“If I Keep It Super Simple, It’ll Look Good”: The Outfit Anatomy of Clémence Polès

Welcome to Outfit Anatomy, a series of comprehensive style analyses that aim to break down what we wear by answering questions like: How much did that cost? Where did you find that? Why did you buy it in the first place? Up this week is Clémence Polès, founder of Passerbuys and creator of FFFEST, a screening and talk series that celebrates women in film, which is taking place in New York this weekend.

I bought my trench coat about a year ago; it’s this brand called Low Classic. I was torn between wanting a traditional trench a la Burberry and a statement vinyl trench like Catherine Deneuve wears in Belle de Jour, directed by Luis Buñuel (or even the transparent trench Meryl Streep wears in Laurie Simmons’s film, Music of Regret).

Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour by Luis Buñuel.

I was really into the large collar and detective-esque look. And then I discovered this one on Totokaelo, which was basically two-in-one: there’s a beautiful Burberry-esque trench coat on the bottom layer and then this vinyl layer on top, which I’m wearing today. It was styled as a kind of double coat online, so of course I was like, Two for the price of one? I’m sold. It was $450. The vinyl layer on its own isn’t that warm—I typically wear a snap cardigan under it from agnès b. But it’s perfect for stormy weather. Plus I’m an introvert, so it’s nice to be ensconced in a big trench, hidden from view.

I would describe my style as classic, minimal, really keeping it to staple pieces—just things that will look good no matter what the occasion. I don’t actually enjoy pulling an outfit together unless I feel “inspired,” so most of the time, getting dressed stresses me out, especially in a city like New York, where identity and appearances are intertwined. I feel like there’s a lot of weight in what you wear and what it says about you. But I’ve realized that if I keep it super simple, it’ll look good. I gravitate towards minimalist uniform-ware. I love designers like Sarah-Linh Tran of Lemaire, Phoebe Philo, Jil Sander. There’s something quite comforting in how timeless and attractive a plain white shirt and high waisted pants are (and versatile: add a red lip and you have your night outfit. Tinka Menkes in Queen of Diamonds by Nina Mendes shows this so well). You see it a lot in French cinema, which is probably where I get most of my fashion inspiration. The marinière, the plain white t-shirt, the penny loafers—just like the films, the clothes have stood the test of time.

This shirt is Alex Mill. I can’t remember whether I got it from the men’s or women’s section, but I was drawn to its collar. I love a big or pointed collar (like the one Zouzou wears in Love in the Afternoon by Eric Rohmer.) Lemaire actually does an incredible rendition of that shirt, which I’ve been obsessed with, but the quality on this one’s pretty solid. It’s comfortable. It doesn’t crease much, which I like, and it’s oversized, kind of like you see in French New Wave films. I’ll wear it with high-waisted pants, or Jesse Kamm sailor pants, or a pencil mid-length black skirt and maybe a cardigan.

Working from head to toe: This ring was given to me by my aunt. I’ve been wearing it for over 10 years. I don’t know how she got it. It might’ve been a sketchy anecdote, so I try not to ask questions. I love this ring. I haven’t seen anything like it. It’s very structural, kind of mid-century. My earrings are Lemaire. I bought them on sale on Need Supply after I saw them on Bambou Roger-Kwong—who I interviewed for Passerbuys. Her aesthetic is so on point; I think I bought multiple things from that shoot actually. A coaster from this cartoon French book, a pair of knee-high A.P.C. boots. She’s wearing a beautiful Lemaire dress that I couldn’t find in Paris.

My husband got me this bag for my birthday four years ago. It’s a Celine trio. I carry this all the time—I only have, like, three bags. It’s versatile, simple, classic. I like the three pockets, they’re good for someone who is really anal and likes to organize things (like me). Also their warranty is amazing. They’ll fix this up for free whenever. They completely replaced the strap six months ago.

I got these pants about a year and a half ago. They’re part of a wool Acne suit—my first and only suit—which I bought because Beverly Nguyen, whom I interviewed on Passerbuys, told me Acne makes the best suits. I felt that at 28 it was time for me to own a suit, a “power suit” if you will. Funnily enough, two years later I’ve probably only worn the whole set once. I just don’t feel that confident in one, even though I know that’s kind of its purpose. Anyway, the fit of the pants is really good, slightly tapered and cropped. They were $350 at the Acne store in New York. I like to wear them with mules or loafers.

Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face by Stanley Donen.

These are G.H. Bass loafers. Those that know, know. I’ve worn G.H. Bass loafers for over eight years now and I don’t think I could switch to any other brand. I often wear them like Audrey Hepburn wears them in Funny Face, with black pants and a black turtleneck. G.H. Bass loafers are the best: they’re so comfortable and they last forever, especially if you buy the winter model called Winter Whitney Weejuns. I buy them every few years, then bring them to the cobbler between for repairs. I got these for $90 with a promo code. I don’t know why people don’t talk about G.H. Bass loafers more; I wear these year round.

Back up to my head: My sunglasses are Kate Young, called Ally. They remind me of the ones Monica Vitti wears in La Dolce Vita—those iconic kind of older cat-eye glasses. I bought this headscarf from Monoprix, which is a supermarket in Paris. They have the best stuff. I like to wear it during the fall for the wind, like Sophia Loren does in The Key. As told to Haley Nahman.

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