Jane Birkin tells her stories
She flitted through nearly seventy years of her diary entries, her voice rich with emotion. In a near-reverie when she summoned lost loved ones: her parents, her daughter, Kate, and of course Serge Gainsbourg. Especially moving was the love letter she wrote Gainsbourg after they separated.
She appeared in the simplest clothes—a black v-neck sweater, dark jeans and black Converse sneakers; the only colour was her chestnut-brown mid-length bob. Birkin commanded the stage for nearly two hours though she moved only a few inches, to turn the pages.
Now age 75, and surfacing after her treatment for leukemia and the death of her daughter Kate, her difficulties are not the reason for her decontractée look; it has been her signature since her forties. She doesn't wear dresses, saying in a Vogue France interview, "At one point, you have to know how to give up the ladies' dresses. They make you look older. It's like makeup: at a certain age, stop playing with false eyelashes. Otherwise, it becomes terrifying."
Her 'uniform' of v-necks and jeans or the simplest trousers are easy to find and wear, but a correct fit elevates them. In the windows today, clothes influenced by Jane, but with subtle colour, for spring. You could just buy your wardrobe at Everlane, but if you prefer a little more detail or higher quality, look around.
"Sophie" open-front sweater blazer in "faded mint", but also available in Birkiny colours like heathered grey, navy, and khaki; price, about $US (218)
Colour block alpaca wool blend v-neck sweater, And Other Stories; price $US 99.
Cashmere/cotton v-neck in nude (on sale now; 50% off) by Eric Bompard; price $US 150.
If ivory or pure white does not suit you, try another neutral. Be picky about the fabrication, because every little thing shows up.
Hers are oversized, though you might prefer a closer fit or shorter sleeves, the attitude stays relaxed: rolled sleeves, a few buttons undone.
She read an entry about her arrival in Paris at seventeen to improve her French and realized she would never put in the effort to be anyone other than "an English girl", though she did note that that she and Françoise Hardy (for whom she was occasionally mistaken) had the same Paco Rabanne dress. Hardy's was to the knee but hers was shortened by two rows to "be like a long shirt".
Left: Boden ivory silk shirt; price, $CDN 195. A wide size range, and it also comes in navy and black.
Centre: J. Crew's shirt, in Re-Imagined Silk (dyed without hazardous materials, among other manufacturing features), is $CDN 205 (but there are often promotions), and comes in this rich "adobe" colour, as well as pales. It's showing orange on my screen, but is actually a more browned clay.
Right: Everlane make a silk shirt in what they call grey-white, so if the warmth of ivory doesn't suit you, this cool hue will read differently; currently on sale (limited sizes, up to 16) for $US 65, also in ivory and stone. More colours, including a stripe: Clean Silk Relaxed Shirt.
The strictest is the Boden, with its pocketless, placketed front; the J. Crew has visible buttons and a pocket; the Everlane and J. Crew both have shirring.
A balmaccan or "mac" is the queen of the clean line, and it is unnecessary to buy a rubberized one, which makes you sweat and is too heavy, unless you're whale-watching. A water-resistant cotton or cotton blend will be fine for everyday jaunts.
Left: Donna Karan's extra touches earn the price tag. Her Trapeze cotton trench (that's what she calls it though I don't see it as one) is washable, and the slight sheen to the fabric adds interest. Also, it's an a-line, which makes a difference when you're sitting. In khaki and black; price, $CDN 525.
Top right: Gap "Mac coat" is 70% cotton/30% nylon and machine-washable; price, $CDN 148; sizes up to XXL. (Your size may be s/o on line but available in store.)
I was touched by Jane Birkin; even though I knew the milestones and characters through decades of interviews, it's another thing entirely to hear her tell the stories.
It was the same with her simple outfit, which can look generic in photos, but in person, framed her grace perfectly.