WCW: Sophia Loren


Sophia Loren. This Italian actress is an icon! She’s been in numerous period films, and while the costumes are often very much of their era, she still manages to be 1000% fabulous. Let’s run her frock flick resume!


La Favorita (1952)

An adaptation of an opera, set in 14th century Spain. Loren plays Leonara, favorite of Castilian King Alfonso XI.


Looks medieval-y! And she even has a veil! | Courtesy Everett Collection


Okay the fit on that gown is much more suspicious.


Aida (1953)

An adaptation of the famous opera. Loren plays enslaved Ethiopian princess Aida — in full black face. Sigh. We’ve said it before and we’ll keep on saying it: black (/brown/yellow/red/etc.) face isn’t okay now, but films of previous eras don’t get a pass. IT WASN’T OKAY THEN EITHER.

1953 Aida

I wouldn’t even know where to start.

1953 Aida

I have my doubts about the authenticity here.

1953 Aida

Yep, balls-out blackface.


Miseria e nobiltà (1954)

A comedy set in late 19th century Naples. Loren plays a dancer being courted by a rich count (played by Totò, one of the most famous actors in Italian cinema).

1954 Miseria e nobilta

It’s a look!

1954 Miseria e nobilta

This looks like a stage performance.

1954 Miseria e nobilta

Quite lovely, minus the 1950s makeup.


Attila (1954)

A biopic about Attila the Hun, set in 450-52 BCE. Loren plays Justa Grata Honoria, sister of the emperor and supporter of Attila.

Attila (1954)

I don’t think of this as a bust-dart era.

1954 Attila

Or a sparkly lamé era!



Neapolitan Carousel (1954)

A musical comedy in which a storyteller wanders Naples telling stories from its history. Loren plays “Sisina.”

1954 Neapolitan Carousel

This is looking 1910s?

1954 Neapolitan Carousel

I LOVE the colors!


Two Nights with Cleopatra (1954)

A comedy in which Loren plays Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra and one of her ladies-in-waiting who is basically identical.

1954 Two Nights with Cleopatra

I sincerely doubt Cleopatra owned those shoes.

1954 Two Nights with Cleopatra

I have many, many questions.


The Miller’s Beautiful Wife (1955)

Another comedy, set in 1860 Naples. The governor tries to seduce the beautiful wife (Loren) of the local miller.

1955 The Miller's Beautiful Wife

Gorgeous! Oh, sorry, I was talking about the eyeliner.

1955 The Miller's Beautiful Wife

So wait, this is the 1860s? Is she from the future and he’s from the past?


The Pride and the Passion (1957)

Okay, based on the photos, this one KILLS ME. It’s allegedly set in the Napoleonic Wars, and please just take a look. Cary Grant plays a British navy officer; Frank Sinatra (ha!) plays “Miguel,” a Spanish soldier; and the two guys fight over “Juana,” played by Loren.

1957 The Pride and the Passion


1957 The Pride and the Passion

I’m totally revising my knowledge of early 19th century Spanish dress!


Desire Under the Elms (1958)

I’m unclear exactly which era this takes place in, but basically a New England farmer who has worked two wives to death marries an Italian woman (Loren) who then has an affair with her husband’s son. Tragedy ensues!

1958 Desire Under the Elms

Late 19th century? Maybe?


A Breath of Scandal (1960)

An Austrian princess (Loren) falls in love with an American mining engineer in the early 20th century.

1960 A Breath of Scandal

Lots of frills.

1960 A Breath of Scandal

Yeah, it’s the 1960s.


Heller in Pink Tights (1960)

A Western with costumes designed by Edith Head. Loren plays Angela, part of a theatrical troupe in 1880 Wyoming.

1960 Heller in Pink Tights

Loren lost a lot of weight and went blonde for the role. I love the hair color!

1960 Heller in Pink Tights

This is very Mae West.

Edith Head, Heller in Pink Tights (1960)

Gorgeous! Just needs a few hairpins. And a bustle. And less mermaid-y skirt.


El Cid (1960)

An epic historical drama loosely based on the life of the 11th-century Castilian warlord Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, called “El Cid.” Loren plays his wife, Doña Ximena.


I feel like this very much needs a review.

El Cid (1960)

Because I need to know more about 11th century corsetry.


And 11th century winged eyeliner.


Madame (1961)

An adaptation of a French play about real-life laundress-turned-duchess known for her uncouth behavior at Napoleon’s court.

1961 Madame

This must be the laundress look.

1961 Madame
1961 Madame

And now she’s a duchess!


The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)

Loren plays Lucilla, daughter of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius who joined her adoptive brother Lucius Verus in revolting against another brother, Emperor Commodus.

1964 The Fall of the Roman Empire

Crop him out of the picture and I’d just say it was 1964!

1964 The Fall of the Roman Empire

Okay that veil is fabulous (Photo by RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

1964 The Fall of the Roman Empire

I want that hairpiece! Just, not for Roman (Photo by RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images)


Lady L (1965)

A comedy in which an elderly Corsican lady (Loren) recalls past loves, including an anarchist and an English aristocrat.

1965 Lady L

Loving the hat/veil!

1965 Lady L

This must be a costume party?

1965 Lady L

I kept finding versions of this photo, so I believe the pose is important.

1965 Lady L

Okay minus the makeup, that’s GORGEOUS!


More Than a Miracle (1967)

A fairy tale-type story in which a village girl (Loren) and a Spanish prince (Omar Sharif) fall in love. I THINK it’s set in the 17th century?

