Lana Turner: A Life of Fashion

Lana Turner Owns 698 Pairs of Shoes, Is a Perfectionist in the Fitting Room, Refuses to Dress Like a Peasant & Creates Her Camera Ready Look.

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Lana Turner is one of the most glamorous and fashionable stars in Hollywood history.

Lana’s look both onscreen and off inspired a generation of women to dress like her, and a generation of men to swoon over her.

As Lana’s daughter, Cheryl Crane, once summed up her mother’s style and appeal [aff. link]:

“One’s eyes gravitated to her when she appeared and her image lingered in the mind when she left.  Beginning with her first film, she had spontaneity and a personality that made audiences care what happened to her.  She also had style and exceptional beauty while remaining approachable…”

Lana Turner
Lana does her hair on the set of Marriage is a Private Affair (1944). I absolutely adore this striped gown!

How perfectly said.

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Lana photographed in 1943 by Clarence Sinclair Bull. This was the first photo of Lana I ever saw, and it made quite an impression on nine-year-old me.

Lana Turner: the "Lingering Image"

It’s this “lingering image” effect that brings me to write about Lana Turner’s flawless look and timeless style.  From Lana’s earliest fashion influences to her dream closet as Hollywood’s most glamorous star; from the “Lana Turner Glam Squad” who created her much imitated look to Lana’s personal style favorites; today it’s all about Lana Turner and fashion.

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Young Lana with her mother, Mildred Frances, circa the mid 1940s. Lana and Mildred, only 16 years apart in age, were exceptionally close. Both women loved fashion, as this photo attests.

Lana’s Earliest Fashion Influence: Her Mother

Lana Turner came by her love of fashion honestly: her mother, Mildred Frances Turner, was one fashionable lady herself.

You may remember from my Star Spotlight on Lana Turner that Mildred raised Lana on her own after Lana’s father was murdered.  The Turner women were always strapped for cash as Mildred juggled motherhood and employment, but, according to Lana,

“…my mother always dressed beautifully whether she was well-off or poor.  Somehow she got herself together.  She always had style and class.”

Lana Turner
Lana and mother Mildred, both fashion plates, in 1944.

By example, Mildred taught her daughter at a very young age the importance of always striving to look your best.  It was a lesson Lana remembered her whole life, and certainly influenced her desire to always be “camera ready,” as Lana herself would say.

Lana Turner
Lana with her daughter, Cheryl.

And it was a lesson that Lana passed along to her own daughter: Cheryl Crane remembers Lana once saying that:

“No daughter of mine is going to look like a peasant.”

I can almost hear Lana saying this!

Lana would always ensure that Cheryl’s closet was well stocked with cute outfits.

The Postman Always Rings Twice

Lana’s Backup Career: Dress Designer

Did you know Lana Turner was quite an artist in her youth? 

And wouldn’t you guess, fashion and clothing sketches were her specialty.  Lana said of her early years that [aff. link]:

“If I had any real talent then, it was for designing clothes.  I loved the costumes in the movies…if I hadn’t gone into the movies, I’d have become a dress designer; that’s where I seemed to be heading.”

One year for her mother’s birthday, twelve-year-old Lana drew her mother a series of fashionable clothing sketches. It was a gift Mildred displayed proudly.  Lana recalled of this financially difficult time in her youth that: 

Lana Turner
Young Lana, stylish even at the beginning of her Hollywood career.

“To everybody I would declare that someday, when I had money, my mother would have beautiful clothes like the ones I drew, and even more.  And, by golly, she did.”

How sweet is that?  Fashion held a special significance, and was even a sign of love, for the Turner women.

Star Trappings: The Dream Closet of Lana Turner

As I mentioned in my Star Spotlight on Lana, she once had a closet that ran half the length of her home.  Initially, this space had been the front porch, but Lana closed it, and converted the area into her dream closet.  For Lana, the closet of her dreams, filled with the fashions of her dreams, was physical evidence of her stardom and hard work. 

Lana Turner

The Dream Closet Details

Here are the details of Lana’s dream closet:

  • Panel mirrors with a platform for wardrobe fittings
  • A climate controlled vault for Lana’s furs (different times, right?!)
  • A special revolving closet for evening wear, day wear, and slacks, all of which were organized by color and weight
  • Huge shelves for sweaters and blouses
  • Hat shelves
  • A twenty-foot jewelry vault
  • And last but not least, a SHOE ROOM
Lana Turner
Lana wears a cute pair of shoes to the premiere of Leave Her to Heaven (1945) with Robert Hutton.

That’s right, Lana Turner had a shoe room.  

