Sunday, November 7, 2010

About Sofia Coppola's style

I know I've written about Sofia Coppola before, but I find myself on this rainy weekend looking over my old inspirations from about 5 years ago, when I first started getting interested in high fashion. I've almost always been interested in personal expression and looking nice and appropriate, but it wasn't until about 5 years ago that I started thinking about style, chicness, and designers, and I had the means to approach them in some small way.

So when I just started trying to figure out fashion, I started by studying the people who I felt got it right, people that I might want to emulate. Sofia Coppola was one inspiration. In fact, she's probably the style muse of intellectual girls everywhere (she said something similar about her photography phase . . . that every smart girl goes through one, and takes lots of pictures of their feet). She has had a handbag named after her, signaling an ascension to the most rarefied of style icon status. She was famous for wearing flats on the red carpet and was the muse of Marc Jacobs. She started her own clothing line, Milk Fed, and moved through her own (somewhat unfortunate) grunge phase. Now she's designed her own line of handbags for Louis Vuitton, and they're everything that you might associate with her: elegance, refinement, heritage, minimalism, and immaculate style.

I think you can break down her style in a few ways. Some are obvious, and a few things are counterintuitive. Her pieces are not fussy, but are rather pared down to the essentials--exquisite cut, perfect fit, and beautiful fabrics.

Her definitive style, and what makes it work, is most obvious by comparison:

Compare her outfit to Scarlett Johansson's. They both wear sleeveless summer dresses, but Sofia's version is just a few crucial inches longer and seems much more demure. Her shoes are simple black flat sandals, as opposed to pink Converses. Her proportions are right, whereas Scarlett looks a little bit off, a little bit too much.

In the second picture, next to Kirsten Dunst, the fabric of her dress is much richer and "grown-up" than Kirsten's--a thick satin as opposed to cotton. Her jewelry is minimal, but its presence helps her seem much more polished than Kirsten. Although they both wear little makeup in that photo, Sofia looks finished, as opposed to Kirsten, who looked like she just rolled out of bed. Kirsten looks just a little bit too undone. Compared to Scarlett and Kirsten, Sofia looks just right--neither trying too hard nor trying not hard enough.

In both these pictures she's wearing black, and you might think that black is an essential part of her style. To some degree, it is, but that's not the entire story. In fact, she wears a lot of color, but usually against a background of black. Or else, when she strays from more neutral colors, she restricts her color palette to just one or two colors for the outfit. Examples:

Similarly, you might think that she's a straight minimalist, but in fact, her clothes are not always streamlined. Often, they are frilly, pleated, graphic, or feminine in some other way. She just never layers them on--it's always just a few separates that compose her outfit. But her accessories are always few, modest, and classic. Earrings, necklaces, and watches are small and subdued; shoes are always trendless and demure. You'll never see Sofia in the monster platforms so popular right now.

But she never looks overdone, even on the red carpet, and part of her secret is her hair. The fact that it's always in the same signature style--clean, neat, bobbed, and shiny--ensures that she always looks like her, never looks like she's trying too hard, and always exudes a cool downtown vibe.

To summarize this overlong post (lol), here are what I think compose the essential ingredients to Sofia Coppola's style, the "it-ness" of her It girl status:
  • Clothes that tend towards minimal, with quiet feminine touches
  • Restricted color palette in an outfit (but not in the wardrobe), with black used as an anchor
  • Classic black shoes, usually flat or with a small heel
  • Small, classic jewelry
  • Clean, shiny hair that's always in a signature polished bob, never coiffed
  • Perfectly fitting separates; never tight but sometimes loose (pants ending just at the ankle)
  • Very little layering
  • Outfits that allow ease of movement, everyday life, the weather


  1. I really appreciate this post. Well-written and quite inspiring. Thank you!

  2. I love her in that third photos with the pants.

  3. I like your summary. You've narrowed down what is so chic about her and the good news is it's all attainable without being completely copycat.

  4. great post, and i totally agree with you on all points :) i just did a post about her this month as well, and i think she along with charlotte gainsbourg are such great style inspirations for the modern woman.

  5. How strange. I wasn't notified of any of these comments but the last one. Anyway, I'm glad that my rambling might be useful to someone besides me!

  6. I will never get tired of Sofia's demure, effortless, style. So beautiful and simple.

  7. Really enjoyed this! I like how you kind of bust some common Sofia-style-misconceptions— particularly that her style is minimalist because it is pared down, not because the pieces themselves are basic.

  8. Such classic, covetable style. You enjoy her list of essentials she wrote for Self Service Magazine.

  9. She is just fantastic! :D

  10. Hi, I like her style and love her bag for sure. I was wondering if anybody know what jacket she's wearing on the last picture? :))