Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Charlotte Gainsbourg, uniform dressing, and women of a particular age

Like Sofia Coppola, Charlotte Gainsbourg has an enviable, consistent style much admired on both sides of the Atlantic. Often clad in a jersey top or button down, grey skinny jeans, and cowboy boots, Charlotte favors a uniform that sounds simple on paper but is not simple to attain.

It's not so much what's there but what's not there: very few accessories, no discernible trends, nothing cute or flashy, nothing put upon, no excess (at least her casual everyday style . . . her red carpet style is quite different).  For most, such a well-suited personal uniform is usually only achieved through assiduous editing performed over many years, after the experimentation of the younger years has subsided. It's a matter of knowing your own body and the proportions that work best for it, and taking away all the extras that detract. And it may as well be said--when things are this pared down, a trim body is, if not essential, at least very helpful. And fabric and fit factor heavily as well, both of which aren't cheap (but not necessarily that expensive either).

It takes discipline to stick to a uniform, and a certain wit to know its standard deviations. For Charlotte Gainsbourg, the standard deviations include such things as patch-pocket high-waisted denim, Converse sneakers, and brightly colored gingham--funny little touches that don't muddle the consistency of her style but rather make the uniform feel warm and human.

The insight into fabrics and proportion, the self-knowledge, the mostly fixed body type (no more pubescent surges), and the long-term editing that takes place all suggest that figuring out a personal uniform might be achieved later in life, perhaps in your 30s or 40s. Sure, you can have a goth look or be an Abercrombie devotee at a much earlier age, but to figure out a uniquely individual style and then distill it into a uniform takes a particular alchemy of things that tend to come with the years. There seems a quiet intelligence that comes from knowing yourself and your taste quite well and being able to appreciate what clothes can do for you, as well as what it can't.


  1. I love Charlotte Gainsbourg's style... and oh how I long to have a uniform comprising of my favourite jeans and tees, but unfortunately I am not a french actress/singer. I am a corporate slave. Am I allowed to have two uniforms? Pretty please?

    In all seriousness though, my work and casual wardrobe are polar opposites. I think this is the year I figure out how to fuse the two together. Sadly I'm not sure how jeans will fit in, unless I find those magical Gap pants that are like just jeans when I'm over in the US :)

  2. Charlotte Gainsbourg looks really good for her age.

    I always wonder if she owns a Birkin bag.

  3. charlotte always looks really good. Period.
    When age is this irrelevant, we're doing it right!

  4. I love Charlotte Gainsbourg's style. Everything she wears looks good on her, and she always seems so comfortable in her clothes.

  5. I think she looks best in her "everyday" clothes--the jeans, the suede boots--than she does in her balenciaga getups. She never seems to look too comfortable in those type of red carpet looks.

  6. Nice post. I've always admired the style of women with a certain number of years of experience because it seems to shift from having a knack for dressing into a more profound sense of confidence (eg, I like Sofia Coppola now a lot more than when I first became aware of her style, and she too, went through her own style experiments). Not that I think younger people don't look as good, but it's a different kind of good.

  7. I think you're definitely right about the importance of both sticking to a wardrobe and knowing when to move away from it - I really do think about what I wear that's not really 'minimal' or 'classic' but makes my style more me. Also, having her as good as hers is probably a big win too!