Safe or Smokin' in black: Deneuve & Mirren

Catherine Deneuve is known as an exquisitely dressed woman. In recent years she bears the fleshiness of maturity, not as easy to dress at 66 as she once was. Sister, I can relate.

She wo
re this black dress to the Venice Film Festival premiere of "Potiche", her new film directed by François Ozon.

The voluminous draping makes her look bulky, the necklace is too conventional for the dress, the skirt clings between the thighs and hides her famous legs.

The side-view makes her look like a dowager in mourning; even
she does not look pleased.

For the Toronto Film Festival screening last week, she chose a palest taupe chiffon dress that recouped her image as an elegant, discriminating star.

The "Potiche" (the title means "trophy wife") poster cheekily presents Deneuve in a red track suit (has to be a first!) but the chartreuse coatdress she wore to the film's press conference recalls the pieces St Laurent created for her in the '70s:

The lessons? When Ms Deneuve wears black, she looks best in lighter colour near the face, like this white blouse worn with a black skirt in Venice.

And if the black is not well-tailored, the supposedly slimming colour makes her (and us) look bigger.

All-black is
harder to wear past 50, especially when one is a porcelain-skinned blonde. In "A Christmas Tale " she was costumed in rich taupe rather than the more demanding black. Those of us devoted to black might experiment with taupe, chocolate or navy.

Accessories are the mature black-wearer's saviour: she tames the harshness of black with a scarf near the face.

that to this shot of all-black: too safe even on one of the world's acclaimed beauties.

French movie stars love the LBD; here is Marion Cotillard in hers at TIFF.

Those of us the age of Cotillard's mother may benefit from rethinking our black, though we adore it still.

A page from Mirren's (black) book

As Helen Mirren shows at "The Debt's" premiere, mature women can rock their LBD.

A trim fit, jewelry with presence (pendant, significant jeweled earrings, bangles): just gorgeous.

Mirren's hair (newly white-blonde, artfully 'messy'), the silver and black bag and sexy peep-toes all transmit her trademark allure.

As I write this, in all-black, I have paused to add a few bracelets and a pendant. The black stays, with a few tweaks for the sake of time.


Nancy K said…
It's kind of amazing how much larger she looks in that first dress. Those of us with larger busts really do better in tailored things. I don't think that she lost 20 lbs between wearing the first black dress and the chartreuse suit, but she sure looks like she die.
Deja Pseu said…
Great observations, Duchesse! I find that soft-and-drapey but not voluminous clothing works best with a larger bust. I'd bet that shirtdress she has on in the "Potiche" picture is a soft silk; stiff fabrics don't work!

I'm unwilling to give up my black entirely, but as you're recommended try to soften with a scarf or other lighter neutral colored cardigan. Helen looks divine in that black dress.
Demi-pointe said…
There are certain women I "study". Some are a little younger than I, some more than a few years older. Mirren falls into the latter.
Usually I can identify the salient elements that make up their style but I find Mirren's elusive.

I love the peep toes! And her hair - can that actually be done without a personal stylist?

Duchesse, I knew Rhonda Jambe well! Sometimes I still have her visit when my hips feel stiff.
materfamilias said…
This is really instructive analysis, Duchesse. Like Pseu -- and yourself -- I'm not relinquishing the black, but it's really worth working at softening it and/or brightening it in some of the ways you suggest.
Belle de Ville said…
Catherine Deneuve is usually spot on with her fashion choices, I just can't image how she ended up in that voluminous black gown. It was not at all her style.
But, I'm looking forward to seeing Potiche.
LPC said…
You are so right. I find it even extends to sunglasses and reading glasses. I used to look hip in my black readers. No more. I have to look for tortoise.
LPC said…
You are so right. I find it even extends to sunglasses and reading glasses. I used to look hip in my black readers. No more. I have to look for tortoise.
laurieann said…
As much as I love Helen Mirren the woman I need to study is Catherine Deneuve. The main reason is body type. My shape is much more like Deneuve's; very little waist line which can be a challenge to dress.