According to Lana in her 1982 autobiography [aff. link],

“When I became a film star, I developed the spendthrift habit of buying shoes in quantity—two, three, or four colors in the same style. At one time I had a special room, with shelves from floor to ceiling, filled with shoes, I had one of those library ladders so I could climb up to select a pair.  Once I counted them all, and I discovered I owned 698 pairs of shoes.  That jolted me! Since then I’ve tried to control the impulse.”

Can you imagine needing a library ladder to access some of your shoes?

Now that’s a dream closet.

Lana's Fashion Passion: Jewelry

You may think owning 698 pairs of shoes is impressive, but Lana had an even greater fashion interest than footwear:

“I’d always had a weakness for shoes, but my feeling for beautiful jewelry amounted to a passion.”

Admirably, Lana’s criteria for what made a piece of jewelry worthy of her collection was completely personal: as long as she found a piece beautiful, Lana didn’t much care about the value of the metal, or how rare the jewel.  According to her daughter Cheryl,

Lana Turner

“Mother was no snob about the jewelry she wore. ‘MGM rings,’ which were imitation, rested alongside the real thing.  Whether it was genuine or costume, if a piece of jewelry caught her eye with a brilliant sparkle, she would wear it…”

A little known fact about Lana’s jewelry passion: she preferred colored stones over diamonds.  Lana’s particular favorite stones included turquoise, emeralds, amethysts, and star sapphires.

Lana Turner
Lana wears one of her favorite stones, turquoise, in Imitation of Life (1959).

A Glimpse of Lana’s Jewelry

For a glimpse of jewelry from Lana’s personal collection, be sure to watch The Sea Chase (1955) [aff. link].  All the jewelry Lana wears in this adventure film was her own.  (As was all her wardrobe in the film, with the exception of the champagne colored dress.)

Lana Turner
Lana wore all her own jewelry in The Sea Chase (1955).

My Pieces of Lana's Jewelry

I’m so excited to share this next glimpse of Lana’s jewelry with you:

I actually own one of Lana’s rings! 

Wearing my silver ring from Lana Turner's personal collection.

According to Lana’s daughter Cheryl, Lana bought the ring I’m wearing in the photo above while filming Love Has Many Faces (1965) in Acapulco.  It’s simple sterling silver, but it definitely has that “sparkle” Cheryl says her mother always looked for in her jewelry choices. 

The Lana Turner Estate card that came with my ring, and my favorite signed photo of Lana, signed in her signature red ink.

Lana Turner Hair Combs

This year, thanks to the lovely collections of vintage estate jewelry at the House of Francheska, I added a pair of Lana’s hair combs to my Lana Turner Estate collection.

As Lana fans know, hair combs were a quintessential part of Lana’s flawless look in the 1940s.  She wore them often, and she wore them well.

Here’s a pic of Lana wearing one of her signature 1940s hair comb styles, and me, wearing my 2021 spin on Lana’s ‘do, with my hair combs that Lana actually owned and wore herself.

Lana Turner

And here’s one of my Lana Turner signed photos, with the Lana Turner Estate card authenticating the hair combs, signed by Cheryl Crane, which reads: 

“Lana Turner owned vintage silver ball hair combs, worn in films from her personal collection.  -Cheryl Crane, 2009”

It’s an absolute dream come true to add these hair combs to my Lana Turner collection!

I love how my Lana ring and hair combs both have the sterling silver ball  motif.  As Lana probably purchased the hair combs in the 1940s, and Cheryl Crane says her mother purchased the ring in 1965, it shows a continuity of Lana’s tastes and style through the decades.

Lana Turner Earrings

One of the latest editions to my Lana Turner collection is this gorgeous pair of earrings from Lana’s early days in Hollywood, cira the early 1940s. 

Cheryl’s inscription on the estate card reads:

“Lana Turner owned vintage red cherry drop earrings from her personal collection.  -Cheryl Crane, 2009”

Lana's Brooch

What makes this gorgeous Lana Turner owned brooch by designer Hattie Carnegie even more priceless is this photo of Lana wearing it.  The estate card from Cheryl reads:

“Lana Turner owned “Hattie Carnegie” Brooch & photo of her wearing it.  -Cheryl Crane, 2010″

Lana's Black Satin Evening Purse

This black satin evening purse is absolutely stunning.  The original black strap on the purse when Lana owned it was about to break on one side, so i decided to update the strap completely.

A hidden element of this evening purse that makes it incredibly special is the fact that Lana’s name is sewn on the inside!  The estate card from Cheryl reads:

“Lana Turner owned black satin evening purse from her personal collection.  -Cheryl Crane, 2011”

The Fashion Favorites of Lana Turner

We’ve discussed Lana’s love of shoes and jewelry.  Here are some of Lana’s other fashion favorites:

Lana Turner

Bright Colors

Lana adored bright colors.  In her autobiography she writes:

“I like colors to be definite.  I’m not a baby blue or baby pink girl. Black, white, strong red—those are my colors.  If it’s yellow, let it be bright yellow.  If green, make mine an emerald green.  I don’t care for muted colors, except the beautiful lilacs and lavenders.  But that’s my romantic side coming out again.”

