What would Karen say?

My Style

As a rule, I’m not a fan-girl kind of a girl.  But I do have a wee crush on Karen Walker.  Not that I own much of her stuff, as it’s beyond my financial sensibility (mine’s all second hand or from end-of-season sales).  But her design aesthetic genuinely appeals to me, and I always look to her campaign images and runway shows for styling ideas.  She’s one part girly, one part blokey, a dash retro-op-shop-girl, and school-girl nerd.  And there’s always something boundary pushing about what she does, as in, ‘a little bit wrong”.  There’s a lot there that resonates with me!

This dress is by Ms Walker, and I wonder, would she approve of how I’m wearing it?  I can’t say it’s one of my finest styling moments – it’s a bit undercooked, and my hat has seen better days.  But it’s what I wore last week, and it’s “me”.

Styling Notes

Needless to say, my look is about the dress.  It has a retro sensibility, a bit 70s, with a stiff zippered collar.  I’m actually looking forward to wearing it when it’s cooler, so that I can wear some layers with it.  But for the now and its ridiculously hot summer sun, white sneakers and a sunhat was where it needed to be.

I actually tried styling it more heavily, with scarves, brooches and different hats.  But somehow a minimalist approach was where it needed to be.  The vintage house coat in all of its chartruese and white boldness created a very crisp contrast with the ‘summer denim’.  I loved the way the two collars ‘interacted’ with each other, kind of geometric, like puzzle pieces.  They didn’t need anything else to distract from them.

Taking a minimal approach to styling is sometimes a discipline – it can be the art of resisting the urge to ‘add  more’

White shoes were a ‘no brainer’, but I chose Keds over anything more formal, keeping the look light and sporty.  The hat and bag were a natural complement to the overall look – light, a little ‘retro’, and summery.  So Karen, what do you think?

The dress is by Karen Walker, and I found it at Karen Jordan Pre-loved Style.  My coat was a real treasure I found at one of Maria Henare’s (from Eclectic) Jumble sales.  Both my hat and basket were op-shop finds, and my Keds were a purchase from Taylors.  My only jewellery is a silver tusk pendant also by Karen Walker – it’s a piece I bought using some of the last pay-packet I received from the Tasman District Council, before I went on maternity leave before our daughter Harriet was born.  It has sentimental value and it’s the most worn item of jewellery I own other than my wedding ring.




I’ve always known that you can buy clothes, but you can’t buy style.  It’s your individual style-sense that leads you to buying the right things, and then your creativity and taste in putting them together, that gives you style. So how do you go about buying right?  I asked Annabelle what she thought….

“Do you know I think that one of the most important things is to find clothes that work with your body shape and your lifestyle.  It’s sort of fundemental really and probably nothing new, but I think a lot of people get taken in by what’s in fashion, and don’t stop to think if it actually suits them or not.  This dress is new and works well for me and my shape.  I need things that define my waist but are more loose and flowing over my hips.  It actually works well for my lifestyle too, the linen look.  It’s something I can wear to work but also when I’m off-duty. My jacket is an oldie and it was bought second-hand.  It’s kind of timeless. One of the things I love about it is what no-one else sees.  The lining and binding on the inside is this pretty fabric.  It’s so sweet.”


Being environmentally and ethically conscious is not just about buying second hand.  It’s also about buying right when you buy new.  Dusa has a great attitude to buying new, taking a long-term approach to what she spends her money on…

“Yes, a lot of my wardrobe is second-hand, that is true.  In the past it wasn’t really about the environment and sustainability, it was more about getting interesting things.  These days I am so much more conscious of where my clothes come from.  Both my top and my leggings are from Kowtow.  Kowtow is a NZ designed, ethically and sustainably produced brand.  The quality is amazing, and their designs are timeless.  When I buy new, I try to go for designs that are about longevity and will work well for my lifestyle and figure.  Funny, but I just realised now that I’ve had these shoes for 20 or more years!  They were trendy then, and they’ve come back in again!  Yes, this is an off-duty look for me, for when I want to look nice but also be casual and super comfortable”.

Man Pants (and other eccentricities)

My Style

My style has always been influenced by menswear.  I do love mannish looks, and the ease and swagger that menswear brings to my style. It’s a look that works well with my boyish body shape – I have wide shoulders, narrow hips and no waist or boobs to speak of.  I  also suspect that, at least in part, it’s a style that’s emerged from a childhood spent as a tomboy, side-stepping anything girly and feminine.  And for all of you arm-chair psychologists, I also think that masculine style brings power and strength to how I feel in the world, and it creates a bit of distance between me and the pressure to conform to the feminine ideal…


Styling Notes

It’s true, these trousers are actually men’s trousers, real-deal polyester slacks from the 1970s.  Groovy retro perfection!  And they are the hero of my look, all attitude and no apology.

