I first discovered Jayne Mansfield—one of the earliest Playboy playmates and bona fide Hollywood sex bomb—after seeing a legendary photo of her with Sophia Loren from 1957. Who was this woman? I asked myself. Loren is giving her (and her boobs) major side eye while the two sit side-by-side at a dinner table. And Mansfield looks like she doesn’t give a fuck. It’s exactly that attitude that has made her one of my undying, unexpected style icons.
I could go on and on about the fearless way she wore leopard print and a sick pencil skirt—but there’s also something to be said about her extravagant pink house (#GOALS)—covered in carpets, chandeliers, and everything under the sun in the girly hue. Like Mansfield, I consider myself a bit of a maximalist when it comes to personal style, and I truly believe that if home reflects your point of view fashion-wise, you’re a genius.
She knew how to have a good time with her clothes, often shocking other guests and diverting their full attention to herself. She was the OG of intentionally dramatic wardrobe malfunctions, her shirt casually falling off a shoulder (or in one case, exposing her entire bra at a Roman nightclub). She was smart about using that kind of thing to her advantage—after all, she reportedly spoke five languages and had an IQ of 163. It’s clear that other celebs (looking at you, Janet Jackson) have taken a page from her book.
Plus, her confidence was an object of beauty: It’s difficult to find a single photo of Mansfield looking flustered, and she exuded the kind of confidence everyone should aspire to have. It’s the same kind of air that her daughter, actress Mariska Hargitay, radiates as her character Olivia on Law and Order.
Mansfield was also skilled at creating a fashion persona. She was born a brunette, and her real name was Vera Jayne Palmer. While other rising stars during the 1950s didn’t take as many sartorial risks, Mansfield took to wearing red lipstick and slinky silk dresses for her debut roles and press events. She hit the ground running with a strong sense of personal style before anyone else could stereotype her as anything else they wanted her to be.
When thinking about the constant change of my own personal style, I always look to Mansfield, who really seemed to know what she loved, shamelessly flaunting low-cut shirts and tops that earned her the title Cleavage Queen.
She was clearly a master of signature style, which is no easy feat. Take for example, her trademark hair. It was incredible: a cool, damage-free smooth bleached blonde coifed and curled to perfection. She was one of the first Hollywood actresses to define the category of blonde bombshell. A fleet of other celebs followed, ranging from Marilyn Monroe to Goldie Hawn.
She also adopted pink as her signature color in 1954 and wore a wedding dress with more than 30 yards of cotton-candy-colored tulle to her wedding in 1958. And when she started the decoration of her home, dubbed the Pink Palace, she draped pink furs all over the entire house and had a pink heart-shaped swimming pool and bathtub especially constructed for it. Her transportation of choice was a pink Cadillac, and she was known to have the first one in all of Los Angeles. Call her a character, but I call it a serious devotion to style. Mansfield lived for aesthetics.