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Jun 28, 2023

King Louis XV’s favourite wears Chanel

Who is Jeanne du Barry?

She was not as famous as Madame de Pompadour, who preceded her into Louis XV’s heart and bed. Yet, the king was especially fond of Jeanne du Barry, probably fascinated by her beauty and brilliant wit.

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel 

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel

Chronicles of the time portrayed this young working-class woman, hungry for culture and pleasure, as a lover and patron of the arts even though she was from a humble social background.

Maïwenn on set. Copyright CHANEL

Maïwenn on set. Copyright Chanel

 

Who is the French director-actor behind Jeanne du Barry’s return to the headlines – and Johnny Depp’s comeback to the screens as King of France?

French director and actress Maïwenn Le Besco depicted this tumultuous and passionate life in her film Jeanne du Barry, which opened the Cannes Film Festival and is hitting movie theatres these weeks.

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel

With her loose hair, light make-up and pastel or white crinolines, Jeanne-Maïwenn embodies a modern heroine eager to break free from the constraints of a court still under the influence of rigid (aesthetic and social) codes centred around a protocol of ostentatious extravagance.

 

Who would dress King Louis XV’s favourite today? 

So which modern fashion house could capture the independent spirit of Jeanne du Barry (also known as Mademoiselle Vaubernier) and her unconventional elegance? The answer is Chanel. The fashion house from the Parisian rue Cambon collaborated with director and costume designer Jürgen Doering to create six costumes for the famous courtesan’s character. 

Fittings for Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Copyright CHANEL

Fittings for Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Copyright Chanel

Chanel’s wardrobe defined an independent, non-conformist woman, who would have been in line with the ideals of Mademoiselle Coco Chanel, also born on 19 August, but 150 years later.

Fittings for Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Copyright CHANEL

Fittings for Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Copyright Chanel

Maïwenn was particularly interested in several Haute Couture collections designed by the late Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, as the Age of Enlightenment was an endless source of inspiration for him: “When the preparation of the film began, I had so much documentation, including Chanel pieces from the 1980s and 1990s collections, inspired by the 18th century,” she explained to Numéro. “That’s why I wanted to collaborate with Virginie Viard (now the creative director at Chanel) on this project. […] I wanted Jeanne’s dresses to not be too frilly and embellished, with cotton voiles. Quite clear but very simple things, and in very beautiful materials.” 

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel

The six costumes created for the occasion include a spectacular ecru tweed dress, highlighted with braids and worn with a matching short jacket inspired by the fall-winter 1992/93 Haute Couture collection. But there are also “a creamy-white dress with a train, a collar and cuffs embroidered with feathers, as well as a raspberry silk velvet dress inspired by designs from the Spring-Summer 2000 Haute Couture collection; a dress with diaphanous flounces in sky-blue organza, inspired by a 1995 collection; a two-tone underdress in ecru and black sisal, and a big dress in cream leather satin,” as Numéro reported.

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel

The Franges necklace in the scene where Jeanne meets Louis XV and the platinum Ruban necklace that the king offers her also come from Chanel’s haute joaillerie and are re-editions of the ‘Bijoux de Diamants’ collection, created in 1932 by Mademoiselle Chanel, which caused a scandal when it was launched.

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel

 

What about Jeanne du Barry’s make-up and hair?  

Mathilde Josset, make-up director, wanted to “bring a contemporary touch to the traditional beauty codes of the 18th century.” 

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel

“At the time, the make-up base was a light skin tone, and we reproduced this with Blanc de Chanel, then added a pretty bold red blush on the top of the cheekbones,” stated Josset. “The colours of the lipsticks are adapted according to the scenes and the emotions they represent: sometimes carmine, sometimes garnet or pink... these are shades and textures that obviously did not exist at the time, but which we always played with to achieve a natural result. If I had to choose the shade that perhaps comes closest to the one worn by Jeanne, I would say Rouge Allure Ink, liquid and matt.”

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel

Last but not least, for the hairstyles (of both Jeanne and Johnny Depp in the role of Louis XV), Maïwenn hired one of the most in-demand hair stylists of the moment: John Nollet, now the artistic director of the Maison de Beauté Carita and renowned star behind the best red carpet hairstyles.

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel

A behind-the-scenes moment of Maïwenn's latest film, Jeanne Du Barry. Photo: Stephanie Branchu. Courtesy of Chanel

Nollet took a certain styling freedom. “In the film, Jeanne often wears her hair loosely, which was not common at that time; but the director wanted to show the naturalness and charm of this woman. I, therefore, opted for a coiffé-décoifféstyle, with a very textured finish; it’s a style I’m strongly in love with,” he detailed. “For the more elaborate hairstyles for both Maïwenn and Johnny Depp (for whom Nollet had already created the popular dreadlocks in Pirates of the Caribbean), I went to the Louvre and did a lot of research. I worked meticulously on the wigs, which are almost like sculptures in some cases. For the same look, we sometimes combined two or three wigs, as in the scene where Jeanne is introduced to the king in the Hall of Mirrors. It took me a day and a half of work, but I am proud of the result, which is maybe more sophisticated and elegant than the original.”

 

 

Silvia Manzoni
Journalist and Beauty Expert
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PARIS
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Programme
postgraduate-Master's Degrees • Master's Courses