With the news of Jane Birkin’s death in July and the many tributes to her distinctive style that have been published since, I started to think hard about what made Jane such a style icon to so many, and how I could break that formula down for my own clients in the real, non-Hollywood world.
I’ve been selling high-end vintage womenswear for over eight years at trunk shows throughout the Southeast, and I have my own shop in Birmingham’s historic Forest Park neighborhood. My clients range from ages 18 to 80, skinny to curvy, short to tall, girlie to tomboy, blondes, brunettes, red heads and everything in between. What’s clear to me from working with so many types of women is that style has a lot less to do with what you’re wearing and a whole lot more to do with how you’re wearing it.
At the root of what Birkin got right in her long run in the public spotlight was her sense of self and her commitment to wearing what she liked, without apology. She didn’t fixate over what clothes or colors were on trend. In the mid '60s, that was still push-up bras and hourglass-shaped wiggle dresses, and Birkin was as thin and flat-chested as they come. Instead, she wore t-shirts with no bra and carried a large fisherman’s basket instead of a purse. She went topless under a sheer sweater dress at a film premiere.
Confidence, you could say, is queen, and no one set that bar higher than Birkin.
This fall, as far as fashion formulas go, follow Jane’s lead by ditching the rules and taking risks. Avoid fashion trends in favor of clothing that makes you happy when you wear it. Choose accessories that remind you of trips you’ve taken or of people you’ve loved. Dare to be different. Jane did, and we’re still talking about her, 60 years later.