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British Fashion 101: Five British Style Icons to Watch

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Many of you expressed your interest in British style in response to my last post on British vs. American fashion, so I thought I would do a piece on inspiration from some of my favorite British style icons. There were plenty to choose from, but today I want to focus on some slightly lesser-known women. After all, we already know how to dress like Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and Emma Watson!

Today I have chosen to feature MTV Presenter Alexa Chung, TV presenters Fearne Cotton and Holly Willoughby, singer Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine fame) and actress Carey Mulligan. Each of these women have fabulous day and night styles that are both unique and easy to recreate.

Below, I will be breaking down each of their styles and showing you both a day and a night outfit inspired by each girl.

Alexa Chung

alexa chung
image credits 1/2/3

TV  presenter Alexa is known for her fun, eclectic style. She mixes unusual pieces to create eclectic, not-quite-matching outfits that demonstrate her rejection of fashion rules.

Essential Elements of Alexa’s Style

Layering. Alexa definitely understands the temperamental nature of British weather and always keeps warm in an array of blazers, jackets and cardigans.

Stripes. Stripes are a fun and easy way to inject some flavor into your wardrobe, and Alexa uses them to create interest in a simple outfit.

Mixing girly with edgy. Alexa is best known for her laid-back festival-type look, but she also wows on the red carpet by mixing feminine dresses with edgy black booties. And she always loves to rock a laid-back jacket with her cutesy florals.

Leave something to the imagination. Alexa pulls off ultra-short dresses by keeping the rest of her body covered. She admits she doesn’t have any cleavage, so she keeps it sexy but not trashy by putting her top half under wraps and just showing off those endless legs.

Outfit Inspired by Alexa- Daytime

I wanted to create an outfit that represented Alexa’s laid-back but put-together daytime look. While Alexa loves her high-waisted shorts and simple striped tops, she often mixes them with fun accessories to keep things from looking too perfect.

Alexa Chung day outfit
bag/striped top/blazer/high waisted shorts/oxfords

This outfit is great because it is so easy to recreate with pieces you already own, namely the striped top, denim shorts and oversized blazer. I added the oxfords to give the outfit a fun, masculine twist. Finally, what Alexa Chung outfit would be complete without the Mulberry “Alexa” bag? This bargain version is almost identical – for less than $12!

Outfit Inspired by Alexa – Night

I absolutely love Alexa’s nighttime look, and one of my favorite outfits of hers is the one in the second picture above, where she’s rocking an amazing lacy dress. I love how she creates a romantic yet edgy look with the little booties and clutch.

Alexa Chung style - night outfit
dress/booties/clutch/necklace

I got SO excited when I found this dress – but then I realized, it is super-short! So I added tights to wear underneath, but leggings would also look great with it, if you need more coverage. Alexa likes to keep her jewelry simple, but I thought this layered cross necklace worked well with the vintage Victorian look of the dress.

Fearne Cotton

Fearne Cotton
image credit 1/2

Ex-kids TV presenter and radio DJ Fearne Cotton has a style all her own. Fresh, fun and edgy, there is nobody who dresses quite like her. She rocks Converse and bands t-shirts for day, but always looks amazing in mini-dresses and heels for red-carpet events.

Essential Elements of Fearne’s Style

Fun shoes. Shoes are always a conscious choice for Fearne. Whether she’s rocking biker boots with a girly dress or comfy Converse with a pretty skirt, her feet always make a statement.

Mixing prints. Fearne loves to mix different prints and patterns – like in her first outfit above. Need some help making the look work? We’ve got some tips on how to mix prints.

Mixing styles. I love that Fearne will often mix a pretty floral skirt with an edgy band tee, making her look feminine but also totally rocker-chic.

Finish with an amazing bag. We can’t all afford Mulberry like Fearne, but we can channel her handbag style! She’s known to rock brightly colored handbags, so try a red bag against a dark-toned outfit.

Outfit Inspired by Fearne – Daytime

I absolutely love how Fearne mixed prints in the first outfit above, finishing her look off with laid-back Converse. The ensemble is so chic but also looks very comfortable. Therefore, I decided to recreate something similar on a college budget.

Fearne Cotton style - day outfit
black tank top/plaid shirt/skirt/converse/bag

Like Alexa’s day look, Fearne’s daytime style is easy to recreate with the clothes you already own. Leopard print is a huge trend this season, and when paired with a plaid shirt, the otherwise-dressy leopard skirt becomes casual and funky. Finally, Converse are a great alternative to ballet flats for a fun daytime look, but you could also add heels to make this outfit work for evening.

Outfit Inspired by Fearne – Night

Fearne’s evening look is really easy to recreate – all you need is a great dress and a cute pair of shoes!

