Home Lifestyle & Travel Fashion Lauren Cochrane gives us the lowdown on ten fashion classics

Lauren Cochrane gives us the lowdown on ten fashion classics

There are ten classics in the fashion world. Ten perfect items that defy trends. Pieces that will always be symbols of perennial cool. The Ten, by fashion writer Lauren Cochrane, gives us the lowdown.

1. The white t-shirt

Worn by Heroes and rebels … Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, Johnny Depp, with a biker jacket and a quiff, in Cry-Baby.

How to wear it now
With jeans for a stone-cold classic outfit. There’s a reason why we have worn this outfit for 70 years – jeans and T-shirts go together like burgers and fries. The combination is a no brainer, as seen on Jourdan Dunn or James Dean. Go with dark indigo denim for the full effect – it makes the white pop.

2. The hoodie

- Advertisement -

Worn by Mohammad Ali – aka Cassius Clay, as part of his workout gear. Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man. Sylvester Stallone in Rocky. And Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a grey hoodie when he was shot by George Zimmerman in 2012, leading to the Million Hoodie March, which took place a month after his death.

How to wear it now
Go XXL. For both comfort and aesthetics, an oversized hoodie is a winner. Hip-hop stars like Snoop Dogg are partial to going extra-large in the hoodie department. You’ll certainly feel wrapped up.

3. The biker jacket

Worn by Marlon Brando in The Wild One. The Hells Angels. Debbie Harry and Sid Viscous. Patti Smith. Hellen Mirren. Harry Styles. Gigi Hadid.  Sharon Osbourne.

How to wear it now
No white T-shirt and jeans. Yes, it’s tempting, but, thanks to the Fonz, making like Marlon is too costume-party now. Instead, contrast is your friend. The biker looks great, for example, over a floral slip dress. And go for trainers over biker boots.

4. The jeans

Worn by Andy Warhol, who wanted to die in them. Katherine Hepburn, who wore hers to scandalise studio heads in the thirties. Brooke Shields, who let nothing come between her and her Calvins. Bruce Springsteen – wearing Levis on the cover of Born in The USA.

How to wear them now
Go vintage. Not only will you do your bit for the planet, but you’ll get that distressed and worn-in look for real. The classics are still the best. Sure most brands do jeans. But for the real thing, there’s nothing better than the original brands: the Levi’s, the Lees, the Wranglers. If you listen closely, you can still hear the whisper of the mountain range.

The skinny jean is still the shape of our time. Rising in fashionability in the early 00s, it remains 20 years later, making the shape one of the longest trends ever. Boyfriend jeans, mom jeans, dad jeans and kick flares are threatening to oust them though.

5. The stiletto

Worn by 50s bombshell Marilyn  Monroe. Drag queens – RuPaul says “I’m six foot four – hello. And with hair, heels and attitude … I’m through the mother-freaking roof”. Carrie – in her Manalos, Choos and Louboutins in Sex in the City.

How to wear them now Have a spin. Stilettos worn with a LBD might be a classic, but it’s the equivalent of an overplayed song. Mix them with baggy stonewashed jeans or even an out-of-the-house version of trackpants. These pieces will give a refresh to these oh-so-ladylike shoes.

6. The trench

Worn by Soldiers in the trenches in the First World War. Humphrey Bohart and Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau. Ingrid Bergman, with a beret in Arch of Triumph. Prince with stockings and suspenders on the cover of Dirty Mind. Megan Markle, when she and Prince Harry announced their engagement.

How to wear it now
Go beyond khaki. A coloured trench is a way to wear the classic, while also pushing things a bit further. Think pink, green or bright red. Ochre, rust, grey and navy blue don’t count as experimenting, sorry.

7. The Miniskirt

Worn by Twiggy – declared by American Vogue as ‘the mini-girl in the mini-era’. Tina Turner in leather, Whitney Houston in pink, Melanie Griffith as Tess McGill in Working Girl. “We are striding forth with our legs on display,” said ex-editor of Vogue Alexandra Shulman. “Legs that were taking us places.”

