Mae West (1893-1980) was ahead of her time. Way ahead of her time. She’s probably remembered primarily as a zaftig sex symbol, but she was so much more than that. She was a playwright, screenwriter, actress, and producer who consistently broke boundaries in her frank treatment of sexual and social themes. Far from being an ingenue playing a role scripted for her by Hollywood, Mae West was a self-created artist and businesswoman who controlled her own persona. In the 1920s she was a sensation on Broadway, starring in her own self-written plays (which once landed her in jail for “public obscenity”). Then she moved to Hollywood, where she created star vehicles featuring her own screenplays (again running afoul of the censors). Off-screen, too, she was an independent woman who refused to be tied down into domesticity—or to apologize in any way for her liberated lifestyle.

Mae’s look was distinctive: blonde hair, hourglass dress, feathers, picture hat. The pieces we suggest, from left to right:

1. Sunvary mermaid gown in black or red. This is a made-to-order gown and also comes in several other colors besides red and black. It may be more than you want to spend, but this is the standard to shoot for if you want to look like Mae West. But you can make any long dress work (this Evanese gown, for example).
2. Polka dot organza picture hat. This fancy wide-brimmed hat comes in several colors and is trimmed with jeweled organza flowers. All it needs is a few ostrich plumes tucked into the brim.
3. Red feather boa. Wrap it around your shoulders or fasten it around the neckline of your gown.
4. Long blonde ringlets wig. This is the kind of hair you need to pull off the Mae West look. Blonde, crimped, and long.
5. Red rhinestone necklace and earring set. Rubies and diamonds!
6. Nine row rhinestone bracelet over elbow-length black evening gloves. If you’re wearing a short sleeve or sleeveless gown, this would look fabulous.