Eartha Kitt: The Woman Who Taught Us It’s Okay to be Evil

Photography: Adriana Brown
Story: Adriana Brown

“My recipe for life is not being afraid of myself, afraid of what I think or of my opinion.”
– Eartha Kitt

As we look back on fashion decades’ past, we tend to revel in the retro styles that our parents and grandparents wore. We love the yellowed pages of family photo albums and the vintage soda pop advertisements that depict glamorous people who are way too dressed-up for a diner scene. When vintage style comes up, the 1950’s and 1960’s are some of the most considered eras. The polka dots, tailored pencils skirts, the shin-length dresses: the women of these decades definitely set a standard of grace and beauty. But one woman decided that this prim and proper style just wasn’t exciting enough, and that was singer, songwriter, actress, author, and advocate Eartha Kitt.

Relocating from rural South Carolina to New York as a teenager, Eartha discovered the world of entertainment in which she would thrive greatly. Her passion for performance was nurtured when she joined the Katherine Dunham Company, which gave immense opportunities to African-American entertainers. After this ambitious start, Eartha went on to succeed in the performing arts with her distinctive sultry voice, theatrical acting style, and bold manner of speaking. Aside from achievements such as being a Tony Award nominee and releasing hit songs such as “Santa Baby”, “C’est Si Bon”, and “I Wanna Be Evil”, Eartha accomplished the objective of captivating multiple generations. This breakout star who began her career in the 1940s is also well known to today’s generation as the voice behind Ezma, the eccentric villain from “The Emperor’s New Groove,” and the mystical Madame Zeroni from the 2003 movie “Holes”.

With the first outfit, the model wears a pale yellow, cropped, three-quarters-length sleeved sweater with beaded details matched with a brown pencil skirt. Her accessories include a leopard-print beret, gold triangular earrings, cat-eye sunglasses, a mini pocketbook, and strappy heels. We see hints of Eartha’s personal fashion taste in the tight, yet tasteful, fit that accentuates the womanly figure. Small touches such as the sunglasses and low heels are especially reminiscent of the ‘50s and ’60s. 

For the second outfit, the model is showing off some softer lines that would be perfect for a vintage-inspired weekend look. On top, she is wearing a white vest with beaded accents. This is paired with an ankle-length floral-printed skirt with slits on both sides. We paired this outfit with a faux-fur jacket fit for chilly nights. For accessories, the model is adorned with the gold triangular earrings, a pearl necklace that peeks out from the neckline, a black belt with a gold buckle to accentuate her waist, and the black strappy heels.

If we fashion enthusiasts have learned anything from the legendary Eartha Kitt, it’s that nothing is off-limits. Animal prints, sequins, and high slits: Eartha pushed the boundaries with countless looks in an era where women were expected to hide their curves as well as their individuality. This starlet was not only a fashion icon, but also an important voice in the advancement of minority groups in the entertainment industry. With her bold style and even bolder opinions, we remember Eartha as the woman who taught us that it’s okay to be blunt and expressive…maybe even a little evil.

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