“Just as the skirt needs the wind to billow, I’m not formed by things that are of myself alone,” says India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) at the beginning of Park Chan-wook’s gothic thriller Stoker, which opened in cinemas on Thursday. “I wear my father’s belt tied around my mother’s blouse, and shoes which are from my uncle. This is me.”
India’s look was always going to appeal to me, since I have a weird nostalgic fetish for old-money clothes. Last December I was obsessed with the feminine equivalent to Ivy Style, and declared a Seven Sisters Summer. And this winter I’ve become fascinated with British Country style.
To channel this morbid teenager, you’ll need to balance childishness and sophistication. Part your hair severely down the middle. Choose neat 1950s silhouettes, and pair girlish high-waisted, knee-length skirts with retro saddle shoes. Wear your clothes carelessly, yet without playfulness or irony. Stuff things in your pockets, get caught in the rain, drop your cardigan on the lawn and never wear your saddle shoes with socks. (Black tights are fine, though.)
To get the severity of India’s style right, first channel that real-life avatar of troubled midcentury femininity, Sylvia Plath. Throw in a gothic dash of Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams, and some wide-eyed primness from Bella Heathcote in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows (I might be the only person on earth who enjoyed that film last year).
Of course, India is super-rich; the gorgeous mint-green cardigan she wears in the pivotal piano duet scene is by Marni. But you can get the same luxurious look at op-shop prices if you look for beautiful, tactile fabrics – silk, cashmere, leather and chiffon.
You can also get away with cheapies if you pay attention to what you want the fabrics to do – drape, swing or billow – and if you forgo froufrou decoration for absolute clarity of colour, shape and texture. Until she steals her mother’s chiffon blouse, India only wears block colours, and her silhouettes are perfectly symmetrical.
Likewise, you probably don’t have a hot but creepy uncle to buy you a pair of Christian Louboutin Pigalle heels in predatory crocodile print, but get the shape and texture right and you’ve nailed the look… if not the uncle.
However, like India you’ve probably got a male relative from whom to steal a classic tan leather belt, and a matching overnight bag. And if you can’t find an old-fashioned key lying around the house to turn into a pendant necklace, these are everywhere on Etsy.
Chiffon blouse from ModCloth: US$32.99
Circle skirt from American Apparel: $39
Pleated chiffon skirt from American Apparel: $37
Mint-green round-neck cardigan from Cocolatte: $7.99
Tan leather belt from Ben Sherman: $59.95
Antique bronze key necklace from Etsy: $1.14
Saddle shoes from Muffy’s: US$79
Crocodile high heels from Whistles: $226.50
Mel Campbell is a freelance journalist and cultural critic. She is the founding editor of online pop-culture magazine The Enthusiast and the national film editor of the Thousands network of city guides. Her debut book, Out of Shape: Debunking Myths about Fashion and Fit, is out now.