French actress Jeanne Moreau, who died Monday at the age of 89, was a fashion icon with no signature look. Instead, she wore a variety of styles that evoked bohemian elegance: menswear and culottes, Breton stripes, fur coats and boas, and silk eveningwear. She is best known as the face of France’s New Wave cinema movement in the mid-20th century, particularly for her role in François Truffaut’s 1962 film Jules et Jim. Her close ties to the fashion industry included a four-year romantic relationship with designer Pierre Cardin, as well as film collaborations with Gabrielle Chanel and Hubert de Givenchy, who dressed her for roles.
Born in Paris in 1928, Moreau began her career onstage and went on to work with leading filmmakers of the era, including Louis Malle, Roger Vadim, and Orson Welles. In America, her first claim to fame was playing a bored housewife having an affair (and an onscreen orgasm) in Malle’s 1958 film The Lovers, which caused a scandalous obscenity case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. Later, she almost played Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, but turned down the role.
Moreau was the first woman inducted into the Académie des Beaux-Arts; her accolades include the Legion of Honor and César for best actress. She directed three films and released several albums as a singer. People often asked if she felt nostalgic for the French New Wave. “Nostalgia for what?” she said. “Nostalgia is when you want things to stay the same. I know so many people staying in the same place. And I think, my God, look at them! They’re dead before they die. That’s a terrible risk. Living is risking.”
See some of her best looks in the slideshow ahead.