Masculin féminin and French Youth Fashion

A screening of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1966 film Masculin féminin in July 2014 rekindled my love for 1960s French fashion, and eventually inspired me to organize Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968. Although I had watched the film numerous times, viewing it on a large screen at The Museum of the Moving Image, rather than a small home television, made a profound difference. I could suddenly catch many details that I had previously missed – including (most important to me) a better view of the fashions.

The film stars Chantal Goya, a real-life singer who was part of the yé-yé scene. In an instance of art imitating life, Goya plays Madeleine Zimmer, a young woman who is building her career as a pop singer. In my earlier viewings of the film, I had never paid close attention to Madeleine’s wardrobe. I was too intent on examining a different yé-yé singer: Françoise Hardy, who makes a notable cameo in a head-to-toe look by André Courrèges, including his famous white, peep-toe boots. Dating to spring 1964, the ensemble was very likely Hardy’s own (she frequently wore Courrèges’s fashions on- and offstage).

It was not until I began working on this project that I noticed something peculiar about one of Goya’s ensembles, a jacket with a boldly striped patch pocket and a scarf to match. Upon closer examination, it became clear that the pocket was emblazoned with the initial “C,” while the scarf featured a “G.” Months later, as I was flipping through an issue of Elle, I came upon the design in a color photograph. It was, quite shockingly, bright red with white stripes. Designed by Daniel Hechter, the style was sold at La Knack boutique for 360 francs (scarf included), where clients could purchase the garments with their own initials. Chantal Goya was evidently wearing clothing from her own closet for the film. It is probable that some of the film’s viewers recognized this ensemble, which was not only created by a prominent ready-to-wear designer and sold in a trendy boutique, but was also featured in the pages of a widely read fashion magazine. Further connecting the film’s plot to the vital French youth culture of its day, this research discovery deepened my appreciation for Godard’s poignant film.

Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968 runs through April 15, 2017 at The Museum at FIT in NYC.

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