With a simple smile or look, Romy Schneider was the kind of actress that drew you in in every role she played. She was a great character actress, easily taking on challenging parts. Her ability to change was unbelievable. She had a magnetic presence. “This face never let go of me. Is it sad? Filled with pride or arrogance? Does she have a slight smile on her lips…? Her mysterious face has often been compared with the look of Mona Lisa,” said artist Andreas Reimann, who painted her portrait, the Romy Classic. But her talent shone even brighter than her beauty. It is her collective performances that have cemented her name and her prolific career belied the personal heartbreaks and tragedies that marked her life.
You always notice the person wearing a great shirt.
A classic that, for me, holds just as much appeal
as a great pair of jeans. Shirt Stories is about
others who feel the same, women and men,
and who have worn it well.
Romy’s style is however as much part of the legend. And I would like to make it about style today. We live in an age when substance seems to come second to looks, when style, as a way of dressing, talking, behaving, working, living you life, has lost its meaning. That’s why we need role models like Romy Schneider, who had both substance and style, two qualities that should always work together, like in her case.
Born in Austria and having started her acting career in Germany, she came to Paris in 1958, where she filmed her first foreign film, Christine, alongside Alain Delon, and found love and fame. It was in France where her talent bloomed. “I tried to escape from this straitjacket, from this little narrow world,” Schneider said. “I wanted to get away from this routine I had in Germany. Paris was a new world, a new life. I needed this freedom and I made the most of it.” She credited her transformation to three people: Alain Delon, Coco Chanel and Luchino Visconti (in Boccaccio ’70, dressed in Chanel, she gave one of her best performances – Les choses de la vie (1970) is another personal favourite of mine).
Coco Chanel became her friend and Romy wore a Chanel suit better than anyone else. But I like her best in simple looks, like jeans, t-shirts and shirts. I’ve always thought of Romy as this free spirit, determined but fragile, flawed but real, mysterious but very human, this natural, untamed beauty that never seemed to find what she was looking for. In a plain white shirt, she at least looked a little closer to that kind of complete freedom that always seemed to escape her.
photos: Helga Kneidl, Paris, 1973