Angelina Jolie to Play Cleopatra … Now What Will She Wear?

angelina jolie
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Angelina Jolie will play Cleopatra

All hail Angelina Jolie! The actress has officially signed on to play the Queen of the Nile in an upcoming epic based on Stacy Schiff’s best-seller Cleopatra: A Life.

While the Oscar winner will no doubt kick asp as the shrewd politician, we can’t help but wonder if she’ll match the sartorial splendor of the other women who have portrayed the Egyptian empress on screen, including the late Elizabeth Taylor, whose sumptuous, ’60s-style gowns earned designer Irene Sharaff a Best Costume Design Oscar.

Taylor wasn’t the first actress to play the female pharaoh on film, of course, but her 1963 Cleopatra is the most iconic, thanks largely in part to her seductively stellar wardrobe, which cost 20th Century Fox $194,800—the largest sum ever spent on a single star at that time.

The violet-eyed beauty reigned supreme in such gorgeous numbers as a blue V-neck gown embroidered with diamonds and gold, a white pleated chiffon dress with a full skirt, and a gold lamé feather dress. Taylor ultimately wore 65 ensembles, landing in the Guinness Book of World Records for most costume changes (later trumped by Madonna’s 85 for Evita in 1996) and inspiring a minxy-sphinxy Harpers Bazaar photo shoot with Kim Kardashian 48 years later.

While Taylor’s costumes were certainly sexy, they weren’t nearly as revealing as those worn by the Cleos who came before her. Original vamp Theda Bara’s 1917 Cleopatra was a silent movie but her revealing getups spoke volumes. Among the daring designs: a metal bra with coiled-snake cups held together by chains, paired with a gauzy skirt made modest by a metallic front panel; and a drapey, sheer gown with sunburst-like appliqués covering the breasts and crotch.

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Cleopatra, through the years: Theda Bara (1917), Claudette Colbert (1934), and Elizabeth Taylor (1963).

French actress Claudette Colbert took an equally uncovered approach and boasted plenty of bosom in Cecil B. De Mille’s 1934 film about Cleopatra. Colbert reportedly ordered designer Travis Banton to highlight her upper half and draw the audience’s eyes away from her thick waist. The result: glam, bias-cut evening gowns that were not quite B.C. but much more A.D.—art deco. Unsurprisingly, her wardrobe sparked fashion trends throughout Hollywood during that era.

Of course, Jolie could make like Vivien Leigh and Monica Bellucci and opt for more opulent attire. Leigh donned a gold-cloth coronation robe embroidered with precious stones for 1945’s Caesar and Cleopatra, while Bellucci wore an exquisite $180,000 gown spun from gold thread in the 2002 French comedy Asterix and Obelix Meet Cleopatra.

But if Jolie’s previous femme fatale roles are any indication, we wouldn’t be surprised if she took a page from Sophia Loren in the 1953 farce Two Nights with Cleopatra. In one scene, the then 19-year-old Italian goddess splashing about in a pool wearing nothing but a smile—and a headdress, of course.

Sophia, we like your style!