When Hermès designs a new bag in your honor after meeting you on a plane, you know you’re a true fashion icon.
So, if you’re looking for the casual, yet chic fashion tips that seem to be so hard to come by, look no further than the one and only Jane Birkin.
Who Is Jane Birkin?
As a famous 1960s actress, model, singer, and songwriter, Jane Birkin seems to have it all. She was beloved in France as the “petite Anglaise,” or the little English girl. It was largely her 13-year-long relationship with the older French musician Serge Gainsbourg (who Birkin recently said was ahead of his time) that popularized Birkin throughout France, namely for their controversial song “Je t’aime … moi non plus.”
While the song had initially been recorded with another French fashion icon (and a part of our style icon series), Brigitte Bardot, it was never released as Bardot had recently gotten married and asked Gainsbourg not to use it. That’s when he came to Birkin, who said she agreed because she was madly in love with him at the time.
This was Birkin’s most famous romance, and she and Gainsbourg would have a daughter together (Birkin’s third). Even though they eventually split, Birkin said in later years that she never fully got over him.
However, outside of her relationship with Gainsbourg, Birkin was still a force to be reckoned with. She starred in many films, with some of her biggest being The Swimming Pool and Blow-Up. And with her classic bangs, she was perfectly suited to be a popstar, often singing in French. All the while, she was busy raising her three daughters.
But the thing that Birkin will forever be remembered for the most (I think) is having great style. And I mean really great, casual, effortless but put-together style that women everywhere try to achieve. She really went against the more formal styles of the time and solidified some of the classic looks we all have in our closet and consider basics. Her look works today as much as it ever has.
Relaxed Jeans and a Tee
If you’ve ever seen photos of Jane Birkin, this item isn’t going to come as a shock. She wore lots of basic tees with jeans in a relaxed fit. The key here is the relaxed fit. Skinny jeans really don’t emulate Birkin’s style in the same way that a pair of flares or straight leg denim does. As far as the t-shirts go, don’t get too crazy with them. Birkin wasn’t running around in over-the-top graphic tees. Her style was a lot more minimalist in this sense, and her tees were more along the lines of what you might find labeled as a basic tee in a store like Madewell.
This ensemble is so easy to throw together and nobody will even blink, but a more vintage cut of jeans will help to give it that extra unnameable element that Birkin’s outfit always had even when they were as basic as this.
The Basket Bag
Despite her association with the Hermès Birkin bag, before its creation, Jane Birkin really used baskets much more than she ever used a handbag. You can find a lot of variations on it today all over the place and in all different sizes. Birkin’s were generally on the larger side (smallness was actually her complaint to Hermès about the smaller version of the Birkin: the Kelly bag). They’re especially perfect for the summertime and are really good for holding absolutely everything you need for whatever adventures you might go on, whether you’re making a quick errand, are out for a day of shopping, or have gone on a picnic.
The Mini Dress/Skirt
The mini skirt and dress were certainly a phenomenon of the cultural revolution of the ‘60s. And fashion icon Birkin was no exception to this trend. She favored shorter dresses that were usually relatively casual compared to the traditional styles of the decade. Simple jewelry like a necklace or adding an accessory like a belt (which Birkin was a fan of, by the way) can help to make this outfit look more thought out, even though you likely threw it on as you ran out the door (grabbing your basket bag to go run an errand, of course).
The White Button-Down Shirt
This look is sort of a variation on Birkin’s favorite combo of the relaxed fit jeans and tee. However, the white button-down is a little different because it’s slightly more elevated than a t-shirt, while still keeping that effortless feel to it.
Remember the famous Meghan Markle outfit when she was first beginning to get photographed with Harry and she has that perfect white button-down? That’s what this is. It’s casual enough that you won’t look overdressed, but it’s more done up than a t-shirt. I can’t picture Meghan Markle wearing a t-shirt leading up to her engagement to Harry. Can you? And she definitely wore a lot of casual styles during that time. The point being, that the white button-down shirt is a bit more elevated than the cotton tee. It’s the perfect item to ease your way out of the quarantine sweatpants while remaining comfortable.
The Bangs and Natural Makeup
Bangs are synonymous with Jane Birkin. She still wears a variation on the bangs of her younger days today! They help to add another element to her look. You can almost think of them as being an accessory in a sense. If you really want to emulate Birkin, getting bangs cut to look like hers is definitely a natural step toward her cool girl image.
Not interested in taking the plunge with a whole new haircut? Don’t worry, I probably wouldn’t be either. After all, I have had the same haircut (long and no layers) for as long as I can remember. Bangs are definitely something that most beauty experts would advise you to never do impulsively, so if you’ve just been through a break-up, don’t even think about it. Maybe just start by trying out her ever so slightly undone blowout while you think about it.
For those of us not interested in changing our haircut, her makeup look is one that’s easy to replicate. In essence, it’s the no-makeup makeup look. Except Birkin really loved to wear a lot of mascara, even on her bottom lashes. This is where I think you can see that ‘60s, Twiggy sort of vibe. If you want to try this out, just go in for a second coat on the bottom lashes and keep in mind that Birkin wore them so that you could distinctly see each separate lash. Think a little bit of lip color, blush, eyeliner, and ‘60s mascara. You’re basically done! It’s a refreshing change from the heavy and time-consuming contouring of today’s makeup.
I can’t end a Jane Birkin article without talking more in-depth about the Birkin bag. After all, the Hermès-made bag is her namesake and actually has a neat story behind its creation. She was on the plane with her agenda when she dropped it. The man next to her said she should get something with pockets to which she responded, “Hermès don’t make it with pockets.” The man…he was Hermès. So he asked her to show him how big she felt it should be, which she did (through a drawing on the stomach distress bag).
A little while later, and Hermès had made the bag, calling it after Jane Birkin herself. She has abandoned the handbag for her pockets in recent years, but she used to put bells on hers. She only ever had one bag at a time and would wear them until they were worn out. A good philosophy to go by!
Jane Birkin is a true style icon whose looks have inspired a lot of the casual styles we consider classics today. The best part about it being classic is that it’s timeless and works just as well today as it ever did! So whether you try a pair of jeans with a more relaxed fit or decide to invest in a basket bag, Birkin’s style is so effortless no one would blink an eye, but at the same time, the look is so chic you’ll turn heads. And the (very pricey) Birkin bag isn’t even necessary to achieve it!