Article by Ceri Wheeldon
“Fashion may not be a weapon of the woman but at least it gives her the ammunition”
Whose style can stand the test of time? This is the first in a series showcasing women whose style we can still appreciate and learn from over 50. When we talk about style icons, there are some who immediately come to mind , such as Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Katherine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe. Another who I feel is often overlooked is Brigitte Bardot.
References to French Style typically conjure up the image of Parisian Chic – but French style is so much more than that. Who better to epitomise how the French approach bohemian style than Brigitte Bardot – forever associated with timeless relaxed riviera style. A style well suited to summer in lockdown!
With tousled hair and an air of nonchalance, Brigitte Bardot showcased a far less formal approach to fashion than other French actresses of her era.
In the film Les Mepris, Brigitte was captured in a timeless Breton top, worn with a headband and casual cardigan- an iconic look that anyone could wear today.
Breton top– originally designed as a uniform for sailors in the French Navy, it is said that the stripes made it easier to spot and rescue sailors who fell overboard! The Breton top entered mainstream fashion when it captured the eye of Coco Chanel, who incorporated Breton stripes into her 1917 nautical collection. They have remained a mainstay in women’s wardrobes in the century that has passed since. They have been reinvented consistently on the catwalk – with stripes varying in width, number and colour (the original Breton top had 21 stripes to symbolise Napoleon’s 21 victories against the British) and incorporated into a variety of clothing in different fabrics. Now seen very much as a fashion ‘neutral’ Breton tops can be worn conservatively with jeans or cigarette pants – or paired with bright prints for an edgier more contemporary look. A neutral that works across the generations. Popular with the Duchess of Cambridge, the Breton top can be dressed up or down, a timeless classic to form part of a capsule wardrobe to look fabulous over 50.
Brigitte Bardot and the Bikini!
Brigitte also launched another ‘B’ centre stage. The bikini.
Starring in a film catapulting her, and her bikini into the public eye . According to wikipedia :
Manina, la fille sans voiles, released in the US as Manina, the Girl in the Bikini, and in the UK as Manina, the Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, is a 1952 French film directed by Willy Rozier and starring Brigitte Bardot, Jean-François Calvé and Howard Vernon. The film is one of Bardot’s first film roles, at the age of 17, and was controversial for the scanty bikinis worn by the young Bardot in the film, one of the first occasions when a bikini had appeared in film and when the bikini was still widely considered immodest.
There is no reason why bikinis can’t be worn by women over 50. There are no rules. It is all about being body confident. French women are taught from an early age to look after and listen to their bodies. They do not deprive themselves of the foods they enjoy – they enjoy in moderation. Rather than a hectic workout at the gym, they are more likely to walk daily -alone or with friends. She moves with purpose. Back to wearing of the bikini itself. Today Bikinis can be bought according to bra size , offering the right level of support with tops and bottoms sold separately to ensure a good fit– and hence contributing to looking good and feeling confident. Brigitte accessorised her bikinis with jewellery and stunning wide brimmed hats.
Brigitte was also known for pulling her look together by wearing wide belts. Wide belts don’t suit every bodyshape, but belts in general can instantly transform a look.
The value of a personal brand
The mention of Brigitte Bardot conjures an instant image – she knew the value of a personal brand.
This is where French women excel. They don’t follow trends. They know what suits them. They do not get stuck in a dated time when it comes to what they wear, but they do define their own style , and build on what they know suits them, buying new pieces that work with what they have, and will serve them well in the future, whether that might be a fabulous crisp white shirt, or statement watch. They buy with style, wearability and longevity in mind. Their clothes reflect their personality – something Brigitte Bardot did so well!