Style + Beauty Editor
Fashion Secrets of Supermodels
5 tips to help you create your personal style guide
-Lois Joy Johnson
Don’t shoot the messenger, but I have something to tell you. We’re so sucked into celebrity wannabe culture that we’ve forgotten what personal style really is.
Way before actresses dressed by stylists began bumping models off fashion magazine covers, models were the big influencers in fashion. And I think we’re finally on the way back if Agyness Deyn and Kate Moss are any indication.
I reminded myself of that last week at the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition: The Model as Muse. Go see this if you can- it’s on till August 9 and will jump-start your creative style juices better than watching Project Runway, Running In Heels or Gossip Girl.
A recession is actually the perfect time to show a little independence, to break out of the movie star rut. Did you know model Lauren Hutton was the first person on earth to combine Converse sneakers, a jeans mini or khakis, and a man’s white shirt as her uniform? Later on, it got picked up by J.Crew and Gap who turned Hutton-style into what we now call “basics.” Ha!
Supermodel Marisa Berenson was first to inspire generations of bohemian trends with her long curly hair, piles of ethnic jewelry and jet-set hippie look. Before the era of power-stylists, models dressed themselves and often did their own hair and makeup for shoots. They wore what they liked and brought their own street-style straight into the photo studio, where they mixed it up with the newest designer samples.
I was lucky to work with legends like Lauren Hutton, Cindy Crawford, Brooke Shields, Cheryl Tiegs, Twiggy, Christie Brinkley, Paulina Porizkova, Marisa Berenson, and Claudia Schiffer, and I learned something from all of them – as did every top fashion editor. You can too!
Here, the supermodel style guide:
• Thin out your closet. Don’t hoard tons of clothes – even expensive ones. To be well dressed, you need less, so you need to be ruthless. Models pick up a few accessories and one or two fresh pieces max -never a head-to-toe designer theme – every season. Lauren Hutton once told me, “No one has endless closet space or time to think about clothes. If they do, I wonder why!” Ten wardrobe pieces that work are better than 200 that don’t.
• Dress for life, not for a photo shoot. The confident, irreverent way models throw things together disguises an important fact. They don’t want to look like anyone else, but they do want to be comfortable. They add a little of this, a little of that and end up with a mix of individual pieces they feel good in, not what they wore on the runway or in their last photo shoot. They’re not afraid to reject trends, either. Models keep a sense of humor and practicality about clothes: Being able to run for a cab, dance for hours, or just walk a good twenty blocks without grimacing is reason enough for them to always wear flats or at least carry them in their bag.
• Mix it up all the time. Models were the original style-makers on fashion shoots. When getting dressed, they’d add their own clothes to samples during fittings, and fashion editors would say
“Hey, that looks cool – leave it on!” They were the first to blend menswear, tailored, and sporty pieces with feminine, vintage or trendy items. They were first to go bare-legged in winter, wear boots in summer, and perfect the art of dressing down dressy clothes, and dressing up casual ones. It was the models not the photographers calling the shots for most of fashion history. They always have a great leather jacket, a trench, boots, a long scarf and a big bag ready to go – and are not afraid to wear them with delicate chiffon dresses.
• Know which designers and labels make you look great. On advertising shoots, models have to make whatever they’re wearing look good – it’s their job to present the “product” in its best light. But – surprise! – those clothes are also often cut up the back, pinned to fit, and posed in a way to look better than they ever do in real life. On magazine editorial shoots, there is a little more flexibility, and so models often spot the looks that will work best for them even before editors do. They know clothes are just an extension of body language and that the right sleeve or armhole will make your gestures more elegant, that the angle of a pocket can shave pounds off your hips.
• Never buy IT items. A bag or dress so identifiable will meet its twin everywhere you go. Models prefer distinctive, one-of-a-kind items, no-label things or special pieces picked up in their travels to make their usual jeans, cargos, tees uniform look special. Haunt flea markets and consignment shops and you just might bump into a supermodel!