‘New Look’ model who was most pictured in France

Bettina Graziani: May 8th, 1925 - March 2nd, 2015

 

Bettina Graziani, who has died aged 89, was one of the world’s first supermodels, who in her midcentury heyday was known as “the most photographed woman in France”. Known professionally by the single name Bettina, Graziani was ubiquitous on runways and in magazines in the 1940s and 1950s.

During those years, as Vogue magazine wrote in 2009, “she ruled as the undisputed queen of the Parisian couture”, helping to bring the work of Europe’s foremost designers, including Chanel, Valentino, Givenchy, Jacques Fath and Lucien Lelong, to consumers around the globe.

With her lithe figure, close-cropped russet hair and alluring, enigmatic expression, Graziani quickly became an avatar of fashion’s New Look, the postwar style built around full skirts, cinched waists and elegant silhouettes.

She was photographed by luminaries in the field, among them Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

After retiring from modelling in the mid-1950s at the behest of her lover, the international playboy Aly Khan, Graziani was a fixture of Paris society and in later years worked as a fashion publicist.

The daughter of a railway worker, Graziani was born Simone Micheline Bodin in Brittany in 1925. In 1944, after the liberation, she moved to Paris, seeking work as a fashion designer but finding it instead as a model.

Givenchy

After an early marriage to the photographer and journalist Gilbert Graziani ended in divorce, she was romantically involved with the American screenwriter Peter Viertel but left him for Aly Khan, who had been married to Rita Hayworth. Khan died in a car crash in 1960.

In a 2009 interview, Graziani tried to put her finger on that je ne sais quoi that had made her the model she was. “I think, in retrospect, I had a different style,” she said. “Because I can’t say I was the most beautiful. It’s not a question of beauty. You have to have a personality.”