Lily Donaldson

Models may be primarily known for the way they wear other people's clothes, but we're more interested in what they select when they're not on the clock. Hence today's story, in which we offer up one of our favorite faces from the runway and celebrate her sartorial selections. In this inaugural installment of Model Off Duty, we check in with famed British beauty Lily Donaldson, salute her restrained, rock'n'roll personal style, and give you a couple of hints about how you can achieve a similar look.

Before we delve into Donaldson's clothing choices, a quick refresher for those of you not well versed in this golden girl's career. Currently on the cover of British Vogue, Donaldson is a major force in the modeling world for her ability to flip from ultra-edgy to completely commercial in the blink of an eye. Now a five-year industry veteran (quite a long time in this world), she still steadily secures major advertising campaigns (right now, she's the face of Burberry and Gucci) and continues to dominate the runways (during Milan's Fashion Week, she opened and closed Versace, and was the final face at Alberta Ferretti and D&G).

At work, Donaldson may dedicate herself to the most fanciful, futuristic, and fashion-forward looks, when it comes to her own closet, she takes a decidedly dressed-down approach and favors perfectly simple basics. Though her on-camera life tends towards the Technicolor, when she's not working, Donaldson prefers simple a black-and-white palette. Perhaps as a contradiction to her refined, elegant beauty, Donaldson always goes for tough staples and picks zipper-embellished leather, shredded hems, and studded accessories on a regular basis.

Though she sticks to just a few colors and tends to rely on a specific silhouette (namely: anything short), there's much to be learned from the way Donaldson puts outfits together. While her hemlines might be high, she keeps things toned down with a few tricks. For example, as seen backstage at Dolce & Gabbana (above, far left), Donaldson balanced her little leather mini with opaque tights and flat buckle-embellished boots. Try Alexander Wang's Front Zip Miniicon ($395) with Frye's Engineer Bootsicon ($198) for a similar look.

In addition to the stockings-and-sturdy-boots device, she also is very systematic about revealing skin. The low-slung bleached out jean skirt she wore to a Balenciaga show (second from left) might showcase a sliver of her stomach, but notice how that's the only bit that shows? (Please keep that in mind when styling Topshop's Distressed Bleach Denim Pelmet ($50) or your own thrashed pieces.) On the odd occasions that Donaldson does decide to bare her legs and arms, like at an Alberta Ferretti party during Cannes (second from right), she mixes modest pieces, like black ballet flats and a figure-skimming top, with her tight-and-tiny cutoffs (both 7 For All Mankind's Roll Up Shorts ($165) and Forever 21's Cara Frayed Denim Shorts ($22.80) have a similar look).

Donaldson sticks to this formula even for evening events, just check out the outfit she wore to the Ermanno Scervino Party during Milan Fashion Week (far right) for example. A boxy moto jacket and slightly sheer tights temper her barely-there, body-conscious, little black dress. The overall effect is sexy, without looking shouty (as in "look at me, look at me!"), always a good thing!

Images from First View, Wire Image, and Getty Images.