Timeless Style: Charlotte Rampling

The 1960s pin-up has an appeal that is still so powerful today, writes journalist Amy Raphael.

When Charlotte Rampling is acting, she doesn't seem to care if anyone is looking at her or not. She certainly doesn't appear to be particularly conscious of having an audience. She was once described as having a 'jade gaze', and it is her eyes that draw you in; they can appear cold, remote and aloof - and yet you cannot help but stare.

Born in Essex in 1946 to an army officer and a painter, Rampling still has those famously high cheekbones and an air of casual insouciance. When she was just 18, she made Rotten to the Core, a Boulting brothers' film and, a year later, Georgy Girl, alongside Lynn Redgrave and James Mason. The films made her name: driving around London in a Mini Cooper and fabulous clothes, she was nicknamed 'the Chelsea Girl'.

Unlike most of her peers, she wears no rose-tinted specs when discussing the 1960s. 'We weren't happy,' she has said. 'It was a nightmare, breaking the rules and all that. It wasn't much fun. Everyone seemed to be having fun, but they were taking so many drugs they wouldn't know it anyway.'

Charlotte Rampling

Rampling is, however, neither stuffy nor priggish. She is, if anything, a rebel, a risk-taker, although perhaps less now than as a younger woman. Reflecting on her earlier self, she has said that she 'always wanted to walk on the wrong side of the road, with the traffic coming on'.

When Dirk Bogarde was cast as a former Nazi SS officer in Liliana Cavani's controversial film The Night Porter, he said he only accepted the role because Rampling would be playing opposite him. It's testament to her power as an actress that the matinee idol insisted on her presence; he knew that without her the film might not work.

Her timeless style and class are a core part of her appeal. She recently surprised everyone by appearing as a lawyer in the hit ITV drama Broadchurch and not only stole every scene but somehow seemed to float on and off the screen in a distinctly unearthly fashion.

Charlotte Rampling

Look at old photos of Rampling holding a camera and wearing a loose, stripy shirt and her pout will quite possibly remind you of Kate Moss. And it is this relaxed but sexy look that, alongside other photos of Rampling wearing a fringe suede coat in the 1960s, have inspired Belstaff's spring/summer 2015 collection.

It is this old world colliding with the new that draws you in - like those jade eyes that will never quite meet yours.

Amy Raphael is a journalist and author of several books on music and film icons.


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