This story first appeared in the February 22, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

  • Elizabeth Taylor earned a reputation when, in 1947, at age 15, she posed on a beach in a risqué ensemble called the bikini just a year after a French engineer invented it. A string of scandals would follow — along with one of the most successful acting careers in Hollywood history. Coincidence?
  • As a teenager in the Twenties, Mary Pickford bucked her wholesome screen image. At premieres, she would push the boundaries of propriety, says Kevin Jones, curator of the museum at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. “She would wear an evening gown that looked like it was falling off the shoulders, but it really wasn’t,” Jones says.
  • Still an unknown German actress in 1927, Marlene Dietrich, then 26, used gender-bending outfits to get attention in the U.S. “Katharine Hepburn wore pants to be comfortable, but Dietrich did it to be shocking,” Jones says. “She was going even further by wearing full tuxedos and a top hat. That is serious cross-dressing.” 
  • As a starlet barely into her 20s, Joan Crawford never missed an opportunity to show off her gams, vamping it up in publicity stills as a naughty Santa’s elf or, in 1926, as a scantily clad pirate. “No sleeves, no neckline and short skirts,” Jones says. “Totally bad-girl for the time.” 
  • After her frilly film debut in “Funny Girl,” Barbra Streisand showed up at the 1969 Academy Awards wearing a belly-baring, see-through black sequined outfit with a bikini top peeking through. The Arnold Scaasi ensemble earned instant notoriety for his 25-year-old client.