Salt's Spy Style

Angelina Jolie's character in the new thriller Salt is the latest in a long and glamorous tradition of spies, both on-screen and off. Stephanie LaCava on the chic history of secret-agent style. Plus, VIEW OUR GALLERY of well-dressed spies.

Francois Durand

Francois Durand

Lily Cole at Hermes show

"I could definitely kick ass in leather," says Lily Cole of the secret agent-inspired look she wore in the fall 2010 Hermes show.

K.C. Bailey

Angelina Jolie in Salt

Angelina Jolie in Loro Piana camel coat, cashmere beanie and Levi's jeans.

AFP / Getty Images

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker wrote secret messages in invisible ink on her sheet music. "Everyone wanted to be around La Baker. She was a favorite at embassy parties." says Linda McCarthy, founder of the CIA Museum. "Who goes to embassy parties? Spies."

AP Photo

Hedy Lamarr

The beautiful Hedy Lamarr's secret agent role was less espionage and more engineering technology. With George Antheil, Lamarr discovered Secret Communications System, today known as spread-spectrum technology. During WW II, the system was designed so the Germans couldn't intercept the signals for Allied torpedoes. Today, it's the basis for Wi-Fi and cellular phones. "In many respects, Lamarr wasn't taken seriously as she was regarded as arm candy--but the woman had brains!" says McCarthy. "She had such a reputation as a screen siren that it worked to her disadvantage in promoting her discovery."

AP Photo

Julia Child

"She had a certain presence about her. Not only was her height an obvious draw, but she was gregarious," says McCarthy of the 6-ft. tall Julia Child, who worked for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, the CIA's predecessor). "She brought people to her. That's what you need in the fold: people you gravitate to and trust."

John Kobal Foundation / Getty Images

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich was a real-life wartime agent who created propaganda recordings to encourage Germans to drop arms, as well as entertaining Allied troops at the Front. Says McCarthy, "Even in army fatigues, this woman had an aura."

Virginia Hall

"She took on the dowager look--the antithesis of her natural grace--in order to deceive the Germans in occupied France," says McCarthy of Virginia Hall's approach to espionage. It was dressed as a French milkmaid in indigenous linens and woolen skirts, that Hall was able to overhear classified information.

Library of Congress / AP Photo

Harriet Tubman

"Unbeknownst to most people, she was a master of disguise, and a lot of it started with her wardrobe," says McCarthy of Harriet Tubman. "She was always careful to choose the proper clothing indigenous to the mission. No matter where they put her, she knew how to dress."

Jacques Brinon / AP Photo

Viktor and Rolf

Says Viktor and Rolf of their spy-worthy fall collection, "The hair and makeup of our show was sunglasses and a cap, very anonymous and urban."


Alexis Mabille

"These pieces are strong, but malleable. You are able to build a new look every time you wear one," says Mabille of his collection, which would prove perfect for a certain sort of secret agent.

Jemal Countess / Getty Images

Vera Wang

The separates from Wang's fall 2010 show would work for the transitional dressing required of a spy on the run.

Jim Young / Reuters

Valerie Plame

Valerie Plame was one of the references for Edwards in Salt. "She wore little shift dresses and simple, clean suits in neutrals. It's very conservative in D.C.," says costume designer Sarah Edwards. The vision for Evelyn Salt was also loosely based on a current CIA operative. "She was pretty, athletic, and blond," Edwards says of the woman in her late 20s who was the model for the character.


Anna Chapman

Her red hair and revealing style became hallmarks referred to in the press when discussing the 28 year old accused of espionage.

Getty Images

Belle Boyd

During the Civil War, women would hide children under their hooped skirts as messengers. While the female operative acted as a diversionary tactic, the child could slip out to make a delivery. This deception technique may have been used by spies like Belle Boyd or Elizabeth Van Lew.