L'Année dernière à Marienbad

Posted on September 14 2016

by Laura McLaws Helms

Fashion and Cultural Historian 


For so many of us, the beginning of our fascination with clothing from the past starts with film. Immersed in another time the costumes leap out at us, signifiers of a world gone by. Often caught up in the romance of the illuminated screen we begin to reflect those images and clothes back onto our own lives: “How would I look in a little black dress like that? Would it cause a man to look at me the way he looks at her?” Then we start scouring the real world for vintage pieces that call to mind these filmic memories. When speaking with Marlene, she rhapsodized over the style and films of Delphine Seyrig, Jeanne Moreau and Catherine Deneuve—emphasizing the influence they had on her own personal style evolution and now on the clothes she chooses to carry in her store.

Delphine's finest fashion film is Alain Resnais’ L'Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad )(1961) in which she wears Chanel. Resnais wanted to recreate the essence of a silent film and he provided the costume designers (Bernard Evein was the lead) with images from two French movies of the 1920s (L'Inhumaine and L'Argent). Leading from here Chanel—one of the star designers of the ‘20s—created Seyrig’s wardrobe in almost all stark white and black, the pieces simple with just hints of drama—an X-strapped back, a cape of white chiffon, a cascade of white feathers. Gliding around the baroque interiors, Seyrig’s unnamed character is trapped in a surreal melancholy yet always perfectly accessorized with Chanel’s trademark pearls, costume jewels and two-toned shoes. Her side-parted, slicked back hair and ‘20s style makeup (based on Louise Brooks’ in Pandora’s Box, 1929) paired with the timeless Chanel LBD’s—and the poise with which she wears it—made Delphine a beauty and fashion icon at the time, with her haircut widely copied across France. For his Spring/Summer 2011 collection for Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld’s went back through the house’s archives to base many of the pieces and the set on Last Year at Marienbad—all layers of tulle and lace, punctuated with coq feathers reminiscent of Seyrig’s iconic cape. And for us, we are left with the sense that by dressing in similar vintage dresses we too have the opportunity to glide into an enigmatic dreamworld—all romance and gilded rooms, symbolism and handsome strangers.



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