Born Simone Micheline Bodin on 8th May 1925 in Normandy, France. Her early life was disrupted by WWII. When war was over, she was bewitched by her sister Catherine’s Parisian purchases. Maybe since she was subjected to the restrictions of wartime living plus the grim realities of being surrounded by death and destruction. The young Simone gravitated towards Paris where the chic congregated.
If Graziani owed her career to anyone. It was Jacques Fath. Not such a solid staple such as Givenchy or Dior. But Fath was a champion couturier, rivalled only by Dior and Balmain. Fath saw the potential of the freckled face girl and took her under his immaculate wing. Changing Simone to Bettina (apparently there was already another Simone, possible Simone D’Aillencourt). Dior even tried to seduce young Simone for himself. However Simone chose Fath and the rest is history. Now Bettina’s career as one of the premier models of the 1940′-50’s began. Posing for the powerhouses such as Chanel, Valentino and Gres. Prominate photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Irving Penn and Georges Dambier vied for Bettina’s highly striking features.
Though Fath helped to launch, Bettina’s career. She was most remembered for her collaboration with Hubert de Givenchy. He christened his first ever collection after her (his ‘Bettina’ blouses became a fashionable icon for most of the early 50’s). One of Givenchy’s most beautiful perfume bottle was Amarige. A classic Greco-Roman temple to the feminine hourglass. As a younger woman, I bought a bottle of Amarige based solely on the divine design. Bettina was the inspiration for this too.
Personally, Bettina’s success was more precarious. After a brief marriage to photographer Gilbert Graziani and screenwriter Peter Viertal. Bettina became engaged to the notorious Aly Khan (former husband to Rita Hayworth). Retiring from modelling in 1955. Sadly, Aly and Bettina never managed to tie the knot. Both were involved in an accident that killed Khan and subsequently caused Bettina to miscarry. Bettina published an memoir ‘Bettina par Bettina’.
Bettina Graziani died 2nd March 2015. To me Bettina represents a kind of modelling that does not really exist now. Couture, polished, poised and pristine.