A Definitive Guide to Sophia Loren's Old School Glamour — And How To Shop It

A frame-by-frame, look-by-look guide to Sophia Loren, 'HouseBoat,' and how to make her magic happen.
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A frame-by-frame, look-by-look guide to Sophia Loren, 'HouseBoat,' and how to make her magic happen.

You might not be familiar with the 1958 movie Houseboat, but let’s hope that you know its eternally gorgeous and intriguing star, Sophia Loren. A style icon from the start of her career in the ‘50s, Ms. Loren can be most recently spotted as the face of Dolce & Gabbana’s Rosa Excelsa fragrance. If you haven’t seen the ad yet, watch it here. It’s basically what the plot of Houseboat 2 would be if they did it today with Cinzia’s sons and a Bachelor-inspired plot twist.

In celebration of Ms. Loren’s daring sense of style, I’ve broken down the outfits from one of her best rom-coms from the golden era of Hollywood. While Houseboat is adorable and totally worth watching, it’s ultimately Sophia Loren’s outfits that take the cake. Edith Head’s costumes perfectly follow the trends of the decade with hourglass silhouettes, voluminous skirts cinched by tiny belts, and one zinger of a party dress. Scroll down for all of the amazing looks, and let me know what actress or movie you’d like to see next!

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We meet Sophia's character, Cinzia, a privileged but bored daughter of a successful Italian composer, wearing a prim and proper green dress, a pearl set and gold clutch. If you’re looking to copy the look today, opt for a style with minimal embellishment and a classic shade of green so you can dress it up or down. 

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When invited to a "cozy dinner with all the right people" on her last night in America, she ditches the pearls for a night of dancing and carnival games (after a quick smoke). If you’re feeling the classic appeal of pearls but are afraid of looking too stiff, check out these from Catbird. They’re perfectly poised and proper, plus you can wear them from the concert to the after-party (unlike Sophia). Sidenote: this movie had an AMAZING florist, but maybe that’s a separate post.

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Her look goes from uptown girl to dancing queen thanks to a fine layer of dirt and a few loose buttons. If this princess-escapes-castle theme sounds familiar at this point, it should (see: Roman Holiday, Titanic, Notting Hill, and Shakespeare in Love).

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Sophia befriends little boy at carnival, returns him home to Cary Grant. Naturally, Grant offers her a nanny gig on the spot.

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First day on the job and Sophia *brings it* in an LBD, complete with a wide brim hat and the always essential pearl set. 

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Plot twist! Sophia swaps out amazing hat for equally amazing and far more practical silk scarf for the convertible ride over. Pro tip: pick a scarf in a fun print that you’ll love to wear and show off. While neutral hued accessories are usually more practical, we swear you’ll get your use out of a scarf that packs a visual punch. I love this one by DVF. 

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Has to climb a fence as best dressed nanny. Flawless.

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"Why do I look so good in scarves?"

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Solves countless household issues in gorgeous nightgowns. This puffy pink wonder is just the start and is so fab, you'll want one for yourself.

 

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Comforts little girl in white lace, which is just how little girls want to be comforted: by angels.

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Makes Cary Grant espresso even though there is no espresso maker on houseboat without getting any on her crisp white blouse. Also, points for nailing the gingham trend decades before us. 

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Pairs a navy top with matching pants to tutor the locals on how to wear neck scarves.

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Notice how she uses cute kids and a neatly-tied bandana to compliment her black black top and timeless mustard skirt

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Mood: royalty.

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Now that life is full-time houseboat time, Sophia gets to wear lots of sarongs over one-pieces.

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She eventually gets invited to a country club party by basics, all while nailing this muted mustard hue.

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Cary Grant gives her a dress for the party. She is NOT impressed.

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“Designers, make it work!"

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She made it work. You can too. Simply go vintage, splurge a little (OK a lot!), and remember that a cinched waist and a draped neckline is almost always flattering. 

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Aforementioned flattering white blouse makes a comeback. Perfectly-cuffed sleeves with a waist centric tie? Check! Adding this to the shopping cart ASAP. 

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Sophia briefly wears this sheer black stunner

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Only to take a 180 in THIS NUMBER. High collars, long sleeves and all-over lace might not be as popular for today's minimal brides, but this style isn't too far from Grace Kelly’s look when she became Princess of Monaco in 1956, and later Kate Middleton in 2011. If you’re looking to nail the trend without the vows, opt for a midi length or lose the bodice for a more casual vibe. 

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The end! Want more costume breakdowns? Let me know in the comments!