The New Garconne
I first mentioned The New Garconne: How to be a Modern Gentlewoman by Navaz Batliwalla in a recent post. Since then, I’ve read through it twice and recommended it to Grechen, who also ordered it right away. While I wasn’t previously familiar with Batliwalla, the blogger behind Disneyrollergirl, her book has quickly become one of my very favorite style publications. In it, Batliwalla profiles a set of influential women in and around the fashion industry who “embody a quietly assured masculine-feminine style,” that of a modern gentlewoman.
Even though I’m a mom in the suburbs of Texas, or, more likely, because of it, I appreciate this examination of style immensely. As I’ve become an advocate for ethical clothing and simplified my own wardrobe over the past few years, I’ve felt drawn to a specific aesthetic that is very different from my previous style and also very different from the dominant styles where I live. The New Garconne really encouraged me to continue my fashion pursuits in a way that goes along well with my desire to live more ethically.
While the book includes a list of shopping sources at the end, The New Garconne focuses more on the idea of “buy less but buy better,” as Caroline Issa, the CEO of the Tank Group, puts it. The importance of vintage items and treasured hand-me-downs are explored, as well as the concept of self-styled uniforms and capsule wardrobes. La Garçonne Moderne founder Kris Kim is working to define ten pieces that can become her own uniform, while Donna Wallace, the accessories director for ELLE UK reflects upon the idea of women’s fashion as previously disposable.
Many of the women profiled talk about their own individuality through the experience of not fitting in during their school days and young adulthood, which gave them the freedom to explore their own styles without following a herd mentality. Perfumer Lyn Harris describes herself as a childhood rebel, with a confidence that made her unafraid of anything. And along those same lines, sculptor Polly Morgan describes herself as not always being “the most confident person, but I’ve always had the confidence to stand behind my choices, even if they’ve been monstrous decisions with clothes, furniture, or my art.” This sentiment is echoed by many of the subjects profiled, and it’s very refreshing.
While Batliwalla chose women who embodied what she perceives as a new look that straddles the line between masculine and feminine style, she’s quick to point out that the idea of a new garconne is more about attitude than appearance. Sophie Hersan, the quality director of Vestiaire Collective, explains this idea in her profile, describing her inspiration gleaned from magazines at an early age, “what a woman could wear and a freedom that I could feel.” And it’s this freedom that translates to a relaxed and unique style that differs greatly from so many fashion blogs and even clothing lines.
The New Garconne made me stop and think about the politics of fashion and I’m hoping to explore some of these ideas in a post or two soon. I was really enamored with this book in a way that surprised me, and I definitely recommend it.