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