Carine Roitfeld said that, were if not for bloggers, nobody would know who she is. And she might be right but fashion bloggers are more prone to go after the details most of us would miss so Ms. Roitfeld’s tenure as the Editor of French Vogue from 2001 to 2010 was widely documented.
Even if you have never heard of Ms. Roitfeld, have never been even remotely acquainted with American Vogue, let alone its French counterpart, you must have been living under a rock if, during the last twenty years, you haven’t seen any ads that she styled for Gucci, Calvin Klein, Chanel and other fashion titans whose clothes we don’t buy but whose looks end up influencing what goes on the racks at Target and H&M.
Ms. Roitfeld was also known for erotic photo spreads that embraced nudity and extremely underfed models (let it be known that Vogue, along with other publications and designers, has vowed to monitor models’ weights and disavowed the anorexic look); the purported end to her reign was the photo of a 10-year-old model with full on make-up and stiletto heels, lounging on a rug, that sent the big wigs at Conde Nast in apoplectic fits, followed by her resignations.
The week marking the birth of Campari and Sofa coincided with the launch of CFBook, a semi-annual fashion publication edited and styled by the former queen of fashion and, almost simultaneously, also the launch of Ms Roitfeld’s make-up line for MAC. You might have seen the ad: sultry look and skinny frame in a black negligee, smoky eyes and hair flopping over the model’s hair. That’s her. A 57-year-old mother and grandmother looking more like a 40-year-old.
In snapshots that did not benefit from airbrushing, Ms. Roitfeld mercifully shows some signs of aging. While it might be easy to infer that someone with such inside access to fashion and beauty, someone, in fact who has made fashion and beauty her job for the last 30 years, has it easy when it comes to looking good and put together, (not to mention someone who has been blessed with the skinny and pretty gene), let’s not forget that such insiders sometimes end up looking like Donatella Versace.
Whilst not advocating Ms. Roitfeld’s style for myself or anyone else for that matter, looking at photos of her over the years, I always thought there were good lessons to be learnt, especially when reaching an age when throwing on any old thing, right out of bed ,does require some effort.
- Know what works for you and use it to your advantage. In Ms. Roitfeld’s case, her everyday attire doesn’t stray much from pencil skirts and blouses or black skinny pants and blouses. And stiletto heels or boots. She has a small frame and it looks put together, elegant and age appropriate. Above all, it looks chic. Even if you are not French, a good look in the mirror with a critical eye is where it all starts. Nice legs? Emphasize them with skirts. High-waisted? A dress might rebalance the proportions. Good boobs? Lower necklines (with a bra, please!) will show them off nicely. Good butt? Put those pants on. Check out Michelle Obama. She is tall, with wide hips and a generous derriere but long legs. She looks great in dresses and skirts, not to mention anything that showcases those gorgeous arms. Everything she wears draws attention to her best features.
- Once you develop your style, stick with it. That is what partly creates an element of chic. Experiment with accessories and not with the Mad Men lookalike polka dot dress that looked so cute in the window. You can make bold statements with block colours, pastels or funky prints. The experimental shapes I would leave on the runways or to your teenage daughter.
- The same rules apply to make-up. Ms. Roitfeld’s signature is the smudged eyes that she feels have that “morning after” sexy look. All very good for her but you and I would look like misplaced raccoons if we tried it. When getting older, less is more. Whether it’s just a bit of foundation, something on either the eyes or lips, if you have no idea what works for you, take advantage of those free make-up sessions in department stores. They might be worth the purchase you will feel pressured into.
- In my ’20’s and ’30’s, I was married to the little black dress, or anything black for that matter. I felt black made me look mysterious and chic. Maybe it did. Now, it makes me look more like a Sicilian widow. Don’t underestimate how an all black outfit will make you look harsher so lighten it up with colorful accessories or a crisp white shirt. Which brings me to
- The white dress. You know, those pretty, gauzy, float-y things that scream Summer? Unless they have an in-built thick lining, they will advertise the contours of your body to all and sundry, a feat of exhibitionism best left to the likes of Madonna. Even the least prudish amongst us (and you can most definitely count me in) have come to the realization that some – lovely – things are best left to the imagination.