Like her character Cora Smith in The Postman Always Rings Twice, Lana loved to dress in all white or all black.

Lana was also a fan of the dramatic effect of wearing all black or all white, much like her character Cora Smith in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).

She Didn’t Show Much Skin

Onscreen and off, Lana didn’t like to show much skin.  Her daughter Cheryl insists that this truly was her mother’s taste, not just Lana conforming to the overall more conservative styles of the 1940s and 1950s.

For a woman whose film career was largely based on her sensuality, the fact that Lana preferred to leave things to the imagination, rather than bare all in her wardrobe choices, speaks volumes to who the real Lana Turner was. 

Classy lady!

Lana Turner
Lana attends the 30th Academy Awards on March 26, 1958. She was nominated for Best Actress for her work in Peyton Place (1957). According to her daughter Cheryl, this gown was probably Lana's favorite.

Lana’s Favorite Gown: The “Mermaid” Dress

According to Cheryl Crane, despite the personal tragedy that surrounded Lana at the time of the 1958 Academy Awards, the gown Lana wore to awards ceremony that year (pictured above) was probably her favorite gown ever

And can you blame her?  Just look at that breathtaking mermaid sheath dress with white lace.  Absolutely stunning.

Lana Turner
Designer Don Loper fits Lana for the gorgeous green gown she wore to the 1951 Ribbon Ball.

Lana’s Favorite Designers

As a stunning Hollywood star who loved fashion, Lana Turner worked with some of the best designers and costumers in town, including Adrian, Irene, Helen Rose, Walter Plunkett, Don Loper, and Edith Head. 

Don Loper was a favorite, and he designed Lana’s gorgeous 1948 wedding dress for her marriage to Bob Topping.

Lana's champagne silk wedding gown was overlaid with Alençon lace of the same color. Don Loper designed this beautiful gown.

But according to Cheryl Crane, her mother’s very favorite designer was the legendary Jean Louis.  Louis famously designed Lana’s luminous wardrobe in her 1959 comeback film, Imitation of Life.  And Lana sure knew how to wear Louis’ designs:

Lana Turner
Lana wears Jean Louis, her favorite designer, in Imitation of Life (1959).
Lana Turner
...and more Jean Louis!

The Lana Turner Glam Squad

When Lana became a star at MGM, the studio showed its respect by giving Lana her own team for hair and makeup: Helen Young and Del Armstrong.

Helen Young touches up Lana's hair, while Del Armstrong touches up her makeup on the set of The Merry Widow (1952).

Helen Young

Helen Young had a hair salon in Beverly Hills, and first worked with Lana on Green Dolphin Street (1947).  This movie was a true test of Helen’s coiffure skills, for in the film, Lana has 34 different hairstyles.

Helen even devised a way—using dark vegetable dye and hairpieces—for Lana to go from long dark locks for the reshooting of a couple scenes from Green Dolphin Street (1947) while she was filming Cass Timberlane (1947) as a short-tressed, platinum blonde.

Lana, with long dark tresses, styled by Helen Young, chats with co-star Donna Reed on the set of Green Dolphin Street (1947).

Can you imagine going from long dark hair in the afternoon to short platinum hair the next morning, and back again?

Helen Young was truly a hair genius.  No wonder Lana invited Helen to come work exclusively for her, which Helen did until she retired in the 1960s.

Del Armstrong does Lana's makeup on Marriage is a Private Affair (1944). This film was the start of a long work partnership and great friendship.

Del Armstrong

Del Armstrong first did Lana’s makeup in the film Marriage is a Private Affair (1944).  Lana was so impressed with his skill, the two became the best of friends.  There was rarely a Lana Turner film after Marriage where Del was not her makeup artist. 

Lana so trusted Del with her face that when she went to England to film Another Time, Another Place (1958), Lana formed a production company and named Del her assistant producer.  This was the only way Lana could get around the English union laws that prohibited her from bringing her own makeup man.

Pretty cool!  And indicative of the loyal friend Lana was.

Lana and Del behind the scenes of The Bad and The Beautiful (1952).

But there was one film during Lana’s prime years of stardom that Del did not do her makeup for: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).  Del was drafted into the navy before shooting began.  So for this iconic film, Lana Turner did her own makeup.  Del obviously taught her well, for Lana is arguably at her most beautiful in Postman, in part due to her flawlessly applied makeup.

Lana Turner
Lana did her own makeup for The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).

Lana’s Insights: Costume Fittings at MGM

Lana Turner was a perfectionist, especially when it came to her costume fittings.  She instinctively knew when a gown was not right for her, and could drive the studio designers crazy with her insistence that every line be perfect. 

