Caroline de Maigret on Her Best Outfit Ever

Caroline De Maigret

In which I ask Caroline de Maigret, model, music producer, and author of Older, But Better, But Older and How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are, what is the best outfit you’ve ever worn?

People will be shocked by my choice. It’s very simple, but it’s the best outfit because it’s so me—a mix of masculinity and elegance and nonchalance. I have a tendency lately—and am actually doing it quite a lot—to take one piece and then add a monochrome look to go with it. I always find it quite elegant. So, here the big piece is the white coat. It’s Chanel, I wore it to to their spring 2018 Haute Couture show, and I was wondering what to wear to enhance it, make it come more alive, so I added a black turtleneck from Uniqlo and black pants that are also Chanel.

I have tons of black turtlenecks. They’re good classics that go with everything. They work with skirts. They work with pants. I’m wearing one tonight to fly back to Paris. I think they have always been the classics of my closet. I find sweaters very boring and turtlenecks quite cool—it’s a 60s thing for me. They add a mysterious vibe.

When I went to university, people complimented my style for the first time in my life.

The first time I realized what style was, I was in university trying to hide my butt. I was trying to hide it because a guy in a club told me it was low. Not big, not small: low. But, you know, it’s a classic trick to flirt, where one takes the power over the other one. Like, “You’re lucky I talk to you while your butt is super low.”

Anyway, I was searching for ways to hide it and I went to my brother’s closet and found a pair of khaki pants. I put them on and raised them very high and added a belt because they were big. It was a Katharine Hepburn vibe. Then I also took one of his white shirts and tucked it in and when I went to university, people complimented my style for the first time in my life.

Instead of saying, “Oh, you look great,” or “Nice shirt,” it was like, “Wow, you have great style.” So I learned that by trying to turn something around—to find a solution to a problem, I nailed something.

I was more of a classic young Parisian going to rock and punk concerts—trying to escape from the path my parents projected on me.

Before then, I don’t even know what I wore—jeans and sweaters and whatever. My siblings and me were never into the cult of beauty. I used to look at the mirror only to see if I had toothpaste around my mouth. I was not a fashion girl at all. I was more of a classic young Parisian going to rock and punk concerts—trying to escape from the path my parents projected on me, studying political science at the Sorbonne even though I’d wanted to study art history. I was just doing things for others, but not for myself. My escape was music.

After I started dressing differently, while I was still at the Sorbonne, I was asked to model. That became my financial escape. I could get out of the home and leave my life, you know, for the first time, which you can’t do if you don’t have the money.

I said, ‘Oh, wow, it’s my last moment to be sexy. It’s my last moment to change my life.’

I’m 44 now, and if you think the midlife crisis is only for men interested in dating their secretaries, it’s not. I had one while I was writing my most recent book, Older, but Better, but Older. But it’s not about aging, it’s about growing up. As I’m growing up, there are little surprises every day that are not always pleasant. And there are lots of great things—the knowledge you gain, the serenity of understanding yourself, the way you learn to forgive your past. Suddenly, you’re not afraid to become your future anymore.

At the same time, it’s a very odd thing that little by little, you’re being kicked out of the youth club. But your mind is not changing—it’s your bones and your skin betraying you in a way. On top of it, society is expecting things of you. It’s telling you that men age better than you.

While I was writing, it provoked a crisis. I said, “Oh, wow, it’s my last moment to be sexy. It’s my last moment to change my life. Oh, I have to leave my—I’ve been with my man for 15 years, we have a son—I have to leave him because it’s my last time being able to have all the men I want.”

I told him I would leave and he said, “No, you’re not leaving.” I was like, “Well, I am.” And he said, “Well, I’m staying.” We’re still together. I do this every ten years.

Part of what brought me back from the crisis was my son. He’s an amazing, cool teenager who is kind. I’ve been very lucky so far—he’s quite at ease in his life and we are very close because I listen. During the time we share together, I’m there. But while my mind was completely nuts in the crisis, I wasn’t “there” and within ten days of me not listening, he shifted. He stopped calling me, or he’d go to a friend’s house and come home an hour late and not give a fuck what we thought. He was thinking, “If she doesn’t give a shit, I won’t give a shit either.” So that got me back. It was a great help—“OK. You can forget and you can fuck up in your mind, but not with him.” My best parenting advice is to listen.

When you can chop heads off ‘style icons’ and you still know who they are, that’s style.

As for my own style advice, hmmm… this is tricky. I have my pieces for when I feel shitty: The white shirt is always a classic one. When I don’t know what to wear or when I’m too lazy, it always works. And I know it’s good for my complexion. The black leather jacket is usually a sign that you can’t fuck with me today.

But, advice, advice, advice. Okay, there are a few styles that I used to like that don’t work for me anymore with my body changing. For example, I love the preppy look, but with time, it’s not stylish on me the same way. Although I did recently find that sometimes with pieces that I think don’t work anymore, if I just get them two sizes up, they work again. It’s almost the same thing that got me into fashion when I was at university wearing my brother’s big clothes.

I still remember the comment about my low butt, so sometimes I walk like a crab—it’s this weird walk where you tuck back so no one can see your butt. I still listen to people for my style cues. You pick up on patterns from people’s compliments—I’ve noticed, for example, that white is a good color for me. When I wear it people ask if I’ve just been on vacation, or tell me that I look very relaxed. And that’s what style is as well—overall, it’s a feeling, it’s a story you’re telling. When you can chop heads off “style icons” and you still know who they are, that’s style. Part of style is understanding colors and shapes and what makes you stand out and listening to feedback from people is a good trick for understanding this.

I always say that when you’re wearing the right outfit, you forget about it. Fashion is the first thing people see [that tells them] who you are. When you’re able to forget about what you’re wearing, it means you’re comfortable, confident. It gives you power. That’s when the day, or the night, can start. This outfit is a good example.

As told to Leandra Medine

See also: “Lauren Santo Domingo on Her Best Outfit Ever

Photos via Getty Images

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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