What Does Your Neighborhood Say About Your Style?

Bed-Stuy-based photographer Shanthony Exum started her blog, The Every Body Project, to showcase the personal style of New Yorkers who don’t fit the usual fashion-blogger mold — read young, thin, white, and wealthy.
“I love fashion, but when I looked at most of the popular blogs, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me,” says Shanthony, a North Carolina-native who moved to New York City just last year. “I wanted to show that all types of women could be beautiful, no matter how old they are or what size pants they wear.”
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Armed with her Nikon D3200, Exum hits the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn each week, taking photos, and asking the men and women she snaps to share one thing they love about themselves. Along the way, she's captured a side of the city’s aesthetic that has gone underground in the age of street-style celebrities — one that is bold, gritty, and uniquely New York.
Ahead, Exum dishes on the DNA of NYC’s style-spotting locales: From the perfectly polished women of the Upper West Side, to the art-school kids of NYU, to the corner in Chelsea she's nicknamed the “money corner” of New York street fashion.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
The Cutting Edge: Lower East Side/East Village

The long-time stomping ground of Manhattan’s avant-garde is home to some of the most creative dressers in New York.

“You find the most interesting combinations of colors and textures here,” says Exum. “One woman I captured told me she made her awesome summer ensemble from reconstructed winter clothing.”

Exum's favorite spot to find these fashion mavens? Houston Street between Norfolk and Broadway.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
On the Lower East Side: “It has deep roots in the arts scene. Maybe that’s why you see more people taking risks. There’s so much style history to draw from.”

On what she looks for in a subject: “People who seem like they’re very comfortable in their own skin. You can tell when someone is wearing something that makes them feel great, because they carry themselves differently. It gives you a different energy.”
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
Relaxed Vintage: South Williamsburg

The hipsters of Williamsburg are more laid-back than their Manhattan counterparts.

“Being in Brooklyn is way more relaxed than being in the city, and that’s reflected in the way people dress,” she says.

Exum loves the strip of Bedford Avenue between Metropolitan and South 4th streets for its imaginative layering and sartorial juxtapositions.

“You see lots of vintage pieces incorporated with newer, trendy items. And, the nail-art game in this 'hood is on point.”
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
How Shanthony describes her own personal style: “Lisa Turtle [of Saved By The Bell] on acid.”

The most extreme thing she has ever done to get a photo: “Once I was having brunch with friends in Manhattan, and I saw a woman walk by in a sparkly dress. I literally leaped over the table, jumped out the window, and chased her down the street to ask for her picture.”

On how street style curbed her shopping problem: “I love shopping, but instead of buying new clothes, I take photos of cool women. I think part of what drives my desire to shop is this idea of accruing beautiful things for my collection. Taking photos meets that same need for me.”
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
Ladies Who Pack a Punch: Upper West Side

The Upper East Side is famous for its well-dressed women, but the Upper West Side is equally as sartorially on point, she says — especially in the lap around Columbus Avenue between 66th and 86th streets.

“I like to use the three Ss to describe this area: structure, sophistication, and subtlety.”
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
On how The Every Body Project has influenced her sense of personal style: “It’s made me step up my own style game. I like to experiment with different color combinations — things that I think other people would want to photograph.”
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
Normcore Revisited: Downtown Brooklyn

Downtown Brooklyn’s Fulton Street Mall might not be the first place you think of when it comes to fashion, but between the chain stores you can find some truly quirky clothes, Exum says.

“The best way to describe this area is joyous. People really have fun with style here, whether it is bright red hair, sparkles, or blinged-out glasses.”
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
On Downtown Brooklyn: “When I saw this woman walking around with a beautiful sparkle cap and scarf, I literally sped walked behind her for two blocks until I caught up with her. I’m so glad she agreed to be photographed.”
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
Laid-Back Lovelies: Park Slope

The home of Brooklyn’s mommy mafia is to the UWS what Williamsburg is to the Lower East Side.

“The style here is impeccable, but there is also an ease about it that you don’t see so much in Manhattan. The ladies here look sharp without being fussy,” says Shanthony. “I am a member of the Park Slope Co-Op, so I’m here quite a bit.”
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
On her feminist approach to fashion: “I feel like a feminist approach to fashion is one of solidarity. Not judging women based on their body type, but on what they choose to say. You have very little control over your genetics, but your clothes are something that you do have control over. And, if you have something you want to say to the world, fashion is an interesting way of expressing that.”

On who inspires her: “I love style blogs with a difference, like Modest Street Style, which features women with artfully styled hijabs, Advanced Style, and Likeamacheen, which is run by street-style photographer, Derek Fahsbender.”
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
Art School Cool: Greenwich Village

“The fashion near The New School [Fifth Ave between 12th and 14th Streets] is like nowhere else,” says Shanthony. “There’s lots of bold experimentation that blurs the line between the fantastical and ready-to-wear. When I was in art school, we would put together the craziest outfits. The students here do the same.”
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
On why she asks every person she photographs to give themselves a compliment: “As women, we’re socialized to focus on the negative. Reframing that is something a lot of people struggle with. I’m trying to help women to be more self-loving, to appreciate what is beautiful about their style, their minds, and how we engage with the world. You have to give yourself a compliment before I get out of your face!”

On New York City: “This is one of the easiest places in the world to have a style blog, because everyone brings something to the table, style-wise. People really go for it here.”
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
Bright and Bold: Harlem

“Harlem was a feast for my eyes,” says Shanthony.

Exiting the subway at 125th Street for the first time, this woman was the first person she saw.

“Usually, when I ask people to pose for me, they throw their hand on their hip and give me a big, pageant girl smile. But, she moved into this position right away. Fierce.”
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
On Harlem: “There is a boldness and an interesting play with color here. I love using costume jewelery to make statements. This woman’s earrings are fantastic.”
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
Pure Money: Chelsea

But, Shanthony’s favorite style stalking spot in New York is the corner of 14th Street and Eighth Avenue, where the West Village meets Chelsea.

“Literally, any time I am striking out everywhere else, I can go here and get great shots,” she says. “This woman was walking with her husband, and like a lot of older women I photograph, she didn’t want to be captured at first. But, I love everything about her look. There are so many interesting details, like the chunky necklace and even her hair, with its salt-and-pepper highlights.”
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Photo: Courtesy of The Every Body Project.
On what makes Chelsea special: “This area is hard to define because everyone is so different. People from all different areas of New York converge on that corner,” says Shanthony. "The subway connects to the L and the A trains, which go to Bed-Stuy, Williamsburg, Hell’s Kitchen, and more. And, then you’ve got the High Line, which is such a draw to people all over the city, and the Chelsea galleries, which make everything skew a little more artsy.”
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