with certain ladies from the past who seem to have some kind of unrivaled impeccable style. I can’t put my finger on it, but they wear clothes somehow more timelessly than any modern-day fashionista I can think of.
Carson McCullers is my favorite alcoholic female writer from before 1950 (I like her even better than Dorothy Parker. Gasp.). She wrote haunting, lyric novels about isolation and unrequited love, misfits and characters. Jarvis Cocker set her narration of The Member of the Wedding in a song on his first album (Big Julie, if you’re interested). Charles Bukowski wrote a poem about her. In all her pictures she looks like a fragile, lean, doe-eyed creature (maybe an antelope or a timid, tiny woodland animal.) Yet by all accounts, despite alcoholism, depression, suicide attempts and strokes, she was a vital, strong woman who refused to give in to her demons until they finally got the better of her, in the form of a massive brain hemorrhage, in the late 60s. She was also bisexual (which for some reason makes her legend still more attractive.) Her style seems to reinforce her personality–she dresses with vaguely masculine, bohemian flair, instead of playing up her waifish femininity.
And then there’s beautiful Anna Karina, high priestess of French New Wave:
I suppose it’s not entirely fair to the rest of us that there are people born this beautiful. And not only beautiful, but probably the most stylish woman that ever lived (in my opinion)–fashion model for Chanel and Pierre Cardin at age 17, with an effortlessly gamine, essentially french sensibility (even though she was Danish-born). A little mod, a little playfulness, a little classic, timeless style, grace and charisma. She’s Audrey Hepburn, but with her own special caché. Not to mention being Jean-Luc Godard’s muse and wife, an actress in many of the best French new wave films (Une femme est une femme being my favorite) and recording a song with Serge Gainsbourg. If that’s not enough style cred, I don’t know what is. She is the pinnacle of style, and I aspire one day to be one-tenth as effortless as she.
Speaking of Serge Gainsbourg–let’s take a look at Jane Birkin. How do you do it, Jane? Maybe it helps having a father who is a british spy and a mother who acts in Noel Coward musicals. Maybe growing up with that kind of James-Bond-meets-Blithe-Spirit background somehow predisposes a person to have style greatness within. I’ve been obsessed with Birkin ever since I saw her kiss Brigitte Bardot in Or if Don Juan were a Woman and subsequently Blowup, which, if you are majoring in photography in college, is pretty much required filmage. Growing up in the beating heart of Swinging London, and then spending the rest of your life in France with Serge Gainsbourg, collaborating on songs with Feist, Yann Tiersen, and The Smiths, Jane Birkin lives the kind of style icon life that only someone who has an Hermès bag named after her could live. Her style is waifish, long-haired, long-limbed, ultra femme with a little hint of wilderness. She has a certain feral quality around the eyes that elevates her look from the merely beautiful. Plus, her daughter is Charlotte Gainsbourg, who is a style icon in her own right and with whom I am passionately in love:
Ok, that’s all for today. I can’t stand looking at these women at the same time I’m sitting on my couch wearing L.L. Bean slippers. Tomorrow: Jean Seberg, Yma Sumac, Catherine Deneuve, and Lauren Bacall.