Monday, 18 October 2010

Same theme, old advice

My collection of books are quite simple if one was to set about cataloguing them. Literature, Cinema, Fashion being the main ones with Cookery, Nutrition and a smattering of Interior Design. All my non fiction books are biographies on fashion or film stars. Of course I have a few Rough Guides, Time Out or Style City books, but I'm a creature of habit when it comes to reading. So much so my parents recently bought me a biography of Kaye Webb the founder of the Puffin Club who was probably quite influential on a number of young readers. I suppose what I'm trying to say is my habits remain similar in all areas of my life. (Actually, I thought this was going to be a to the point post but it isn't - get a cup of tea now!)

I'm very much a keeping it simple and keeping order when it comes to my wardrobe. I get totally overwhelmed if I have too much. I'm not really a hoarder, although I always keep any designer purchases. I regret having a cavalier attitude to some designer pieces I once had which I lost, gave away or misplaced. Lesson learnt. High St stuff I really ease come easy go about although I only buy when I need to replace worn items, so I repeat the same things. I do have the odd moment of frivolity. I was recently tagged for a reveal but I was too busy to do it so I'm incorporating the gist of it but ensuring you get more in-depth analysis (more tea).

My style icons remain the same regardless of anything and they are:-
Françoise Hardy
Audrey Hepburn
Katharine Hepburn
Grace Kelly
Ali McGraw

all 3 images are of Françoise Hardy

With the exception of Hardy they all have a cinematic element (although Françoise appeared in a few films). And they all had their own style despite the requirement for performance. If I was to translate the inspiration into films it would run:-
Funny Face
The Philedelpihia Story
(the original High Society with Cary Grant, if you haven't seen it you must)
To Catch a Thief
Love Story
La Dolce Vita

There are other films which I find wonderful visual feast when it comes to clothes and most of these are before the 1980s (with the exception of Uma Thruman in Pulp Fiction), including Antonioni's L'Eclisse. The interesting element is how what you love/admire determines what you buy.

When it comes to style books one of my favourites is Genevieve Antoine Dariaux's A Guide to Elegance first published in 1964. She was a director at Nina Ricci for many years and I suppose her views and advice is that quintessential French take on fashion. I read her book many years ago before it was republished in 2003 as part of research for a fashion shoot with style advice. It was probably about the same time I discovered Françoise Hardy because no doubt the style director told me to get some images. In my youth I thought I was the ONLY person to have discovered Nico because none of my peers were into her.

As a young willing junior fashion assistant I became tutored in the art of the capsule wardrobe, the basic wardrobe for building your style and a devotee of quality versus quantity. I still can't cope with quantity although I'm getting better at it.

Genevieve had a view on the budget wardrobe and the ideal wardrobe. The budget wardrobe gave you your starting block and the ideal wardrobe equipped you with outfits for any time of the day and instructed you on what to wear at certain times.

This is her starting list for the winter budget wardrobe to see you through any occasion:

  • 1 coat in a bright colour - for example, red
  • 1 matching skirt
  • 1 sweater in a complimentary colour - for example, beige or brown
  • 1 black skirt
  • 1 black sweater
  • 1 silk sweater, black or white with a pretty neckline
  • 1 pair of black high heeled pumps
  • 1 pair of flat brown shoes for the country
  • 1 black leather handbag
  • 1 pearl necklace
Then when it comes to the winter ideal wardrobe her direction is fearless! I'll give you what you should wear first thing in the morning:-

"9 A.M Tweed skirts in the brown autumn shades and harmonizing sweaters (the British are peerless in this realm), worn under a good coat, well cut. Brown shoes with medium heels and a capacious brown alligator bag (A really elegant women never wears black in the morning)."

What is interesting is her old advice regarding budget, the idea if you haven't got the money spend on good items and have a plan for your long term wardrobe. I'm sure most of us don't do this. The idea of having a place where you will be in respect of your clothes seems contrary to the whims of fashion. However, if you can establish your preferences, what inspires you to create your own style then perhaps building a good wardrobe for you lifestyle and creative views is achievable on any budget.

[Both extracts are from A Guide to Elegance]


  1. What a fabulous extract! I love "a really elegant woman never wears black in the morning"...! Do we get to see more? I really need to work on my 'starting block' wardrobe - mine is getting out of control...

  2. I would love to be a person who had the lifestyle for town and country wear, morning, afternoon and evening clothes.

  3. There was some great Funny Face styling in the couture supplement from this months Vanity Fair!

  4. great post! I love the honesty and old school advice. Very cool. I'm definitely looking at the list and comparing it with mine right now! xx

  5. Thank you for the comment - I think you could pull off the jeans/white shirt look better than I could! xx

  6. Oh I have that book! I remember thinking that a lot of the advice was sound in principle but not really realistic for those of us who aren't ladies that lunch!

