Five ways that Jeanne Moreau mastered her own take on French chic
When the death of Jeanne Moreau was announced yesterday, tributes poured in for the actress who was a pioneering face of French New Wave cinema; she was once described by Orson Welles as the best in the world at her craft. Alongside memories of her emotional and intuitive performances, many also referenced the style which Moreau laced into both her characters and her off-screen life. "The bold and beautiful icon" wrote Dame Helen Mirren on her Instagram. "Siren of the Screen" tweeted Naomi Campbell. "Your huge talent,your singularity, this unique beauty" added Marion Cotillard.
While Moreau may not have the reputation of the likes of Brigitte Bardot or Francoise Hardy which sees them referenced constantly as French style icons, a study of her fashion attitude over the years reveals an inherent sense of chic which endured until the end of her life.
Here are five things to know about her very Gallic sophistication...
1. She idiosyncratically combined chic and nonchalance
In the early 1960s, the pared-back, streamlined elegance of Chanel, Givenchy and Balenciaga was at the height of its influence, with the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy bringing the look to a global audience. But as a homegrown film star, Moreau wore the designs with an easy vivacity which contrasted with the lens of froideur through which they were sometimes seen.
A 1960 shoot sees Moreau skipping around Coco Chanel's apartment and laying on the sofa beside the designer with her feet tucked nonchalantly underneath her chin. She also wore the neat look for her film tours and promotional appearences, but imbued it with a refreshingly playful spirit.
2. She was a style chameleon on camera
In Jules et Jim, she wore Breton tees, silk scarves and chunky knitwear in a coolly casual manner. In Mata Hari, Agent 21, she dripped in exotic jewels as she wafted across the screen in gauzy gowns. In Les Amants, she spanned nipped-waist fifties floral dresses and delicate lace nightgowns. In La Notte, silhouette-hugging black dresses and polite tailoring made up her Signora look....Moreau's cinematic personas offer up a vast variety of styles, showing that no matter how famous she was off-screen, each on-screen (or stage) appearence was untainted by any preconceptions about how she she should look or the types of characters she could embody.
3. Her off duty look had that je ne sais quoi
Off-duty, Jeanne Moreau looked elegant but uncontrived. Crisp white chinos and slouchy shirts were a summer mainstay but, as these images show, she had a knack for upgrading the look into something more unique; see her hair-protecting turban or ornate gold disc earrings- unfussy but super chic.
4. She mastered both 60s elegance and 70s glamour
Moreau was at the height of her fame during the 1960s so of course she embraced the polished, sophisticated Parisian look du jour wearing monochrome skirt suits and LBDs- often with a cigarette in hand. But she evolved her style with the times and was no doubt guided in her fashion interests by the legendary designer Pierre Cardin, with whom she had a close relationship. There are may pictures of her sitting front row at Paris fashion week shows. In the 1970s, she abandoned the architectural chic of the previous decade for decorative, colourful and bohemian designs which chimed with the changing aesthetic.
5. She had sublime taste in costume jewellery
Moreau developed a vibrantly elegant uniform which characterised her public appearences in later years. Usually it was comprised of tailored, block-coloured jackets, tunics and palazzo trousers to which she invariably added a dazzling piece of costume jewellery or two; think gobstopper, shoulder-grazing earrings or oversized brooches in all colours of the rainbow.