Navaz Batliwalla, The New Garconne author (otherwise known under her blogging pseudonym, Disneyrollergirl), has coined the movement of women wearing versatile menswear, with dashes of feminine accents, as the era of “the modern gentlewoman.” Batliwalla champions fourteen women in her new book, from Bella Freud to Lyn Harris and Ines de la Fressange and tracks their style. A former glossy magazine fashion editor and shortlisted by The Times as an impactful blogger, Batliwalla traces the origins and modern memes of being a “new garconne” without losing your edge. Vogue Arabia talks to the gentlewoman behind the newly released tome.
“I had the idea for the book in my head for years. I kept identifying a certain type of woman around me. She turns away from high consumption, and leans towards buying clothes that are long lasting, timeless classics. The modern gentlewoman is often inspired by menswear, and would rather wear functional pieces that are less decorous than typical womenswear. That’s not to say she compromises on quality,” says Batliwalla. “I like to think of it as a duality of dressing. Intelligent dressing, if you will. Not chasing trends, but looking to culture and history as references for one’s wardrobe.”
Batliwalla is a self-professed culture geek of all varieties, “I read a lot, I watch tones of movies because I think costumes in film are incredible.” She dresses in a uniform of classic jackets, silk shirts, and languid trousers, often with a pair of Ray-Bans to hand. “The way we dress is a costume of ourselves. I could never wear super feminine styles because of my body shape. I think the look you are drawn to when you are younger sticks.” Batliwalla’s favorite icons spring from the big screen, and classic literature. “The disaffected youth, and imagery describing New York in the Catcher in the Rye is a great source of inspiration for me. The city is a character. Preppy coats and cashmere sweaters are referenced, and public school preppy clothing is mentioned.”
The CEO of Tank Group, Caroline Issa spoke to Batliwalla of her obsessive love of bulk buying red lipstick, and like all featured women in the tome, describes her love of eclectic mixes of masculine pieces and feminine threads in her wardrobe. Alike to contemporary artists from Oxfordshire, England Polly Morgan also features in the book, and is cited as another heroine in the ongoing movement that is dressing like a modern gentlewoman. With her wardrobe full of cool jumpsuits and this-old-thing separates, quel surprise.
If the author has witnessed the pendulum swing from body-con dresses to modest, looser-fit clothing, and the merging of menswear and womenswear on the runway, she has worn this very look all her life. “Women’s lifestyles have changed. Clothes need to be more versatile, so a suit, trainers, and a large tote bag have become an urban uniform for a lot of women,” says Batliwalla. “One look at Valentino’s latest collections, with long-sleeves and dropped hemlines, you can see why so many women want to wear it. It’s less conventionally sexy, and it works,” she adds.
“The New Garconne: How to Be a Modern Gentlewoman” by Navaz Batliwalla is available via Amazon.
Do you belong to the tribe of modern gentlewoman? Let us know via Twitter @VogueArabia.