Gentlewoman Chic

You may have heard the terms “garçonne” and “modern gentlewoman” – most recently popularized by Navaz Batliwalla in her book The New Garçonne: How to be a Modern Gentlewoman. (Review here and interview here.)

The French word garçonne translates as “tomboy,” while the “new” or “modern” part of the equation refers to the grownup aesthetic involved. Instead of ball caps, ringer tees, and Chucks, we’re talking fedoras, menswear-inspired blazers, and brogues:

Navaz Batliwalla Kelly Alterations NeededGarance Dore women's tux

I’ve noticed that women who are drawn to the gentlewoman look pay an incredible amount of attention to quality and detail.  And no wonder – menswear, well done, is a feast of texture, pattern, and line all in a pleasingly balanced structure. Looking at the above photos, particularly those from Kelly’s blog Alterations Needed, has me itching to collect more perfectly cut blazers (like this one), sumptuously textured fabrics, and sleek flats. I might even pull my grandpa’s fedoras off the hooks on my bedroom wall where they hang as heirloom decor.

Although I wear my fair share of dresses (and am not afraid of a skirt in summer), I frequently borrow a page or two from menswear, though not as nattily as the women pictured above:

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What is your take on the “modern gentlewoman” look or garçonne chic? Have you read the book? Scroll down to comment.


4 thoughts on “Gentlewoman Chic

  1. This is a great post and I was so happy and excited to read it! I read The New Garconne as soon as it came out (I had heard about it on Navaz Batliwalla’s website as well as Alyson Walsh’s website) and love it. Being tall and pretty curveless, I’ve always dressed in tomboy style because it flattered my body type and just felt comfortable and right for me, and now that I’m older I can happily refer to my style as Gentlewomen Style (sounds slightly more grown-up, I think). I have found almost all of my favorite clothing items at thrift stores (best score ever: an honest-to-goodness Burberry trench coat OMG yasss!!) in both the men’s and women’s sections. The book skews very much towards luxury brands and labels, but smart thrifters like us know that we can find truly beautiful pieces at much, much more reasonable prices. The one item I have spent a bit more money on has been shoes, although Amazon has helped out in that area. Thanks for the wonderful post! (Full disclosure: I suggested our local library should purchase this book and they did, super wonderful people that they are. I have checked it out TEN TIMES, so maybe I can, um, justify buying it and stop being so selfish about continually checking it out!)

    1. Sophie, I love that you are a serial book borrower! I haven’t had a chance to read it yet and don’t normally buy books outright, so what a great idea to get my library to buy it.
      I agree, it’s nice to have a grownup term for “tom boy.” And I never thought about it this way, but of course another advantage of shopping at thrift stores is that you can easily shop men’s and women’s looks all at once. That reminds me of a pair of Zara glen plaid men’s pants I thrifted and wore often to work…I’ll have to find a pic and add it to the post.
      So glad you enjoyed the post, thanks for commenting!

  2. Yesssssss. I have been getting into ties as an accessory lately, either draped over the shoulders (like Kelly above) or tied in a loose knot. My favorites are skinny, matte ties that don’t overwhelm my frame.

    Kelly points out that the key to her pulling of menswear — at least her rather feminine style of it — is to do everything a bit messy and carefree. Sleeves cuffed a bit unevenly, shirt partially untucked, tie in a messy knot over a shirt that has one or two buttons undone.

    1. I’d love to see some of your tie looks! In college my roommate and I used to do Tie Tuesdays and had a lot of fun with the added spunk in our outfits (plus we learned to tie a tie).
      Rolled cuffs and fun prints are my favorite way to keep menswear inspired look from getting too severe

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