Fearne Cotton style - night outfit
dress/biker boots/clutch/bracelet

I love how Fearne pairs her ultra-feminine dress with punky biker boots in the last picture above, and I also love the bright purple dress she wears in the second picture. So put ‘em together and what have you got? This ensemble! This dress is a fabulous investment piece – it’s simple enough for daytime as well as evening, and it would also be fab with boots and tights for the cold winter months.

Holly Willoughby

Holly Willoughby
image credit

Fearne’s best friend, TV presenter Holly Willoughby, is just as stylish, but has a different approach to fashion. While Fearne is a rock chick, Holly is a glam icon for curvy girls everywhere – embracing fitted dresses and showing off her assets with nipped-in waists. Her style is much more feminine and sophisticated than Fearne’s, but works great for both day and night, too.

Essential Elements of Holly’s style

Ultra-girly. Holly’s look is really feminine – think floaty tea dresses and fitted evening gowns. She even gives her denim look a sophisticated edge with a cute patterned scarf and heels.

Rock those curves! Holly has curves in all the right places and boy, does she know how to show them off! To get her look, choose form-fitting dresses and plunging necklines, but choose longer lengths to avoid looking trashy.

Black opaques keep it classy. As Holly knows, when it comes to showing skin, sometimes less is more. She’s known to rock black opaque tights with her little dresses, making for a sexy look that’s also classy.

Perfectly polished. Holly’s look is always perfected – there is never a hair out of place or a smudge of eyeliner to be found. She’s also a fan of keeping things simple. On the red carpet, she lets her dresses do the talking, keeping jewelry to a minimum.

Outfit Inspired by Holly – Daytime

Holly’s daytime look is really easy to recreate with a cute tea dress and a fabulous belt to define those curves.

Holly Willoughby style - day outfit
dress/cardigan/tights/black heels/bag/ belt

I love this dress because it’s a perfect layering piece for winter (just add a long-sleeved tee underneath, or rock a cardigan on top), and the belt will help define its already-cinched-in waist. Belt the cardigan on top for an on-trend look. Finish off with a mix of tan and black accessories, including a vintage bag that Holly would love.

Outfit Inspired by Holly – Night

Holly’s evening look is glamorous and sexy, so I wanted to create something simple and elegant, like the outfit she is wearing in the second picture above.

holly willoughby style - night outfit
dress/heels/necklace/clutch

This look would be perfect for a Holiday party or New Year’s Eve event. The bright red dress will ensure you stand out, and it needs minimal accessories – just add a simple necklace, leopard pumps, and a basic clutch, and you’re good to go!

Florence Welch

Florence Welch
image credit

Florence Welch has two very different style personas – during the day, she rocks an indie-inspired, eccentric look, while on stage, she’s all about Greek goddess-style flowing gowns. We’ve already done a post here on CF inspired by her music, so this post is dedicated to her unique look, on and off stage.

Essential Elements of Florence’s style

Masculine-inspired pieces. Florence is often seen in oxfords and oversized blazers, both of which give her girly look a masculine edge.

Don’t be afraid to go long. Florence often wears long dresses on stage and they look fabulous on her. Maxi dresses were huge this summer, so continue the trend with a long evening dress or skirt.

Mix vintage and new. Florence’s style is fun because she mixes her vintage pieces with modern items, creating a balanced yet eclectic aesthetic.

Play with a neutral palette for daytime. While Florence loves to wear bright colors on stage, during the day, she works muted tones of blue and mustard, as well as lots of black.

Outfit Inspired by Florence- Daytime

I wanted to create a daytime outfit that incorporated all of Florence’s trademarks – high-waisted shorts, blouses, blazers, ankle socks and, of course, a great bowler hat.

Florence Welch style - day outfit
blouse/blazer/high waisted shorts/ankle socks/oxfords/satchel/bowler hat/lipstick/

This is probably my favorite outfit of this post. I love the look of tight-fitting shorts with a loose blouse, and I love the masculine shoes, blazer and satchel bag. Next, I added the ankle socks, hat and red lipstick for a fun, Florence-esque touch. As Florence proves, redheads absolutely can wear red lipstick!

Outfit Inspired by Florence – Night

With her flaming red curls and classic features, Florence looks like a Greek goddess on stage. Therefore, I wanted to find a beautiful Grecian dress and a touch of sparkle to recreate her red carpet and on-stage look.

Florence Welch style - night outfit
dress/socks/heels/cuff/clutch

I debated including this dress because it’s not exactly budget-friendly, but it was so beautiful and such a perfect example of what I had in mind for Florence’s night dress that I had to use it. Obviously, there are dozens of other Grecian-inspired dresses out there that would be more budget-friendly. Next, I added a bit of sparkle (Florence loves her glitter!) and Florence’s trademark silk socks and heels. Since the dress is such a statement-making piece, this simple gold cuff is all that’s needed to complete the look.

