brother-in-law's shop window. MGM Studios snapped her up right away, despite her strong accent and lack of experience in singing, dancing, or acting. "She's perfect!" quipped the studio.


Ava Gardner as femme fatale in the Killers

With acting lessons and bit parts in films, Gardner was moulded into a star, propelled by her breakout role as a femme fatale in "The Killers." From then on, she became known for her smoldering on-screen presence, captivating audiences with her sultry allure and magnetic charm.


Ava Gardner posing on couch

Off-screen, Gardner lived life with an unapologetic flair for adventure and indulgence. Renowned for her spirited nature, she was often spotted at glamorous parties and social gatherings, where her lively antics and numerous romances made headlines. “I could dance all night, go straight to the studio at six. After a nap in hair and makeup and a glass of champagne, I’d be ready for my close-up at nine," she once said.


Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra sipping a drink

Her high-profile relationships often hit the headlines, none more so than her scandalous affair with her one true love, Frank Sinatra. It's said that upon their initial meeting, the pair embarked on a drunken escapade that ended with them shooting out streetlights in a small town and spending a night in the cells. This incident, emblematic of their tempestuous relationship, only added to Gardner's legendary status as a Hollywood rebel.


Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner co-stars in Mogambo

She even brought out the wild side of her demure co-star Grace Kelly while on the set of "Mogambo." Kelly, initially taken aback by Gardner's drunken antics, soon found herself drawn into her friend's world of spontaneity and fun-loving spirit, culminating in the pair's infamous girls' jaunt to Rome. They remained lifelong friends, even after Kelly's eventual marriage into royalty.


Ava Gardner posing in embroidered dress with dog

Later, Gardner settled for a time in Spain, where she felt a free-spirited connection to the lifestyle, and later in London, continuing to work in films and TV into the 1980s, all the while living out the bohemian, partying ways she truly enjoyed. “The truth is, honey, I’ve enjoyed my life. I’ve had a hell of a good time,” she reflected.


Ava Gardner leopard print photoshoot

Overall, Gardner's life and persona embodied the essence of a strong, independent woman who lived life on her own terms. Her acting roles and relationships only added to her mystique, making her a true symbol of allure, sophistication, and glamour in the Golden Age of Hollywood.


 

STYLE


GLAMOUR PERSONIFIED


Ava Gardner glamour shot in Rose pink gown

Gardner knew how to command attention with her fashion choices. She favored figure-flattering, tailored dresses that accentuated her curves, often in vibrant colors like royal blue, which complemented her piercing green eyes. Both on screen and off, she was often dressed in the most fabulous attire by renowned designers like the Fontana sisters, Balenciaga, and Oscar de la Renta.


Ava Gardner dressed in gown by Fontana sisters for the Barefoot Contessa film

Her red carpet appearances were marked by impeccably tailored gowns that accentuated her hourglass figure and exuded sophistication. Whether it was the perfectly fitted gowns from Sorelle Fontana in "The Barefoot Contessa" (above) or her non-traditional gray and pink wedding dress designed by Howard Greer (below) , Gardner knew how to elevate any outfit with her presence and style.


Ava Gardner wedding to Frank Sinatra

 

CASUAL CHIC


Classic country girl Ava Gardner look with shirt and full skirt

Off-duty, Gardner maintained her cool with casual yet sophisticated outfits. Her roots as a country girl influenced her comfortable fashion choices, such as high-waisted shorts and mannish white shirts.


Ava Gardner posing in shirt and shorts on a boat


She often went barefoot, a habit from her childhood to save wear and tear on her shoes, reflecting her bohemian spirit. She is quoted as saying, “Although no one believes me, I have always been a country girl and still have a country girl’s values.” Her ability to effortlessly transition from glamorous gowns to laid-back chic showcased her versatility and innate fashion sensibility.


Ava Gardner poses in red checked dress barefoot

 


ICONIC SWIMWEAR



Ava Gardner in beach bikini shot

Beyond her glamorous gowns and casual chic attire, Gardner also made waves with her stunning beachwear and promotional shoots. Her swimwear, characterised by classic silhouettes, became iconic and continues to inspire designers today.




Posing with a magnetism that captivated photographers and fans alike, she showcased a natural elegance that transcended the camera lens. Gardner's beachwear often featured high-waisted bikinis and one-piece swimsuits that highlighted her hourglass figure, establishing trends that remain timeless in fashion history.


 


GET THE AVA GARDNER LOOK


Stylecamp Ava two piece top and shorts set

Stylecamp's Ava set, with its 40s and 50s cinched waist styling, is the perfect base for any Ava Gardner inspired outfit. Featuring the tie front top with matching high waisted flared shorts, its perfect for strutting the beach barefoot, just add some fabulous cat-eye sunnies.


Ava Gardner poses with parasol umbrella

Alternatively, team the separates with other items to create more Ava inspired looks: the tie front top is simply elegant with a full skirt and an Ava style waist-cinching belt, with simple sandals to complete the country look.


Ava Gardner poses in shirt and shorts while brushing hair

The flared high waisted shorts meanwhile can be equally stylish teamed with a tucked in or tied up shirt, opening the collar low and optionally adding Ava's glamorous pearls or a neckscarf for a 50s look.


 

Ava and Frank greet each other outside of a plane

Ava Gardner's legacy is one of timeless glamour and enduring influence. From her rise to Hollywood stardom to her high-profile romances and wild adventures, Gardner's story is a captivating blend of sophistication and spirited living.


Her style, both on and off the screen, continues to inspire fashion enthusiasts and designers. As we anticipate the Scorsese biopic, Gardner's magnetic presence and iconic fashion sense will undoubtedly open up to a new audience. Stylecamp's bold Ava two-piece set is a tribute to her lasting impact, celebrating a woman whose elegance and individuality remain relevant and inspiring today.



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ABOUT STYLECAMP

SIMPLE - ELEGANT - TIMELESS

Stylecamp is an independent women’s fashion brand handmade in the UK, creating well-made, modern vintage fashion for the sartorial woman with a taste for timeless style, simplicity and elegance.

Stylecamp’s feel-good design soaks up the style from the glamorous French Riviera to create something unique and covetable for the modern woman.

Just like its heyday, these vibrant modern-vintage two piece sets, dresses and separates are made to celebrate the figure, making perfect outfits for holidays and vacations, special occasions and elevated everyday style, whenever you want to feel special.

All items are handmade by Lindsey, the designer and maker behind Stylecamp.  Learn more about Stylecamp or shop the collection.

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