“There is also plenty of whimsy to be found when the time and place call for it.” – Clare Maclean
Back in their day, Yardley added, this apparently benighted bunch fluttered around the world in quest of “expensive if evanescent pleasure” — as if that were somehow a problem. What the critic neglected to mention was how very good these contemptible types looked while seeking their evanescent pleasures. That, perhaps, was their greater sin.
It’s easy now to forget that in the days before easy transatlantic travel, people on either side of the ocean tended to attire themselves with regional, national and often chauvinistic specificity. The French, according to a code no less rigid for being unwritten, considered an armour of chic the ultimate goal of self-presentation. Ditto the Italians, who added to the formula for fare una bella figura, permanent varnish of tan.
Americans, as we all know, historically dressed, by and large, as if planning to mow the lawn. Or they did until routine air travel reduced the physical and stylistic gulf between Old and New Worlds, exposing Europe to American habits of casual, athletic dressing, and America to European style clichés such as cashmere sweaters knotted over the shoulders and slingback heels.
Americans were quick to re-jig their own taste with markers of style as constituted by foreign cultures. Perhaps, though, by “Americans” in this instance one really means New Yorkers. And perhaps instead of “New Yorkers” one could easily say “Lee Radziwill.” Was Radziwill the first American woman to wear sleek trouser suits of shantung silk, cashmere cardigans over evening dresses, suede jeans with driving shoes, sun-streaked hair tied up in a patterned head scarf? She was not. Yet, few members of her jet-setting clique made a better show of fusing European style cues with Yankee practicality to conjure a look — sleekly efficient, unpretentious, almost off hand in its elegance — that reads as distinctly American. And fewer still have proved anywhere near as durable a magnet for both the camera lens and the sharply appraising gaze of designers. — Guy Trebay
a Australians are an outward-looking bunch. It’s a disposition women have worn on their sleeves (and shoulders) for centuries, from Chinese silk shawls and surcoats to the early adoption of Christian Dior’s New Look in 1947. Today, Akubras, DrizaBones, thongs, long socks worn with safari suits (eek), not to mention a proud egalitarian racing history in which the Myer Fashions of the Field winner is just as likely to come from the public lawn as the members’ stand, are all uniquely Australian.
“I remember 30 years ago I came for the first time and people were dressed very casually. And I said, ‘The people are so beautiful, maybe they don’t need to have luxury.’ But I was wrong,” Dior chief executive Sidney Toledano told The Australian Financial Review when the brand finally opened a freestanding store in Sydney, in 2013. There’s certainly something to the theory that our breathtaking scenery and idyllic weather means Aussies don’t feel the need to be too decorative sartorially. But, as Toledano discovered, a closer look at Australian fashion reveals a penchant for new-season Givenchy or Céline bags, Marni sandals and Gianvito Rossi heels.
There is also plenty of whimsy to be found when the time and place call for it. Jenny Kee, Linda Jackson, textile queen Florence Broadhurst and Romance Was Born’s Anna Plunkett are all evidence of that. Australians aren’t afraid of a statement come Spring Racing soon either. Yet, even the most stylish Australian woman attending “the race that stops a nation” knows her outfit and shoe choices must be comfortable enough to withstand the ride home on the packed Flemington Racecourse train. It’s that or risk becoming one of the many racegoers who publicly surrender their heels for a pair of Havaianas. — Clare Maclean
Miranda Kerr working the
denim- ondenim trend
Romance Was Born’s Anna Plunkett in a quintessentially quirky outfit
Lee Radziwill and Jackie Onassis in 1970