Bonnie and Clyde Style

By Manolo the Shoeblogger

Manolo says, the Manolo has been considering these photos for many days now, and has come to the conclusion that the real Bonnie and Clyde are more stylish and more elegant than the ersatz Bonnie and Clyde.

Why are the pair of malnourished rural outlaws able to outdo two of the most famous movie stars of the past fifty years, appearing in one of the most important films of the past fifty years?

Certainly, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty are the physically better looking couple. Beatty is tall and handsome, and Dunaway is statuesque and beautiful. And yet, our eye is draw repeatedly to the tiny-tiny girl with the big-big gun. (How tiny-tiny? Clyde Barrow was about 5′ 4″, Bonnie Parker, 4’11”.)

Bonnie Parker is more compelling than Faye Dunaway! But why?

Bonnie’s form-fitting clothing seems better tailored, and the monochromatic skirt, blouse, and beret (worn swept back on her head) gives her the long elegant line that lengthens her tiny frame. While Faye Dunaway’s contrasting light-and-dark outfit cuts her below the waist, making her legs seem shorter and her hips and trunk thicker, and she wears her beret as if it were the silly chef’s toque. Even the plunging neckline of her ill-fitting sweater is less interesting and less sexy than Bonnie’s high band collar and form-hugging knits.

As for the shoes…

Bonnie Parker's ShoesFaye's Shoe

No contest.

Here is the second set of comparative photos…

Bonnie with CigarFaye with Cigar

Allow the Manolo to stipulate that you would have to be as tiny as Bonnie to pull off that fascinating blouse with the faux cropped-jacket detailing. It is far more original and impressive than anything cooked up by the talented Theadora Van Runkle, who was nominated for the Oscar for Best Costume Design for the movie.

These photos are also striking because the take us beyond the differences in clothing and physical beauty, (Faye Dunaway is indisputably beautiful, and dressed by the famous professional, and yet Bonnie outshines her) into the realm of attitude and posture and pose.

The pose is superficially the same, but while Bonnie is all sinuous s-curves (hips, bosom, arms, legs), Dunaway is angular and erect. Faye leans away from us, Bonnie leans in. Dunaway is imperious and haughty; Bonnie frank, direct, and exceedingly dangerous.

It is one of the most fascinating feminine comparisons the Manolo has ever seen.

As for the men, Clyde Barrow is wearing clothing. Warren Beatty is wearing the costume.

The giveaway is Warren Beatty’s spectator shoes and narrow legged pants; he is dressed in the 1960s Hollywood version of what the 1930s suiting should look like. As the result, Beatty, the famously relaxed actor, looks stiff and false in his well-tailored costume, while Barrow, the stone killer, is relaxed and natural in his round-shouldered suit and full-legged pants.

Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde is the marvelous piece of cinema, but ultimately, it is the real Bonnie and Clyde who have outdone their supposedly more glamorous doppelgangers.


23 Responses to “Bonnie and Clyde Style”

  1. Jeannie Dahl Says:

    Excellent piece, Manolo!

    Now, if you’d only do this sort of thing more often

  2. mary martha Says:


    I also would love to see you do this more often. There have been plenty of biopics where the costuming is an important part of the film. It’s interesting to see how different it is fromt he real clothes of the the people who are being portrayed.

  3. Miss Cavendish Says:

    Plus Faye has to strrrain to get her foot up on the fender (is that called a fender?!). And with the real Bonnie, it’s all about her hipbones. Hipbones are the new (old) clavicle, apparently.

  4. Clare2e Says:

    I agree, I love this kind of post, and I agree with the Manolo.

    There’s a qualitiative difference between real juice and balls and joie de vivre (even if for malfeasance) and the awkward posturing of same.

  5. Fairy Shoe Princess Says:

    So amazing…there’s no substitue for authenticity, which you’ve clearly shown here

  6. anon Says:

    More, please! Great post!

  7. Manolo the Shoeblogger Says:

    Many thanks for your kind words.

