Brigitte Bardot was born in September 1934 in Paris and is a French actress, singer, and model. Famous for portraying sexually emancipated personae with hedonistic lifestyles, she was one of the best-known sex symbols of the late 1950s and 1960s.
Bardot was born to wealthy bourgeois parents, and at the age of 15, she posed for the cover of Elle (May 8, 1950), France’s leading women’s magazine.
Roger Vadim, an aspiring director, was impressed and shrewdly fashioned her public and screen image as an erotic child of nature—blond, sensuous, and amoral.
In two motion pictures directed by Vadim—Et Dieu créa la femme (1956; And God Created Woman) and Les Bijoutiers du claire de lune (1958; “The Jewelers of Moonlight”)—Bardot broke contemporary film taboos against nudity and set box office records in Europe and the United States.
During her early career, professional photographer Sam Lévin’s photos contributed to the image of Bardot’s sensuality.
One showed Bardot from behind, dressed in a white corset. British photographer Cornel Lucas made images of Bardot in the 1950s and 1960s that have become representative of her public persona.
Brigitte was the subject of Simone de Beauvoir’s 1959 essay The Lolita Syndrome, which described her as a “locomotive of women’s history” and built upon existentialist themes to declare her the first and most liberated woman of post-war France.
Bardot was the darling of disaffected French leftists, to whom she symbolized an artless disregard for conventional morality. Of her many films the most notable are Vie privée (1962; “The Private Life”), Le Mépris (1963; Contempt), Viva Maria! (1965), Dear Brigitte (1965), and Masculin-Féminin (1966; Masculine Feminine). With her career waning, Bardot appeared in her final films in 1973 and subsequently retired.
Bardot retired from the entertainment industry in 1973. She had acted in 47 films, performed in several musicals, and recorded more than 60 songs.
She was awarded the Legion of Honour in 1985. After retiring, she became an animal rights activist and created the Brigitte Bardot Foundation.
The Guardian named Bardot “one of the most iconic faces, models, and actors of the 1950s and 1960s”. She has been called a “style icon” and a “muse for Dior, Balmain, and Pierre Cardin”.
In fashion, the Bardot neckline (a wide-open neck that exposes both shoulders) is named after her. Bardot popularized this style which is especially used for knitted sweaters or jumpers although it is also used for other tops and dresses.
Bardot popularized the bikini in her early films such as Manina (1952) (released in France as Manina, la fille sans voiles).
The following year she was also photographed in a bikini on every beach in the south of France during the Cannes Film Festival.
She gained additional attention when she filmed …And God Created Woman (1956) with Jean-Louis Trintignant (released in France as Et Dieu Créa La Femme).
In it Bardot portrays an immoral teenager cavorting in a bikini who seduces men in a respectable small-town setting.
The film was an international success. Bardot’s image was linked to the shoemaker Repetto, who created a pair of ballerinas for her in 1956.
The bikini was in the 1950s relatively well accepted in France but was still considered risqué in the United States. As late as 1959, Anne Cole, one of the United States’ largest swimsuit designers, said, “It’s nothing more than a G-string. It’s at the razor’s edge of decency.”
She also brought into fashion the choucroute (“Sauerkraut”) hairstyle (a sort of beehive hairstyle) and gingham clothes after wearing a checkered pink dress, designed by Jacques Esterel, at her wedding to Charrier. She was the subject of an Andy Warhol painting.
Isabella Biedenharn of Elle wrote that Bardot “has inspired thousands (millions?) of women to tease their hair or try out winged eyeliner over the past few decades”.
A well-known evocative pose describes an iconic modeling portrait shot around 1960 where Bardot is dressed only in a pair of black pantyhose, cross-legged over her front and cross-armed over her breasts.
In the late 1960s, Bardot’s silhouette was used as a model for designing and modeling the statue’s bust of Marianne, a symbol of the French Republic.
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Wikipedia / Britannica Encyclopedia).