Film & Fashion – A French Village

Thierry Delettre with costumes from A French Village

The past few weeks I have been binge-watching Un Village Français – a French television series (in French with English subtitles) that originally aired between 2009 and 2016. The series was filmed in various locations around Limousin, but set in the fictional town of Villeneuve in eastern France, located somewhere around Besançon near the Vichy demarcation line, during World War II. Currently available on MHz in Canada and Netflix in the U.S., two or three episodes of this series have been filling my October evenings. I am currently about half way through the series (and thus halfway through the war because, like Mad Men, every season represents a year) and I am consistently impressed by the quality and accuracy of the costuming.

 

Historian Jean-Pierre Azéma, a specialist in the Second World War, was an historical adviser for the series, and you can tell accuracy was a goal for the production. In the quest for authenticity, costume designer Thierry Delettre explained in an interview with a French newspaper that he referred to Dominique Veillon’s book ‘Fashion Under Occupation’ for his fashion information. I also detect a lot of research in period fashion mags including L’Officiel, which the character Mme Schwartz seems to follow religiously (that’s her above in the grey and white tartan pattern suit, and black and white hat). Delettre was not interested in reinventing wartime French fashions, his goal was to recreate it. “I am a conductor. I have a team with me of dressmakers, tailors, bootmakers. However, the costume designer is not, as in fashion, a designer of clothes. He provides the silhouettes for the characters and participates in the artistic development of the film” explained Delettre.

From military costumes and couture to guerrilla armbands and yellow stars, Delettre recreates a wide swath of characters who all struggle with their ‘shades of grey’ moral involvement with the war, from collaboration to resistance. If you liked Mad Men and Foyle’s War, you will like Un Village Français.

13 thoughts on “Film & Fashion – A French Village

  1. We have visited areas of the Limousin and are curious as to the towns used in the filming.I can’t seem to get any specific info and would love to know.

    • I did read an article that hinted at a couple of the towns they used, but they seem to keep it fairly quiet… I know they use several towns…

      • Hi Jonathon-
        what were the towns you found, please for th filming? Your reply is cut off. Thank you.
        Janis

        • I don’t remember if they actually mentioned the names of any of the towns, just that one town was where they shot all the school scenes, and another was for the overall town views… It has been so long now I can’t quite remember what the article said, sorry.

  2. I am watching this series on Hulu and love the clothes worn especially the clothes of the working class women. I hope you watch this series again and post more on this topic. Though I am wondering why the women are not wearing pants.

    • Pants were discouraged in Vichy France – they were considered too modern – worn by liberated women, not mothers and wives whose main job it was to nurture (the same philosophy held towards women in Germany until near the end when every hand was needed to win the war.) If you look at fashion and women’s magazines in Germany and occupied France, there is virtually no mention of the war – only recipes that show you how to use less meat, how to turn two dresses into one, and what to knit for your new born baby. There are also few beauty ads for things like lipstick and powder because they were not considered necessary. The complete opposite is seen in American and English magazines which are all about saving to buy bonds, winning the war through sacrifice, joining the forces, doing your bit, even wearing pants. And there were plenty of ads for lipstick and powder etc. to keep the morale up — Beauty on Duty… Two very different approaches to women and wartime!

      • but there is the scene where mr schwartz meets his former lover, farmer/resistance fighter in the woods and he says i see yr wearing pants now…

        • I don’t remember where that appears in the series, but its probably well into the war by this time? He is likely commenting on it because it’s not a common sight. Women in London, for example, were wearing trousers almost as soon as the war began.

  3. Just thought that everything, costumes included, looked real, as if actual people were living in them. I’ve very very seldom been more engaged in a series. The whole passage about the Jews who were being held while waiting for a death train (I imagine) was just horrifying, as were many other examples of brutality and evil. The other things that really struck both my wife and me were the increasingly difficult moral choices people were being forced to make–so difficult.

  4. I experience Heinrich Mueller as the most interesting of the characters. He demonstrates how great intelligence and an ability to be with reality as it unfolds (including knowing in ’43 that Germany would lose the war) need not correlate with goodness. He is a good stand in for the Devil, and reminds me that evil can involve a knowledge of what is and the self-confidence to act on that knowledge.

  5. I too am fascinated by Heinrich Muller. He is evil and looks evil, like a skull, but quite intelligent. That makes him even more frightening. He is quite sadistic and doesn’t seem to have any kind of empathy for anyone but himself. I noticed in the restaurant he told Hortense about how he was amazed that the Jews would dig their own graves but that is exactly what he did when he and Hortense were caught at the border. How and why does Hortense love him? Daniel is a wonderful husband although he’s always too busy to pay any attention to her. The two men are polar opposites.

Leave a Reply to denise Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.