Culture Trip sat down with the style maven to get tips on how you can make the most of yours. Her latest book, Know Your Style:Mix It, Match It, Love It came out last month, and features illustrations from the artist Ayumi Takahashi.
Culture Trip (CT): In your opinion, what’s the difference between style and fashion?
Alyson Walsh (AW): Style is not dictated by trends; it’s not about spending money. It’s about feeling comfortable in all senses of the word and doing something distinctive, something that works for you and is individual.
CT: You draw upon style advice from women around the world. Would you say style is universal, or are cultural differences part of what makes a style its own?
AW: Generally speaking, the internet means we can buy what we like, when we like, wherever we are in the world. So yes, style has become universal. Though obviously, cultural differences do still exist. Personal style is wrapped up in identity and what we wear reflects a complex combination of things including heritage, culture and how we want to present ourselves to the world. Whether we dress to fit in, or stand out; where we’re from, where we’re going…
CT: What was some of the most surprising style advice you encountered?
AW: One of my mantras is when an outfit works, keep wearing it. With this in mind, I was relieved to learn that, like myself, many women often wear the same clothes on consecutive days. Two or three days in a row: no matter (heatwaves excluded). This is not complacency, it’s common sense—and borne out of being satisfied. “I have a lot of shoes,” said Linda Rodin, “I could wear the same outfit four days in a row and just change the shoes. You can change the whole look with a different colour shoe, a bootie or a sneaker. I do the same thing with coats in winter.” As with leftovers, outfits are better the next day. Which is even more satisfying because you don’t have to put as much effort in.
CT: Women have a history of having their ability to move freely in the world limited by certain articles of clothing, trends, and styles. In your opinion, is that still the case today?
AW: I would say that restrictions around the way women dress improved radically towards the end of the 20th century. And with more and more women in the workplace, style boundaries have been broken down. It’s no longer about traditional ‘power dressing’ or competing with men—women dress for themselves, today. Though there are still some parts of the world—such as Saudi Arabia, where women are severely limited by gender-specific rules.
CT: What are your must have five accessories?
AW: Earrings are an essential and I go between big chandelier styles and smaller, silver loops and studs for my multiple piercings. I recently had my left lobe re-pierced, I had two holes that had been defunct for decades and are now back in action.
I always wear my Junghans watch, am fond of a skinny silk scarf—usually one from the British brand Rockins—and a belt to hold my jeans up.
AW: What is the go to outfit for a cocktail party?
I usually reach for my ‘Once in a Lifetime’ Céline tuxedo jacket, bought for the launch of my first book Style Forever and worn on practically every special occasion since (often with jeans or black cigarette pants). The not-too-dressed up dress is another option; try a maxi or midi style and wear with flat party shoes or sneakers. I’m a fan of casual glamour—a mixture of day and evening wear with go-anywhere appeal, so faux fur jackets, sparkly earrings, the skinny silk scarf, leopard print and velvet, all get a look-in. I’d also suggest a jumpsuit. Just add a pair of chandelier earrings and upgrade the footwear for an effortless, evening look.
CT: What is the go to outfit for a job interview?
AW: The loosening up of modern dress codes has changed corporate dressing. The sports-luxe blend of relaxed and formal is the, er, new normal. That’s not to say we don’t have to look smart, professional and pulled-together. For an interview, I would always recommend a jacket—worn over a silk blouse and smart pants, or a dress. And shoes you can walk in.
CT: What are your five wardrobe essentials?
AW: My not-so-basic basics include jeans; I live in them. Currently my favourite styles are the MiH Phoebe boyfriend style, Levi’s 501s, Frame’s Le High Straight and a pair of old white Gap jeans that I DIY-cropped and left to fray.
The mannish blazer is another essential, I’m a bit of a grown-up tomboy, I love Gentlewoman Style and because I’m usually dressed in jeans, a kick-ass, tailored jacket is an easy way to elevate the look.
The jumpsuit has become a bit of an obsession—once you start you can’t stop. I have a proper work wear version by the French brand Vetra that I call the ‘industrial onesie’, a super-sized khaki one from Bliss & Mischief (the ‘military onesie’), a chambray version from H&M’s Conscious Collection and a loose, black style from Hush Homeware that’s good for riding my bike in. The all-in-one is so easy to wear and the time saved getting dressed in the morning more than makes up for any toilet trauma (just allow plenty of time and don’t drop the sleeves on the floor, when you go to the bathroom).
I take the zero-tolerance approach to sore feet. As a comfy shoe obsessive, with the Pinterest board to prove it, I’m always on the look out for easy, run-around styles. I’m 5 foot 3 inches and would rather wear Liberty print Nike Air Max than nan shoes. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw: “If a woman rebels against high-heeled shoes, she should take care to do so in a pair of fancy flats.”
Some people swear by classic white but I much prefer the Lovely Blue Shirt (LBS). My favourite is a cornflower blue men’s style from Margaret Howell. And I would also include denim shirts in this category.
CT: Talk a little about your Instagram account. What inspires your feed, and what do you think helped you become so successful?
AW: I guess it’s a mixture of things that catch my eye: architecture, art, I love to travel and so often show the places I’m visiting, a small glimpse into my world—together with outfit posts. To be honest, I’m a bit camera shy. I was anonymous for quite a long time when I started That’s Not My Age nine years ago, but times have changed and a photographer friend told me that I needed to show my face. She was right—though I find it funny and strange that the pictures of me are the most popular. And I do like to keep my feed instantaneous rather than planning posts for the week ahead.
Alyson Walsh is the author of Know Your Style:Mix It, Match It, Love It and Style Forever: The Grown-Up Guide to Looking Fabulous, published by Hardie Grant. She blogs as That’s Not My Age.