Last June, third-year MIT student Emily Ames was awarded the title of Most Stylish Canadian by The Globe and Mail. For her most-stylish status, Ames received a $5,000 shopping spree, a professional photo shoot and more.
But Ames, who loves finding clothes in the crowded racks of Value Village and Goodwill stores, didn’t break the bank to find her favourite shopping spree purchase.
“I bought this rabbit fur coat that is actually leopard print from Bebe,” Ames says. “It’s pretty flashy and ostentatious and is the kind of purchase I think a $5,000 cheque warrants, but it wasn’t nearly that much money. It was $100 ... It was a definite sale, but it seems like it’s worth far more.”
Finding quality clothing in unexpected places is Ames’ modus operandi when it comes to fashion. The Peterborough native’s shopping habits don’t stray too far from second-hand and vintage shops, though, whether she’s at home or at Western.
“I do most of my vintage shopping in Peterborough ... just because it does have quite a wealth; it’s not very picked over. Here in London, I do the same sort of thing because we do have huge Value Villages. I’ll also go to the mall and take random items out from different retailers. But I like to pick through things, find my own things, and recycle clothing that you can’t find mass-produced.”
Ames finds scouring the racks of second-hand shops is not an activity that works for everyone or every day. For those looking to infuse their wardrobes with vintage accents, determining which items you want in advance may help minimize your frustration.
“I think you have to be in the right mood and ready to do it,” she says. “There’s usually some sort of item that I’m looking for, like some sort of white tee, or a skinny tie or a flannel top. And I look for good fabric quality or an interesting design or something that I can cut up, like a vintage dress that I can remodel.”
Although Ames doesn’t shy away from basic American Apparel tees or a few mass-produced mall finds, her overall style is unique and self-created. That’s no surprise; she’s been shaping her fashion sensibility from a young age.
“I’ve always, since I was little, done my own thing. My mom’s never been allowed to touch my hair or touch my clothing. I was just super-interested in doing it myself.
“During elementary school and high school, I started watching Fashion Television and we would get The Globe and Mail and I would always look at the style pages way before I won the contest.
“[Fashion has] kind of just blossomed into ... not an important part of my life, but a fun part, I guess. An experimental part.”
Ames has developed a style that’s a throwback to the ’60s — a fact she attributes to her love of icons Marianne Faithfull and Jane Fonda.
“I really love the form and the shapes of ’60s clothing. I love A-line dresses, skinny pants, and tailored suits ... that kind of classic look. But I’ll mix it with anything I find interesting in any different time frame. So I wouldn’t say my style’s eclectic, but it’s kind of all over the map.”
Her style may be all over the map, but one fashion constant for Ames is her love of metallic gold.
“I have a wicked pair of gold boots,” she says. “They’re pointed knee-high boots. I got them in the States from Steve Madden and they look very Ziggy Stardust. They’re very arresting when you see them. They’re kind of out of control.”