A few months ago I decided to head to Galleria Carla Sozzani in Milan during a lunch break with some friends, all passionate about fashion, to meet Bettina (the supermodel of the ’50s) to whom the gallery dedicated a special expo a few months ago.
Let me admit my ignorance: I had no idea of who she was, but I was intrigued by the beautiful image on the flier. So, I decided to find out more about her before visiting the expo and what I discovered was this: Bettina was the most celebrated and sought after model of fashion magazines of the ’40s and ’50s, and “the most photographed French woman in France” according to Paris Match. She indeed represented the classy and chic French couture of her era and in 2010 she was awarded France’s Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.
Just saying she was the most photographed woman was one thing, but this is a claim that can nearly be authenticated. I was stunned at reading the names of the photographers who photographed her in the past: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn, Robert Doisneau, even my adored Gordon Parks during his fashion years, and those are just my personal highlights.
She soon became, “Bettina the top cover girl in France.” “She did a great many photo shoots for the world’s top fashion photographers. Even Henri Cartier-Bresson photographed her in an informal setting. At the request of Irving Penn, for whom she had already posed in Paris, Vogue invited Bettina to the United States. Muse to Jacques Fath, Bettina was at the core of the dazzling world of post-war couture in France then being created by Jacques Costet, Lucien Lelong, Hubert de Givenchy, Christian Dior and Coco Chanel. (…) In spite of her retirement from her career, Bettina went on working in the fashion world, for example, as “ambassador of style” for Elle magazine in 1963, or as art director for Emanuel Ungaro and press agent for Valentino. Fashion is always her passion, and she still follow and promote it; her personality engages new designers and photographers like Azzedine Alaia, Yohji Yamomoto, Pierre et Gilles, and Mario Testino” (The Eye of Photography).
I was amazed by her beauty and class in the beautiful photographs exposed at the gallery and I was tempted to buy the “Bettina” catalogue with all the amazing pictures shown at the exhibition.
So… if you don’t know about her, and aren’t able to follow up visiting the expo (which finished in November), take some time to discover this timeless beauty and learn the essence of French chic style from the beautiful Bettina!