Translating Beauty: An Interview with Christine Dunham
by: Angela H
With an inherent grace and fluidity, Christine Dunham lithely sits and extends her legs down the steps of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art while turning her head toward the sun. A former principal dancer with American Ballet Theater, Dunham’s movements mirror her personality and philosophy towards style – sophisticated, while displaying elegance with an edge.
Having danced across the world’s greatest stages in roles such as the lead in “Swan Lake” and practiced under the legendary Mikhail Baryshnikov during his ABT years, Dunham knows a thing or two about aesthetics. She has fittingly translated her eye for beauty into a post-ballet role at the luxury fashion house Chanel, as well as into her own photography work. Enjoying a day off by going to the Met, she finds time to share her favorite wardrobe pieces and thoughts on where the fashion industry is headed in this age of Instagram.
Who or what inspires the way you dress, and why?
It might be cliche, but Audrey Hepburn. She inspires so many. Also, the ballet world. I was a professional dancer for many years, so I love long flowing styles. Now that I’m in my 50s, I’ve discovered Linda Rodin – I love her sense of style! And, of course, almost anything French!
What items do you think every woman should own in her closet?
I believe it should be the basics. The great coat, jacket, pant, t-shirt, dress, skirt. These items are classic and easy to mix and match, as they’re not seasonal. And of course, the best shoes you can afford! Investment pieces of the best quality and style. Comfort and simplicity are key throughout, however. Everything must fit perfectly!
Spoken like a true perfectionist! What is your favorite piece in your own closet?
I would say a lightweight black coat I purchased at Bergdorf’s a few years ago. I wear it all the time! I thought it to be a bit expensive at the time, but it was worth the purchase because it fits perfectly and transitions easily to all seasons but summer. It works great for day or night, with casual or dressy outfits.
I like your emphasis on versatility and longevity. We spoke a little bit about this over brunch at Laduree one day – It seems like we are reaching a fatigue point with fast fashion and the emphasis on social media, particularly its speed and accessibility. What do you think the industry’s next step should be to counteract burnout?
Yes, the fashion world is definitely transitioning. I was never too much of a fast fashion type. I like trends but I don’t go crazy with them. Instagram, blogs and so on have changed everything. It’s all so fast, fast, fast now! Social media is wonderful for keeping up with what’s going on and to be in the know for the latest, and perhaps a new discovery. I love it for the inspiration.
I think the fashion world will always offer something for everyone. That’s the beauty of it! For me, when I buy clothing, it comes down to the quality of the fabric and whether the style is right for me. My philosophy is to be and dress who you are, to feel amazing in what you wear. That is the essence of your style! Project yourself with confidence. Is it that important to be part of the trend or the moment? Fashion passes, style remains, as Coco Chanel said.