When I'm doing monochromatic dressing now days I rarely do it in black. I tend to save black for bottoms like skirts and pants unless I'm doing the LBD. But monochromatic ivory, mid browns/bronze and taupes are gorgeous.
Duchesse said…
I've heard that Deneuve's weight really fluctuates but in this case I think it's the dress. She could not have lost 20 lbs b/c Venice is a week before the Toronto festival.

Pseu: I think it's silk, and the fit is perfect. Wonder who made the black gown. Pearls work to soften too :)

Demi: Oh, Mitten can look dowdy too- (see menu at bottom of blog for my other Safe & Smokin' posts and she is getting much more discriminating (or her stylists are). She has a different body type than Deneuve and a small waist.

materfamilias: If I took all the black out of my closet I would have nothing but maybe 3 skirts, and no idea what to sub in (navy???)

Belle: The world on Potiche at the Festival was: enjoyable farce. I'll see anything with her or Fanny Ardant.

LPC: So true, whenever I try on black frames can't figure out why I look so severe! Like you I have gone to a torty w/olive.

laurieann: There's a rich taupe that is interesting and deep, but hard to find in moderate priced lines. (Max Mara usually does it, naturally.) All ivory makes me look boxy, so these days I'm trowing a lot of pearls on the black and chocolate.
Kristine said…
I'm only in my early 40s and already I've noticed that black near my face is too severe. I think many can carry off black as they get older, but i'm not one of them. In actuality, I probably couldn't carry it off in my younger years either.
diverchic said…
Oh, I dunno. When I look at the Helen Mirren picture I see a black dress, not Helen Mirren. As you say, black is a demanding mistress and one which I avoid. I don't like disappearing. A nice grey or navy can work for me if I want sombre. Sometimes even a boldly patterned black and white - but I have to wear strongly coloured make-up to make my face visible. I always fantasized about having black hair and being tall and wearing red lipstick and black and red clothes Now, I'm liking my less dramatic blonde colouring even if can't wear black.
Rubiatonta said…
I wear a lot of black, but never without a scarf or necklace, plus earrings. Since I'm a very rosy-skinned person, the "empalening" of black near my face isn't much of an issue.

As for the cut of a garment, I've always said, "if you've got a floofy body, stay away from floofy clothes." Close to the body is a better look on a bigger frame.
Duchesse said…
diverchic: I dislike most red clothes and especially all-red ensembles. I did a post on red; a lot of it is harsher on mature women than black. Then I see a woman in a ruby coat that completely changes my mind.
Mardel said…
I can't wear a lot of black near my face despite relatively dark hair. It must be softened. Dark sunglasses -- never.

I think that first dress on Deneuve really needs a young lithe body; no need to be reminded of what is no more.

I wore head to toe red in my 20s. I wouldn't dream of wearing it now.
Maggie said…
Deneuve never had a really slim look. I think she has a wider face and neck area that makes her look heavier. Mirren always covers her upper arms but showcases the slim waist and abs. She has a lot less hair than Deneuve but seems to be able to have it styled nicely. Black, stark white and vivid red (certain shades) are always tough colors to put near the face. I do think white can be worse than black for draining color from the face though. I think it has more to do with the color of your skin, eyes and hair than it does with your age though. But given the fact that we "fade" as we age, that might play into it also.
Jane M said…
Pictures really are so interesting to analyze and I appreciate your comments along with the photos. I too am so very fair that black overwhelms me in the last 15 years. But I do love taupe, bronze, even browns when I want that column of color look. I wonder how that first dress would look in a silky jersey instead of the billowing silk.
Duchesse said…
Kristine: In my youth, when 'everybody' wore a colour I did too, even if it wasn't good for me.

Mardel: Even on a lithe body I'd like to see less volume, the drape is overwhelming.

