Jean Seberg (1938-1979) was the most stylish French woman to have ever come out of Marshalltown, Iowa. In fact, she seemed to have been born in the wrong place, embodying as she did effortless Parisian chic. She developed her iconic look in sync with her career.
Although Seberg’s first film, Saint Joan, was panned by critics, she gained the attention and affection of the French public for her portrayal of Joan of Arc, and soon she became the darling of French New Wave films, particularly for her role in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (À bout de souffle). If no one saw or heard anything else of Jean Seberg’s work, they would still have a strong sense of her style from that movie.
Seberg’s life turned tragic after being blacklisted by the FBI for her support of the Black Panther Party (among other organizations devoted to civil rights, the others not controversial). She was insidiously “neutralized” (the FBI’s term) and it is assumed her death of a barbiturate overdose was suicide. She was then 40.
Perhaps the tragedy of her death makes Jean Seberg’s life, work and iconic style even more dear.
Jean Seberg, c.1958-60: Above all was the perfect pixie cut on the perfect girl for a pixie cut—
There was the fresh look of pared down makeup, light on the lipstick and without the usual heavy-lidded eyes of the time.
In button down shirts, straight pants and oversized sweaters, Seberg looked the perfect gamine.
With Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless—
Her sporting, boyish, youthful looks presaged the Mod aesthetic of the mid 1960s—
Accessories were mainly kept to rounded cat eye frames, simple scarves, and here and there a hat—
Unmistakable were the Breton stripes—
—and the simple, clean, modern aesthetic—
Jean Seberg didn’t always wear her hair in a pixie cut, she didn’t always wear stripes, her roles were not all youthful—but this is her time, place, and style that seem to reach right out of photos, fresh as new. This is the eternal Jean Seberg.
Dress by Givenchy for Seberg’s role as Cecile in Bonjour Tristesse, 1958
Inspired by Jean Seberg, a collection of vintage items on Etsy: