Friday, July 2, 2010

Style Icon: Charlotte Rampling

Charlotte Rampling isn't even so much a style icon as she is a body image icon for me. I've always loved the dark and mysterious roles she plays, and I've always thought she was a fabulous actress, but it wasn't until I saw her in The Night Porter that I realized she's also built a lot like me, right down to her small bust.  Here's the thing though: Charlotte is unabashedly sexy, frequently appearing topless or completely nude in movies and photo shoots. And as someone who long felt self-conscious about having such meager boobage, I was completely thrilled when I realized that this sex symbol didn't have the classic Hollywood hourglass figure at all.

 Discovering Charlotte Rampling's bold seductiveness on screen was the final step in learning to view my own body not as sexy in spite of its faults, but sexy for exactly what it is -- and isn't. Va-va-voom hourglass ladies like Brigitte Bardot and Salma Hayek have their own brand of sexiness, but so do the rest of us, and in Charlotte I was able to see the appeal of my own slim, boyish figure: the bust that will never sag, the thighs that don't jiggle. There's a youthfulness in our body type that has its own unique appeal, and especially as I've gotten older, I've grown to really appreciate this fact.

The other thing I admire about Charlotte Rampling is that she has a very natural, soft approach to beauty, never looking overly made-up or coiffed. In her early years of acting she was the antithesis of the carbon-copy starlets that the movie industry pumps out by the dozen. As she's gotten older she has eased into her years with dignity and grace, and to me is the more alluring because she hasn't had 'work' done. At 64 she is still lovely, and is such a wonderful contrast to the overly-stretched, expressionless face that Hollywood age has become.

I'll leave you with a couple more of my favorite photos of the incomparable Ms. Rampling. I'd love to hear if you have a body image icon that's allowed you to appreciate your figure in a new way.

Wishing a happy 4th of July weekend to all my friends here in the States! I'm taking the day off on Monday, but I'll be back with more outfits on Tuesday.


Raquelita said...

What a fantastic post! I've never really thought about body image icons. Maybe Christina Hendricks because she is busty and curvy but has a smaller waist, as I do. I'll have to consider this some more, though.

a little sewing said...

I love Charlotte Rampling, too. She really rocked the 70's, which I like very much (as a style decade). You described her very well. I can't say I have a body image icon, but I do aspire to aging just the way Charlotte Rampling is - natural, soft, feminine.

Kat said...

This is almost cliché now, I think, but Crystal Renn--holy crap, a woman my size is modeling real fashion! In magazines! And she looks fabulous! I loved the shoot where she was posing next to the tiny model in the same clothes... she looked different but great, and maybe I don't look so ridiculous all decked out myself.

Rebekah said...

I don't have a body image icon just yet, but I'm keeping my yes open.

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go panic about the possibility of my breasts sagging.

Cynthia said...

Cool post! As for body image icons, I don't know...maybe Lucy Lawless? I was built to swing broadswords and there aren't too many women who role model that. Or, less famously but more relevantly for me, Mardi Love, who is an unashamedly non-waifish belly dancer.

Someone said...

Ok, I will be a bit of a dissenter here. I really don't like these types of posts in blogs/wherever - because in my view they are a symptom of the unquestioned equivalence of women's sexualized bodies and our value.

About me: I am a Marilyn Monroe body type, an hourglass that is no longer the mainstream ideal. Maybe growing up this way and watching the cultural transition of the patriarchal fetish from bombshell to waif, I became aware that society pretty much values women as cattle and consumer products, all based on (the shelf life of) our physical attributes. And this, I HATE.

So when I see things like this, or the foofaraw over the Lane Bryant ads, it is all of a piece where women spend mental energy staking out their place on the Sexy Parade Float. Sexy, sexy, sexy, that is The Assignment we are given in life. My gods...can we ever move on from this?

I really shouldn't write an essay in a comment, and I don't mean to tear ya down Audi, but you are a strong woman and can handle the honesty!

I am reacting to the constant drumbeat of patriarchy here and how we have all been pushed into giving a fig about something that isn't worthy of us. As I get older I am more and more outspoken about this and know that binary thought patterns mean that many will decide that I don't appreciate women or fashion or aesthetics etc., (all utterly incorrect) but I really wish that there were a class we all had to take that demonstrated the incredible brainwashing we women are given that are aimed at limiting our freedom and pinning our value to our bodies ONLY, and in which we are offered ways we can fight back.

This is a "heavy" response, I know, but when prompted I feel I must be honest. There is a fabulous feminist blog I would recommend for everyone, but I don't know if that's cool comment etiquette.

Other than that...rock ON.

Erin said...

I have a current-ish body image icon: Christina Ricci WHEN she is in a curvy phase. When the girl gets overly skinny, I look nothing like her and feel that she's doing her own body a disservice by overly dieting. She looks her best all curvy-licious, and it's a look I aspire to. Christina Hendricks is very beautiful as well, but I like the weirdness of Ricci's roles.

Rad said...

Great post, Audi. I love Charlotte Rampling too. And many beautiful French actresses have elegant and slender upper bodies (that's my creative way for saying smaller chests) so it's great to know as someone who also has a similar build that this is beautiful.
My own body image icons is Keira Knightly, which probably sounds odd because she is criticized for being so thin, but I look to her because we are the same height, smaller chested, and have longer torsos, so I take style cues from her (and she often looks wonderful).
Someone's comments are very interesting. I once felt the same way and dressed in a way to hide my figure. But for me, I realized it was a shame to let fears of the patriarchal gaze from limiting my own self expression and sexuality, which in some ways precedes cultural categorization. And recognizing our own beauty and sexuality can both be an enactment, and a resistance, to patriarchal scripts. I think that posts the celebrate the beauty of a diversity of body types challenges the narrowness of dominant beauty norms.

Someone said...

Rad - what I'm saying is that spending energy challenging dominant beauty norms by putting up others is still playing a game whose point is "beauty." And I'm arguing that it would be awesome to get above that in the first place and question its relevance at all.

I don't dress to hide myself (which can be one of those binary reactions I mentioned) - in fact I am quite interested in fashion/aesthetics - but I could SO do pinup/bombshell for instance, and choose not to. I wouldn't say this is because of "fear" and I don't feel at all limited by not displaying myself to emphasize sex-class. I have a lot of fun with dress, not finding it necessary to call any more attention to this bod than it does on its own.

Now, maybe I'm an odd bird in that I don't feel that my sexuality etc. needs blatant public expression? It is what it is, I live it on my terms, and don't have an interest in outside approval for it.

I know, I;dr... ;)

Carmen said...

I've been told I resemble Drew Barrymore a few times over the years and it brought her to my attention. I like how laid back and sweet she seems. She also seems like someone who has learned some hard lessons over the years and has come out of it stronger. I can really respect that.

@ Someone: The relevance of beauty is beauty. Some women want to feel sexy and there's nothing wrong with that. I'm an average woman with average looks but it makes me feel nice when someone might find me pretty. I'm betting there are some very good evolutionary reasons why women AND men want to feel good about their appearance.

And Audra, I'd trade bustlines any day. My size D's have done a great job feeding babies but I look straight out of National Geographic when I'm not wearing a bra :)

Someone said...

Carmen - My point is not at all that we shouldn't want to feel sexy or good about our appearance. Is that what you got out of it? It's not what I'm saying.

Clara said...

Charlotte Rampling has been a favorite of mine for years as well. I appreciate the fact that she's a woman "of a certain age" who is both stylish and sexy, and who seems to be comfortable in her own skin. Not to mention that she's a wonderful actress. It's a joy to see a "grownup" on screen.


Kat said...

@Someone: for me that's not what I think of these posts at all.
I already know that I am capable, talented, worth of love and respect... but sometimes I still want to feel that I *can* be beautiful, that I *can* be sexy, that someone really can be attracted to me along with my appearance and not just in spite of it.

It's something I haven't always been certain was possible: that as someone who is plain I should be content with the gifts I have and leave being attractive to others, that it was an unworthy effort anyhow. And I could be--but it was a minor revelation when I realized that I didn't have to give up my self-identification as a nerd to take some interest in my appearance as well, to enjoy the possibility of being outwardly attractive.

It's nowhere near enough to be appreciated only for sexiness--but it does feel good to think of yourself as sexy as well. And if you think that's something completely closed off to you because you're not the mainstream ideal, and no one who looks like you is ever presented as being attractive, seeing otherwise can be a real self-esteem boost. It's not that being sexy is the only thing that can give a woman value--but it's not valueless, either, and seeing that there are many different ways to be attractive which don't involve looking like the "ideal" can be a real boost to self-esteem.

(I note that my SO and I fell for each other sight unseen, but I can't imagine that I'm not much happier knowing he thinks I am sexy, too.)

Gina said...

It never fails to amaze me just how lovely a woman looks when she hasn't been stretched into a surgical catface of surprise.

Someone said...

Kat - I was really trying to not get into the dichotomies. For me it is not about sexy being the only value OR being valueless. I in fact never said that there was no value to being sexy or attractive. I am well aware that many women find that if they are not the ideal that they feel that being acknowledged as sexy is important. And I want to call into question why that is still such a focus of our mental energy.

What I'm asking, in a way, is - can we question the focus always put on us as bodies? It's the MOST prioritized of our qualities still in the 21st century. And I think that is something that needs to be examined and questioned. Rather than do that, we just get into another round of "but sexy IS valuable!" Nobody can possibly miss that our society is SOAKED in that idea. It makes sexy the *most* valuable, regardless of what we/I might prefer. And I'm asking...can we get past the notion that woman = body = looks/sexuality = judgment of our value?

Does nobody wish to question/examine/critique that?

Anonymous said...

I think "Someone" should have her own blog.

Anonymous said...