Maggie: Deneuve was thin, you have to go back a ways. See this 1966 photo:

Some of it is attitude. Mirren is riding high and looks it. According to TIFF reports Deneuve did not look happy to walk the red carpet.

Jane M: Jersey would not be so bulky- and there is more than that going on.
crunchycon said…
My wardrobe is based on black; as I still have my hair black-as-coal (mostly; there's more and more silver there), skin white-as-snow coloring, I can still get away with it. Instead of purchasing more black, though, these days I'm going for a charcoal gray (in fact, my glasses are gray wirerims - more flattering to me than tortoise.
Duchesse said…
cruncycon: You have the colouring that caresses black. Charcoal is the most wonderful hue, deep and assertive yet more complex than black. Not that easy to find, and when you do, so rich and fascinating.
There is also a charcoal with a hint of blue, a kind of dark smoke; love it!
I'm still in mourning for my charcoal-grey loden coat the moths feasted on. As in many old houses and flats, my bedroom closet is absurd - the hot-water-heater resides there, so moths love it. Should have put the coat in the hall closet. I love greys - don't like navy very much - but as Duchesse, pseu and others rightly say, it is hard to find beautiful greys. My hair was almost black, (I'm a skintone darker than crunchycon) but it had gone quite grey so I had it coloured that Parisienne reddish-black and it was getting too orangey. Letting it go silver now - very tentatively.

I remember Deneuve - and her late sister Françoise Dorléac - from their very first films, when they were lithe young girls.

It goes without saying that very slim women (without too much of a bust) are the easiest to dress.

Duchesse, did you spy Rachel Weisz?
Duchesse said…
lagatta: Your closet sounds like an absolute spa for moths! I saw photos of Rachel W. in understated and discreet clothes at TIFF, which I liked. But I tend to focus more on my contemporaries, to see what they do with themselves.
Yes, everything woollen has been removed from my bedroom closet. Absurd, non?

Oh Rachel Weisz is a generation younger, but she is another "thinking-man's crumpet" like Mirren. Nice to see film stars with whom one could have an intelligent conversation.
Aunt Snow said…
Oh, but she's still a gorgeous woman! Her coloring looks best in the chartreuse and fawn colors. And the white shirt.

I am shopping for a look for a gala dinner event in a couple weeks. I found a great LBD (Calvin Klein!) at Nordstroms similar to the Marion Cotillard dress you show - on sale for $60!

I also got a knit red sheath that reminds me of Joan in Mad Men, but, alas, although it fits, it reveals my poochy tummy, so back it will go. What a difference, too - both dresses are cut similarly. I think the LBD because it is lined smooths the bulges better.

(Unless a slimming undergarment would work?)
I love Deneuve in the taupe, so much more flattering than the black on her. Plus a little structure goes a long way.
tinyjunco said…
very interesting post and the pictures really work to illustrate the points. i agree black can be very difficult to wera for many colourings....but it's such a wardrobe workhorse! as you say, finding colours that flatter that can play black's wardrobe role is a big help. greys (from dove to dark charcoal) do the trick as do taupes. navy can be much easier to wear (esp. warm-toned ones), and many chocolate browns can do black's job. surprisingly i've found olive drab can work as a neutral in many situations and is much more flattering to many complexions.

i wonder at the number of colors made into clothing which flatter so few people. every time i look at the land's end catalog, i only find one or two items that i'd wear. what's the deal? that citron trench is marvelous and the color is tremendously attractive on so many people, light or dark, young or old.......but you barely see it.

ah well, rant over. thank you for the interesting post - off to read more safe or smokin'!! steph
Duchesse said…
tinyjunco: I later learned that Deneuve's dress at top is Balenciaga, which proves you can wear a magnificent designer and still be ill-served.

Olive drab is marvelous, especially when a fabric has slight sheen, like polished cotton. I love navy on others but on me, prefer black or taupe.

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