style icon(oclasts)

 Anna Dello Russo, photo via jak and jil
Iris Apfel, photo via NYT
  Daphne Guinness and her killer shoes, via Streetfsn

i went to see the docu-biopic on NYT street style photographer Bill Cunningham two weeks ago, and as BC himself would say, it was maaahvelous! i won't rehash the film here, as there are plenty of reviews elsewhere and you should really go see it for yourself.

in contrast to other highly stylized street fashion photogs, Bill Cunningham's photographs for the NYT span decades and favor a cultural commentary-like 'lens' to documenting the New York scene. i particularly like his weekly On the Street videos where he gives his cheerful take on trends as he sees them.

one of the recurring themes in the film was the definition of 'style' and who has it in our celeb-crazy world. it is an unspoken rule that you should never ask BC to take your photograph or even acknowledge his presence should you be so lucky to be snapped by him. there's a slightly cringe-y scene in the film when a woman, unaware of this special code, clumsily approaches BC and not-so-subtly tries to get her picture taken. BC also makes some remarks about the boring, 'cookie-cutter' style of those who have so-called 'good taste' but no individuality...the three outrageously stylish women above are some of his favorite subjects. fair enough - there is an excess of celeb-fueled fashion these days.

still, i do admit that i will take inspiration now and then from (gasp!) the Olsen twins, Kate Bosworth and Sofia Coppola. i gravitate towards understated items (so-called 'classic'/quieter pieces). where's the line between boring good taste versus individual great taste? how do you express personal style in a meaningful way in your everyday life? who/what inspires you? are there fantasy style elements do you love but feel like you could never wear?


  1. Iris is so adorable! She's a gem. Her Rare Bird book corrupted my mind, I want my own museum exhibit one day, I already came up with a potential title. I've even considering making a catalog so when I die my family won't just chuck it in a bin somewhere. lol!!! Maybe 10-15 years I will carry my clothes better, instead of looking like a 12 year old girl playing dress up. So I'll pat myself on the back that I bought all the "museum pieces" when I was young before I had to worry about children and mortgages right? ;) As for inspiration, I pull from so many people, places, but movies have always been the number one. Star Wars was hugely influential. I haven't watched the originals in YEARS, maybe even a decade, but when I first saw them as a child, it left such an impression. I related more to the way they dressed in Star Wars then when I watched Save By The Bell. A dare I say Victoria Beckham circa 2003-2006ish (aka her Dolce & Gabbana era) was extremely influential when I was getting myself together.

  2. Individual great taste is about how you wear your classics. Anyone can wear tees, cropped jeans and ballets but its about the detail - a necktie or witty earrings (like you I am rarely without mine) or an unexpected lip colour. Its about attitude too I think, that thing you can't define. As for inspiration I look at vintage fashion a lot as well as people like Kate Bosworth and 'off-duty' models. Anywhere really :)

  3. Sofia Coppola is always terrific, and probably the closest thing I have to a "style icon". I also love the aesthetic of this young French designer:

    However, for pure fun I love the style of the women in this video from Ari Seth Cohen:

    I doubt I will ever dress like that, but I get a lot of inspiration from their light approach to fashion.

  4. Ugh, I just wrote you this long comment and then blogger messed up on me! Anyway, I just wanted to say that I also look to celebrities for inspiration even though it's unhealthy for my bank account and self esteem. I admire the style of people like Sofia Coppola and Clemence Poesy. But, the person whose style I watch the closest is Michelle Williams. I like how she always looks laid back and fun yet still very put together and sophisticated. I think I try to maintain a sense of individuality by mixing designers and styles or wearing something slightly unexpected. I like my outfits to all be 90% unfussy and straight-forward and 10% insane and fun, if that makes any sense.

  5. I definitely fall into the "boring good taste" category when I'm getting dressed, but it doesn't bore me, even if other people are. Even as a child, I was drawn to Audrey Hepburn (and I didn't even understand her movies!) and as a teen I liked the style of Jackie O, CBK.

    I adore Sofia Coppola's style too, because she looks so comfortable in her skin. In the same way, I love Iris Apfel and Daphne Guinness as well, for the way they really inhabit their clothes so well. I will never dress like them but I'm inspired by their confidence.

    I was hugely in love with the designs of Ann Demeulemeester and Helmut Lang growing up, but if I were to buy any of their clothes I would definitely be buying the more pared down pieces and I would style it in my own dressed down way...I like the way they look but I would never dress like that...it just feels out of sync with my life. In the same way, I love minimalist design but I would never do a severe minimalist look because I don't see myself as such. With designers, I admire the aesthetics of many but there are few where I feel like I will wear their "vision" head to toe. Maybe Margaret Howell, or A.P.C...

