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Fashion and film find romance in ‘The Looks of Love’

Fashion and style have forever been in bed with film, television and music, especially in the moments that scream love.

We all have our top pop memories of romance, lust, marriage and heartbreak from those worlds and more, including the beauty industry and the world of advertising. In a new book, The Looks of Love: 50 Moments in Fashion That Inspired Romance, insider and designer Hal Rubenstein has rounded up some of his. 

We asked him to illuminate his favorites from the book, recently released by Harper Design in plenty of time for Valentine’s Day:


Rubenstein calls 1970s Love Story a “cheaply produced, poorly shot and badly edited” film of Erich Segal’s runaway best-selling book. Both had fans weeping by the millions. Among the reasons the film did well were the genetically blessed stars, Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal, but coming as it did in the ascendancy of Woodstock, with its bell-bottoms and beaded necklaces, Love Story ironically led the way for preppy style. Forever.

In his Harris Tweed blazers over Shetland sweaters and blue Oxford cloth shirts with collars out, O’Neal’s Ollie might well have been raised by the sales staff of Brooks Brothers, Rubenstein said. MacGraw’s Jenny, meanwhile, walked a protest-free campus in a peacoat, black turtleneck and plaid skirt with matching scarf once the book (thanks to a plug of gold from fan Barbara Walters) hit the big screen the year after the seismic Woodstock.


Her Bob Mackie gowns and long, straight raven hair are legendary, as are his furry vests and Prince Valiant ’dos. But there’s something else, Rubenstein said, besides their break-out duets that hit the Top 40 in 1965. They followed up with The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour that premiered on CBS in 1971, ending in 1974.

The two fell out of love and divorced in 1975. Both had short-lived solo TV shows before CBS persuaded them in 1976 to reunite as a divorced couple in the same time slot on Sunday nights.

“They were the first high-profile couple ever to appear public divorced and getting along,” Rubenstein, 65, said. “When I was a kid you said the word divorce the same way everybody said the word cancer. And they basically said, ‘Here we are and we’re having a good time,’ and it changed people’s attitudes toward divorce.”


With Taylor Swiftian efficiency, James Dean’s rise to teen idol started with his debut as the troubled Cal Trask in East of Eden. The film served as a 1953 counterpart to the more macho stars of the previous generation — Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck and even Marlon Brando, just seven years Dean’s senior, Rubenstein writes.

Trask was followed in 1955 by Dean’s portrayal of the vulnerable, unsure Jim Stark, who wears his teen heart on the sleeve of a red nylon windbreaker in Rebel Without a Cause. It’s not easy looking that cool in a red zip windbreaker, but Dean pulls it off.

Offscreen, he was more closely associated with Schott NYC Perfecto black leather motorcycle jackets. He never wore one in a movie but Brando did and the Perfecto line of leather jackets lives on. 

“There is not a leather jacket out there that is not stolen from that Schott jacket,” Rubenstein said.

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