Clothes make the woman

There’s more than one way to have a sig­na­ture style.

ELLE (Canada) - - The Ellen Guide - By OLIVIA STREN

IF PRESSED TO define my per­sonal style, I would say it runs some­where be­tween leisurely and delu­sional. I pre­fer not to dress for the job I want (as the old chest­nut goes) but rather for the ex­pen­sive va­ca­tion I can’t af­ford. I re­cently snapped up a few sun­dresses— smocked, airy and be­tas­selled—all ideal for a jaunt to the Cy­clades. The sorts of clothes best worn in the com­pany of luff­ing sails and saltair lun­cheons. To be clear, I don’t have plans (or, frankly, the re­motest hope) to visit the Cy­clades.

Re­sortwear may be en­joy­ing a par­tic­u­lar mo­ment right now, but I’ve dressed this way for a long time. When I was in my early 20s and work­ing as a ju­nior edi­tor at a mag­a­zine, an in­tern once re­marked that I looked like a bour­geois on hol­i­day, as if I had a yacht to catch off the Costa Brava af­ter work. (I did not.)

I never thought of high leisurewear as my sig­na­ture style so much as an ex­pres­sion of my gen­eral aver­sion to re­al­ity—my pre­ferred wardrobe is meant for some end­lessly sum­mery some­where that is nowhere near my life. Plus, when I think of a woman with a sig­na­ture style, I think of those women (French, bien en­tendu) with alpine cheek­bones who are too good-look­ing for makeup (save for, maybe, a slash of red lip­stick) and who have mas­tered the glam­orous, un­but­toned mélange of sim­plic­ity, ease and pol­ish. Jane Birkin was among the first to por­tray this fan­tasy of ef­fort­less sig­na­ture style, as if she were born in Bre­ton stripes. Her straight—never skinny—jeans and fringe were best ac­ces­sorized with

mussed hair, a look of vague and lan­guorous dis­in­ter­est and a sexy air of gen­eral fa­tigue—the kind of ex­haus­tion that is the nec­es­sary con­se­quence of plea­sure. (I’ve more than dab­bled in sleep de­pri­va­tion, with much less at­trac­tive re­sults.) There is also Inès de la Fres­sange, French aris­to­crat and the first model signed ex­clu­sively to Chanel, with her un­re­lent­ing habit of look­ing su­perb in trousers and flats, and Cor­si­can­born fash­ion blog­ger and il­lus­tra­tor Garance Doré, who (lit­er­ally) wrote the book on sig­na­ture style— her men’s shirts, Porselli flats and Way­far­ers make me won­der about the kind of life (more pro­duc­tive, more suc­cess­ful) I’d surely have if I were more committed to a uni­form of white but­ton-downs.

And then there is Lau­ren Hut­ton, the exception (she’s Amer­i­can), who has per­fected the look of preppy ease. I once spot­ted Hut­ton when I was vis­it­ing Los An­ge­les’ Ho­tel BelAir, where even the sun­shine looks ex­pen­sive. Hut­ton was stand­ing in the ho­tel lobby wear­ing her trade­mark com­bi­na­tion: an over­sized but­ton-down, can­vas boat shoes and a cash­mere sweater slung about her shoul­ders. There was a sump­tu­ous­ness to its sim­plic­ity and an as­sid­u­ous­ness to this ef­fort­less­ness—each piece was stud­ied and per­fect and con­sid­ered the finest of its class. There is, it turns out, noth­ing quite so ef­fort­ful as ef­fort­less­ness. In that mo­ment I re­al­ized that it was time to re­sign my­self to the fact that this style would never be mine: I’m too lazy for ef­fort­less­ness.

I’m also too im­prac­ti­cal. Sig­na­ture style has long ex­horted a Marie Kondo fan­tasy of ef­fi­ciency and spar­sity, where sim­ple clothes are too cool to sub­mit to the fick­le­ness of fad or the pro­pri­ety of oc­ca­sion. The look—crisp, clas­sic, time­less—is about par­tic­i­pat­ing chicly in re­al­ity. I have enough re­al­ity in my life, so I pre­fer a more de­nial-based ap­proach to dress­ing. To that end, I’m cur­rently eye­ing a new frock—a dreamy hand-em­broid­ered peas­ant dress by Ulla John­son. It’s per­fectly use­less as we head into fall, but it’s per­fect for a trip to Sar­dinia. (Which, once again, I have no hope of tak­ing.) I’m noth­ing if not un­re­al­is­tic. It’s my sig­na­ture. ®

From far left: Garance Doré; the au­thor; Inès de la Fres­sange; Lau­ren Hut­ton

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.