Using the tartan pattern as the colour palatte, I’ve repeated the two tones of brown in accessories, my watches (yes, I’m wearing two, black and brown), glasses and leather belt.  The boots are black pony-skin ankle boots with a cowboyishness that works fantastically with the slight flare of the trousers.  Again, there’s a bit of masculine swagger in the boots, making them the perfect complement.

While my look is masculine, there are always feminine touches.  Balance is key…

The scarf is an addition that breaks the colour-palatte up a little. Although repeating all of colours of my outfit, it also introduces off-white, deep olive green and highlights of orange.  This contributes a little sass to the outfit, and helps to lighten the look up a bit, so to tie in the rattan of the hat and add the smallest hint of feminity.

My fabulous trousers are men’s pants bought from Eclectic in Nelson, and both my boots and bag are from Trouble & Fox.  My hat was bought from Nelson designer Cheryl Mackie, and my top is a Shine one, by Julian Danger.  My glasses are by Karen Walker and were bought from Palm in Nelson.  All other pieces are charity shop finds, including my fabulous wooden faced watch and rayon scarf.


There are lots of things to love about Maria’s style.  One of the ones I admire most is her fearlessness.  She inspires me always to trust my gut and not be afraid of drama.  In her style-story this week she shares some wisdom on how she dresses this way, without fuss, on a day-to-day basis.  It’s great advice…

“This gown is actually a vintage lounge-wear robe, a boudoir gown.  I am not sure what the fabric is but it’s very high quality and from the 1940s.  It’s from a time when women of means would dress elegantly around the house.  I love it because it’s something you can wear and it makes you look and feel instantly glamorous, but essentially it’s fuss free.  It’s my go-to for an evenning out, when I don’t necessarilly feel like getting dressed up.  I will wear it like I am today, over plain black separates, which also form part of my core wardrobe.  Yes, I suppose it’s an approach that I apply a lot.  You have a simple, easy base but then you add something exciting or interesting like this, and some statement jewelry or whatever, and you’re set”.


Leone’s style is poles apart from my own, but I absolutely love it.  Envy it, even, as a representation of the punk-rock rebel girl who sometimes rears her head as an alter-ego!  As always, I wanted to find out more, to dig more deeply into what shapes such a style…

“My style, that I now proudly call my own, has morphed so much throughout my life when I look back.  Music and certain musicians have played a role in what influences my style for sure. At age five, Michael Jackson was one of the first, in his amazing outfits!  Then there was Gwen Stefani in No Doubts first music videos ‘Don’t Speak’ and ‘Just a Girl’ when I was about eight. Their sense of style, charisma and freedom to express themselves through how they dressed blew me away! I also found the punk era was a great time for fashion that I found both shocking and inspiring – safety pinned clothing, fishnets, leather, tartan, leopard print to name but a few.  And I love old things, I think because they have a history and a life before they come to you.  For example this tooled handbag,  which cost me a mighty ten-bucks from the Nelson market, is one of my favourites. I suppose these days it’s all a mishmash of where I have been and what feels good, paying homage to my life and times thus far.

My Style

There’s nothing new in the idea that clothes affect how you feel.  However, since having my own style photographed regularly, I’ve become more aware of how this manifests itself physically.  I’ve noticed that the clothes I wear strongly influence how I move in front of the camera.  Some clothes induce playfulness and cheek, others a masculine swagger.  With this look, it was noticeable how much more formal I was whilst being photographed by virtue of my orange blazer.  A structured, tailored piece, it brought a seriousness and formality to my demeanor.


Styling Notes

I built this look around my dress, although as a total look, the blazer quickly takes over, especially against the bright blue backdrop!  The dress has a beautiful detailed floral design with an overlay of stripes, and contrasting, yet complementary panel of fabric at the bottom.  Using the colours of the dress as my palatte, I styled and accessorised the total look.

With colour being the connector, I played a little with formality and justaposition of each piece:  The dress is a little girly and vintage, reminding me of a 1940s tea dress, yet the blazer is from the 1970s and more formal,sophisticated.  My shoes are preppy and bookish, and are in contrast with my bag which aligns more with a picnic in the park than studying at the library!

Colour is the perfect way to unite eclectic pieces that might otherwise not make a lot of sense as a total look

Because of the wide range of colours in the dress, I was able to load up on a few rings, mixing silver and gold, and bright and subdued gems.  I finished it all off with sunnies, which, upon reflection, get a bit lost with all of the colour and contrast! Perhaps next time I will wear strong frames or a bold hat to finish off the look?


