Ava Gardner: Style Evolution (PHOTOS)

12/23/2011 02:44 pm ET | Updated Oct 11, 2012

Like many unsuspecting to-be stars, Ava Gardner was visiting New York City when her sister’s husband took her portrait and decided to hang it up in front of his studio. The rest is history. The North Carolina native soon signed with MGM Studios and starred in film noir hits such as The Killers and Whistle Stop, and other films like The Barefoot Contessa, Mayerling and Mogambo, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.

On and off the silver screen, Gardner exuded a sultry confidence that made her the ultimate sex symbol in the 1940s and 50s. She had an effortless and timeless style and favored items like lux fur coats, sexy gowns and flirty two-piece maillots.

Take a look back at Gardner’s ensembles as we honor what would have been her birthday this Saturday.