Never Out of Fashion with the French New Wave

by Gloria Marquez

Fashion changes every season, and many trends only last six months. However, there has been a wave of fashion houses who have taken inspiration from past styles, i.e., Ralph Lauren, Celine, Chanel, etc. Consumer attitudes have driven a recent need to embrace timelessness and styles that can be altered and modernized. An era that I frequently see used for inspiration is the French New Wave era of the 60s. There was not a shortage of fashion and attitude during this era, and the vixens on camera made sure to give us that je ne sais quoi that came with it as well. Such power. Let’s revisit some of the styles from this era and the vixens that gave them life. 

 Anna-Karina was an icon and muse, and not just for Jean-Luc Godard. Her famous cat-eye is a beauty technique that is still heavily used today. We usually saw her with minimal makeup, but always with a sharp line above her eyes that gave her boldness and femininity. It went well with the vibes the she gave on screen: demure, child-like, and exaltingly sexy. Take Anna Karina’s wardrobe in Pierrot Le Fou – during the majority of the film, she was seen in a colorful mix of cotton dresses and shift dresses with starchy collars. She also had an array of odd accessories to accompany her at all times: an excessive amounts of cigarettes, which she made look tres chic, and an old teddy bear that had seen better days. These odd accessories played into her natural sex-appeal but also child-like innocence throughout the film.  

She also wore sailor hats which suggested her sense of adventure along with her skin tight t-shirts, highwaisted denim jeans, and ballet flats. She was also never seen without her signature bangs, which she paired with a wide hair band. Now combine her natural look with a sharp liner and an endearingly nonchalant expression, and you have pretty much summed up Anna Karina’s fashion throughout this era. Anna’s Karina’s fashion is quite influential. I currently shop at an online store that only sells products influenced by her and other French New Wave actresses. The owner even has a white replica of the red shift dress Marianne has in Pierrot Le Fou. Obsessed is an understatement.  

Jeanne Moreau’s wardrobe in Jules et Jim was the epitome of Parisian chic a la chanel. She often wore long, high-waisted skirts with ruffles on the bottom, kneehigh boots, a sleek chignon, and small circular specs, embodying high class elegance. This look has been revisited plenty of times by Karl Lagerfeld, who is the head designer for the Parisian Fashion House Chanel. However, she didn’t always sport this fashion. She also tapped into the tomboy chic look in the beginning of the film when the menage a trois was taking its course. She proved that a woman could pull off a man’s wardrobe, and much better, at that. One good example of Catherine channeling this tomboy chic vibe was when she first disguised herself as Jules and Jim’s “pal” Thomas. She is seen here with baggy pinstriped trousers, a chequered newsboy cap, fisherman sweater, and a drawnon mustache. Without the mustache, the oversized sweater with baggy trousers was her way of enjoying the freedoms socially attributed to menShe still managed to makit look chic because of her magnetic appeal. Another transformation was when she, Jim, and Thomas took an epicurean trip to the French seaside. Catherine is seen here wearing a striped breton top, black swimming shorts, and wraparound espadrilles. She manages to combine both comfort and style while staying true to the character that she was portraying.  

Jeanne was a total vixen in Jules et Jimand no, not because of the plot itself. She was an earthy, poutylipped enigma with cat eyes and unruly hair who manages to keep two men dangling around her finger. In this movie, she was a skilled chameleon who could easily be dressed in either the most elegant attire or in something more subdued. As Jules said in the film, “Catherine is neither beautiful nor intelligent nor sincere but she is a real woman and she is a woman we love and whom all men desire.” She was a real woman and thus her wardrobe portrayed her as such. This type of style has been celebrated in Vogue for years and it’s a sense of fashion that will never fade.  

Now, this piece would be incomplete without including an actress who has been a muse, who has donned the French-girl chic, and whose style has been feted by the media throughout historyBrigette Bardot. Her notable look features her lavish blonde locks and heavy cat liner flick, which was often accompanied by bangs and thick head scarfs. This signature style of hers was seen in Jean-Luc Godard’s film ContemptHer whimsical and endearing personality shines through a quote of hers featured on The Telegraph, “ I didn’t know how to wear my hair so, on a whim, I used that scarf as a headband and it set off a fashion tsunami!” In the film Contempt, she sported highwaisted pencil skirts, simple blouses, scarves, and heavy eyeliner which made her look like a total femme fatale. Despite this film being less Godarian than the others, Brigette’s spotlight was highlighted. She used ballet flats as well during this film because she was a natural trained dancer. The look of wearing these flats as a casual everyday look has never gone away. Women today still experience the perks of being able to wear these cute, comfortable shoes. Her everyday style mirrors the look in this film. She was a bombshell outside this film as well maybe why Godard used her in the first place. She wore many simple, monochromic onepieces that showed off her powerful waist line. She also used French accessories and kept her outfits minimal.  

The styles of these actresses were modern, approachable, and most importantly, coveted. Fast forward to modern day, and you’re looking at the sudden change of attitude as consumers no longer want sustainability, yet simultaneously have a new love for all things vintage. Mass production, or fast fashion as others call it, is often looked down upon in the fashion industry. It’s associated with being cheap and unoriginal. It’s no surprise that there is a longing to go back in time and revisit timeless fashions. 

Gloria Marquez is a Mass Media Arts major at HBU. She is heavily influenced by fashion, traveling, and the art around her. She enjoys being surrounded by creative minds.

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