When I was little, Sunday afternoons always seemed to feature a film in black and white about the Second World War playing in the background because my dad was pretty partial to watching (read: falling asleep in front of) them. To me, most of these films were more or less just background noise, except for the odd few films that featured brave and glamorous French characters who portrayed members of the French Resistance which piqued my interest.
For those who may presently be in the dark about the subject, the French Resistance is the collective name used for the small groups of French men and women who fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and the collaborating Vichy Regime during the Second World War.
The French Resistance participated in a variety of activities that included running a clandestine press, providing intelligence to the Allied forces, and even sabotage and guerrilla warfare tactics. The risks that they ran from their actions being found out were immense. Although sources suggest that the Resistance movements were generally anti-feminist with many male members discouraging active female involvement, many women did participate in both supportive and active roles. One such woman was Lucie Aubrac who, alongside her husband, fought in the resistance in Lyon and helped run the underground newspaper, Libération. Aubrac, pictured below, became the subject of an eponymous biopic in 1997.
Ultimately, the films I was exposed to were the product of a post-war society in the UK which relied upon and glamorised an image of French covert heroism. However, there is no doubt that these people and their undertakings occurred, and somewhere between the seductive screen version and gritty reality I find a great source inspiration. So, how to translate this inspiration into a physical and wearable manifestation for today?
In terms of colour palette, I feel navy blue, black, beige, cream and red (but not a bright cherry hue, something more subtle with more depth) would translate the look best. Arguably stereotypical, a form of trench coat would be a must, but perhaps the Lady Grey coat in beige twill would form an interesting alternative, creating a juxtaposition between glamour and functionality. Other understated, tidy, wearable but sleek pieces could be created from the Rooibos dress or the Sencha blouse tucked into high waisted wide-legged trousers or a 40’s style A-line skirt. Accessories could include a beret or other neat vintage hat, a tidy leather handbag and neck scarves which are a must. Sally Jane, who I think is a master of French Resistance chic, shows us in the image above how effective the addition of these accessories can be. Or what about a fake newspaper clutch bag like the one below? Perfect for transporting secret information whilst avoiding detection! Is there anything you would add if trying to create a French Resistance infused look?