    The Manolo could have gone on much longer about these pictures. Indeed, how Clyde and Bonnie wear their hats versus how Warren and Faye wear theirs is worth two or three paragraphs alone. Ditto for Bonnie’s familiarity with guns, the bemused expression on Clyde’s face, and why the Manolo thinks Theadora Van Runkle chose flats instead of heels for Faye Dunaway.

    However, the thing that really jumps out at the Manolo is Bonnie and Clyde’s attitudes, as expressed in the way they hold themselves and interact with each other and the camera.

    Bonnie is the real deal, as authentic and as noticeable as the grizzly bear standing in your kitchen. Her attitude leaps from the photo and accosts you. (It is amazing what can be done with the low-tech Kodak Brownie, no?)

    You cannot get that way, that attitude, through acting classes and regression therapy. This is why so many modern actors, even the good ones, are so unsatisfying, because some things cannot be acquired without difficult life experiences. Or, to put it differently, Leonardo Di Caprio will never be Lee Marvin.

    Here are the few more photos of Bonnie.

  8. La BellaDonna Says:

    La BellaDonna says Gracias! to the Manolo for this most excellent piece. This, it is the counter to the many vertically-challenged ladies who say, Oh, I cannot wear that fashion-forward design, I am not the 6-foot fashion model! The Bonnie, she did not reach the five feet tall, yet there she is, as graceful in the clothes of her era as any high-fashion model could possibly be. It is a matter of proportion, fit, and belief.

    The Clyde, too, he exhibits a dapper self-possession; he is an adult, therefore he dresses as an adult. It is far more attractive than the 50-year-old man who dresses like the skater boi.

    As for the actors, well… Ms. Dunaway, who is nonetheless the fine actress, holds the weapons as if they were the kielbasa. Her posture reveals that she has no idea as to what the weapons can do. Her poses are (again) those of the model, showing off the clothes and, perhaps, her body. Bonnie, despite the posing and the playing – she does not care what YOU think. She cares what SHE thinks.

    La BellaDonna, she suspects that Ms. Dunaway was put in flats and not heels, because heels would have made the skirt Ms. Van Runkle chose look even shorter than it was, and also because Ms. Dunaway would have looked too tall next to the Warren Beatty. Even in her high heels, the Bonnie, she is INCHES shorter than the 5’4″ Clyde; he TOWERS over her. Ms. Dunaway’s skirt, it is “long” for the 1967; the decision was made, obviously, that the skirt of the 1934 was TOO long for the 1967 audiences. Hollywood always seems to feel that it knows better what the people of another era SHOULD have worn; it is almost always something that is much closer to what is fashionable at the moment that the movie is being made. And in its efforts to make the clothes “prettier” or “more fashionable” for the modern palate, the clothes never reach the originals in their attractiveness.

    The Dunaway and the Beatty, in the end, they are wearing the costumes and not the clothing, and they reveal in the language of their bodies that they are playing the part. There is no genuineness to what they are doing.

  9. klee Says:

    A wonderfully written piece. Bravo!

  10. La BellaDonna Says:

    Hola to the Miss Cavendish! La BellaDonna, she believes that the feet of the ladies, they are propped up on the “bumper” rather than the “fender;” the fender, it is the part that goes over the wheel, and is adjacent to the “running board,” if the car, it has such features.

    La BellaDonna, she gladly defers to the automobile enthusiasts for the more correct knowledge and/or terminology.

  11. Alison Says:

    Manolo, welcome back! I very much enjoyed this thoughtful commentary.

  12. grrlina Says:

    Marvelous post, would love more of your thoughts and comparisons in this vein.

    Another notably difference between the actual B&C and the movie version is sexual heat–clearly B&C were excited by each other, I think that is why Bonnie’s body swivels toward his, yes?

  13. Jonquil Says:

    This is a very fine essay; I’ve been pointing all my friends to it.

