Actress and Style Icon Claudia Cardinale on Italian Fashion and Idolising Brigitte Bardot

By Rachael Sigee
Ahead of the upcoming sale of her fabulous wardrobe – Claudia Cardinale: Dressing a Diva – iconic 60s actress Claudia Cardinale gave us some insights on fashion and personal style.

Who or what has inspired your own personal style?

A personal style is the expression of the complexity of each individual. Every human is a complex identity. When style emerges, it is the expression of this complexity.

You have had a long lasting relationship with the Nina Ricci fashion house - what is it about their clothes that you love?

Nina Ricci offered me elegance and lightness. It is classical but at the same time refreshing. It is never heavy in its forms. Also, I believed it to be very feminine.

Claudia Cardinale at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1964 © Ullstein bild, photo by Heinz Köster

Was it a parti-pris to wear only Italian brands?

When I arrived in Italy (from Tunisia) it was my first encounter with my roots. I felt that I was Italian. I recognized myself in its sobriety and taste.

Do you find it hard to part with certain items that you love? Are there pieces that you have kept over many years, that have sentimental value?

Yes, of course I have kept some pieces but I am not so attached to objects. Objects have to move on – to pass from one hand to another. They are a way of relating people.

What are some of your favourite pieces that you’ve worn in character and on screen?

Difficult to say… It was a ritual of mine to leave a film set with one piece even if it hadn’t been worn during the film – to keep something of my role. When I look at my wardrobe I realize that I learnt a lot about my own style through the style of my characters. There was a true continuity between my life and my roles. I gave them my sensitivity; they gave me some new way to understand my own self.

Claudia Cardinale © Ullstein bild, photo by Archive Paolo Costa

You were often photographed on sets, on red carpets and at film festivals and parties - do you like to look back over pictures and your past outfits?

Well! I had a lucky life. Most pictures remind me of great memories with great friends. The only sadness is when I see myself side by side with people I love and who left us.

Did you ever think about working in fashion?

No! I Enjoy fashion but it is not my role.

Is there a particular piece of clothing or favourite accessory that you loved to collect?

As I said, I liked to collect pieces from the films I starred in. Also I loved bringing home traditional cloths from the countries I visited.

Which of your many famous co-stars did you find most fashionable?

I was a fan of Brigitte Bardot. Who could not be? When I was young she was my idol. I loved her elegance and her natural power. She was unique.

You were a beauty icon - did you feel under pressure to dress in a ‘sexy’ way?

Of course as a 'star' you have a role to play! You are not going to go to Cannes in your pyjamas! But I think I did my best to feel free and wear what I felt comfortable in. Elegance is a great way to avoid the pressure of 'sexyness'!

What was your favourite decade for style and fashion?

The first was the end of the sixties because of what it revealed and liberated of the woman’s body and power. Then, later with my encounter with Armani, it is the developing of a more 'working woman' style. That moment when men and female started swapping cloths!

Balestra, circa 1972. A shading yellow, pink and navy blue muslin sunbathing dress with pleated collar and matching cape. Estimate €2,000–3,000
WestImage - Art Digital Studio

Did playing different female characters influence your own sense of style?

Of course. I learnt a lot though the characters and also a lot through the taste of the wonderful stylists I worked with during films. I think of my friend, the master Piero Tosi – he taught me the love for details.

There were times in your life where you were under contracts and unable to make a lot of your own decisions - did you find you were able to express yourself through fashion?

People always find a way to express their identity, even through constriction. I believe we all do that. I believe I did too

What is your best memory on set ?

I did more than 180 films and I am still working. Really this is an impossible question. I have so many memories and no way to choose my number one!

You are still working - do you have any plans to slow down?

I don’t have any plans generally! I don’t want to think about it. I like to live in the present. I believe that destiny does the rest.

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