early influence


Finally, I’ve stopped merely citing "Sliding Doors" as a favourite style film, and actually got down to screen-capping the film to illustrate why it left such a lingering impression on me.

I’ve actually forgotten most of the finer points of the movie (I didn’t realise Gwyneth’s British English accent was so awkward in the movie, for one) but Gywneth’s wardrobe in this film has stayed with me because it both reminds me of an era enthralled me while I was growing up, and impresses me with how it’s still pretty relevant today. Together with “Possession” (go see Hannah-rose’s awesome homage to that one) and “The Perfect Murder”, it completes a trifecta of awesome “Gwyneth Paltrow channeling CBK” movies, in all its late-90s/early-00s elegance.

Behind some of the great minimalist film wardrobes in the 90s were some of the designers that greatly influenced me at the time: Michael Kors (then at Celine) was behind Gwyneth's bluestocking chic in "Possession", Calvin Klein did "Sliding Doors", Donna Karan was behind Uma Thurman's glacial cool in "Gattaca" and also Gwyneth's look in "Great Expectations".

I grew up in the heyday of Calvin Klein (when the man himself was designing) and I’ve always loved his brand of street-influenced minimalism. It isn’t the stark, conceptual minimalism we see today – there’s a sensuality and attitude to it, clothes made to be worn in an urban environment. It's hard to picture the Calvin Klein woman today as a real person, but the Calvin Klein of my teen years created a look a woman could truly identify with, and in which she could define herself while she went about her business. It’s a leather peacoat, or calf-skimming trench, oversized enough to give a woman room to move, but cut with high armholes to keep the look neat and sharp. Turtlenecks worn in two ways – clean and fitting for a sleek look, or chunky and oversized to relax in. Sharp black suits when she means business, t-shirts and loose trousers to curl up in. Even her waitressing uniform of an oversized denim shirt was a lesson in slouchy chic. Watching the film at age 14, I felt inspired by this vision of “grown-up dressing”, the next stage from the grunge years.

These are clothes made beautifully enough to signal discernment and a distinct point of view on the part of the wearer, but they don’t claim the spotlight. 15 years on (15!), I still want them.



khaylis said…
Love love love Sliding Doors! Also loved how DK had a green theme running throughout GP's wardrobe in Great Expectations.

I also liked what Michael Kors did for Rene Russo in The Thomas Crown Affair.
hannah-rose said…
THere's something about GP in this era... I almost prefer her then to the way she is now - too perfect for her own good, crazy awesome body, lifestyle guru or whatever.. The gwyneth now wants us to think that she's just like us even when we know that she isn't, but the gwyneth of the 90s was all like "I am awesome and you will never be as awesome as me", which I kind of loved. If you're going to be haughty and UES and if you're going to have that particularly aristocratic sense that the world revolves around you then at least own it, you know?

You've always talked about sliding doors, it's so great to read the story behind it. I've only seen it once and I remember being really confused by it, I think I must have been quite young. I Think it's time that I see it again, if only for that amazing wardrobe... You're so right about the contrast between minimalism then and now. I think that the difference is that minimalism now is trying to be 'modern', whereas minimalism in the 90s was trying to be contemporary. Leather jackets, tee shirts and beige slacks. CBK with her birkin and JFK junior's sweatshirt. Those kind of high/low contrasts are what has always drawn me to that era of dressing... You get it particularly in great expectations, actually.

Oh gwyneth... I really miss this. It's actually particularly American don't you think? All the designers that you mentioned - Michael Kors, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, also Anne Klein I would put in there too... Narcisco Rodriguez... Something about their history of sportswear... There's a post in this I think...

Jeanne-Aurore said…
So well put, Lin and so thoughtful, as usual. I'm very happy you got round to writing this.

I think you pinned to perfection what made 90s minimalism so special and, in my mind, irreplaceable. I was a young student in those days, and I remember the first time I saw an article about CBK's style: it was in a magazine in the dentist office, and I actually tore it up I was so impressed.

I'm amazed at how much all of those looks feel like a breath of fresh air, like a big tall glass of water that clears away all the unecessary bells and whistles to go to the essence of things. That one outfit with the grey turtleneck, high waisted jeans (that I always imagined to be APC for some reason-they could very well be), leather peacoat and if I remember correctly Adidas gazelle is on my top ten of all time most perfect outfits.

"Perfect Murder" is also a treasure of 90s fashion, if a bit more Upper East Side.