I love this discussion and the posts that prompt it - and I am very much interested in the question of why some of us put so much weight on being attractive - I recently found myself doing that to myself - a day of self-loathing because I do not fit the mainstream idea of beautiful, and most of the time it does not even enter my mind to compare myself to others - but sometimes - I want to be considered attractive, even sexy, and I do wonder why? I am happily married, have children (that my body could produce such miracles and nourish them!?!) and I have endured much, which the strength of my body has helped me endure.... so why do I sometimes yield to the pressure to want to be SEXY?
I feel that i have body dysmorphia in the opposite condition that i usually have heard of, which is, I look at myself and think I look good every morning in the mirror, get dressed and head out into the world, only when I see photos of myself, usually taken by someone else, do I see a horribly disfigured version of myself? That leads to complete despair and self-loathing. yikes.
as for a body image icon? the recent discovery of
Beth Ditto made me rejoice!!! I love her!


Scicurious said...

I love this idea! My icon is Angelica Huston. She's wonderfully talented, and her stunning looks were what made me love my face. She's not a classic, usual beauty, but you can't help looking at her.

Una said...

Interesting post. Charlotte has such a lovely and graceful persona, as do you.

Someone, I just want to say that I hear you.

Audi, for me, big boobs (mine included) are highly over-rated. I spend most of my time as an athletic woman trying to contain them and the hindrance they are to running, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and dressing the way I'd like to dress.

Anonymous said...

Don't think much about my body anymore than anything else in my life. (I have hang-ups about other things.) I never realized that women had "body issues" until my late 20s and about the 100th time I heard it in the news. I really hate articles and news stories about body image because it just reinforces the message that women are sex objects.

However, I'm game: Kate Winslet. She's the bomb.

Unknown said...

Lovely pictures of Charlotte Rampling. She has a wonderful presentation about her that capitalizes on her lean, lengthy frame. And it epitomizes her strength as an actor to utilize her body and showcase it. Personally, I could never pull this off, as I'm more of a curvy frame - which is a bit annoying since I like sports and wish I was leaner overall.

But as someone interested in fashion, I can appreciate looking for a style icon to model looks on. Especially one that has a similar body type. I don't think its sexist or limiting or anti feminist. It's just about getting some ideas for what works and doesn't.

I'd call it efficiency. If it looks good on her, and we're built the same, maybe this is a look I should try. Thus, not understanding some of the hostility of some of these posts.

love your blog and sense of style. Keep up the great work.


Audi said...

Someone: I personally have always rejected the notion that the way I look or dress has anything to do with men or their perceptions of me. I mean really, as if I need male approval for how I look? HA, the idea! Men are not really that difficult to please; our harshest critics will always be ourselves. In my mind, sexy comes from within and is wholly about how I feel about myself. Finding a beautiful woman with whom I can identify my own physical attributes is all about MY view of MYSELF. This patriarchal oppression you speak of has never been an issue for me because I simply don't accept that it exists, and therefore it doesn't govern my choices in any way. I don't dress to follow these supposed beauty standards, nor do I dress to oppose them. In fact I don't care one iota about how men might perceive my fashion choices or my figure; it's more along the lines of what Sadaf Trimarchi said above -- if I can find someone who's built like me who looks great, then that's someone who can inspire me.

gina said...

Mia Farrow, for similar reasons. When I was younger, I thought my breasts were too small, and my hips maybe a bit big, but when I saw Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby, I realized she has bigger hips and smaller breasts, but otherwise she's shaped almost exactly like me, and she's gorgeous and quite sexy. That was a turning point for me in my view of my body and my own sexiness.

mizuno wave said...

the pictures were all fantastic, love the post and each shots..its artistic


A classic beauty, the camera loves her as much as she loves it. There are many "cute" actresses around but how long will they last? Charlotte Rampling is like an excellent wine, maturing and still gorgeous. It begs the question, how could Amy man be unfaithful to her, she's stylish, bright, successful, charismatic and still one of the world's most beautiful women! What chance do the rest of us stand!!

Tora said...

Charlotte BOYISH?! We must not be looking at the same Rampling! I've seen very, very few women and girls who look remotely "boyish" outside of Emma Watson and a young Jodie Foster. It's cruel to say that, half because it is physically impossible to look truly masculine without a sex change, mostly because that is just mean. But anyway, aint nothing boyish about such a girlish lady. Also, Salma and Brigitte are not hourglass shaped. I think you mean just curvy. Bu tI get your point and I agree, and sorry if I sound nitpicky, because although I totally disagree that posing nude or topless makes you sexy, I liked your post.

LaHistoriadora- how can you be curvy and not have a small waist at the same time? they go hand in hand. if you mean fat, please say so. don't sugarcoat it with incorrect terms. =P

dysamoria said...

Large breasts and overly curvy, hourglass bodies have not only disinterested me, I prefer the opposite. Small breasts, angular features. So, there you go, a random male opinion. But then, I've never been much like other males, so maybe my opinion is even more devoid of value.