Annie Hall is the film that launched a thousand suits. Men’s suits with women in them. When Diane Keaton, as Annie Hall, appeared on screen in 1977 wearing wide-leg pants with a shirt, a waistcoat, a slouchy bag slung crossways over her body, and topped the whole thing off with a hat, she ensured that Annie Hall became known not just as a movie, but as a fashion statement in itself.
Suddenly you saw women on city streets everywhere looking sexily swamped in billowy shirts and loose trousers, with cowboy boots or flats. There were hats worn at witty angles, oversize tote bags slung over shoulders (maybe with tennis rackets poking out of them), with the occasional waistcoat adding definition. What makes this look so different from other Hollywood-derived looks is that it wasn’t dreamed up by a professional stylist. It came straight from Diane Keaton’s very own closet.
Not without a fight, however. Director Woody Allen supported Diane Keaton wearing her own clothes on set against the objections of the film’s costume designer, saying, ‘Leave her. She’s a genius. Let’s just leave her alone, let her wear what she wants.’ So she did, and while it’s true Ralph Lauren contributed some signature pieces (most famously ‘Grammy Hall’s tie’) even he conceded: ‘We shared a sensibility, but she had a style that was all her own. Annie Hall was pure Diane Keaton.’
Yet that in itself is only half the story. With typical generosity Keaton elaborated: ‘I stole what I wanted to wear from cool-looking women on the streets of New York…. All the street-chic women livening up SoHo in the mid-seventies. They were the real designers of Annie Hall.’ Overnight the Annie Hall look became code for a free-spiritedness, and taking men on at their own game with ease and wit, qualities which have innate style. While 1977 might seem like fashion history now, the Annie Hall look has proved its long-term appeal by simply rebranding itself in the flick of a fashion writer’s turn of phrase into ‘boyfriend fashion’.
2016 saw a resurgence of our celebrity A-lister sisters wearing mannish garb to gala events: Alexa Chung in a Gucci flowered jacket and trousers, Gigi Hadid in a pillar-box red Thierry Mugler suit, and Georgia May Jagger in powder blue outfit, jacket undone to reveal a white bralet. Then there’s fashion/culture/style blogger extraordinaire Leandra Medine’s capsule collection for Atea Oceanie which is almost pure 21st century Annie Hall, combining distinctive, nonchalant style with elegant ease.
The secret to making it work today is reinterpretation. Most of us already have the key elements in our wardrobes, it’s about combining them with a dash of contemporary chemistry. Perhaps forget Grammy Hall’s tie, open the shirt a few notches at the neck to avoid looking too buttoned-up, and wear a pendant or necklace against a flash of your skin. Reject the traditional way of tucking in your shirt uniformly all the way round the waistband and maybe go for the ‘half-tuck’ to look relaxed and at ease.
As a variation on the shirt-and-waistcoat combi, try a waistcoat over a fitted T-shirt, or the waistcoat on its own if you’re feeling in the mood for a more undressed, hourglass-accentuated look. Sometimes wearing both baggy on top and baggy below can look out of proportion, so you might prefer slim top with loose pants. Or reverse the equation with a smock-like shirt you can feel like you’re floating in, worn with slim-cut cigarette pants.
If a boxy blazer feels too masculine, there’s always the jacket with the nipped-in waist to accentuate female contours. Or a soft leather blazer if tweed is just way too tweedy. Even a belt can be post-modern. In 1977 it was fitted obediently into belt loops, then threaded neatly through the buckle and out again. Today it’s more the look to casually wind a leather belt round the waist and knot or loop it, and leave it hanging. Hats are a whole subject in themselves.
How to sum up Annie Hall’s lasting impact on style? Paula Reed, former Fashion Director at Harvey Nichols, and before that Grazia magazine’s Style Director, comments: ‘Keaton’s gender-bending wardrobe blazed a trail for women in the late 1970. The clothes weren’t just about the right to equality; they were also about the right to individuality. Annie Hall saw the birth of vintage chic.’
And let’s not forget that the first time we see Annie Hall in the film she is, in fact, wearing a dress. A slip dress over a skinny rib polo neck jumper. Showing she could chuck out her own style rules when it suited her. Which is so true to the Annie Hall spirit.