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Fashionated: Dressing the French Ingenue

Updated on January 11, 2017
Audrey in cropped black pants, a slim black sweater, and cute ballet flats!
Audrey in cropped black pants, a slim black sweater, and cute ballet flats! | Source
Relaxed Grace Kelly in a knotted button down, slim black pants, and ballet flats!
Relaxed Grace Kelly in a knotted button down, slim black pants, and ballet flats! | Source

Dressing the Ingenue, Hepburn-style


DRESSING THE INGENUE

One of my personal favorite styles is lifted from the young starlets of the 1950s and early 1960s. Recalling Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood, this style is very deceptively simple, but can pack a beautiful punch. Known for little black dresses and slim capris, updating this style is necessary, as without a modern twist, a woman can easily fall into looking like she came from a costume shop.

To master the ingenue, it is all about simplicity. You may want to invest in a higher quality of item, since there is little embellishment to hide behind. This simplicity works best when tailored, so having alterations done on investment pieces can be truly worth it. Buy conscientiously, buy cautiously, but your end result should last for at least a decade.

Dressing For Day

First and foremost, keep it modern.

For day, look to skinny jeans. A black or dark gray pair, preferably in an ankle length, will modernize the cigarette pant, but regular dark wash denim will work as well.

Sweater sets are always in style for an ingénue, but layer the cardigan over a lacy or sheer camisole for intrigue, and don’t shy away from small details of interest: beads, flowers, rhinestones. Just make sure to keep it understated. Vintage and vintage-inspired sweaters are some of my favorites, as the shape is forever classic and the embellishments are unique.

To keep it extra casual and carefree, take a cue from Grace Kelly and don an oxford shirt with yoru slim pants. Tucked in halfway or fully, leaving the top 2-3 buttons undone. A lacy camisole can totally be layered underneath if you wish for a bit more modesty.

Tone down embellished looks with some simple studs (pearls, rhinestones/diamonds, or solid metal) in the ears, and some modern ballet flats (I like a great faux leather texture, like alligator, or two toned capped toe styles), and a pale clutch bag.

If you’re a fan of daytime drama, pearls are the greatest adjustable accessory. One string reads sweet, multiple dangling, or as a stacked choker, decadent elegance. A small but statement making rhinestone necklace can also add an unexpected pop to an otherwise understated outfit.

Lovely Natalie Wood shows off her shoulders in a sleek scoop neck and studs.
Lovely Natalie Wood shows off her shoulders in a sleek scoop neck and studs.
Famous still from "Breakfast at Tiffany's," great example of that classic Audrey style, a slim fit, floor-length shift.  Gloves are not needed for a modern take!
Famous still from "Breakfast at Tiffany's," great example of that classic Audrey style, a slim fit, floor-length shift. Gloves are not needed for a modern take! | Source
Radiant Audrey.  Is there anything more lovely than this shell pink frock?  And of course, the pearls just set off the creaminess of her complexion...
Radiant Audrey. Is there anything more lovely than this shell pink frock? And of course, the pearls just set off the creaminess of her complexion... | Source
Grace Kelly, looking powerful and timeless in a deep-v blouse
Grace Kelly, looking powerful and timeless in a deep-v blouse | Source

Evening Looks

For evening, everything goes very old Hollywood glam. First, hair gets twisted into a French twist or variation on a messy bun, either way, play with volume! The LBD is a great choice, but look for one with interest and texture, whether with beads, lace, or even feathers.

Aim for all black, but allow things to have a sheen or embellishment. (Sleeveless will keep it classic as well, as can strapless.) Pencil skirted or bubble skirt is optional, but make sure the length is no higher than just above the knee (anything too short will cheapen the look). My current favorite look right now is a slim-fitted midi skirt, as it has modesty and allure all at once.

Hosiery is not necessary, but shoes can be daring. Whether choosing a flashy stiletto in a saturated color, or a simpler peep toe with rhinestone clips, make the shoes your standout. Simple studs once again, and consider slipping a hairpin or clip into your hair, one that coordinates with your shoes. A small dark bag will complete your look.

If the weather is cooler, opt for a finished satin wrap, although a pashmina can work in a pinch. If it is truly cold, the best coat for the ingénue is knee-length, with ¾ sleeves, oversized buttons, and in a fun color (patterns can be risky, unless it is a classic hounds tooth). For those still looking for a bit more flash to their look, a fake fur stole in a NATURAL tone (no hot pink furs today!)


Other Evening Options

If pants are more your taste for evening, never fear.

A slim tuxedo pant, straight but not skinny, can replace the dress (hitting just above the ankle is best).

Adding a narrow-strapped or strapless top in a dark tone, or even a sleeveless silk or cashmere turtle-neck, can be seen as chic, but rarely slutty.

Accessorize just as you would with a dress, but up the ante with makeup. Pants gets sexier with a cat-eye.


Ingenue Style Reminders

For Day

  • Slim, dark pants/jeans/leggings
  • Sheer layers with delicate embellishment
  • Classic, understated shoes
  • Delicate accessories

For Evening

  • Hair up!
  • LBD is never wrong!
  • Embellishments or texture to stand out
  • Daring shoes
  • Dressier pants are an option!

And

  • Invest in quality pieces
  • Find a good, local tailor for alterations
  • Confidence, confidence, confidence!

Modern Muses

Emma Stone, here in a simple Audrey-inspired frock, is a master of the simple, understated elegance ingenue style.
Emma Stone, here in a simple Audrey-inspired frock, is a master of the simple, understated elegance ingenue style. | Source
Is there anyone more lovely than Emma Watson?  In a deceptively simple shift, she radiates poise, elegance, and grace, the perfect role model for this style.
Is there anyone more lovely than Emma Watson? In a deceptively simple shift, she radiates poise, elegance, and grace, the perfect role model for this style. | Source

Mastering the Style

With these ideals and details, achieving the clean, French-inspired looks of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, is a simple, realistic goal for the budding fashionista. A basic capsule wardrobe can easily be designed to fit this goal of simple elegance, and if the pieces are quality they will last a very long time.

Look to modern ingenues for more examples of this simple, chic style. Emma Watson and Emma Stone are wonderful muses. They are both known for rocking elegant, simple designs both on and off the red carpets. They are both aware that heavy embellishments don't always produce the striking effect, preferring to radiate in simplicity. They appear attractive, confident, and comfortable in their chosen styles.

The real key to the look, no matter who you are in life, is having confidence in yourself as you face the world, regardless of what you are wearing. If you feel good, then the world cannot tell you otherwise.

Whose style do you prefer?

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