My Clothes-Up: Paula's Anti-Bra Lifestyle

Photographed by Nicholas Calcott.
Because I work in fashion, clothes are so a part of everything. I can’t think about them in the same way that normal people probably do. I can't look at an item of clothing as just an item of clothing; I look at it as the person who designed it, or I’ll think, I wonder where that was made, and start considering the ethics behind it. So to me, clothing is such a big conversation in my mind, that the individual piece becomes part of this big mess of constant ideas, and how it comes together and what it says, and the characters around it. It's not just my being drawn to things.

Recently, I moved to New York from London where I had an entire room filled with just my clothes — years and years' worth. But since relocating, my entire life has changed in a huge way. I grew out of a relationship, had to give up my dog, got a new job, and said goodbye to a set of friends for an entire new group of them. Needless to say, it felt weird to bring a lot with me. Psychologically and physically, I'm in a foreign place and starting my life again. Fashion-wise, it felt right to leave most of what I owned behind. The only thing I really held onto were my shoes.

I’m not that attached to clothes, especially considering I’m someone who works in fashion. I’m also very accident-prone. I’ve lost very expensive pieces in very silly ways — once, I left a Margiela jacket that I owned for less than 24 hours in a rickshaw, and I was so sad about it. But I was also like, maybe it wasn’t meant to be in my life.

So when I decided to leave, I just took the bare minimum, and I think it’s almost changed my style because I’ve been very casual recently. I don’t have all the elements to dress my outfits in a super out-there way, but it feels right for now.
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Photographed by Nicholas Calcott.
Collections, Addictions, and Weaknesses
When I was in London, I had a coat problem. But that’s because you’re always wearing a coat and you don’t really see the clothes underneath, because it’s always raining and it’s always cold. I had something like 70 coats at some point. I mean — there’s no real necessity for 70 coats for any single human being, so maybe it was less a "collection" than it was a "problem." But I actually think since being here in NYC, I’ve been thinking about what I need much more and not hoarding stuff or buying big masses of things.

How's It Hanging?
I just actually have a very small apartment, but it feels like a massive space right now because I barely have anything in it. In fact, my closet is kind of the biggest thing in my apartment. I could probably sleep inside it — it’s probably bigger than my bed, actually, come to think of it.

I’ve tried to kind of organize items into drawers, but it doesn’t really feel like I have enough to organize, which is kind of awesome.

I used to have all my clothes separated into labeled Muji boxes by type: like crop tops and long tops, and then casual T-shirts. And then dresses would go from day dresses to gowns, the whole way down the wardrobe. I’d have jacket and coats, and there would be a whole wardrobe of just lighter outerwear. And then there would be coat coats, and then snowstorm coats. Like I said, I have a problem with coats.

But here in NYC, I don’t have any of that, and it’s really liberating in a way. It does feel a bit empty, and now inviting someone into my wardrobe, it feels really exposing that I’ve not got that in my life anymore.
Photographed by Nicholas Calcott.
The Extras
For me, accessories are what I love, and clothes are what I need. Obviously, you need to cover your body up in public, but accessories are just for fun.

It's the fun things that I fall in love with. I don’t tend to fall in love with clothes. I shop for clothes thinking that’s a good thing for me to have, whereas with shoes, I feel, I need them, they have faces! Or earrings that look like flowers. I went through this one season where everything I bought looked like an animal, and it got to the point where I really had to stop because I’m not five. But, yeah, it’s about inspiration and whimsy when it comes to shoes and accessories.

My shoes feel like objects, and I’ve had adventures in them. I’m wearing crazy cowboy boots today that I bought in Italy with my friend. We both bought matching ones, and we only had hand luggage. So then we both had to wear them to the airport, and they’re bright red and not exactly subtle. Like, hey, we’re those girls on vacation. It was actually on that trip that I started my own travel site, so they're particularly poignant.
Photographed by Nicholas Calcott.
Photographed by Nicholas Calcott.
When At Home, By Yourself
When no one’s looking, I just wear a caftan and nothing else. I’m like a very naked person. I’ll wear weird jewelry, too — I kind of wear more accessories at home than I probably do out of the apartment. I'll tie scarves around my head and float around and listen to music. I do realize that I sound like the girls in that Amy Schumer sketch about “The Universe.” And — don’t worry — I'm in the back of the building so no one's really seeing me naked, though my last house in London used to be on the ground floor, and the neighbors used to open the shutters, and I’d just be naked in the kitchen, and wave and be like, "Hey! I’ll go find some clothes then."
Photographed by Nicholas Calcott.
Photographed by Nicholas Calcott.
Alternatively, if I came into the office in a kimono with headscarves, people would figure she’s finally lost it. Being at home is the ultimate place to be yourself and have your own style, because no one can tell you that you can’t be like that.