    A friend of mine points out that Dunaway came up through the stage, and that this was her first movie; it takes time to hone down your gestures from “visible to the back row” to “let the camera do the work”

  14. jelodi97 Says:

    Bonnie’s pose in the second photo is one of authentic bad-assery and aggression. She’s looking *straight* into the camera and leaning forward with her shoulders. Faye has more of a “devil-may-care” look in her pose, and is nowhere near as threatening. Even after all these years, this little hell-raiser is every bit as menacing as she and Clyde were in real life.

  15. Lisa Says:

    The Manolo, he is right as usual, particularly about the white skirt. Regardless of what it did to her lines, Bonnie wasn’t a member of the tennis set and while part of the gang did not have a staff of women to do her laundry. She would have needed her clothing to be hard-wearing and no-fuss; look at the dirt on her skirt in the bottom photo. Bathing would have been occasional, at best, in many of these isolated farms/hideaways where indoor plumbing wouldn’t come until after the depression. I’m wondering how often those stockings were actually worn versus whether they were donned for the picture. Besides this, she is a dark character–at best an accessory to murder who lives and dies violently.

    For me, Faye was always miscast here. She’s an unbelievably beautiful woman, but her basic look was never suited the role. My favorite of hers is The Thomas Crowne Affair, which suits her basic looks much better–she’s not an outsider–she’s far too pretty and blonde for that. In that role, she’s where we know she probably would be: well-kept, comfortable, sophisticated, and fascinated with the bad boy. I always thought that somebody edgier would have been a better choice for Bonnie, who was an accessory to murder at the very least–somebody like an Ida Lupino, a young Bette Davis, or a Hillary Swank.

  16. TeleriB Says:

    Ms. Dunaway, who is nonetheless the fine actress, holds the weapons as if they were the kielbasa.

    Indeed! In the second set, if Bonnie’s pistol were to go off, it would fire away from her, into the ground. Dunaway would shoot her knee off. One woman is holding a weapon; the other, a prop.

  17. La BellaDonna Says:

    Hola to the Jelodi97! La BellaDonna, she has the mixed feelings about the statement, “Even after all these years, this little hell-raiser is every bit as menacing as she and Clyde were in real life.” It is absolutely true, the Clyde, he raised the hell, and the Bonnie, she was beside him; tragically, it was the love, much more than the lust, that bound the two together. Bonnie, she thought she could save Clyde; Clyde, towards the end, wanted Bonnie to leave because he was afraid she would die with him. At the time the Bonnie died, however, the only warrant outstanding against her was for aiding in the transportation of a stolen vehicle across state lines; there were no warrants against her for violent crimes. None. At the time of her death, she was sitting down in a car. She had to; she could no longer walk unaided – one leg was permanently crippled from burns from a car accident (and bullets, later). She either had to hop on her one good leg, or Clyde had to carry her.

  18. Jenny Says:

    To me the biggest difference between the first two photos is the looks on the participants’ faces – Bonnie and Clyde are looking towards each other and, while they’re both obviously goofing around, the chemistry between them is obvious, especially on Clyde’s face. Dunaway and Beatty look so obviously posed.

    And I think in the second photo Bonnie does look menacing. She doesn’t have to have committed any crimes to give off an authentically dangerous air.

  19. Bronwyn Says:

    The real Bonnie has a relaxed slouch. A posture that is no doubt beaten out of any aspiring actress (shoulders back, head up, stomach in) but is the posture of preference for catwalk models.

  20. Miss Cavendish Says:

    Many thanks to La BellaDonna– Of course it is a bumper, not a fender, and I had drawn a total blank, perhaps from previous bumper trauma when I misparked someone’s beloved Aston Martin. Ahh, repression!

  21. khazar Says:

    Movie stars will often refuse to have authentic hair styles, as they are so startlingly different than modern styles. This makes it possible to accurately date when a movie was made. Bonnie’s hair is up and back, while Faye’s is down and loose in a variant of the later 60’s styles.

  22. jelodi97 Says:

    Hola back to LaBellaDonna. Let’s not forget that Bonnie and Clyde were straight-up murdered by cops, brutally and without mercy or warning.

    Still, I wouldn’t want to get on Bonnie’s bad side!

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