The 4 Big Secrets of Mastering The British Style

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Today is Fashion Day on our blog, so I’m going to share with you the 4 big secrets of mastering the British style and the fashion landmarks that influenced them. The curious fact is that British hate to be stylish! But since they have a great sense of humor, they are fearless when it comes to dressing up: they mix prints, patterns, styles, never being afraid to experiment as a way of expressing themselves.

This is why they have an excellent reputation for being creative and imaginative in fashion from street style to icons such as Kate Moss who constantly is bending the rules and setting new trends, Alexa Chung with her festival-chic style or Carey Mulligan mixing modern designer pieces with classic ’50s chic. Let alone, the designers such as brilliantly crazy Alexander McQueen the Great, Vivienne Westwood the queen of punk or Hussein Chalayan, the conceptual artist among fashion designers.

Let’s start with Britain’s rich and varied style history and have a look of their style landmarks!

The mini skirt

Whether you can truly call the mini skirt a British invention or not is debatable. At the vanguard of this fashion was Mary Quant. I admit that short skirts are not for all body types and all ages. I will also concede that short skirts are not always the appropriate thing to wear. But when the body type, age, and situation are aligned in favor of these minuscule garments, they are definitely worth wearing. Long Live Mini Skirts!

Photo credit: Conde Nast

Photo credit: Conde Nast

The trench coat

Two British heritage labels share credits for this iconic garment – Burberry and Aquascutum after being created both in the 19th century. I love the classic Burberry trench coat, an icon known all over the world. And I am always surprised how that can be modernized, reinterpreted, but always in the Burberry spirit. The Queen wears a trench coat; Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols wore a trench coat 😉

Burberry Prorsum SS13 | Photo credits: Dazed&Confused

Burberry Prorsum SS13 | Photo credits: Dazed&Confused

James Bond

I have been watching bond movies from a young age, some of the first movies I remember seeing were bond films. Even back then something seemed a little off about Jimmy Bond, the thing I couldn’t understand about Bond was that I was told repeatedly that he was a spy. No he is not, a spies job is to remain unnoticed in the shadows gathering intelligence, not blowing up billions of dollars worth of scientific facilities, murdering people left and right and screwing everything in sight. Well perhaps spies are that horny. My personal feelings towards Jimmy Bond are best summed up by this…Mind you, 007 is still looking immaculate in his sharp, tailored suits becoming a sartorial role model to men the world over.

The Beatles

They’re really timeless and just great. I mean there is still some good stuff out there (no, I’m NOT a hipster). I love their legacy. They’re such an inspiration. They were just these kids from Liverpool that made it big, after having so many doors shut in their faces. They didn’t just change music but also fashion ledding to the cultural phenomenon that was Beatlemania. My favourite song by them is “Happiness is a Warm Gun“. That song is absolutely incredible.

The Beatles

The Beatles

Cecil Beaton

No matter as a photographer, costume designer or dandy and diarist, he led by example, always immaculate in a suit with unusual details and the most luxurious accessories.

Photo credit: Conde Nast

Photo credit: Conde Nast

The Mods

Mod wasn’t a way of dressing, but a way of living. Anyway, mods were meticulous about their beautifully cut suits, Chelsea boots and Parkas. The Mod culture was overwhelmed with different fetishes. Every mod was supposed to have a Vespa scooter which was a fashion accessory.

Quadrophenia, for better or worse, still pretty much stands alone as the only mainstream Mod movie around. I consider myself lucky to watch this film on a big screen, with a good sound system, in the dark, without having anything interrupting it. It doesn’t necessarily need to be sumptuously shot, and it doesn’t need to be cerebral. What it does need is a great story, lovely costume design and good score. And if not Mod then the Who…Well, it wasn’t a midnight screening in an art house but in a french cinema….after 25 years since its release in 1979.

 

"I don't wanna be the same as everybody else. That's why I'm a Mod, see? I mean, you gotta be somebody, ain't ya, or you might as well jump in the sea and drown.” Jimmy, Quadrophenia.

“I don’t wanna be the same as everybody else. That’s why I’m a Mod, see? I mean, you gotta be somebody, ain’t ya, or you might as well jump in the sea and drown.” Jimmy, Quadrophenia.

Punk

The patron saints of this subculture were the group Sex Pistols, who always looked artfully dishevelled and kitted out by no one else than Vivienne Westwood. I reckon that the Sex Pistols needed a manager to guide them and McLaren and Westwood needed an outlet for their ideas, both fashionable and political. “Friggin In The Riggin” is enough for me to like them. My hat is off to all of them.

Vivienne Westwood with Malcolm McLaren in '70s

Vivienne Westwood with Malcolm McLaren in ’70s

The Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols

The nineties waif

The waif look describes thin, large-eyed models such as Kate Moss in ’90s. The look eventually developed into what was unflatteringly dubbed ‘heroin chic’.