  6. like lin, I consider my current style more along the lines of "boring good taste" but that doesn't bother me. I have no desire to be photographed by street style photographers and even hesitate to post outfit pictures or have a blog at all, except that it seems I've found some kindred spirits in the blog world :) I used to buy way too many "fantasy" items that were beautiful but could never really integrate into my real life (not to mention expensive for things worn so little), but I've become better at leaving the fantasy items behind. In my fantasy life, I would be a Dries woman head to toe!

  7. Pret a Porter P: movies are awesome for me too - and i too think about collecting pieces as some sort of personal 'archive', haha! of course there are financial responsibilities to priortize as one gets older, but i think it's also important not to treat clothing and accessories as 'throwaway' expenditures. love your film and celeb influences! i know she gets a lot of flak but VB is actually a very stylish woman. she is obviously a woman who loves fashion and i can appreciate that.

    La fille mal Gardee: you're right. i think sometimes i look at style iconoclasts like Iris Apfel and Daphne Guinness or Susie Bubble and wonder if i'm too conservative in my style. but overall, i think so long as we dress honestly and according to how we feel best, that's the best way to go about it!

    Veuve: oh thank you for the links! i'll have to bookmark them. i've taken to saving a bunch of jpgs around various websites for my desktop inspiration folder :)

    jennifer: gah, that has happened to me too! damn this clunky blogger interface. love your breakdown of 90/10 - i'm the same way. also...LOVE michelle williams' style. she has emerged from Dawsons Creek the most talented and beautiful and inspiring!

    lin: yeah, i agree. i'm not feeling insecure about my style after that comment from BC on 'boring good taste', but occasionally i do think about incorporating more experimentation in my closet and bringing in some new elements. but you're right, it's good not to adhere to a 'total look' but rather take pieces from many sources.

    S: hehe! i'm cheering you on to post ever more outfit photos! :D hmm...i think there's still a place for some fantasy items though. but it is tricky figuring out which ones are worthy purchases - i saw a tsumori chisato beaded jacket once that was so gorgeous i would have happily bought it just to wear it twice a year. :)

  8. you're right, it's nice to have some fantasy elements, and it is about figuring out which ones to buy. the tsumori chisato jacket sounds special indeed, and i have no doubt you would a way to wear it more than twice a year! there's that notion about women only wearing 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time yet the disproportionate spending of your clothing budget on the other 80% (who comes up with these figures anyway, lol). this was exactly my problem with the fantasy items, so i've been focusing on making my wardrobe more like 80% worn 80% of the time.

  9. Like Jennifer, I love Michelle Wiliiams's style. Sofia Coppola as well, but she's a bit more polished. Some fantasy items are just meant to be fantasy items, like the Etoile printed corduroy pants I recently posted for sale. I saw a picture of Geraldine Saglio wearing them, lovely of course, but they don't work out for me. Sometimes I feel like my style is too safe, boring, but I guess I just want to feel comfortable.

  10. I’m inspired by a variety of things (mostly TV/movies, styling from J. Crew/online boutiques, blogs, and people I know in real life).

    I also have plenty of celebrity inspirations. All in all, there are very few celebrities whose wardrobes I completely covet. If given the chance, I’d take multiple pieces from the closets of Rose Byrne, Michelle Williams, Selma Blair in the ‘00s, and (to a lesser extent) Keri Russell! With the remainder, I generally like items here or there. But, what I admire most is the way they carry themselves or how they’re styled in photoshoots. Keira Knightley, Liya Kebede, and Marion Cotillard fall into this category. I think they just seem so elegant, even in casualwear.

    I used to worry that I was simply becoming a copycat. But, I think I’ve found more balance. I may desire 90% of a person’s wardrobe, but I’m still able to filter out the 10% that isn’t for me.

    When you mentioned fantasy style elements, my thoughts immediately went to my more “daring”/high-fashion inspirations (e.g. Amanda Brooks, Dries Van Noten, Celine). Right now, I don’t think I’m elegant/old/sophisticated enough for those clothes. I’m certainly not rich enough! And I don’t have anywhere to wear them to. But, I’m hoping that I can pull them off one day. Moreover, these elements always make me feel like I’m having fun with fashion (and, thus, avoiding “boring good taste.”) Still, I think my fashion wild cards (Brooks, Camille Bidault Waddington, etc.) are more accessible than most. I’m not trying to walk in Daphne Guinness’ shoes!

  11. interesting post, hearing so much about this film, i hope they bring it to the uk. i suppose im a bit of an outlier, as celebs dont inspire me much. the exception are characters like iris apfel & adr which remind me that its attitude & confidence that counts ultimately.
    generally i guess i look to runway styling & street style blogs to get inspiration in terms of proportion, colour and print mixing. also since i live in a fairly fashion fwd area, there are lots of fresh examples of what works and what doesnt on show (actually think the latter is more useful sometimes!)


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