Carey Mulligan

carey mulligan
image credit 1/2

Actress Carey Mulligan was recently voted Best Dressed Woman of 2010 and it’s easy to see why. While her daytime look is laid back and casual, her evening look is positively showstopping.

Essential Elements of Carey’s Style

Relaxed, easy pieces for day. Carey loves black cropped trousers, and as you can see in the photo above, they look fabulous when paired with a loose, simple shirt.

Choose feminine pieces for evening. Carey’s red carpet dresses are always pretty and feminine without being too sexy. She usually chooses classic shapes and adds minimal jewelry.

Minimalism. Carey’s style is intentionally effortless – this girl doesn’t like tons of flash. Even her red carpet looks are simple and classic.

Outfit Inspired by Carey – Daytime

To create a look inspired by Carey, my goal was to keep it simple. After all, Carey’s daytime style is all about being comfortable yet classy.

Carey Mulligan style - day outfit
shirt/blazer/cropped trousers/pumps

I love this outfit because it is at once both laid-back and smart. Cropped trousers are a great alternative to jeans, and a smart blazer and shirt make this look work-appropriate, yet still comfortable and effortless.

Outfit Inspired by Carey – Night

I wanted to create an outfit based on Carey’s gorgeous 2010 Oscar dress (pictured above). In case you don’t remember, her beautiful dress was decorated with little knives and forks! As Carey’s Oscar look proved, one statement dress is really all you need to stand out – accessories can be kept to a minimum when your frock is amazing.

Carey Mulligan style - night outfit
dress/heels/clutch/earrings

To begin, I chose a pretty black party dress with a similar shape to Carey’s Oscar gown. I absolutely loved Carey’s ribbon shoes, and these are a fabulous alternative. Finally, since the dress has an unusual neckline, you don’t need to wear a necklace, so these beautiful chandelier earrings complete the look.

What do you think?

What do you think of British style? Who are you favorite British style icons? Which country do you think has the most stylish women? I’d love to know what you think! Let me know in the comments.

Posted on on November 26, 2010 / Filed Under: Inspiration / Tags: , , , , , , ,

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43 Responses to “British Fashion 101: Five British Style Icons to Watch”

  1. 1
    November 26th, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    I’ve been waiting for a post like this FOREVER, this is awesome! I am Italian but my favorite fashion icons are British and I can’t even describe how much I adore Alexa Chung and her impeccable looks! I also love Florence vintage outfits and I’m a big fan of her music, my Ipod is full of her songs (and Arctic Monkeys’s, whose leader Alex Turner is Alexa Chung’s boyfriend…what a coincidence!). And last but not least, Carey Mulligan is just so incredibly chic.

  2. 2
    November 26th, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    I agree–such a great article showcasing tons of great pieces!

  3. 3
    November 26th, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Where’s Emma Watson?

  4. 4
    November 26th, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Love this article, as I have always been a fan of British style! I would have loved to see Kate Middleton on here- I am obsessed with her style! Maybe an article on her style to come? Thanks!

  5. 5
    November 26th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    I agree. Where’s Emma Watson?
    But other than that, I adored this post. Alexa Chung is my hero. If I could switch bodies with anyone, it’d be her.

  6. 6
    November 26th, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Fantastic post! I’d love more British inspired outfits, paticularly a music inspired one on Duffy!

  7. 7
    November 26th, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    I just got a blazer exactly like the Daytime Carey outfit one at Kohls. Seriously, it looks exactly the same.

  8. 8
    November 26th, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    For those asking about Emma Watson, she says why she’s not on the list at the end of the first paragraph!

    Great post, love the looks.

  9. 9
    November 26th, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    great post! :D

    I agree with Tricia “I’d love more British inspired outfits, paticularly a music inspired one on Duffy!” – and Pixie Lott :)

  10. 10
    November 26th, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Coach every product is perfect embodiment of the fusion of design and function.

  11. 11
    November 26th, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Um, not to be rude, but in the first paragraph the poster mentions relatively UNKNOWN British fashion icons but have you been paying attention to US fashion news? Alexa Chung is everywhere, on refinery29, whowhatwear, etc. Please try to be more original or at least stick to your opening promise. Also, that Mulberry bag knock off is a serious insult to the real brand, please don’t support fakes or knock offs (a chinese wholesale site? really CF?).

  12. 12
    November 26th, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    @amie

    You are being rude. Saying “not to be rude” doesn’t fix that. Not everyone is super-fashion attentive, so we come to places like CF to learn. I have never heard of Holly and Fearne, and I’ve only seen glimpses of Alexa Chung. It was great getting a peak into what they would wear. I myself do not visit refinery29, whowhatwear, and I guess all the other sites that cover her so much. Probably because I’m your average American. I also don’t support knockoffs, but I hope you do realize that most college students do indeed purchase knockoffs. The point isn’t to purchase the exact set the author lists, it’s to get style inspiration.