1967 More Than a Miracle

Bangs, denim corset…

1967 More Than a Miracle

GURL can corset!

1967 More Than a Miracle

I have been informed that they’ve just been running from/to something, so that explains the hair.


Man of La Mancha (1972)

An adaptation of the musical based on the story of Don Quixote. Loren plays Dulcinea/Aldonza. I’ve shockingly never seen it, so that’s all I can tell you!

Man of La Mancha (1972)

Is it okay if I don’t really want to watch it?

1972 Man of La Mancha

I don’t know, all the brown worries me.


A Special Day (1977)

In 1938, while Hitler visits Mussolini, a pro-fascist woman (Loren) gets to know her anti-fascist neighbor.

1977 A Special Day

Going for authenticity.


Blood Feud (1978)

A thriller set in 1922.

1978 Blood Feud

I love that she’s post-glamour.


Brass Target (1978)

A suspense film set in just after the end of World War II. Loren gets involved with army officers trying to stop a conspiracy to kill Gen. Patton.

1978 Brass Target

More 1970s than 1940s! I’m pretty sure my mom owned that trench.


Saturday, Sunday and Monday (1990)

All I can tell is that it’s about a family in turn-of-the-century Italy.

1990 Saturday, Sunday and Monday
1990 Saturday, Sunday and Monday

With the director (and a pretty hat) (Photo by julio donoso/Sygma via Getty Images)


Soleil (1997)

A mother (Loren) in 1940 Algeria travels to Paris to find her husband.

1997 Soleil


Francesca e Nunziata (2001)

In early 20th century Italy, a rich woman (Loren) adopts a girl who later falls in love with her adoptive brother.

2001 Francesca e Nunziata

Okay, so that’s frickin’ STUNNING. I want it! The dress! The necklace!

2001 Francesca e Nunziata

Great hat, love all the lace.

2001 Francesca e Nunziata

I’m such a fan of a good Edwardian suit.



What’s your favorite of Sophia Loren’s historical roles?


About the author



Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

14 Responses

  1. Roxana

    I love Sophia’s costumes in El Cid and Fall of the Roman Empire. They’re not authentic, Fall’s are especially fantasible, but they do look lovely on her! Sophia had a rather impressive rack and costumers were clearly determined that audiences would see it!

  2. Yanina

    I’ve watched Madame a few years ago, and it was quite fun. Not sure if her court dresses were very period, but all the bling! and her character creating huge fuss at the court being so blunt! Loved it.

  3. India

    You missed “Two Women”, the movie for which she won her Oscar. Admittedly the costumes are pretty much in tatters for most of the movie so there’s not much of anything of interest frock wise but it is technically historical …. and she did win that Oscar.

  4. Nancy Ewart

    Loren has proved herself a good actress but no director can pass up two of her most popular assets.

  5. M.E. Lawrence

    God, I adore Sophia. Like Ava Gardner, the less make-up she wears, the more haunting her face. Her historical dramas tend to not be nearly as good as her work with Marcello Mastroianni, but I just enjoy watching her. (Has Marcello made enough costume dramas to qualify for MCM?)

    P.S. “An Austrian princess (Loren) falls in love with an American mining engineer in the early 20th century.” is the best capsule summary I’ve read this year.

  6. MrsC (Maryanne)

    Little know FACT: El Cid is proof that the New Look was really the Old Look as the silhouette was invented in the 11th century and what goes around comes around. AmIright???

    • Roxana

      The keyhole necklines are authentic. The layers might be too. But the figure hugging tailoring was all sixties! In the eleventh century men and women alike wore baggy tunics hanging straight from the shoulders and bloused over any belt. Fitted clothes required several more centuries of sartorial development. Not to mention buttons.

  7. Nzie

    I think Nancy’s comment above is spot on; I feel like I just got a mini-lesson on the male gaze. I’m so glad she got roles that seemed to make better use of her, and some gorgeous costumes along the way. (Also, can we talk about how she was playing an older woman in 1965? like, what??)

    For More than a Miracle, I caught part of it on tv as a kid and my sister and I laughed our tails off. It’s delightfully ridiculously, and I do think they had just been running. I think this was after the dishwashing contest–a.k.a. Prince (Omar Sharif)’s attempt to make her the clear choice for his wife as she was a kitchen maid or something. But a sneaky real princess messed with her plates or something, she runs off.. St. Joseph of Cupertino like…floats by? (He’s known as the “flying friar”.) Some sort of reconciliation/it’s ok happens and they all live happily ever after. It’s been years but it was deeply entertaining to us. Very much fantasy/fairytale.

    For Man of La Mancha, when I read the play (and the forward by the playwright) in college, I decided it shouldn’t ever be anything but a stage play–the world of Don Quixote should rely on shadow, light, and imagination, in my view. Be that as it may, I grew up watching the film version and have a deep affection for it. The browns make more sense in context, as it takes place entirely in a prison.

  8. SarahV

    Listen, when you have Sophia Loren in your movie, it’s all about the tits. And such an astounding rack they are.

    • M.E. Lawrence

      Yes, sort of like basketballs. Something else I admire about Sophia is that she did get a nose job early on, but a good one; she arrived at an appropriate nose for her large and beautiful bone structure.

  9. Laura

    Oh goodness, you are giving me high school Spanish class flashbacks with Man de La Mancha. My teacher adored the movie and would sing along with it. I didn’t care for it, but it was the late 90s, so maybe it was a generation thing?