    I do like the idea of planning your long term wardrobe though. I'm trying to be more sensible and invest in really good quality pieces, even if it means sacrificing a few High St shopping trips in order to afford it.

  7. I love that book too, and while some of it now seems dated, the basic elements hold up.

    I'm right there with you on your style icons! I experiment, but keep returning to those simple and classic looks.

  8. There are pros and cons to long-term wardrobe planning - not just in terms of fashion trends, but our own tastes which can change drastically over time. I have some pieces now which have been in my wardrobe for over ten years, but I can't say they are necessarily the 'classic' items. In a way, I think it would be better to splash out on the crazy statement items you really love, and then regularly update staples such as black trousers and tops (which do tend to change in cut from year to year). But perhaps that is beacuse I am rubbish at buying classic pieces!

  9. I have that book! It's amazing. I think J even bought it for me :) But yes a capsule wardrobe with added fun is what I'm aspiring towards, very capsule at the moment with more than half of it over the Atlantic somewhere!

  10. Love your icons and this list ~ fabulous!


  11. I'm in complete agreement with Penny. I'd rather fill my wardrobe with crazy pieces I've fallen in love with than anything sensible and appropriate. I'd have been a social outcast if I'd been around then.
    Have you read Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro? I loved it. xxx

  12. See, I knew that dress would be better off in a loving home. The potential was there, but I'm just not as nifty at alterations. PLEASE put some photos up, though - dying to see how fab you look in it! xx

  13. The Philadelphia Story is my favorite film of all time. Katherine is divine and Cary Grant is PERFECTION.

  14. I love the list. It's amazing how much basic style you can create out of so few pieces. Just add some great jewelry and an Hermes scarf and a wardrobe like than can take you far.

    Also, I love watching old movies just for the clothes and the interior design.

  15. cool post! i love ali's 70s style.

  16. Penny Dreadful & Vintage Vixen - of course this is only the basic list and the idea of her advice was based on building on this. I have plenty of crazy items in my wardrobe but I do have a basic default set of clothes that I've had for years. If you can't be mad and bad with your clothes well....!

  17. I'm into Françoise Hardy.

    And I agree with Penny Dreadful pretty much. Once I got the basic pieces, I turned my attention to the interesting pieces.

  18. Hi my dear-yes, I think I've basics covered and also just like to look out for 'wow' pieces to compliment the wardrobe. Like you, I hate swarms of clothes and feel overwhelmed by a bulging wardrobe, but I'm not parting with designer finds as easily as I used to!! A great post and fabulous tips!

  19. Dear Kate, what a great post. I agree totally on the style icons and The Philadelphia Story!

    I think I should get the book as I love a bit of old school advice. I don't even have a coloured coat! Although I did buy one on Sunday on Ebay in burgundy velvet. I don't think it's the sort of thing they're talking about here. I don't own a tweed skirt either but I love the look. I definitely wear far too much black. I never make a meeting for the morning and I usually wear black, do you think that counts? xx

  20. I love reading old style guides, I hope you will post some more tips! I think I have the pearls, black skirt and jumper but thats about it, no country tweed Im afraid!

  21. OMG - thank you so much for remembering Francoise Hardy. She was my role model when I was an au pair in Paris in the 1960s. Such a stylish icon compared with British pop singers of the time. My favourite records were, "Tous les garcons and les filles and, 'All over the World". So wistful and so reminiscent of teenage heartbreak. They were my anthems. I dressed like her - I loved her!

  22. Eek the first image of Françoise Hardy gets me everytime. Super cool and super chic!

  23. Wonderful style icons and I love the quote, "A really elegant women never wears black in the morning"!

  24. love this post- v. inspirational

  25. wow-- i just bought the book from amazon.

    re: the reservations that penny dreadful and the others mentioned. if i have to do something important, i'm often baffled as to what to wear because i seem to have a disproportionate amount of adventurous stuff. but sometimes, you don't want the clothes you wear to tell a story about you, you don't want to give things away. you want to be a little incognito, but still compelling to look at, and maybe a little bit intimidating. when i think i've dressed that way, i feel more safe and secure and confident.
    also, i love the idea of capsule wardrobes. my friend Marta is my icon in that respect. instead my wardrobe is stuffed with shite. oh well, one can always dream.


Thank you for commenting, much appreciated. Sorry about no longer offering anonymous comments but spamming had become a very annoying issue. xxx