Coco Chanel may have staged the largest fashion coup in history when she deviated from the heavily embellished, cinched waist, overly fussy aesthetic of her Belle Époque contemporaries (such as Paul Poiret) and pioneered the streamlined easy casualness of her eponymous brand in the 1920′s. In 1953, at the age of 70 Chanel staged a comeback by introducing the world to the Chanel tweed jacket. I can think of no other item of clothing that has been around for 59 years and looks as fresh now as it did back then. Karl Lagerfeld deserves to share much of the credit for the many evolutions of the Chanel little black jacket. As such, there is no better place to look for lessons in updating a classic than in Mr. Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld’s new book, The Little Black Jacket: Chanel’s Classic Revisited (currently available for purchase here).
In it, Mr. Lagerfeld photographs 109 celebrities in the classic “little black jacket” to produce a gallery of individuality and style. The overall effect of seeing so many people interpreting the same item of clothing to make it entirely their own is awe-inspiring to say the least. Leave it to me to parse each image until its been analyzed to within an inch of its life and ensure that any lessons on accessorizing and style have been wrung out for the benefit of my DMD darlings.
Have a trademark look.
Sovereign of the fashion world, Anna Wintour, dictates trends but how often does she embrace them? Her clothes are always current or future season, but it is not often that we see Ms. Wintour changing up the core of her own look. The reason is simple–women with style know what works on themselves and stick to it. Sure there are little updates here and there, but it is just as important to have a signature look as it is to be au courant. Ms. Wintour’s bob, a-line skirts/dresses and jacket draped over her shoulders have become so engrained in our minds-eye that she is unmistakable from any angle.
Similarly, French model, socialite and fashion muse, Ines de la Fressange, knows her own aesthetic. Mlle. de la Fressange’s trademark is a button-down shirt and when one has a trademark look, one should always reference it to create a strong brand image. Hence, in most of Mlle. de la Fressange’s editorials she has at least one photo (if not many) of her in a button-down.
Ines de la Fressange
Wear it your own way.
Not everything is ubiquitously flattering but then again, no one said you have to wear it the same way as everyone else. Some of the most interesting outfits I’ve seen involve wearing an item of clothing in an unconventional way. If it worked for Edith Bouvier Beale (aka “Little Edie”), it can work for you.
Androgyny is now acceptable.
Kanye West is all man and it takes a very secure man to don a Chanel little black jacket, and a very fashionable one at that, to pull it off. Fashion-forward men and women borrow clothing from the opposite sex. A good friend of mine from law school–a six-foot-four, gorgeous, straight, man of a man used to buy women’s pants from Zara and rock them on our nights out. He looked fab.
Reference your culture.
It’s difficult to know where you’re going if you don’t know from whence you came. Similarly, it is difficult to determine one’s aesthetic without referencing one’s cultural or ethnical roots. I don’t mean make yourself a walking stereotype or caricature now–you’ve got to know how to play it subtly. For example, I don’t go around in a cheongsam (traditional Chinese dress) all the time, but I do have a few couture cheongsam that I will pull out and wear with leather jacket for Chinese art openings or Asia-related fundraisers.
A little drama is always welcome.
Not that we should all go around wearing headpieces (though I often do and relish every moment), but well-placed drama always lifts an outfit. Take a cue from SJP–the woman is highly skilled at dramatic headdresses.
Add a little whimsy.
Classic pieces always need to be paired with something unexpected otherwise it just looks grannypants and frumpy; yes even a Chanel little black jacket can look frumpy. Either wear the item with a whimsical piece of clothing or accessory or just in a shocking or unexpected color–an element of surprise is crucial to updating a look.
When in doubt, wear a scarf.
There will be days when you need to rush out the door and can’t be bothered to think about accessorizing or putting yourself together. I always keep a scarf in my purse for exactly such times. A scarf will add instant polish. If you are a rookie, check out this video tutorial for 25 different ways to wear a scarf.
Don’t forget the attitude.
I am not quite sure why Parisians are so good at pulling attitude but these women have it down. I suspect American women are much too concerned about what others think of them whereas French women are much more concerned with what they think of others. Get out of your own heads ladies.
Big Kiss and Bigger Diamonds,