My dress is from Dotti at Morrison Square, my blazer from Eclectic and my shoes are by Elk from Shine.  All of my jewellery is second-hand, with the exception of the white and gold wrap-ring, worn on my thumb.  It was a Trade Aid find, one which I love and wear often.  My bag was also a second-hand find, although I can’t recall where from!  (I have more than one such bag).  My soft pink sunnies are by Oroton, a classic shape and style that I bought some years ago from Matthews Eyewear.

Morrison Styles

Angela Leonard, Centre Manager

I feel quite chuffed to have been able to work with Morrison Square for a version of the real-style project.  It’s been another opportunity to see and celebrate the diversity of style in Nelson.  It has also been great to find a genuine passion for style in fashion retail.  Needless to say, I am most grateful to Angela Leonard, centre manager, and her own passion for fashion, who made it all happen…

“You caught me off guard a little, but I’m glad you like what I am wearing.  It’s a bit of a cheapy actually, the dress. I bought it from an outlet store, up in Auckland.  I don’t normally go for cheap things.  These days I invest more, and buy quality.  No, I agree it doesn’t look inexpensive, and if it lasts a couple of seasons and I wear it a lot, it will be worthwhile.  Animal print is still really strong, and it’s in many of the Morrison Square  stores this season.  My jacket is from Portmans, and my shoes are Dotti.  I like modern classics, and the blazer over this dress is such a great combination.  It’s easy and it’s work appropriate”.

Angela wears a blazer from Portmans, and shoes from Dotti.  Both stores are open every day this Christmas period at Morrison Square.


It’s been a long time since I captured Amy’s style.  One of the reasons she originally caught my eye for the real-style project is that she has an easy elegance.  Her style is classical, refined and mature but still relaxed.  And this week’s look is the perfect example of that…

“I think a kind of relaxed but timeless style is how I would describe it.  My style is based around the classics, but I love little details.  In fact you could say it’s all in the details! I love classic pieces that have an unique element. Whether it’s embroidery, texture or a small but important design touch.  Those little things can make a big difference. For example, I might be drawn to an interesting sleeve, neckline, or texture…like this dress.  It is from Beacon Hill, here in Nelson, but it’s Italian linen.  My bag is by New Zealand Designer Yu Mei and I bought it at Palm.  My shoes are from Overland.  Yes, the necklace is by Benjamin Black, and it’s a piece of local argillite set in gold”.

My Style

You might not think that dressing like a nerdy librarian is very cool. But then, what’s the definition of cool? I think of ‘cool’ as being a little rebellious (in my case, against high fashion and being ‘sexy’), wearing clothes with attitude, and expressing non-conformity without regret.  At least, that’s some of the main things that ‘being cool’ means to me.  Of course it’s not always easy to do this, especially if your view of things differs from most peoples’.  In my case, I struggle with my inner nerd, and of expressing her in a way that doesn’t also make me feel too self-conscious.  Afterall, nerds aren’t cool….

Styling Notes

I love long nerdy librarian dresses.  They suit my shape and my sense of feminity, which is never ‘sexy’ nor ‘girly’, but understated.  I also love nerdy elements, like thick framed glasses, nanna knitwear and lace-up brogues.  You could say, this look was built up from all of the nerdiest things that I love.

I chose warm-toned accessories to stand out against the cool grey tones of the dress.  I also chose to work with some of the more subtle details of the dress, such as the boxy styling of the pockets and neckline, repeating those angular references with boxy glasses frames and a rectangular handbag.  Similarly, I repeated the triangle shape in the bag weave, with the ‘v’ knit pattern in the cardigan, the shark’s tooth earrings and silver tooth pendant.

Shapes and patterns on and of clothes and accessories can be a strong styling theme that can unite things and create a visual belonging…

Yes, you’d be right in thinking something like “all of these details are so subtle, they’d not be noticed by anyone!” And you’d be right.  But for me, this makes the most wonderful of outfits – It’s one where otherwise disconnected elements ‘speak to one another’.  It’s one where the wit of it is in the details.

My bag was one bought in Indonesia while on holiday, many years ago now.  It’s a gorgeous piece, and I love the fact that I bought it from the woman who made it.   My shoes are old faithfuls, by Elk from Shine.  My glasses are a gorgeous pair of frames by Age Eyewear, purchased from Matthew’s Eyewear.  They were originally sunglasses, but I loved the shape of them so much I had them converted to eyeglasses! My dress was a recent purchase from an op-shop, found whilst treasure-hunting for my Trade Me Shop.  My shark’s tooth earrings and belt were also op-shop finds.