When we hear the name "Evita," we immediately think of Madonna's infamous portrayal of the Argentinean first lady in the 1996 biopic -- especially that epic farewell scene on the balcony (cue the tears).
But the actual Evita, or Eva Perón, was just as beautiful as her on-screen counterpart. Born on May 7 in a rural Argentina village in 1919 as Eva Duarte, she came from a poor family and aspired to be an actress. She moved to Buenos Aires at age 15, where she met Colonel Juan Perón at a charity event. They were married the following year.
Her compassion and dedication to helping the poor and needy in Argentina allowed Perón to develop a reputation as a spiritual and down-to-earth symbol of the country. She also made great strides for feminism, as she refused to take the back seat during her husband's presidency. Fittingly, she earned the official title of "Spiritual Leader of the Nation."
In an interview with TIME in 2007, the first female president of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, recognized Perón's impact:
"Women of my generation owe her a debt: When we came of age during the dark [military] dictatorship of the 1970s, we had her example of passion and combativeness to get us through."
Aside from her feminist influence, Perón was also an amazingly fashionable woman. She proved that, even in the '40s and '50s, a woman could possess both power and admirable feminine style. She became particularly famous for her hair -- who could forget that impeccable chignon? Whether it was braided or styled more simply, her hair looked immaculate (and so shiny). Not to mention, she had the most delectable collection of flashy hats and head scarves.
She was also very interested in the latest designer frocks, and once she developed a stronger political presence, she particularly enjoyed wearing the stylish business-like skirt suits designed by Christion Dior and other couture houses in Paris.
Sadly, Perón died from cervical cancer at the young age of 33. In honor of what would have been her 94th birthday today (May 7), we're taking a look back at her style. May the tailleur (the business skirt and jacket combo) live on!
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