I think Hannah Rose's homage to the wonderful fashion in "You've Got Mail" should also be mentioned as a great analysis of this 90s pared down yet approachable aesthetic.
Ammu said…
Fabulous post. I agree whole-heartedly. I particularly love her red lips and minimalist clothing in "A Perfect Murder." Terrible film but so beautiful to look at. There's something about the classic American style - Jackie Kennedy in New York, CBK in Narciso and Yohji, Gwyneth Paltrow in Calvin Klein. It's such a confident, relaxed look - perfect for the working woman.
Maja H said…
You know, I always meant to see this movie but I never got around to it! The boyfriend will be out of town this weekend, and I will make sure to Netflix it in his absence :)

I was about 13 when this movie came out, so naturally I thought Kalvin Klein was very very boring. No feathers or beads or studs or anything, snore. I can't wait to see that style of 90s fashion with new eyes!
Maja H said…
Hah, I misspelled Calvin Klein. Blushing.
miss sophie said…
this is definitely a classic GP film and one of my faves too - she looks so fresh and her character is so good! that leather blazer, those buttondowns, that spaghetti strap dress...love!
Kali said…
Ah I remember this style! I haven't seen any of the films you mention but I remember several TV series with women styled in a simple and chic way. I was a teenager at that time and it was my dream to become one of these women.

... and I love the short haircut on Gwyneth in your screen caps. Especially with the simple grey T-shirt. So simple and so utterly feminine!
Jeanne-Aurore said…
I meant to add that what is striking now about the style is that it's not about being trendy or sexy, but instead being elegant and comfortable. There's not a lot of skin (think about CBK, those calf-lenght skirts and turtlenecks). It's a subtle seduction. Also, you definitely sense this is the pre "Sex & The City" era: no identifiable it-bag, no fetishising of trendy footwear. Also: pants cut with a waist that comes to the waist (no flashing of the underwear). There's another scene towards the end of the movie where GP's character repaints her office and she wears those high waisted cargos with Puma sneakers and a simple tee. Perfection!
Anonymous said…
Quite a tribute to a great haircut too, that movie.
Anonymous said…
Oh yes!!! I love Gwyneth and I liked this movie very much:) specially since I moved to London. She is my style icon and I liked her character transformation, sleek short hair and all:)
Eileen said…
I didn't watch the movie but looking at the pictures now, I can see why GP's wardrobe in the show appeals to you. Its so clean and everything fits so perfectly.

Blessed Lunar New Year to you and yours, my fren!
Anonymous said…
English accent! There is no such thing as a British accent.
lin said…
khaylis: Ah yes, the Thomas Crown Affair! Pity the movie was so dry...for me at least.

hannah-rose: i agree, i find her more bland now, less distinct.

there was a period of time when i was really into narciso rodriguez - his was such a sexy brand of sportswear. and anne klein! i remember i thought the old anne klein ads were so glamorous and i always thought it was a pity it became sort of frumpy after a while, and it's a shame no one seems to be able to revive it. and ralph lauren, in his less costume-y moments.

if there was an era of fashion that truly resonated with me, it's definitely american sportswear. when i got my first copy of us vogue in the 90s, i looked at all the american designers and thought, "yes yes YES."

jeanne-aurore: thanks! you inspired me to get moving.

i remember my friends asking what the fuss was about CBK - i think the point was that her look was so free of fuss; there was nothing to explain, nothing to write home about but simple lines added up to something so much greater.

thanks for bringing up hannah-rose's "You've Got Mail" post! She i did see that movie with new eyes after that.

and you're right about the covered-up sensuality, and the lack of an It-bag...i was just watching a Mission Impossible movie the other day and wondering why the Prada bag was so conspicuous, especially when it was also irrelevant.

ammu: Thanks! I like that the look is so timeless as well - it still looks modern to me.

Sliding Doors isn't very good as a movie either, haha. It's quite hard to think of a GP movie I like, off the top of my head..

Maja H: It's not a terrific movie, to be honest, but I guess it's quite non-offensive haha.

Kalvin, Calvin, pfffft.

miss sophie: now why is it so hard to find a dress or top with straps like that?

kali: i remember looking at her hair and feeling like it was such a validation of my own short hair at the time.

have you decided if you are going to cut your hair?

editor: absolutely.

anon 4.42: the hair really did make a nice transition for her character.

eileen: this is not a very good movie, so no loss!

happy new year to you as well and i hope you had a good celebration with your loved ones!

anon 5.33: Oops. Thanks for pointing it out!

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