“My look is a cocktail. I’m not as nicely turned out as the French, but I don’t care like the English”, words from a very well known style icon. There is a lot one must think they have to do to become a trendsetter, when in contrast, it is the opposite in the discussion of Jane Birkin. She believes her label as a fashion icon comes from nothing, but pure timing. Her move from London to Paris in 1969 was during a revolting era of creativity, energy, and flourish in European culture. The English singer, actress, and mother truly made a name for herself in the industries of entertainment and fashion. As a French transplant with an awful Parisian accent, her messy bangs, captivating doe eyes, and extra short hemlines, the world immediately fell in love.
From the 1960’s to the 70’s, Jane became who we know as the timeless style icon today. Her French uniform with English undertones captured the effortlessly chic feminine outfit that we continue to aspire for. From pairing an easy denim pant with ballet flats and a white t-shirt, to dancing in an exquisite Paco Rabanne number and mini slingbacks, Jane understood how to make anything and everything look spectacular. Her closet consisted of woven knits, well-fit jeans, cropped tops, basic button-ups, mini skirts, small shorts, flats, short a-line dresses, and always prioritized comfort. Her biggest asset was the exposure of skin in a tasteful manner; whether it was her stomach, legs, or her nude chest under sheer dresses, there was always something left for the imagination. Some of her most memorable outfits were at fancy movie premieres or on the simple cobblestone streets of Paris. A number of these looks had something in common, as they were sheer, she wore underwear as an accessory; to name a few, the white crochet dress at the Artists Union Gala in 1969, all metallic Paco Rabanne moments, and the little black dress at the Premiere of Slogan in 1969. Jane actually admitted herself in a Vogue 2019 interview, “I didn't realize it was so transparent. This [was] the flash effect of the photographers' camera. If I had known, I would [have] not put knickers!” (Lalanne). Playful energy and not taking herself so seriously are major takeaways that we all can implement more into our lives.
Jane has unwillingly influenced our society for the rest of time not only by her own style, but due to her involvement with Hermés. In 1984, on a plane flight from Paris back to her home in London, Jane happened to be sitting next to Jean-Louis Dumas, the Executive Chairman of Hermés at the time. She innocently complained to him about her impossible search for a bag that serves her needs as a young mother. At that moment, the two sketched a beautiful leather bag with multiple pockets and the size large enough to specifically fit baby bottles. Fast forward to today, the Birkin remains one of the most valued leather goods in the world and the worth continues to rise as they are highly sought after.
The irony in the Birkin bag is how Jane herself uses it compared to most owners. In recent years people are known to have multiple Birkins locked up or sparingly used with care, as they likely paid around $30,000 for it. Jane, on the other hand, used one until its last life. Her Birkins would be worn until broken, overfilling them with items and truly using it as the bag’s initial purpose. The market for the Hermés Birkin is one that is not relatable and has grown to be extremely exclusive. While the average cost of a Birkin is $30,000, the highest sold record is $136,490! These prices continue to rise steadily. Hype and our society has added fuel to the growing fire of the Birkin, all thanks to the idea of Jane Birkin. The classic leather bag will forever be timeless and recognized like Jane herself. While only the rich can afford it, at the end of the day, money cannot buy you style or class.
With that being said, people with all incomes can dress like Jane Birkin. The combination of simple wardrobe basics with romantic French touches emulate her iconic casual sexy look. Never try too hard, there should always be a hint of a mess that balances out with a well put-together outfit. It is important to note how impactful accessories are. Before the invention of the Birkin, Jane would carry her infamous wicker baskets as a purse that she bought at a little town market in London. Sometimes adding a silk scarf to it, that basket did not leave her side, similar to her treatment of the Hermés Birkin. Besides her purse, a dainty necklace or knee high socks would be worn if the legs were exposed, nothing ever too maximalist. Jane’s signature look was and will forever be hot. She found a way to remain lustful yet elegant with the combination of different proportions of fabric to skin.
Like all humans, we are inspired by others. Influence can come from anywhere: surrounding nature, coworkers, neighbors, mentors, industry professionals, artwork, etc. On this topic of trendsetter’s influences, Jane Birkin herself was inspired by others. Her lover and creative partner Serge Gainsbourg heavily influenced the way she dressed as he helped her become more confident in her flat body. She emphasized that “when a man loves you, it changes everything” (Lalanne). While her passionate relationship with Serge inspired her, she also very much looked up to other female entertainers in her industry like Brigette Bardot and Jean Shrimpton. The 60’s and 70’s were eras full of countless style icons to look at, as if they were all a community looking up to one another.
Amongst the trendsetters from all eras, Jane Birkin remains one of the most important figures that we can learn from the most. To dress humbly with quality, comfort, and personality. Prioritizing personal taste over global short lived fads worn by everyone. Invest in a capsule wardrobe of great condition, accessorize with thought and creativity. Embrace your body and skin, never giving away too much. Wear things more than once and actually wear them! There is no point in purchasing an expensive handbag if you are not going to actually use it. While Jane Birkin will forever be a trendsetter, she never tried to be. To this day she is still not aware of her impact. She explains that it is complicated, “I am English and I come from an environment where I was always comfortable. It matters a lot. I could dine with anyone and eat my salad with my fingers. I've never been concerned about whether things are happening or not” (Lalanne). In other words, find what makes you comfortable. Is that eating salad with your hands or a fork? And never forget, bangs are an accessory.