Style in Film: Jean Seberg in ‘Breathless’

Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (À bout de souffle, 1960) would not only be one of the first films to set off one of the most important cinematic movements in the world, La Nouvelle Vague, but also one that would have an impact on fashion and that would beguile international audiences to this day. The French New Wave films exquisitely captured the life of the young in France and especially in Paris, the fashion, the urban professional life, the carefree minds, the spirit of youth.

Jean Seberg, although American nationality, had an ethereal French personality, just like her character in Breathless. She plays the role of Patricia Franchini, an American expatriate working for the European edition of the New York Herald Tribune in Paris. Her pixie haircut, black eyeliner and a wardrobe packed with sailor stripes — simple, practical, yet full of personality — evoke the much coveted Parisian nonchalance that, through this film, made a big entrance and could now be admired and copied by the worldwide public.

The film does not credit any costume designer for the wardrobes. It is very likely that Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg made their own sartorial choices or even wore their own clothes on set. The late ’60s, only a few years later, would mark the beginning of the reign of the stylists in film wardrobes – choosing rather than designing the outfits.

The items Jean Seberg wears are effortless, natural, carefree, fresh. They are all classic elements, striped tops and dress, slim black trousers and loafers, trench coat and the Trilby hat borrowed from Michel, Jean-Paul Belmondo’s character, just for fun, as it is the pinstriped boyfriend shirt. And they all are still fashionable today. There are also the gorgeous sunglasses, the rolled-up short sleeves of the New York Herald Tribune printed t-shirt, the little white purse she’s carrying to everything, the white short pants (which I couldn’t take a capture of) worn with the sleeveless top, the iconic haircut perfectly framing Jean’s beautiful face and her lovely smile — sometimes, many times in my opinion, the key to great style.

images: screen stills captured by me; kindly link back to classiq if you use any of these images; production credits


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