Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Cinema Style - Romy Schneider's Sleek Summer Style Courtesy of Courreges in LA PISCINE

Happy summer! I took the month of July off from any speaking engagements and a little less social media so I could have more time to surf and swim. However, I want to provide you with plenty of summer style to inspire, so I dipped into the GlamAmor Archive for this article on 1969's La Piscine. The André Courréges wardrobe for Romy Schneider is perfection - I wish I had every piece of it. Of course I'll be back with the next in my HISTORY OF FASHION IN FILM series at the Egyptian Theatre on August 25 with the 1960s. Coincidentally, that talk will be accompanied by a screening of another Cote d'Azur classic Two for the Road (1967). Until then...


Summer is unquestionably my favorite time of the year and I always celebrate on GlamAmor with a little cinema style. One year I dove into the life of bathing beauty Esther Williams and her impact on swimsuit design and fashion. Another year I marveled at Marilyn Monroe as she flaunted her fabulous figure in swimwear, which she modeled throughout her career. And because there's little I love as much as lounging poolside on a sultry summer day, this year I bring you the beachy glamour of Jacques Deray's La Piscine (1969).  

The French-Italian film focuses on four people - one couple (Romy Schneider and Alain Delon) and a father and daughter (Maurice Ronet and Jane Birkin) - who holiday together at a villa along the French Riviera. The South of France was first put on the map in 1956 with Roger Vadim's classic And God Created Woman, which was set in Saint-Tropez. It starred a then relatively unknown Brigitte Bardot and turned the siren into a superstar. As a result, the Cote d'Azur then became the location of choice for other French movies of the late 1950s and 1960s. Interestingly, these films also showcased costumes created by the finest French fashion designers. And God Created Woman featured the frisky Brigitte in Pierre Balmain. In Bonjour Tristesse (1958), Jean Seberg battled Deborah Kerr in Hubert de Givenchy. Yves Saint Laurent practically launched his career dressing muse Catherine Deneuve in both Belle de Jour (1967) and La Chamade (1968). And in La Piscine, costumes are by the great André Courréges.  

Part of what makes La Piscine so fascinating is that it is a cavalcade of Courréges classics. As a minimalist, modernist, and often a futurist, he was an important part of 1960s fashion. He became known for geometric shapes and silhouettes that stood away from the body rather than hugging it. And the lengths of his dresses went to extremes, whether very long (maxis) or very short (both he and Mary Quant are credited with making the mini). Courréges was associated with vibrant colors as well, mostly in a primary palette. Green. Blue. Yellow. Red. You can see examples of this in his clothes for another Cote d'Azur classic Two for the Road (1967). White may have been his favorite color, though; he started his line in 1961 with a trouser suit and Little White Dress, and you'll see several samples of white in this 1969 film as well. Swimwear was even a specialty of Courréges, so how apropos for producers to invite him to costume La Piscine.

Three of the film's international lead actors - Austria's Romy Schneider, France's Alain Delon, and England's Jane Birkin - are equally fascinating. Adding to the intrigue of La Piscine is that the plot onscreen, which includes sexual jealousy, somewhat mirrored that offscreen. Romy and Alain had been engaged in real life; their relationship lasted from 1958 to 1963, ending when Delon was caught in an affair with Nico (of The Velvet Underground). But despite their breakup, the former lovers always remained great friends and their chemistry as co-stars is stronger than ever in La Piscine. All three stars were at their peaks of popularity when the film was released and today are considered icons in the world of fashion. Though I focus on Romy in this piece, you'll also see some serious Birkin style such as a signature robe trapeze mini dress and her iconic wicker basket.  

As I frequently discuss, there are several ways that costume design is interconnected with fashion design. One way is that many costume designers started and/or ended their careers in fashion. Another - such as the case of La Piscine - is that sometimes fashion designers would design for film. André Courréges' costuming for these characters is a capsule collection of modern 1960s French style. That said, one cannot help but see their timelessness as well, and the impact they've made on our American classics. Fashion designers Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and Jenna Lyons (of J. Crew) are all examples of those who have been influenced by La Piscine. The swimsuits alone continue to inspire design in companies from Eres to Roxy. Even Romy's makeup - the bronzed skin, smoky lined eyes, and nude caramel-colored lips - appears all over today's fashion runways and advertising campaigns. There is a lot to appreciate and it all helps you understand the significance of this incredibly stylish film.

Dive into La Piscine for yourself and see why I am so smitten with Romy's sleek and sensual style. Happy Summer!

Marianne (Romy Schneider) wears swimsuits of only white or black, such as this halter one-piece
accessorized with a thin tortoise shell headband and bronzed makeup

Romy struts around the pool in a black halter bikini
before the admiring eyes of her former lover Alain Delon

Eventually Marianne is also under the admiring eyes of houseguest and
former lover Harry (Maurice Ronet)
as his daughter Penelope (Jane Birkin) looks on

Another stunning suit -
I absolutely adore the simplicity of this white one-piece with thin straps and a deep back

In contrast, model-actress Birkin wears a fashion-forward white bikini by Courréges with crochet coverup...
no wonder Delon doesn't know where to look

Marianne ponders her passion for Jean-Paul in this cream colored silk dress
with my favorite - a low back

An example of preppy inspiration from this movie - tucked-in blouse with turned up collar,
navy flat front pants, matching espadrilles, woven tote, and tortoise shell sunglasses

My love for vintage cars is satisfied as well in La Piscine...houseguest Harry drives a Maserati
and a row of other great European cars line up for the big party at Marianne's

Courréges loved to experiment with fabrics and Romy sparkles in her tank dress at the party

This green silk gown (again, backless) is a great example of the boxier cut
and bright colors beloved by Courréges...
note how the look has been made more beachy with light blue espadrilles

An updo is paired with diamond earrings and bronzed beach glamour,
a look that is repeated time and time again on today's fashion runways

Jealousy builds among the group and hits its height at their private party

When the drama intensifies, Marianne is dressed in a lot of innocent white...
both Birkin and Schneider in a signature robe trapeze by Courréges

Classic Courréges--the final outfit of the film is a timeless solid white A-line shift dress,
which is styled with highly edited delicate accessories (love the sunglasses, above)

The cast of La Piscine says adieu
from the film's famous pool on the French Riviera

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