Obit of the Day: “The Most Photographed Woman in France”
Simone Micheline Bodin arrived in Paris in 1944, after its liberation by the Allies. Sketchbook in hand she hoped to find a place in one of the cities premiere fashion houses and become a designer. When she met Jacques Costet he recommended that instead of designing the clothes, she model them. Ms. Bodin agreed and within a decade would become one of the world’s first supermodels.
With flamind red hair and freckles, Ms. Bodin had a distinct look, one that was described as “American.” So the 19-year-old had little trouble finding work. Not long after working with Mr. Costet, she took a job with legendary designer Jacques Fath. It was Mr. Fath who not only made her famous but gave her a persona. Deciding that it was confusing having two Simones in the Parisian modeling industry he renamed her “Bettina” telling her “you look like a Bettina.”
Eventually she was known by photographers, designers, editors, and magazine readers simply as Bettina. She would work for the greatest labels in France including Dior, Givenchy, and Coco Chanel. In 1950 she signed a contract with the Ford Modeling Agency in the U.S. At one time she was dubbed “the most photographed woman in France.”
She retired from modeling in 1955 when she was earning $1,330 an hour ($11,600 in 2015 dollars) at the request of her second husband Aly Khan. (She had married French photographer, Gilbert “Benno” Graziani, whose last name she kept for the rest of her life.) Mr. Khan was killed in 1960 in an car accident that also led to a miscarriage for Mrs. Graziani.
Remaining connected with the ffashion world for the rest of her life, working as a publicist for various labels including Valentino and Emanuel Ungaro. She would model one final time in 1967 for a Chanel couture show.
Bettina Graziani, who was awarded the Order of Arts and Letters by the French goverment in 2010, died on March 2, 2015 at the age of 89.
(Images: top, Bettina Graziani wearing headscarf by Givenchy, photographed by Nat Farbman, 1952, courtesy of redlist.com; bottom left, undated photo of Bettina Graziani, courtesy of famousfix.com; bottom right, Bettina Graziani, 1955, in Givenchy, courtesy of agnautacouture.com)
Some other fashion posts on Obit of the Day:
Lillian Bassman - Photographer for Harper’s Bazaar
Barbara Cheeseborough - Essence's first cover model