Kate Moss shot by Corinne Day in The Face July 1990

Kate Moss shot by Corinne Day in The Face July 1990

Ossie Clark

The list cannot be closed without Ossie Clark, one of the most celebrated designers of ’70s.

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy by David Hockney. It depicts the fashion designer Ossie Clark and the textile designer Celia Birtwell shortly after their wedding. The painting is in the collection of the Tate Gallery

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy by David Hockney. It depicts the fashion designer Ossie Clark and the textile designer Celia Birtwell shortly after their wedding. The painting is in the collection of the Tate Gallery

But as it is very fashionable to recommend things in 1, 2, 5, 10, 100 steps, just to keep up with this trend, let’s have British style in no more than 4 steps‘!

1. Dress for the weather!

First and foremost, be prepared for rain and take always with you an umbrella. If it is a colorful one and with patterns it is even better.

2. Think in layers!

Be ready to rock scarves, boots, and definitely tights. As Docs go with everything, invest in a few great jackets, scarves and blazers. And don’t forget to show a lot of leg.

3. Never look too polished!

Have you had a run in your tights? Wear them anyway! Keep your hair messy and your eye makeup slightly smudgy to get a real Glastonbury feel. Mix and match unexpected patterns and textures and tones for a threw-on look. Leather boots with a lace dress? Perfect! Even after all these years, British style still has an element of punk left in it.

4. Have fun and don’t be afraid to play with clothing!

That’s my favorite step about British style. What if you wear bright tights instead of black? Pairing two loud-print pieces together instead of keeping one simple or having catwalk trends into your everyday look, exemplifies the archetypal British style.

I reckon these are essential key items to having a British style. You could easily mix and match nearly all the items here. In my experience, the most popular store in England is Top Shop. But don’t forget to check out All Saints, River Island, but also Primark, New Look for on-trend bargains.

Consider these looks as a good starting place to get you inspired.

Look 1: GET PREPPED

In my humble opinion, to adopt a preppy style is more about the attitude that should match the style. Nothing easier than say please, thank you, sorry, not swearing or using slang. As there is such a diversity of people in England, it’s compulsory to carry on a polite conversation without mentioning politics, religion, money or bragging too much about yourself.

Look 2: GLAM PUNK/ROCK

It’s not about covering yourself in spikes, studs and shaving the sides of your head…thank goodness! This year’s version of punk is more grown up. It’s about wearing accents to create a look with subtle punk appeal. It’s all about mixing rough with smooth, edgy with feminine, grunge with glamour.

But what I mostly love here is that everyone is accepted for their own individual style. British people are not afraid to have a voice. Designers do not dictate to them and they always put together their own looks that they are confident in. “A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste. No taste is what I’m against” said Diana Vreeland.

Have you ever been told not to wear white after labor day, or shoes and bags must always match? If you’re like me, you grew up hearing these from your mom or grandma whenever you wore something they didn’t like. Believe it or not, most of those fashion rules are completely outdated and false! It’s the 21st century, and grandma’s fashion rules just don’t apply anymore no matter the style you adopt. Mon the biff! 😉



Catalina Serban

I came into this world on a cold morning of January in a small town in the south of Romania. So that, I really enjoy dressing for winter. Layering up a winter look is very challenging and creative process, isn't it? I moved to London coz everyone wears bright colors. And I love colors. In Bucharest, everybody is in black! When I was in my late teens, I was really into hair; I dyed it different colors and had loads of haircuts. After graduating marketing in Bucharest and working for a couple of years in advertising, I've taken up fashion art direction, here in London. As John Galliano observes, London is the essence of fashion, it is the most cosmopolitan city in the world. Hunger, curiosity and its eclectic, electrifying surroundings make it very inspiring. Some people call me a rebel, but I just feel like I'm living my life and doing what I want to do. Aaaaa foremost, I never go out without my biffy tote :)

6 Comments

  1. Livia

    April 1, 2014 at 9:00 am

    de ex glam punk-ul descris de tine este purtabil in orice moment, chiar si de mine care stau in fata unui PC toata ziua :)))
    like it love it
    merci
    pups

    • Catalina Serban

      Catalina Serban

      April 1, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      Multumesc Livia. Chiar daca sunt nitel privilegiata in ceea ce priveste outfitul pentru birou, neavind un anume dress code, cred ca pantalonii negri sau cei bej ca vine vara, ar trebui dati uitarii 😉

  2. Tal N.

    April 1, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Good reading! Thanks for the tips!

    • Catalina Serban

      Catalina Serban

      April 1, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      You’re welcome, Tal! I’m glad you’ve found it useful. Cheers. 🙂

  3. Helena

    April 1, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    This is a great post. Thank you!

    • Catalina Serban

      Catalina Serban

      April 2, 2014 at 8:00 am

      Thx, Helena. I’m happy you enjoyed it. Mon the biff! 😉

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