Something truly chic never goes out of style—it’s likely why the aesthetic of the Yé-Yé girls (the little known, but much appreciated group of musicians from the 1960s) has endured for so long. Their effortless image has gone on to inform our modern concept of French-girl chic—a way of dressing many fashion fans can’t get enough of. So today, on the birthday of the most famous Yé-Yé of all, Françoise Hardy, CR reflects on these sartorial pioneers and the reason behind their everlasting style.
“[It] was fresh and youthful, but it also maintained an air of restraint and elegance that set it apart from the more audacious juniors’ styles popular in England and the United States,” New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology’s Colleen Hill tells CR. “There were a few items of dress that were closely associated with the yé-yé scene. The most notable include the tightly-fitted “poor boy” sweaters by Sonia Rykiel, and shiny vinyl raincoats, especially those made by Michèle Rosier for her label, V de V.”
The 1960s was also a time when younger female celebrities like Brigitte Bardot were famously abandoning haute couture, calling the highly structured looks stuffy. And when Hardy—arguably the most famous of the Yé-Yé girls—appeared on the cover of French Elle in one of Rykiel’s “poor boy” sweaters, it launched the designer’s career. Hill, who recently curated FIT’s exhibit Paris Refashioned, 1957-1968, also notes how this change in fashion ideals has had a lasting effect on our modern perception of “chic.”
“French women have long been lauded for their style, but the 1960s was certainly a high point,” she says. “This was also the era in which French ready-to-wear was coming into its own, and that generally resulted in the laid-back chic that we still associate with French women. The Yé-Yé look embodied the fresh, vibrant allure of the 1960s, but it was rarely exaggerated in a way that reads as too “retro” today.”
Hardy, who is 74 today, burst on to the scene in 1962 with her debut album, Tous Les Garçons et Les Filles (which included the single “Le Temps de L’amour” most recently used on the soundtrack for the Wes Anderson film Moonrise Kingdom). In addition to her long, celebrated music career, the singer/songwriter’s influential sense of style can be seen today on the likes contemporary French singers like Charlotte Gainsbourg.
“Each of the Yé-Yé girls had a unique look that was fashionable in its own way, but Hardy’s style is most enduring,” explains Hill, noting that despite her model looks, Hardy claimed to be disinterested in fashion. “Her nonchalance is an important part of her appeal. Hardy’s fashion choices, such as her white Courrèges pantsuits and Yves Saint Laurent’s first Le Smoking, are distinctly ’60s and streamlined, yet they also have an edge.”
In addition to high-fashion ensembles, many photographs feature her in a simple sweater and pants combo. If her style was straightforward, her beauty look was equally pared down, with hair fell long and straight (rather than showy up-do’s), and makeup was kept to a minimum. In this regard, her effortless appeal came from being relatively low-maintenance.
Maybe French Girl style remains so elusive to the rest of the world because French woman have had five decades to perfect it. For Hardy, perhaps it was the je ne sais quoi of being a rock star. Either way, a little simplicity, and a good handle on what designers are up to will give you that perfectly put together look that takes no effort at all.END
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