November 12, 2018

The "Face of Chanel": 45 Stunning Photos of Marie-Hélène Arnaud in the 1950s

Born 1934 in Montmorency in the northern suburbs of Paris, French model and actress Marie-Hélène Arnaud started at Chanel as a house model and rapidly grew to be Coco's favorite and eventually the directrice at her fashion house.

At 24 Arnaud became the public "face of Chanel". After she left Chanel, Arnaud set herself up a designer, launching a line of clothes for the department store Grande Maison de Blanc in the Place de l'Opéra, with five seamstresses working from her Paris apartment. The line was not a success and was short-lived.

Marie-Hélène Arnaud in the 1950s

Like many models of the era, Arnaud branched out into acting in films. She had a number of minor speaking roles, but the biggest film she featured in was her non-speaking role in the musical Gigi, which won a record-breaking nine Oscars in 1958, including Best Picture and Best Costume Design (for Cecil Beaton). Wearing a Beaton-designed evening dress and playing the part of a Maxim's girl, she made a dramatic entrance on the arm of Maurice Chevalier.

Arnaud was found dead in her bath one morning in October 1986. Was it suicide or a simple heart attack? No one will ever know. Just remember her as the luminous beauty who remains for ever the ideal ambassador for the Chanel style around the world.

Take a look at these stunning photos to see the beauty of Marie-Hélène Arnaud in the 1950s.

Marie-Hélène Arnaud in Royal Pastel EMBA mink coat by Maurice Kotler, photo by Georges Saad, 1954

Marie-Hélène in blue cotton print, summer dress by Lanvin-Castillo, photo by Pottier at Roquebrune, 1954

Marie-Hélène in bright red wool coat by Jacques Fath, photo by Pottier, 1954

Marie-Hélène in coral-colored coat in new 7/8 length, accented with black button closure and on epaulets by Balenciaga, photo by Pottier, 1954

Marie-Hélène in cotton print summer dress, full skirt is in two tiers, bodice is gathered in v-neckline, by Grès, photo by Pottier in Roquebrune, 1954

Marie-Hélène in cozy wool coat worn with tweed suit and hooded sweater blouse, by Madeleine de Rauch, croc handbag by Prost, photo by Pottier, 1954

Marie-Hélène in dance dress of pink satin decorated with cut velvet and silver, by Jacques Griffe, photo by Georges Saad, 1954

Marie-Hélène in faille dress adorned with two bows worn under wool printed coat and small velvet cap, by Jean Patou, photo by Pottier, 1954

Marie-Hélène in floral print pirate pants tied on the calves, worn with linen top and contrasting cummerbund, by Madeleine de Rauch, photo by Pottier in Roquebrune, 1954

Marie-Hélène in orange and white print dress, full skirt has side panel that folds in large bow on the hip, by Givenchy, photo by Pottier, 1954

Marie-Hélène in red wool suit worn under 3/4 coat with shawl collar lined in civet, by Jean Patou, photo by Pottier, 1954

Marie-Hélène in silver lamé ensemble, large pockets hang on each side, worn with small brown velvet cap, by Jacques Fath, photo by Pottier, 1954

Marie-Hélène in wool knit dress buttoned high worn with roomy jacket by Manguin, jersey turban by Paulette, photo by Pottier, 1954

Marie-Helene Arnaud in a finely pleated two-piece crèpe dinner dress by Lanvin-Castillo, jewelry by Roger Scèmama, photo by Philippe Pottier, L'Officiel, 1955

Marie-Hélène Arnaud in evening gown of white tulle embroidered with gilt straw over rose satin by Christian Dior, photo by Philippe Pottier, L'officiel, 1955

Marie-Hélène Arnaud in one-shoulder crêpe de chatillon evening gown by Grès, photo by Pottier, 1955

Marie-Hélène in a dress from the Jean Patou, spring-summer collection 1955, L'Officiel, March 1955

Marie-Hélène in bright red linen tunic, long and cut at the hips by a low martingale, over longer skirt, by Balenciaga, photo by Pottier, 1955

Marie-Hélène in orange coat with slanted pockets buttoned on the martingale, by Maggy Rouff, straw hat by Gilbert Orcel, photo by Pottier, 1955

Marie-Hélène in red wool coat, the line is broad in the shoulders and narrow through the body, hat and scarf in leopard print fur matches the umbrella sheath, by Jean Patou, photo by Pottier, 1955

Marie-Hélène in Renaissance-inspired ruby velvet coat, intricately embroidered and lined in mink, by Christian Dior, photo by Pottier, 1955

Marie-Hélène in wool Scots plaid coat-dress that buttons on the side, worn with astrakhan scarf and hat, by Jacques Fath, photo by Pottier, 1955

 Marie-Helene Arnaud in a lovely dotted mousseline evening gown by Grès, photo by Philippe Pottier, L'Officiel, 1956

Marie-Hélène Arnaud in natural brown Autumn Haze EMBA mink coat by Marron Fourrures, photo by Virginia Thoren, 1956

 Marie-Hélène Arnaud in red wool suit with fitted jacket by Jean Patou, photo by Philippe Pottier, 1956

Marie-Hélène in brown linen suit, fitted jacket with set-in sleeves, high round neckline, by Lucille Manguin, croc handbag by Ferest, photo by Pottier, 1956

Marie-Hélène in charming forget-me-not blue wool suit brightened by white starched linen collar and cuffs with fluted edge, by Jacques Fath, photo by Pottier, 1956

Marie-Helene in Christian Dior's red organdy dress with detachable floating panel, photo by Pottier, L'Officiel, 1956

Marie-Hélène Arnaud at Place de la Concorde, photo by Georges Dambier for Elle Magazine, Paris 1957

Marie-Hélène Arnaud during the filming of 'Les collégiennes' (The Twilight Girls), photo by Philippe Le Tellier, 1957

Marie-Helene Arnaud fully color-coordinated as she gets in her little MG, photo by Loomis Dean, 1957

Marie-Helene Arnaud in ensemble by Guy Laroche, photo by Henry Clarke, Vogue UK, 1957

 Marie-Hélène Arnaud in lace dress by Lanvin-Castillo, photo by William Klein, French Vogue, November, 1957

Marie-Hélène Arnaud in turquoise blue silk and gold embroidered evening gown by Lanvin-Castillo, photo by Henry Clarke at the Royal Opera House at Versailles, Vogue, April 15, 1957

Marie-Helene Arnaud, photo by Loomis Dean, 1957

Marie-Helene Arnaud, photo by Loomis Dean, 1957

 Marie-Hélène in Cerulean EMBA mink cape-jacket by Marron Furs, photo by Virginia Thoren, 1957

Marie-Helene in Persian broadtail coat with mink collar by Weil (Fur clothing), 1957

 Marie-Helene in the shot NOT used for the Life cover, photo by Loomis Dean, 1957

 Marie-Helene wearing silk taffeta dress by Guy Laroche, photo by Loomis Dean, 1957

Marie Hélène-Arnaud in a Coty Lipstick ad, photo by Gleb Derujinsky, 1958

Marie-Hélène Arnaud in knit merino wool suit from Tricosa, 1958

 Marie-Helene Arnaud, Vogue, Oct. 1958

Marie-Hélène Arnaud in Lutetia EMBA mink jacket by Marron Fourrures, photo by Virginia Thoren, 1959

Marie-Hélène in ruby red Duchesse satin blouson dress belted in gold by Marie Martine, photo by Studio; Chevalier-Astorg, ELLE, January 1957





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