I absolutely love that Lana wouldn’t settle for anything less than perfect.

Lana was always happy to stand for wardrobe fittings, though frequently, the packed schedules of MGM stars didn’t allow for her to do so.  But MGM had the solution to this dilemma faced by Lana, her fellow stars, and the MGM costume department.  As Lana remembered,

Lana Turner
Lana gets the finishing touches on a gown for Johnny Eager (1941).

“In those days the studio kept eight or ten mannequins made to the exact measurements of each of us [MGM stars]. They reflected every tiny imperfection—for example my left shoulder and hip are higher than my right—that the designer would have to accommodate.  Each mannequin was labeled with the name of the star: Greer Garson, Judy Garland, Hedy Lamarr.  My hip mannequin was the smallest in the entire studio.  Greer Garson’s was the largest, but she is a tall woman.”

Lana Turner
Lana behind the scenes of The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).

Absolutely fascinating.

And quick side note: Lana mentions having the smallest hip size in the studio, but she wasn’t bragging.  According to her daughter Cheryl, Lana’s lack of size in the hip and derriere departments were two things she was self-conscious about her whole life.

Lana Turner
Lana wears one of her gorgeous gowns on the set of The Bad and the Beautiful (1952).

Lana Turner: Always "Camera Ready"

Lana’s desire to always be “camera ready,” as she put it, was certainly influenced by the example of her mother growing up, and the star training she received at MGM.

It did not matter the circumstances, Lana Turner would not leave the house without her makeup on.  Perfectly applied lipstick and eyebrows were an absolute must.  (Like her friend Lucille Ball, Lana’s eyebrows never fully grew back after the makeup department shaved them off for a bit role in The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938) during her starlet days.)

Lana Turner
From her earliest starlet days, Lana had to pencil in or apply her eyebrows daily, a result of a studio order to shave them off for The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938).

According to Cheryl, even in Lana’s last years,

“She was serious about being presentable at all times…‘Camera-ready’ was even the rule into her last few months of life, when she never left the house.  I remember one time we were just going to watch a movie at home and I found her wearing a blue silk Chinese robe with her diamond and pearl broach as if she was going out to meet Mrs. Astor.  She never let herself go.”

Lana and Cheryl in San Francisco, 1987. Lana looks as glamorous as ever. (They both do!)

Now that’s a true star. 

What a darling woman.

My Favorite Lana Turner Looks

And that’s it for my fashion tribute to Lana Turner. 

To wrap it up, here are a few pics of some of my favorite Lana looks through the years:

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Lana's gorgeous lace gown in Du Barry Was A Lady (1943).
The iconic white turban and shorts outfit in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).
A night on the town. Wearing gingham to Ciro's, 1944.
LOVE this black snood Lana wears in Two Girls on Broadway (1940).
Circa the early 1960s.
Wearing Jean Louis in Imitation of Life (1959).
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Cute and casual in South America, 1946.
Lana Turner
As Cheryl Crane said, Lana never let herself go. Here she is, radiant in white, in the early 1980s.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Patrice

    Loved reading about Lana Turner.

    1. Shannon

      Thank you so so much for reading Patrice! ♥️. Isn’t Lana a fascinating star? Truly one of the most glamorous women of Hollywood, I absolutely love her!

  2. Greg Schreiner

    love the article and I actually own the striped dress you like so much.

    1. Shannon

      Oh my goodness that’s absolutely amazing! What a find, Lana’s striped dress is one of the most gorgeous gowns of Classic Hollywood.

      Thanks for commenting Greg! Your impressive collection of Marilyn Monroe gowns is truly an inspiration.

  3. John K Ventrella

    Shannon – So excited you are enjoying the red earrings. It was a pleasure seeing them displayed. Lana would be proud. J. Ventrella

    1. Shannon

      That means so much, thanks John! The red earrings and Lana’s evening purse are two of my favorite Lana items. Thank you for making it possible!

  4. Alison R.

    Absolutely fascinating! Well researched and presented, and the addition of your personal collection of Lana Turner jewelry pieces added an extra sparkle.

    1. Shannon

      Thanks Alison!

  5. Jim VanWynsberghe

    I have a photo of Lana from when she was on my helicopter in Vietnam. She was doing a show and sprained her ankle and the officer was carrying her in his arms and she had him stop and holding her as she posed for me

    1. Shannon

      Jim that’s absolutely amazing! I’ve always admired Lana for continuing her tour of Vietnam, despite her sprained ankle. What a trooper! Lana’s daughter Cheryl once wrote about how important it was to her mother to entertain the troops throughout her career, from WWII to Vietnam. I just love that about her. How cool that Lana was on your helicopter, and that you snapped that photo!

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