For this weekly column, writer Mishal Cazmi highlights an iconic film, item or collaboration and explore its influence on style and pop culture. Above, Catherine Deneuve and Jean Sorel in Belle de Jour (1967). Deneuve is outfitted by Yves Saint Laurent.
Sometimes, sartorial inspiration is only a muse away. If the muse is extraordinary, she will possess a certain magic, that wondrous ability to inspire a designer’s vision, which might result in something remarkable. For Yves Saint Laurent, that muse was actress Catherine Deneuve.
The two met on the set of Luis Buñuel’s film, Belle de Jour in 1966, marking the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Yves Saint Laurent designed what would become some of the most celebrated outfits in film, referenced time and again in fashion and pop culture.
In the film, Deneuve plays Severine, a doctor’s wife who leads a double life. During the day, she plays the part of a prostitute, turning her reveries into reality, and at night, she settles into the role of the delicate, domestic housewife.
The film bears Saint Laurent’s sartorial stamp: In tailored coats and dresses, Deneuve is perfectly Parisienne. Laurent fashioned a dual wardrobe for Severine, to represent her double life. Her outfits tell the story of two different women: the feminine wholesome image she feigns in front of her husband, and that of the confident seductress she cultivates in the brothel.
The first time Severine is in a brothel, for example, she is not dressed the part. Her dress, while pretty and pristine, is too impractical, too refined for the part-time occupation she’s about to take up. She’s swiftly told that she’ll wear the zipper out in one afternoon. Her uniform behind the closed doors of the brothel is her skin, occasionally lingerie. These are the details one notices because Saint Laurent converses with the viewer through Deneuve’s clothes.