SECRETS OF EFFORTLESS FASHION
Take a cue from style icons Kate Moss, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Stella McCartney.
We’ve all been there: arriving at some haute soiree positively preening over our pitch-perfect ensemble only to see her. That girl. The one with the Balenciaga leather jacket, the perfectly worn jeans, the Balmain crystal-encrusted sandals, and the smoky eyes. Suddenly, you want to burn a cigarette hole into your coat, smudge your eyeliner, muss your hair, and lose 10 pounds in 10 minutes. What was once a stellar outfit instantly seems so…bourgeois.
Save for scurrying home in a fit of pique, you can only hope to avoid a repeat of such an impasse by setting out to make yourself look equally dégagé. Then you won’t get sartorially bested your next night out on the town.
But how to accomplish such a feat? A more than cursory appraisal of our modern-day style setters reveals a treasure trove of subtle ideas that anyone with a good eye and a willing pocketbook can parse through. French actress Lou Doillon always manages to be artfully undone and spectacular no matter what look she decides to rock. If she’s in a snug minidress topped with a slouchy leopard coat or a body-conscious Hervé Léger bandage dress, the hair is loose, the makeup minimal, and the legs fantastic. Granted, her family pedigree and earthy sultriness help — as does a healthy dose of that very French je ne sais quoi.
For the likes of the perennially cool, like designer Stella McCartney, such inherent élan comes from within. “I just think that if you have the right attitude and you wear the clothes in the right way, you have a natural sexiness anyway,” says McCartney. “If you feel good in the clothes, then it comes out naturally.” Take actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, for example. She exudes a laconic nonchalance, so even when she turns up in a Louis Vuitton belted fur gilet, she makes a luxe look that would scream uptown on anyone else appear refreshingly downtown.
Of course, fashion’s reigning queen of effortless dressing is Kate Moss. Whether she’s dolled up for a night on the town in a Chanel jumpsuit bedecked with stars or traipsing around L.A. in denim microshorts, a psychedelic printed shirt, and caramel booties, she’s got that hard-to-pinpoint but easy-to-covet innate style that never looks overdone or overthought.
“When you think you’ve spent too much time getting ready, stop. It’s better to get dressed on a whim because you make instinctual decisions,” advises model-cum-designer Erin Wasson, who refers to her own look as “disheveled perfection.” Wasson has mastered tough chic with edgy styling choices like accessorizing an evening gown with a pair of hard boots or topping off an ethereal frock with a feathered headdress.
Designer Alexander Wang urges fashion followers to keep the mix fresh. “Go bold instead of dainty,” he advises. “Don’t be afraid to wear something oversize with something body conscious.”
The chicest looks these days are indeed all about contrasts. Anything ladylike or classic should be paired with something modern and cool. Actress Chloë Sevigny always manages to pull this off with aplomb, whether donning a denim jacket over an übershort camel dress or taking transparency to the limit by funking up a sheer top with a sexy matching brassiere. Ditto model Natalia Vodianova, who slips leggings under designer cocktail dresses.
Don’t wear everything from one designer, one season, or with one theme,” says Annabel Tollman, celebrity stylist to the likes of the Olsen twins and Scarlett Johansson. “Sometimes something wrong is right.”
This idea extends even to black-tie functions. Once a ball gown with a matching satin Manolo and a fur capelet would have been de rigueur; now it’s just old-fashioned. “Evening doesn’t mean traditional,” says Roopal Patel, senior women’s fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman. “There are no rules anymore. Bring more of your own personality and style to your look.” She suggests wearing a shrunken jacket over a posh frock or adding an “off” — a.k.a. nonmatching — color to your outfit in the form of a boldly hued shoe or clutch.
This season, jackets are a key piece to zero in on. One of McCartney’s brilliantly cut blazers will do the trick. The designer herself recommends throwing “a boyfriend jacket with a drop lapel over anything from a minidress to little shorts or skinny jeans.” A leather topper is another must-have staple, perfect with jeans and more formal dresses. Also, keep in mind that furs and animal prints lend instant cachet. And over-the-top accessories are always an easy add-on for transforming an outfit from staid to spectacular. Look to extravagant shoes, oversize clutches, and statement jewelry.
Naturally, effortless styling also encompasses your beauty regimen. For spring, it’s all about the eyes, according to Manhattan hair-and-makeup guru David Evangelista. “Whether it’s a lot of mascara or a strong eyebrow,” he says, “the focus is definitely on the eye.”
As for hair, gone are the days of perfectly shellacked chignons or pin-straight blowouts; it should be sexy and mussed. “I’m a big fan of the messy ‘do,” says Tollman. “I haven’t owned a hairbrush since 1982.”
Just remember: When trying to artfully cull the perfect look by imbuing just the right amount of nonchalance, don’t force the issue. Stick to your basic tastes, but tweak them just enough to give a modern insouciance. That way, the next time you’re out at a glittering fete, you’ll be the girl in the enviable ensemble.