Gentlewoman Style with Jane Birkin
I met Jane Birkin once. Words that still bring a smile to my face, 12 years later. This was at Vogue Fashion’s Night Out, we chatted for 15-minutes – and she didn’t call security. Birkin was incredibly friendly and talked mainly about her work as a campaigner on social issues and living in France. One of the highlights of the encounter was when she reached under the table and pulled out her actual Birkin bag. Overflowing with Birkin’s belongings, a big scarf and what looked like a men’s cardigan, the iconic bag had been casually decorated with stickers, worry beads, ribbons and key rings.
The British actor and singer (and honorary Parisian) has collaborated with French label APC on a range of everyday, wardrobe basics. Menswear-inspired coats, cargo pants, cashmere sweaters and the perfect white T-shirt. These are Birkin’s favourite, functional clothes. Apart from a stint in dresses during the Serge Gainsbourg years, Birkin tends to live in trousers, slouchy knits and tailoring. This is the wardrobe of a perennial tomboy – or what we now call Gentlewoman Style.
Birkin’s approach is not quite as insouciant as you’d think; APC founder Jean Touitou says, ‘ Of course, she finds everything she needs to wear from many brands in Paris and elsewhere, but nothing is exactly perfect: this jersey is too floppy, this coat doesn’t have the right proportions and these sneakers look great but are uncomfortable. She tirelessly hunts down “the loose-neck T-shirt, the washable cashmere sweater, the slightly oversized men’s coat that you can snuggle into.”’ Explaining that this collaboration feels like APC going back to its roots, he adds, ‘ So, we worked at trying to perfect all her daily outfits under her guidance. I admit that, on the surface, it doesn’t look like anything special, because there’s nothing spectacular about it, except – using Jane’s own words – good basic materials that age well, because she likes to keep her clothing for years.’
Birkin is 75 and looks remarkably well – she had a minor stroke last year – of course, the ‘creative lens filter’ helps. At least, I hope that’s all it is… Birkin’s perennial appeal lies in her laid-back, less-is-more image and authenticity. The APC collection of stealth-y style favourites is on the expensive side, the signature straw basket is a lovely touch but I’m sure the 1960s original didn’t cost nearly three hundred pounds. Anyhow. I do like the pared-back, Gentlewomanly aesthetic. It reminded me of buying a pair of APC trousers when the label first arrived in the UK, they looked very much like schoolboy’s trousers and I loved them. Totally chic teamed with lace-up shoes and a cotton shirt. Today, of course, simple clothes designed to last are more widely available.
Inspired by Jane Birkin’s gentlewomanly style:
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