When looking at photos of 1930s Southern France, it’s not only the sunny beaches and glam jet set that inspired the fashion elite, it was also the images of Renée Perle.
Born in Romania to a Jewish family, Renée Perle left Central Europe for the glamor of 1920s Paris. There, she began her career as a model posing for artists. In between 1929 to 1930, Renée met Jacques-Henri Lartigue, who was newly separated from his first wife Bibi, on the Rue de la Pompe. Lartigue found Renée’s large brown eyes and deep tan skin as exotic. He once wondered out loud if she was Mexican, but she corrected him, stating “Romanian…my name is Renée Perle…”
They quickly hit it off and became a couple. Together they traveled to the most glamorous place one could be in the 1930s, the South of France. Renée was more than just a pretty girl posing in front of the camera, she created a look that accentuated Lartigue’s aesthetic. In many of their photos together, Renée’s clothing, hair, and makeup are flawless. Her look consisted of marcel waves, cupid bow lips, dark-painted nails, and multiple bangles around her wrist.
One of the most fascinating aspects about Renée’s clothing was her use of separates. Most of the photos taken of Renée were in a warm climate, which called for light and airy fabrics. There are numerous photos featuring Renée in her uniform: a crisp short sleeve T-shirt paired with loose trousers. While Renée could work a ball gown, she looked as glamorous in a knit tank and trousers.
Renée and Lartigue ended their relationship two years after they met. Unfortunately there is not much known about Renee after her parting with Lartigue, except that Renée continued her career as a model and ventured into creating her own art. Many of Renée’s pieces were self-portraits, making some assume that she was obsessed with painting her face over and over. There have been attempts to try to find any of her art pieces, but there has not been any luck. Renée passed away in the late 1970’s in the South of France, with some of her jewelry and other belongings auctioned off in 2000 and 2001 at the Parisian auction house Tajan.
Websites like the past Style.com claimed her as one of their beauty icons and designers like John Galliano have called her a “Parisian kittenish coquette.” Although she modeled over eighty years ago, the stylish legacy of Renée Perle continues.