From Coco Chanel to Inès de la Fressange, meet the style icons for any age
Confession time, I am a slob. I am not one of nature's stylish people, nor do I particularly work at it. I'd love to - oh God, would I love to – because there is nothing more awe-inspiring than seeing an effortlessly chic person.
(Yes, yes, I know. The birth of a baby, the Milky Way, everything Mother Nature puts out etc. But at 8am, when my mouth can still taste the coffee and my brain can't and there's a "I just threw this on" Inès de la Fressange lookalike opposite me looking like she's had a night of champagne and non-stop rampant sex and oooozing with confidence and chicness despite having someone's elbow two millimetres from her face because the train is so packed… You tell me that's not the most awe-inspiring thing you can find.)
But while I look more Waynetta Slob most of the time, there are some women who just make my jaw drop when I see them and encourage me to try a little harder. So here are the women whose style I adore - and as I've already mentioned her, we'll start with…
Inès de la Fressange
Now, I am not one of these people who think that a woman is chic purely because she's French. Most of the French women I've seen put a scarf over their neck and voila, suddenly we're supposed to be impressed. Yet show me Clémence Poésy and Audrey Tatou and I'm instantly biting my bottom lip with reverence and sitting up straight. But never more so than when I see Inès de la Fressange. She's classic without being boring, sexy but not Kim Kardashian and best of all – there's not a scarf in sight.
"Fashion and good taste are made with a little bit of bad taste. It’s like perfume. To make a fantastic, mythical perfume, you need the most incredible flowers, the best quality of products. But you need another product that really smells terrible to make the whole thing work. Fashion is like this. Somebody who looks totally perfect would be a little bit boring."
Little bit controversial here, as I know she's not everyone's cup of tea, but I love VB. So much so that I think the (lovely) assistant in her Dover Street store has me on a "Potential Stalker" list after I enthused about Vic during my last visit there (yes, I may have been several times. It's on my list of tourist attractions: Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buck Palace, 36 Dover Street). What I love most about Mrs Beckham is that she bloody works at it. We all remember her in the Spice Girls, we've seen the hair styles, we remember the matching leather suits with David; now compare that with the elegant fashion designer of today who never looks as if she's trying. I bet her trench coat hasn't got an old impossible-to-get-0ut coffee stain on it – and if she has, I bet it looks bloody fantastic. Victoria – I love you!
"People always say, 'Do you cringe?' [when looking at old photos] and I say, 'Not at all.' Everybody changes. I love fashion, and I love changing my style, my hair, my makeup, and everything I've done in the past has made me what I am now. Not everyone is going to like what I do, but I look back at everything, and it makes me smile."
You need a why? The woman who created a look that is still going strong almost 100 years later. Chanel is fashion. Chanel is style. She freed women from corsets, made wearing trousers acceptable, created the LBD and the suit for women. Hell, she's the reason we wear Breton tops. Chanel wore what she wanted to wear, not what the diktats of the day said, and that is style.
She says (and yes, Coco gets two quotes):
"You can be gorgeous at thirty, charming at forty and irresistible for the rest of your life."
"Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress."
I wrote about Daphne once. She complained. I still love her (and Daphs, I wasn't responsible for the headline). For a start, she's impossibly beautiful, as you'd expect from Diana Mitford's granddaughter. But it's much more than that – try and put your finger on her style and you can't. I think that's like most of the women I hold as style icons: she does what she wants and wears what she wants. My style icons wear what makes them feel good and the consequence is, they look good. Anyway, back to Daphs. It's hard to believe that in the Eighties, she was the perfect Sloane. Honest, she wouldn't have looked out of place next to Margaret Thatcher and a group of young Conservatives. She was mates with Isabella Blow and Alexander McQueen so that look was never going to stay – but it was after her divorce from her ultra-conservative husband in 1999 that Daphne reinvented herself to become this fantastic maverick. To call her a style icon is a disservice: she is art.
"I don't regard clothing as disposable, which is probably why I have so much of it."
Alex works at Hello! and – hope you don't mind, lovely lady – stands for every woman I see on a daily basis who makes me stop and stare. These are normal working women without free access to designers and celebrity stylists yet look so well put together and elegant.
I bloody hate you all.
Alex has the style I want – and the long legs and the long blonde hair to go with it (there's another Alex at Hello! who is similarly blessed. Obviously it's my mam's fault for naming me Elizabeth. I mean, look at the Queen.)
"You can check what Alex says here."
(Disclaimer: Alex doesn't actually know I've written this so sorry if it seems stalkerish)
Who inspires your style? I'd love to know…
Main image: FreeImages.com/Stella Levi