  13. 13
    November 26th, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Love it!
    Im hoping for more british style posts! Im just in love with it :)

  14. 14
    November 26th, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    Such a lovely post!

  15. 15
    November 26th, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    love this article, but make it 6 and include Emma Watson!

  16. 16
    November 26th, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Love Alexa’s style. Carey’s is cute too.

  17. 17
    November 26th, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    I’ve never heard of Holly before, but her style is adorable. I’ll definitely be taking some inspiration from her look in the future.

    Great post Charlotte– I love how many outfits you put together!

  18. 18
    November 27th, 2010 at 12:20 am

    the link for the dress under “Outfit Inspired by Alexa – Night” is broken

  19. 19
    November 27th, 2010 at 8:37 am

    I’m british and i love your choices especially fearne and holly but there are more icons from the uk that could have been included like miquta oliver,jamella jamil,nicole roberts and many more hope you do another blog about british style

  20. 20
    November 27th, 2010 at 10:31 am

    the links for the evening dress for alexa and the daytime blouse for carey are invalid. can you please tell me where you got these items from?

  21. 21
    November 27th, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Love it! So many great style icons come from England! Love the outfits you’ve created. Great Job!

  22. 22
    November 27th, 2010 at 11:39 am

    @ Batanya:
    I happen to be offering critism to a part of the post. Did I ever say the whole post was bad? I think you need to reread what other people post before calling me rude. If that is what makes people rude in your eyes, then I would rather be rude than go along with what you think. But anyways, back to the original topic, just because I quote “most college students do purchase knockoffs” does not mean it’s the right thing to do, and as I believe CF gives “fashion inspiration” like you say, then “inspiring people to buy some more knockoffs” is clearly wrong, in my personal opinion.

    I have no problems with reading about Alexa Chung and her style but she is not “relatively unknown” and I stand by that statement. My comments are not targeting the authors of CF, but rather suggestions on how they can improve. Is that still rude?

  23. 23
    November 27th, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I love the bag but it looks way too cheap, have you ever bought anything from there?
    Thank you

  24. 24
    November 27th, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I am in love with the dress you chose for Alexa Chung, but the link is broken. I would be ecstatic if you could fix it so I could get that dress!

    I was a little disappointed in your outfits for Fearne. You suggested trying a bright colored bag, but then featured two black bags.

    Overall, I thought this post was really interesting. I don’t know much about British fashion and I liked seeing some not-so-well-known icons. I love their style. I feel that, in fashion, “foreign” fashion tends to get simplified, like “All Brits dress like this.” But in reality, as demonstrated by your post, their style varies as much as Americans’.

    I would love to see more on British fashion!

  25. 25
    November 27th, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    I second the suggestion for a Duffy-inspired post! I love her :) Good post, you gave us so much variety, Charlotte!

  26. 26
    November 27th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    I love Holly Willoughby’s style. I’m also a fan of the Saturday’s street style. I don’t like what they wear during performances. I really like Frankie and Molly’s style. Cheryl Cole is usually wearing some really pieces.

  27. 27
    November 27th, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    great post!! so many cute ideas. thanks!!

  28. 28
    November 28th, 2010 at 6:39 am

    The style icons and the outfits you picked are amazing! I especially like Alexa Chung’s style since it combines all my favorite elements: stripes, boyfriend blazers and oxfords, as well as big cross-body bags :) Those Brits sure know how to dress!

  29. 29
    November 28th, 2010 at 11:42 am

    So theres also a really beautiful striped top just like the one in alexa chung’s outfit at sears by lands end. it felt so expensive!! Just another option if you dont feel like going to topshop.com and plus it was $29.

  30. 30
    November 28th, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Yay i loved this! I’m such a fan of British style, and I didn’t know about Holly or Fearne before this! I’m definitely going to check them out. Great article!

  31. 31
    November 30th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Absolutely IN LOVE with Alexa’s night look! Fantastic picks!

  32. 32
    November 30th, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    This article is really elaborate and you’ve found some amazing dresses. I’m surprised Victoria Beckham and Kate Moss aren’t on here.

  33. 33
    February 16th, 2011 at 1:59 am

    Hey guys, you better read the first paragraph more clearly!

    “There were plenty to choose from, but today I want to focus on some slightly lesser-known women. After all, we already know how to dress like Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and Emma Watson!”

  34. 34
    June 30th, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I love, love, l o v e, Alexa Chung’s 3rd outfit! I just adore the stripes!?

  35. 35
    February 6th, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    I am trying to put together a british insipred outfit and this helped. Thanks x

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