She has a Hermes bag named after her – and it’s one of the brand’s best-selling models. She’s admired both in her homeland of Britain and in her adopted home of France. Yet although she is famous for her singing and acting, it is arguable that she is equally famous for her style. Step forward Jane Birkin. Nell Darby takes a closer look at a true style icon.

Londoner Birkin was born in 1946, and became famous aged just 20 when she appeared in the classic Swinging Sixties film Blowup, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.  She then manged to get a role in French film Slogan, co-starring with Serge Gainsbourg. The two of them formed a relationship both personally and musically, most famously releasing ‘Je T’Aime… Moi Non Plu’s in 1969 (a song originally recorded by Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot). Birkin became notorious after the song was banned in several countries for its risqué lyrics.  Since then, she has been combining acting with singing.
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Given the furore over ‘Je T’Aime…’,  it seems appropriate that Birkin’s style combined a gamine, youthful appearance with often overtly sexual clothes.

She was once pictured with Serge Gainsbourg, wearing a simple black minidress, which sounds fine, only it just happened to be rather see-through, and Birkin wore it without a bra or top underneath. This contradiction between innocence and sexuality is perhaps part of her attraction.

In her Sixties heyday, Birkin stood out partly because of her love of head-to-toe black. In one photo shoot with Gainsbourg, she wears a black fitted jersey, black low-slung belt, black hotpants and black court shoes with black over-the-knee socks. It’s almost a naughty schoolgirl look, but on Birkin, it worked.

beachA more socially acceptable look for Birkin involved a black reefer jacket, worn long enough to finish below the black minidress she had on underneath. This was teamed with sheer tights and black heels (not stilettoes, Birkin tended to wear low heels).

Of course, Birkin didn’t dress provocatively or in dark clothes all the time. At the seaside, she was pictured in fitted white t-shirt, jeans, and with a wicker basket as her only accessory beside a simple necklace. Her jewellery was frequently just a silver or gold chain, although these varied in length from choker-length to mid-chest.

Her hair was simple, long and framing her face, with a long straight fringe, worn either straight or tousled. Make-up was no more than the classic Sixties black eyeliner and pale lips.

Today, Birkin retains her slightly tomboyish simplicity and still looks effortlessly stylish at nearly 63 years old. Her daughters – including the actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, Birkin’s child by Serge – also share her fashion sense, showing sultry allure works for women of all ages.

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