In a week when I posted about my Breton-inspired Deer and Doe Plantain t-shirt and The Foldline blogged about the history of the Breton top, I thought I would write a post in homage to one of the early adopters of the Breton top as a fashion item (rather than an part of naval uniform): Jean Seberg.
I didn’t really know much about Jean Seberg before I decided to write this post and I’ve only seen her on one film — The Mouse That Roared (not one of her classic French New Wave movies!). She does were a Breton top in it though!
Jean Seberg was born in Iowa and made her first film, Saint Joan, in 1957, having been picked from a huge open casting. She got fairly terrible reviews in this, and her next film, Bonjour Tristesse, and it was really The Mouse That Roared that was her first success, in 1959. It was her next film, Breathless (in French À bout de souffle) directed by Jean-Luc Godard, which was her first critical success and marked her as a good actress and the herione of French New Wave cinema.
She was one of the earlier wearers of the pixie crop and as I was researching photos for this post, I definitely found myself looking at her hair as much as at her clothes! She also wore more minimal, natural make-up than was usual at the time. I love her relaxed style. Although I’m quite vain, I think I’m also quite low maintenance at heart. I’m also lazy, so having short hair I can wash and leave is great for me!
I love the chunky jumper and cigarette trousers combo, and this slouchy coat is amazing! If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll probably have picked up on the fact that I’m drawn to the 60s the most as a decade for fashion and style.
Jean Seberg even looked great a bit later in the 60s, which slightly grown out hair.
I love the yellow of the dress (assuming it is a dress) above – I wish I could see more of it. It’s amazing to see how many of the vintage sewing patterns I have have similar tops to the one she’s wearing above – maybe I’ll recreate it one day!
Her life wasn’t all making films, however. She gave financial support to several groups in the late 60s which the US government did not like: the NAACP, and the Black Panther Party were the most famous. The FBI, therefore, decided to harass, defame, intimidate and discredit Seberg. The idea was to discredit her with the public and the film industry so her voice would have less weight and fewer opportunities to be heard. In 1970 she was expecting a baby with her then husband, Romain Gary, but the FBI released a story saying the father was Raymond Hewitt, a member of the Black Panther Party. Seberg went into premature labour and the baby died 2 days later. She blamed the stress of the gossip columns printing the FBI’s story for the premature birth and death of her child. At the funeral she had an open casket for the child so people could look and see that she was white. The FBI was regularly wire-tapping her phone, stalking her and breaking into her homes. Apparently Richard Nixon was kept personally up to date by J Edgar Hoover on the surveillance of Jean Seberg. It seems to shocking now that the government would harass an actress for her political views, but I bet it’s still happening and people are still getting black-listed, just as they did during the McCarthy era ‘witch-hunts’. It makes you realise how powerful artistic expression can be – that the government felt it had to stifle people. And some governments still do I’m sure.
Sorry, I’ve gone off on rather a tangent there, but Jean Seberg had quite a hard life I think. She ended up committing suicide in her car (though there is a theory that someone else was there, but they don’t know who) in 1979 at the age of 40. It feels a bit weird to now say ‘but look at all the great clothes she wore’……
I’m not sure what else to write now, so I will just put some pictures of Jean Seberg for your 60s-loving pleasure.
I’ll end this with picture of her looking effortlessly cool, and very French, smoking a cigarette. Is it wrong that I always think smoking looks kind of cool? But, like. smoking from the 60s looks cool – now not so much.
I didn’t realise she had such a tragic life, and I certainly wouldn’t have recognised her with the longer hair, though she still looks gorgeous. Thank you for sharing this, it was really fascinating, and made me realise how much she has influenced the ‘engenue’ look (gods, did I spell that right?) E
I didn’t know she had such a sad life either, I just knew her for her style! Definitely an early ingenue 🙂
What a sad story! I’d never heard of it (or admittedly, her) before. I love Bretons and that whole gamine style on others but just can’t do it myself.
I didn’t realise I’d actually seen her in The Mouse That Roared until I looked up her filmography – I remembered the film, just not her!
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