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The free spirit comes in different guises, but there’s one thing we can be sure about – she couldn’t be boring if she tried! Quirky, dreamy and always ready for adventure, free spirits march to the beat of their own drum even when they’re stuck in a dead-end job, like Faye from the 1994 Wong Kar-wai classic Chungking Express, an aesthetically swoon-worthy mix of comedy, mystery and all-consuming romance. Lighting up the second half of the film with her inimitable style – all oversized vintage shirts, snug-fit graphic tees and kidult charm – Faye epitomizes alternative 90s chic like no other. With that decade still looming large over current fashion, let’s take inspiration from this iconic character to add retro edge and left-field color to our everyday wardrobes!
Carefree Chic As Interpreted by Faye
Faye first appears on screen in her signature pixie cut and a tight-fitting black tank top, bopping along to California Dreamin’ as she fixes a sandwich at the snack bar where she works, Midnight Express. Her wardrobe would soon reveal itself to be simple, modest but effervescent, with a boyish, street-style slant and an emphasis on comfortable fabrics. From tight-fitting stripey tees and oversized peasant blouses in buttercup yellow to billowy skirts and loose-fit pants, she leaves a lasting impression despite the fact that she’s often half-covered-up by a kitchen apron. A strong proponent of the philosophy that mismatching garments don’t have to mean sartorial disaster, she can be seen pairing collared tees in pale yellow with unstructured skirts in gray. All this makes her final transformation – dressed in a flight attendant’s sleek, tailored uniform, complete with a ladylike pencil skirt and red pussy bow collar – all the more striking. Tiny white-rimmed sunglasses, however, remain a constant, adding a layer of mystery to her straightforward charms.
(Film stills below taken from Chungking Express)
How to Make Faye’s Style Your Own
Taking inspiration from key elements in Faye’s casual, carefree wardrobe, I’ve updated her look for this decade while keeping its 90s spirit of rebellion.
1. The Color Yellow
Yellow is a key color for Faye – she appears repeatedly in this shade. For a casual weekend look, why not opt for this boxy cropped tee emblazoned with funky lettering and embellished with self-tie ribbon detail on the front and back? Pair it with flared jeans in a dark blue wash for retro flair. If there’s a chill in the air, this bright yellow kidult-style sweater dotted with multi-colored woolen flowers will surely come in handy while boosting your hipster cred. While Faye doesn’t do girly, this A-line pinafore dress in egg-yolk yellow is probably something she’d appreciate if she ever decided to wear a dress – especially if it’s layered over billowy shirts and paired with a flannel jacket in autumnal colors.
2. Cute Snug-Fit Tops
In homage to Faye’s love for tight-fitting tees with modest collars, I’ve selected three ultra-cute specimens that’ll transition nicely from the lecture hall and the snack bar to the party circuit. This figure-flattering ringer tee with “strawberry milk” lettering comes with sweet, wholesome retro vibes. If you’re looking for a flirtier alternative, go for this cropped cable-knit polo shirt in kiwi green. To freshen up basics, pair a monochrome striped top (which can be worn off-shoulder) with high-waisted harem pants in a contrasting color for a look that’s never out of style.
3. Vintage Prints and Retro Touches
Faye spends a significant part of the movie wearing an oversized shirt in a retro floral print, which inspired these three picks: a botanical-print blouse in warm, earthy tones; a polka-dot shirt in a retro-inspired cut, complete with puff sleeves and scalloped collar; and most stunning of all, a square-neck maxi floral dress in a print reminiscent of 19th-century wallpaper, perfect for layering over fluffy turtlenecks when the chill hits.
4. Comfy Bottoms
One thing Faye treasures is definitely comfort, at least when it comes to her stylistic choices. Her cotton tees are mostly paired with loose, unstructured skirts (the kind with elasticated waists) and even fashion-forward joggers. If you feel like upping the romance without sacrificing the quirk factor, go for this floaty midi skirt with accordion pleats and an asymmetric hemline. It’s fancy enough for a dinner date but low-key enough not to stand out at a wet market. For a touch of toughness, style your graphic tee with corduroy cargo pants for a more structured update on Faye’s navy blue joggers. Looking to combine a dramatic silhouette with supreme comfort? Opt for these baggy harem pants in impactful red.
5. Statement Sunnies
Emulate Faye’s choice of eyewear with sunglasses that make a statement without overwhelming your outfit! Choose between a a snazzy, yellow-rimmed pair with Old Hollywood vibes, a gold-rimmed version with round, retro-style lenses, and a classic black version with oversized frames and a glossy finish. With sunnies like these, who needs bling?
Unpredictable, unconventional and constantly on the move, the free spirit is always on the lookout for an adventure, sartorial or otherwise. Much as she prizes comfort, she values freedom even more. Towards the end of the movie, Faye skips a dinner date with the object of her affection – a policeman she has a “will they won’t they” relationship with – and hops on a plane to California. You don’t have to do anything as drastic to shake up your life, but a dose of color, quirky glamor and improvisational chic certainly wouldn’t hurt your wardrobe!