Before The Bond Babes, There Were The Godard Girls

In case you haven’t noticed, movie heroines are trending (again). See: Gal Gadot’s turn as Wonder Woman that grossed over $820 million worldwide, or just take a look at any of the hottest shows on television right now — more than half of them with female leads. But, as we know, not all heroes wear capes. And, alongside the less fantastical breeds of superheroes, like, say the Bond babes or Buffy era ass-kicking mavens, female protagonists have long rocked the international landscape, too. Introducing: the Godard Girls.

What the French director’s chosen film heroines lack in crime fighting accoutrements they make up for in emotional superiority to their male counterparts — and a mean punch of French style that’s had global impact decades over. Sure, we talk about French girl style as if it’s, well, going out of style — but it’s that very obsession that makes their contributions that influential, and everlasting. In other words, the monikers Birkin and Bardot aren’t household names for nothing.

But therein lies many more stars of Godard’s lens: Marlene Jobert, Anna Karina, Jean Seberg, and more have influenced how we few French style, their seemingly unattainable joie de vivre (at least for Americans), and the mystique of French culture in general. What sets a Jean-Luc Godard actress apart from, say, those of the Hollywood brand, is that their characters were never rooted in aesthetics — the fashion and beauty stuff came after. Instead, through films like Breathless and Masculin Féminin, we know that an onscreen presence can be just as personal as off — even dressed in jeans and a tee.

Godard himself believed his films weren’t complete without women, and as he told Rolling Stone in 1969, “I don’t think you should feel about a film. You should feel about a woman, not a movie. You can’t kiss a movie.” It’s doubly true, then, that while we’re moved by clothes, we shan’t forget the superwomen in them.

Jane Birkin
Her turn as Mademoiselle Birkin in Keep Your Right Up reminded us just how much power a set of shoulder pads on a blazer really packs. (And how much cooler it looks with a pair of trousers.)

Photo: Jacques Haillot/Apis/Sygma/Sygma/Getty Images.

On top of that, her collection of vintage tees is something of a goldmine.

Photo: Will/ullstein bild/Getty Images.

And, lest we forget this baby blue suit moment.

Photo: Bill Ray/Life Magazine/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.

Brigitte Bardot
While most consider her an icon of French sex appeal, Bardot’s affinity for cropped pants and mock-neck sweaters went largely undocumented.

Photo: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images.

Her collection of hats in Shalako is worth reassessing the entirety of our headwear choices, too.

Photo: Jacques Haillot/Apis/Sygma/Sygma/Getty Images.

Le mood.

Photo: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty Images.

Marlene Jobert
While Jobert’s role as Elisabeth Choquet in Godard’s oeuvre Masculin Féminin was more focused on love and politics, her lightly-tinted sunglasses (and her pipped overcoats) stole just about every scene.

Photo: REPORTERS ASSOCIES/Gamma­Rapho/Getty Images.

There’s a reason these ’60s vibes are making their fashion rounds yet again.

Photo: Gerard Landau/INA/Getty Images.

Giorgia Moll
While the German-Italian actress may have found more success outside of France, it was her stint in Contempt that made just about anyone who watched it want a set of pearls for everyday wear.

Photo: Giancarlo BOTTI/Gamma­Rapho/Getty Images.

Oh, and maybe these shades, too.

Photo: Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images.

Anna Karina
Considered Godard’s muse (and his wife, from 1961 to 1956), Karina made eight films with the director — raising the bar for French style in every single one.

Photo: Norbert Perrau/INA/Getty Images.

She’s the type of French actress who can pull off just about anything — from a babydoll dress with a flower in her hair to, well, this.

Photo: Norbert Perrau/INA/Getty Images.

Jean Seberg
Though she was technically American, Seberg lived half of her life in France. Her role in Breathless brought stripes and collard shirts to the forefront of everyone’s closets, proving that both — even at the same time — are a fantastic idea.

Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images.

Her statement hats were pretty sweet as well.

Photo: REPORTERS ASSOCIES/Gamma­Rapho/Getty Images.

Perhaps we’re under the Seberg spell, but who knew a varsity stripe could take a pair of denim flares from casual to business casual in a swing.

Photo: Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images.

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