Still, sometimes I have to meet reality as I don’t have a buzzer. For deliveries, I have to run down two flights of stairs and stand on my stoop (in bare feet).
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Photographed by Nicholas Calcott.
What's Underneath
Well, I don’t wear a bra most of the time, unless I’m wearing it because I need people to see it on the occasion I have a shirt that's see-through or something. I guess I own maybe three bras?

So, I don’t really think about underwear, because it never has to match, because I basically just wear underpants. Though...sometimes they match my socks. Maybe it’d be weird to go home with a guy, and they’re like, "Oh, it’s all pink!" But it’s just my socks and underwear.

In terms of where I buy it, it really depends. I think I go through stages where I’m just in basic American Apparel cotton underwear, and then I have those moments where you kind of want to feel special, and then I’ll buy Fleur du Mal or Agent Provocateur. And I’ll go shopping in Coco de Mer and do that kind of crazy, sexy stuff, too.
Photographed by Nicholas Calcott.
I’ve got friends who can’t go out without perfect underpinnings, and they’ll spend all their money on them. I have one friend, and when we were both fashion students and had no money, I would spend all my cash on, like, one pair of shoes and wear them the whole season, and she would spend all of hers on underwear. I just thought, no one’s even seeing it, why are you buying £85 bras?

I’m not that person, but that might be just because I’m like quite a naked person. And I feel really constricted in underwear, so it doesn’t feel like a nice thing to dress up in.

Jeans & Denim
My jeans are almost always high-waisted. I’m into mom jeans as well. I’m kind of sad that flares are back for everyone because the '70 were always my thing even when it seemed uncool to everyone else. And now, I’m asking — why is everyone wearing my jeans?
Photographed by Nicholas Calcott.
I had a really long time where I just didn’t wear jeans at all, From 17 to 25, I would only wear dresses. I really struggled with jeans. I felt like I became homogenized as soon as I put them on, and I just became like every other girl who was wearing a pair of jeans, and when I first started working in fashion it was very much about trying to find out who I was and make a statement about it. As I got older, I got way too lazy to not have jeans in my wardrobe. I was like, no, I need them, I need to succumb — they are too easy to not wear them.
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Photographed by Nicholas Calcott.
In terms of brands, I love classic Levi’s, particularly their vintage denim. I really like Frame, too — they fit really, really well. There’s some magical thing in the fit. And J Brand for cut-offs and shorts.

Closet MVPs
I have a linen shirt from Gap that I’ve had probably for about 10 years, and it just fits really well. It's light blue and it goes with everything, and you can kind of dress it up and dress it down. It’s the most inoffensive item in my entire wardrobe. Otherwise, I change things up all the time. I go from being disco girl to being a '70s rockstar to being a hippie. And I guess it’s all within the same constraints of being slightly messy and free? But they’re very different characters. I can go from goth girl to a Care Bear in a week.
Photographed by Nicholas Calcott.
My other staples would be vintage stuff. I've got a vintage YSL pinstriped dress. YSL vintage is really really cheap, and you can buy amazing, really well-made wool YSL pants on eBay for $35, $40 dollars. And it’s so strange to me when you go to Zara, the same type of pants can cost more.

I don’t know why that anomaly exists, or why people are shopping the way they’re shopping. Perhaps there's a lack of knowledge in terms of the quality you can get from vintage, and it isn’t necessarily only scary, crazy, fancy dresses out there. You can buy really classic things that you would wear to the office every single day, and the quality is so much better.
Photographed by Nicholas Calcott.
Photographed by Nicholas Calcott.
"Going-Out" Clothes & The Fancy Stuff
I’ll take something like a gown or a silk shift dress with lace and then think, "Whoa, it’s too pretty-looking," and I’ll have to put a cut-off denim jacket over the top, or I’ll have to wear sneakers or loads of strange bangles with it. The whole concept of being super dressed-up really scares me. There’s something awkward about it, it’s like I’m trying too hard. I can never have, like, a blow dry and wear a ballgown.

Maybe it's also being younger and British, and my trying to own my generation. There's this idea of the anarchist and the anti-fashion thing that's particularly powerful in London. It’s very uncool to be seen as wealthy, so everything is about paring back who you are and what you’re doing. People don’t get manicures in the same way. Chipped nail polish shows that you have a life, rather than that you’ve got the time to take care of yourself.

Fundamentally I’m not precious because I like to live life, and I don’t feel clothes should stop you from doing that. I think that’s a very British way of looking at clothing, even if you take a British aristocrat with the attitude: "Oh, it’s from the 18th century, and hey, I fell down a hill in it, and a bit fell off — whatever."

If gowns won’t fit in suitcases, I just squash them into balls.