How to wear it now
Make like Mary and combine with a boot. The queen of the miniskirt is still the source of tips – even 50 years later. But then again – Different day, different mini. A-line. Ruffled. Bright. Black. PVC. Denim. Take advantage of the miniskirt as a modern classic. Your take comes with what you wear with it – trainers, heels, sweatshirt or blouse. You decide.

Practise your pose We live in the era of social media, so getting that posture right in a miniskirt can make or break a look – after all, if you haven’t taken a selfie, have you even worn an outfit?

8. The ballet flat

Worn by Brigitte Bardot. Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Amy Winehouse. Princess Diana. Kate Moss, with skinny jeans.

How to wear them now
For inspiration, look to Lee Krasner – artistic chic with cuffed jeans, and Audrey Hepburn – cigarette pants and a polo neck.

A white shirt + ballet flats = underrated combination. Make your shirt bright white and sculptured, like Diana Vreeland, and wear with ballet flats. Something about the proportions give this mix the kind of elegance we all aspire to, but usually don’t have time for on an average Monday morning.

9. The Breton

Worn by The sailors on the Brittany coast, and made famous by Chanel. Teenagers in France after the war – who used to wear these stiped t-shirts with black slacks and ballet flats. James Dean and Marlon Brando (again), and Brigitte Bardot (ditto). Madonna in the video Papa Don’t Preach. The Duchess of Cambridge.

How to wear it now
Think 50s French starlets with an update Audrey Hepburn. A young Bardot. Leslie Caron. These are the Breton icons. Update the look with a little from the Alexa Chung school of dressing. Keep the eyeliner flick, but team it with denim cut-offs and espadrilles. Combining It girls in an outfit gains bonus fashion points.

10. The LBD

Worn by Everyone. In 1994, American Vogue declared ‘Ten out of ten women have one, but ten out of ten want another because a little black dress leads the best-rounded life’. The Supremes – Mary Wilson, Diana Ross and Florence Ballard – rocked matching LBDs, Barbie had one in the early 60s, and Princess Diana made a LBD central to the soap opera playing out in the royal family … remember The Revenge Dress? Elizabeth Hurley – in the Versace LBD with safety pings and a to-the-thigh slit

How to wear it now
Don’t see it as boring. Black is background, yes, but it’s also the colour of chic, the colour of rebellion. Embrace those qualities – whichever one applies to you. That is how you’ll find a LBD that pops when you put it on. Jewellery is your friend. As the likes of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Priceless Diana in 1994 attest, black looks great with sparkles.

This is not a time to go for subtle – go big or go home. Sunglasses also benefit from this rule of thumb.


Lauren Cochrane, senior fashion writer at The Guardian, has just released The Ten – The Stories Behind The Fashion Classics.
These ten pieces, she says, aren’t just fashion items; each is an emblem, part of the universal language of style. While trends may come and go, they remain classics. The book tells the story of each item’s creation, its journey to popularity, and why it matters today.
Great images of those who’ve worn these gems – Lesley Hornby (Tiggy) – poster girl for the mini,  Brooke Shields in her Calvins, Bruce Springsteen in Levis, Andy Warhol in Breton, The Supremes rocking LBDs. Stylish, sophis, sassy. Essential. Welbek, R347 from Exclusive Books     

- Advertisement -


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Must Read

Murder, mysteries and mayhem … and more than One Good Thing!

A small town. A shocking crime. Our kind of novel. In Robert Gold’s Twelve Secrets, two boys murdered their classmate, Nick, an event that...

Plant parent

Grow and nurture more houseplants to brighten your homeWe’re planting …the early spring flowering Verbena ‘Cadet’ that doesn’t spread like most verbena but grows...

Local celebrities share their inspiring messages to women

Next Tuesday, South Africa celebrates Women’s Day – a celebration of incredible women and their impact on Mzansi. The 9 August marks the anniversary of...

The one you want. The one you need. Oh yes indeed!

Grittier and more electrifying than ever before, the world’s best-loved musical, Grease comes to the South African Stage from SAFATA Academy.After a whirlwind summer...

Meet the new purple edition, S22 Bora Purple

Every colour has its own unique characteristics and heritage. Among them, purple has been one of the most beloved. It is a compelling colour,...