It’s no surprise that Hollywood and pop culture have long had a strong influence on the fashion industry. And while it may seem like that influence is even stronger now more than ever thanks to social media (we see you Harry S. and Zendaya), flip back through the pages of fashion history and you’ll find that the cult of celebrity has always been there.
This article is an homage to three women who rose to fame (and infamy) in the ’50s and ‘60s – Brigitte Bardot, Jane Berkin and Bettie Page. Each of these women, in her own way, made an indelible mark on the fashion landscape.
Brigitte Bardot, aka “B.B.”
Brigitte Bardot (born September 28, 1934, Paris, France) is a model and actress who graced the cover of Elle magazine at the young age of 15. She went on to act in 47 films, perform in several musicals, and record more than 60 songs. At the height of her career in the Fifties and Sixties, Brigitte Bardot was often described as “the world’s most beautiful woman.” But Brigette is much more than just a pretty face.
Her fashion influence is clear and enduring. In fashion, the “Bardot” neckline (a wide-open neck that exposes both shoulders) is named after her. She is also credited with popularizing the bikini in her early films. Brigitte has been called a “style icon” and a “muse for Dior, Balmain, and Pierre Cardin” and literally made the name of certain brands.
From WWD, “Consider dancewear brand Repetto. Before modeling and acting, Bardot trained as a ballet dancer at the Paris Opera. It was her request to Repetto’s founder, Rose Repetto, to make her a pair of outdoor shoes for her role in “And God Created Woman” that led to the creation of the brand’s first footwear for outdoor use — the Repetto Cendrillon model that is still a staple in its collection today.” Some 66 years later, mind you!
Besides the aforementioned “Bardot” neckline and the Repetto ballet flat, Bardot also popularized the following trends:
- Sundresses. Bardot was frequently photographed in chic little sundresses with flattering empire waists. Whether rendered in black or printed with florals, she knew the power of a one-trick piece.
- Headbands. The actress paired wide cloth headbands with simple outfits comprised of monochromatic tops and pants or pencil skirts and sweaters.
- Cropped Pants. Jeans or tailored pants cut right at the ankle were often favored by Bardot. Worn with oversized sweaters or boyish tops for good measure, the style still seems modern.
- A Statement-Making Skirt. Bardot gravitated toward all kinds of skirts. A mini paired with a chunky sweater showed her cool French-girl insouciance; while a wide, voluminous one emphasized her bombshell figure.
After retiring from the spotlight in 1973, Bardot became more and more involved with animal rights—working to stop the killing of baby seals, oppose the slaughter of horses, and more. She has even auctioned off personal clothing and jewelry items to show her support.
Despite all of Bardot’s humanitarian work, she’s definitely had several controversial moments throughout her long career.
Jane Birkin: Chic Simplicity Personified
Jane Birkin was born in London on December 14, 1946. Her father, David Birkin, was a Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander, while her mother, Judy Campbell, was a well-known British actress and singer.
By virtue of being born into a somewhat famous family, Jane was in the public eye from a very young age. In 1965, when Birkin was only 19 years old, she married composer John Barry. The fashion press was immediately enamored of the simple white crochet mini dress Jane wore for the small ceremony at the Chelsea Registry Office in London.
While her gamine looks and waifish signature style are synonymous with the ‘60’s Swinging London style (think mini dresses with knee high boots), over the years her style matured to an enviable mixture of English chic and French carefree nonchalance.
Her trademark was an easy, breezy, effortless look that was pulled together and polished looking, but a little worn around the edges—as if she was too busy having fun and being fabulous to try too hard. Even Birkin’s signature hairstyle, with its tousled I-really-can’t-be-bothered fringe bangs, became a popular look in the ’70s and endures to this day.
Other style cues from Jane Birkin include:
- Layer upon layer of thin gold chain necklaces, which she would become known for through the years.
- Wicker basket bag which she famously carried, even to black tie events
- High-waisted jeans with an unfinished hem paired with a simple white tee.
- Short shorts. Like her dresses, Birkin preferred her shorts to be short. The star would even layer short shorts over tights to take the style into winter; a streetwear look that enjoyed a brief comeback in the 1980s.
