Is there anyone more radiant than a young Catherine Deneuve? The answer, my friends, is no. I confirmed this fact upon re-watching Belle de Jour, Luis Buñuel’s 1967 film in which Mme. Deneuve deftly juggles her housewifely duties with her day job (as a prostitute), all while looking like the classiest broad to have ever strolled/worked the streets of Paris.
In addition to the ridiculously awesome premise, this has got to be one of the most subtly stylish films of all time. There’s something about the integrity of Deneuve’s uniform—exquisitely tailored coats, simple shift dresses, polished pumps—that makes me pine for the days of visible sartorial effort, when putting yourself together meant you actually ended up looking like you cared—and that wasn’t a shameful thing.
While Parisian fashion was once defined by terms like “chic” and “sophisticated,” the rising generation of fashion-forward Frenchwomen seem to air on the side of nonchalant, cool, and elegantly “undone.” Of course, the overall effect still makes the outside observer think, “Damn it, I want to look like that,” but the ideal has shifted.
Where we once conjured up visions of the Parisienne clipping along the boulevards in classic heels and perfectly-tailored silhouettes, we now have a very different idea of the young Parisienne in her natural environment. Often, her slight frame is buried under multiple layers—perhaps jeans, ankle boots, a menswear-inspired sweater, a blazer or leather jacket, a loosely worn scarf. Her hair is slightly haphazard: it might be up in a messy chignon, or if she’s the scooter type, perhaps she’s got a stylish case of helmet-head.
There’s no denying that Parisiennes today make nonchalance look highly appealing. But sometimes, it all gets to be a little too cool. And as unstudied as the look may seem, the fact that nine out of ten young Paris-based women are sporting it suggests that, not only has it been studied and replicated, it has been elevated to a science. Of course, there is a certain insouciant charm to that just-rolled-out-of-bed chic, but must we roll from bed to street every day? Surely, we must shower sometimes.
And thus, Deneuve’s perfectly polished Belle de Jour comes as a refreshing reminder of how simple elegance still, somehow, makes the boldest statement of all. Her perfectly coiffed blonde hair flies in the face of today’s disheveled “whatever” locks, and when the final credits rolled, I thought, “Yes, yes!” I want to wear all of that, and I want to wear it now.
Alas, I write this while clad in denim cut-offs, ripped tights and pavement-worn ankle boots, so it’s probably time to learn to practice what I preach.
- New York Magazine lists Catherine’s 12 best looks
- Want more fashion inspiration through films? Harper’s Bazaar recommends 10 movies you need to watch
- If you loved this post you’ll certainly love the tumblr blog called Fashion in Film