Jane Fonda is wearing a white waist-cinching dress by Pierre Balmain. It has knee-length full skirt, a plunging neckline and a bare back and sequinned appliqués. It reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor’s “The Cat” dress from Cat on A Hot Tin Roof, but this one is more provocative. It’s interesting that Alain Delon compares Jane to a cat at some point, and, of course, there is also the title of the film, Les félines.
René Clément’s classic thriller Les félins (1964) finds Alain Delon, as Marc, trapped in the toils of Barbara (Lola Albright) and Melinda (Jane Fonda). The sure handed direction, the cinematography, by Henri Decaë, the music, by Lalo Schifrin, the onscreen chemistry of the cast, the costumes, by Pierre Balmain, all render a great mise en scène. Alain Delon was at the height of his sullen beauty and sartorial elegance in the 1960s and even though I will not specifically talk about him in this blog post, his classic, understated style will quietly make its presence felt, complementing the beautiful wardrobes of the female characters.
The little black dress. Pierre Balmain was one of the designers who, along with Christian Dior and Jacques Fath, had mostly influenced the fashion of the ’50s, coined as the “New Look” by Harper’s Bazaar. But the sheath dress (below) was another signature style of his, and which, with its slender lines, I much prefer to the stiffened shapes of the New Look. Remember Brigitte Bardot’s beautiful red dress in And God Created Woman, designed by the same Pierre Balmain?
The plot is placed in Monte Carlo and the chateau where much of the action takes place overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, so some casual-wear was to be expected too. Jeans and t-shirts, capri pants and simple sweaters, black one-piece swimsuits and dress shirts.
Simplicity and elegance are the words de rigueur for the female wardrobes in the film. In his 1965 memoirs, Pierre Balmain said: “I have fought at rue François 1er to defend a conception of elegance which I perhaps flatter myself in believing is thoroughly French.”
The polka dots had become huge in the fifties, when Christian Dior and Jacques Fath had turned them into a couture detail by putting them on evening dresses, and the pattern was still going strong in the 1960s. Jane Fonda is wearing an entire array of polka dots, from headscarves – worn with simple sweaters and tweed pencil skirts – to skirts and dresses. Cheerful and playful, but undeniably classic.
photos: screen stills captured by me from this DVD edition, except for 1, 4, 17, which were taken on the set of the film