- A white button down. A classic piece that’s as timeless as Jane Birkin herself, the white button-down was a staple in the fashion icon’s wardrobe.
But perhaps her most significant contribution to fashion came totally by accident. In 1984, Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas was seated next to Jane Birkin on a flight from Paris to London.
Birkin placed her straw traveling bag in the overhead compartment, but the contents fell to the deck, leaving her to scramble to retrieve them. Birkin explained to Dumas that it had been difficult to find a leather weekend bag she liked. Dumas took this encounter as inspiration to create a supple black leather bag, which he based on an earlier Hermes design created around 1900. From that accidental incident, the legendary Birkin Bag was born.
Jane Birkin received one of the original editions as a gift from Hermès in 1984, which the brand named after her. In total, Jane Birkin received five Birkin bags from Hermès over the years. All of them were gradually auctioned off for a good cause. As an aside, she confessed in 2017 that she rarely uses one herself anymore as it’s too heavy for her.
London-born Birkin is still a popular figure in France. Birkin released her latest album, Oh! Pardon tu dormais…, in December 2020. Some of her other recent performances that made headlines include singing at a Gucci fashion show in 2018 and a duet with Iggy Pop on The Tonight Show in 2020.
Bettie Page and Pin-Up Style
The so-called “Queen of Pinups” tied with Albert Einstein at No. 8 on Forbes’ 2013 list of top-earning dead celebrities, and Time recently named her one of the 100 most influential people in fashion. Bettie’s impact is so enduring that Madonna, Beyoncé, and Katy Perry all borrow style cues from her (specifically the U-shaped “Bettie bangs” and bondage couture Page popularized). Or look back no further than Uma Thurman’s haircut and style in Pulp Fiction, for that matter.
A Nashville native, Bettie Mae Page (April 22, 1923 – December 11, 2008) gained notoriety in the 1950s for her pin-up photos. With her jet black hair and striking blue eyes, she was impossible to ignore. But there was much more to Bettie than one might believe at first glance. Bettie was hard working and educated. And she didn’t let her early childhood circumstances keep her down. She graduated high school as salutatorian and went on to graduate from Peabody College.
From The Atlantic, “Page wasn’t only a model but an artist; she styled her own hair and makeup for shoots, and handmade most of the clothes and bikinis she wore when modeling.” The swimwear Page created was a significant departure from the designs of the time. Unfortunately, her designs were quickly adopted by other designers, and she did not receive a single penny in royalties.
Bettie wasn’t afraid to be smart, sexy, and confident in an era that told women to shy away from all of those qualities, which is exactly what makes her an icon. The influence of her style continues to pervade contemporary culture, even down to the body positivity movement.
- Bangs. Bettie Page was well known for her iconic hairstyle – shoulder-length black hair with a kitsch short fringe/bangs. Notably known as the Bettie Bangs – it was truly a revolution!
- Classic hair bow or similar accessory.
- Leopard print (or any animal print for that matter). The leopard print craze of the 1950’s is often attributed to Bettie’s fearless style.
- Crop tops and a girly pair of high-waisted shorts. Bettie was never afraid to show off her figure, which encouraged other women to do the same.
- Slim, cropped pants – known at the time as “capris” or “pedal pushers.”
- Bold stripes, graphic prints and bright colors.
Nearly 60 years after her modeling heyday—which made her the most-photographed model of the 20th century—and 15 years after her death at age 85, Bettie Page continues to fascinate fans worldwide. As The Atlantic goes on to say, “Male fans made Bettie Page a star, but female fans made her an icon.”
What Have We Learned?
So besides knowing how to totally work distinctive fringe/bangs, Brigitte, Jane and Bettie have definitely given the world some iconic fashion moments. They were all unapologetically true to themselves, and never shied away from their individuality. We hope that you too have found some inspiration in these never-to-be-forgotten style icons.
If you’d like to discuss your plans to be the next big thing, feel free to give us a call at 800-916-0910 or reach out to us at https://tegintl.com/get-in-touch/.