How I get dressed: Carla BruniThe supermodel singer/songwriter, 39, on the art of couture, and keeping it simple
Sun 9 September 2007
My dream is to have a pretty little daughter that I can dress up. I bought a lovely shirt and pants from Ralph Lauren for my little son, and of course it was disgusting in one minute. And I am coming from Italy, where men really dress up. Boys here are a lost cause. When I was little I remember my mother walking in to say goodnight in these beautiful gowns before she went out to the opera, and it was those moments that made me love fashion, because she looked like a princess. When you're a little girl, you're really like a little boy. But I remember getting my first feminine swimsuit when I was seven years old. I finally felt like a girl.
I've always needed my clothes to feel feminine since. I'm not at all the androgynous type. When I was young, I admired Jane Birkin and Audrey Hepburn. They are always the icons of us flat-breasted girls, because they are so sexy, even without breasts. When I was 15 years old I wished I had a Brigitte Bardot body, but at the same time there was something elegant about Audrey Hepburn that Bardot never had. Even before I started modelling, I realised that the petite beauty ages well. It seemed fantastic to be crazily sexy like Monroe with the hair and the hips, but there is something more lasting in being thin and elegant. I admire elegance over ultra-flashiness.
Through modelling I learned how to use my body. I don't think anyone can teach you to have style though. Either you have it or you don't. I've never really had it. The modelling made me realise that you can't buy style. It's something personal and private. The total head-to-toe designer look is ridiculous. It's the opposite of fashion. A matching bag and shoe and hat makes you look like a Christmas tree. And I would never wear shoulder pads. Or pointy shoes. Or skinny jeans. Or low-waisted trousers. You take away the hips and waist - the best bits!
Models are pretty girls, but it's rare that they stand out. Not like someone like Björk, who has an incredible style. She is like a beautiful little elf. I would never dare to dress like her though. I admire Marianne Faithfull's style, too. When I finished writing all this music about English poetry I asked her to be my English teacher. We'd record our lessons, and sometimes I'd put the tape on pause when we talked about Mick Jagger, or love, or desire, or complications. The lessons would be about Yeats, and Emily Dickinson, then all of a sudden you hear me reach for the pause button when something exciting comes up. I can really feel it on the tape, and I'm smacking myself for not recording it!
I don't change for men. I never felt power or fame was important when you're in love. When you have a relationship with someone they become only a man. If they are talented of course it's better, but still, a man is only a man. Intimacy removes all the social stuff around a person. It makes them naked. All the fashion made me more simple. I had to deal with all this sophistication every day, and it made me over-relaxed in the evenings. I don't go for heels, I never wear make-up. It only seems to enhance age.
I love fashion though. I love designers. I love Yves Saint Laurent. He was the first to mix up black and blue. He was the first to mix up red and pink! It was just not done. He had a wonderful garden in Morocco, full of red and pink roses, and he said to himself, 'Nature does it, and so can I'! And he put red dresses with pink belts. It was a fashion mistake before he tried it. People believed the colours would kill each other, but the way he used it was so beautiful, and ageless.
I also love crazy designers like Gaultier. When I saw his couture it was, like, breathtaking! I was awakened by it. And I used to love doing Thierry Mugler's shows. They were crazy. Diana Ross would be there, and everyone would be dressed in vanilla leather, and for some reason, just the ambiance I suppose, we would all go wild. The woman he designed for was very strong, and sexy and bossy, and we all became her when we modelled the clothes. I love John Galliano, too, for the universe he brings to his designs. When you'd walk in for a fitting, he'd explain for hours where the dress was coming from, while you stood there, patiently cupping your breasts.
I loved going from one designer to the other, changing the style, and following their visions. Dolce & Gabbana were always trying to bring back the Sicilian woman, voluptuous and sexy and bright and luxurious, while Valentino liked things perfect and seductive. It was hard work, but never boring.
When I did my last show for Yves Saint Laurent I asked them to give me a couture dress instead of payment. From the front it's very nice and proper. No décolleté. It's long, very simple, high-necked - you can hardly wear a necklace, but from the back it's all open. My mother was shocked when she saw me wearing it. The contrast - it makes you gasp.
· Carla Bruni's second album, No Promises, with poems by Yeats, Dickinson, and Auden set to music, is out now