21 Jun 2010
What was it about French film stars that made them such perfect models for ballerina-inspired fashion? In the ‘50s and ‘60s the vogue manifested itself in Brigitte Bardot, whose inimitable French style never failed to deliver elegance and carefree chic. Bardot was the first foreign-language-speaking star to attain major international success and her films were pivotal in establishing a global market for foreign cinema.
When Bardot moves through film space, her classical ballet training is evident in her regal carriage and dance style. She studied at the Conservatoire de Paris and the classic dancer’s wardrobe of leotards, Alice bands, ballerina skirts, and ballet flats often appeared throughout her films and daily ensembles. What began as an anti-establishment look early in her career progressed into a glamorous, tailored flair that remains influential today. The pale make-up and bouffant hairstyle was the perfect counterpart to her mixture of passion and drifting insouciance.
Bardot provided the first celebrity endorsement of the luxury shoe brand Repetto when she asked Rose Repetto to make her a dance slipper she could wear on the unpredictable streets of everyday life. The ravishing results can be seen in the photo of her draped over a Simca at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival. That same festival was the backdrop to the iconic image of her creating a spectacle as she swirled her ballerina skirt for photographers. For a woman who reportedly once said, “I absolutely loathe luxury. It is the one thing I cannot stand,” she had some pretty high-end taste in ballet flats, and the delicious ‘BB’ style was named in her honour.
Bardot’s films often featured dance sequences that utilised her training as a ballerina. In Naughty Girl, a very young, impish Bardot performs in numerous highly charged ballet routines. The wanton mambo dance scene in And God Created Woman shows off her grace and rhythm and maddeningly seductive caprice. In A Very Private Affair, Bardot does a jazzy number that perfectly encapsulates the liberated spirit that was later treated with tragic intensity in Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (Le Mepris).
Bardot was first and foremost a sex symbol, an over-ripe beauty whose acting abilities were surpassed by her enthralling screen presence, controversial personal life and the lasting legacy she left on style. As a purveyor of ballet-fashion, she remains unrivalled.