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Monday, April 18, 2011

Starting From Scratch: Modernizing Classic Influences

Hello Required2BeInspired readers! I'm Elizabeth, from Starting From Scratch, a personal style and wellbeing blog, and I'm thrilled to be guest posting for Natasha while she's on vacation. Today I wanted to talk to you all about reinterpreting a classic fashion aesthetic for a modern wardrobe.
I'm not alone in looking to style icons of the past for fashion inspiration. The proof? Just consider any runway season to see how many [insert decade here]-inspired themes appear — this spring is all about the '70s, for example. And I'm not even alone in primarily seeking ideas from "classic" fashionistas like Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Onassis; there's an entire genre of books dedicated to teaching the impossible cool of those iconic women. When we think of dressing like Grace Kelly or Marilyn Monroe, though, we generally think of preparing a singular look for a costume party or coming up with a glamorous get-up for a formal event. Yet it's possible to develop a modern personal style that is inspired by such fashion icons, using staples of their wardrobes to inform our daily lives. I've found a few pieces that are sure to get you referred to as "so Audrey," which is the highest compliment in my book!

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Photos courtesy of the Smithsonian, Life, Uncoveragenet, Daily Mail and Puppy Love Preschool

The original First Lady of Fashion, Jackie Kennedy was most famous for being the style-savvy spouse of the 35th president, John F. Kennedy, Jr. Yet this icon was a graduate of George Washington University and spent the final years of her life as a book editor, and she was the center of great controversy when she remarried (to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis) not long after her first husband's assassination. Beloved and reviled by the American people in turn, she was nonetheless a source of endless fascination.

Her style reflected the complexity of her character: As a political wife, she sought to embellish her husband's cache without detracting attention from his career, but she managed to always stand out in her ensembles. She made extensive use of colors in her fashion choices, opting for monochromatic looks in bold pinks and yellows. Jackie favored tailored suits, patterned shift dresses, slim white pants, cardigans tied around her shoulders and — of course — her signature pillbox hats and oversized sunglasses.

Grace Kelly

Photos courtesy of Everything Nagel, Nohanoor, Head For Art and Style Mavericks

Though she won an Academy Award for her unglamorous turn in The Country Girl, American actress Grace Kelly was perhaps equally famous for her marriage, to Rainier III, Prince of Monaco. Though she retired from acting at the ripe old age of 26, the accomplished television and film actress had starring roles in such classics as Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief and High Noon. Grace appeared in a photo shoot with the Prince of Monaco while on the U.S. delegation at the Cannes Film Festival, after which he came to America, met her family and proposed. After a lavish wedding (in which Grace's 142 new titles were recited), Grace settled into married life, giving birth to three children and becoming engaged in institutions supporting children and the arts.

Grace's ethereal beauty alone set her apart, but her elegance also extended to her personal style. She wore often glamorous white, draped gowns in formal settings, but she also had a stylish off-duty aesthetic that served her as both an actress and a princess. She gravitated toward feminine full skirts with belts, white button-downs, bohemian sandals and tasteful accessories like scarves, white gloves and pearls.

Audrey Hepburn

 Photos courtesy of Twolia, A Mom in Red High Heels, Daily Mail, Only Style Remains and Cinema Style

In addition to her gamine figure, doe-like eyes and enviable relationship with Hubert de Givenchy, Audrey Hepburn was one of the leading actresses of her time. Raised during World War II under German occupation, Audrey pursued ballet as a child before trying her hand at modeling and acting. She rose to fame starring across Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, filled the iconic role of Holly Golightly in the film adaptation of Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's and is one of the few actors to have won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy. Later in life, she dedicated herself to working with UNICEF as an ambassador. Despite her meteoric success, she was a notoriously private person.

Along with Coco Chanel, she is credited with making the little black dress a staple of every woman's wardrobe. Audrey had a very simple personal style. She wore exquisitely tailored black shift dresses, cinched full skirts, simple white blouses and cropped trousers, usually with ballet flats or kitten heels. Her jewelry was minimal, and she was famed for both a cropped, almost boyish haircut and higher maintenance updos.


Though these lovely women were larger-than-life figures, famous personally and professionally, they also adhered to basic wardrobe staples and tended to confine themselves to simple pieces that are still popular today — which means that it's not as hard as it might seem to acquire a bit of their style for yourself. The best way to try to incorporate their admirable chic into your day-to-day life is by building such essential garments into your own wardrobe and mixing them up with your own personal flair. After all, Audrey, Jackie and Grace didn't become known for being fashionable by simply copying someone else's look; they infused simple garments with their unique sense of style.

Classic Wardrobe Staples

Here are some classic items to help you get started:
Cropped trousers (from left): Trousers with Turn-Up Hem, available at Zara, Wool Portia Pant, Straight Trousers, available at Zara, Trina Turk Dylan Pants, DKNYC Skinny Pants.

Ballet flats (from left): Classic Leather Ballet Flats, The City Flat, Taryn Rose Kitsch, Heaven Patent Flat, BCBG Paris Magie Leather Flat.


Before you set off building your classic wardrobe, keep in mind two essential aspects: quality and fit. Remember, these ladies lives before the internet, mass availability of couture knock-offs and Forever 21. They bought pieces that were meant to last for posterity, not whatever was trendy and flashy at the time, and they got everything tailored to fit exquisitely, skimming their figures without being too clingy. The cheaper brands are fun for dabbling in whatever is in for a season, but when you are looking for the bread and butter items of your wardrobe, spend a few extra dollars to ensure that you're getting a piece that will last and flatter. Use these tips to help you best express your take on a simple, clean and elegant aesthetic. I hope you have fun!

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