Sara McDowell, Advertorial Photo Editor, Refinery29
Sara McDowell really never considered herself a "fashion person." A self-declared "tomboy," her youth was more about camping trips with her dad than collecting high heels. But after landing at Mark Seliger's studio and then — surprise, surprise — Vogue when she graduated from The New School, she couldn't exactly use that as an excuse anymore (fashion is life over there, after all.) Feeling she couldn't "keep up" with her high-design colleagues, McDowell went the opposite route, diving headlong into the world of thrifting and self-made, one-of-a-kind outfits. Now that we've got our greedy, little hands on McDowell, she's become our own summer-style star — wowing us every time she shows up to the office or manages a far-flung photo shoot with her charming, ladylike take on her old, tomboy ways.
My style in six words or less:
"Thrifty, with a blazer on top."
The greatest style lesson I've ever learned:
"The first is to observe. There's inspiration all around, whether it's the environment you're in or the people you're with. I constantly find that my style evolves, and it's influenced by where I am or the people I'm around. I'm always me, but I love trying new things, and it keeps my wardrobe from feeling stale. The second lesson is to dress how you're feeling. I think that style is like music, in the way that you want to listen to a certain type of music when you're in a certain mood — so, for me, I also want to dress in a certain style. This way I always end up feeling like myself."
My boldest summer-style move that I wouldn't attempt any other time of the year:
"I love a bold romper! Technically, I could wear them in any season, but I think summertime makes me feel more playful with my attire. I've got a great, loud-yellow romper, a white-striped one, and also a military-style number that I don't think I could pull off in any other season. I like the feeling of getting dressed and looking in the mirror and thinking, 'Is this too much?,' and then wearing it anyway."
My most surprising, out-of-left-field fashion find:
"An amazing boys' seersucker blazer, thrifted at Unique Thrift in Cleveland — a true summer staple."
I could never ever part with:
"My blazers! It'd be hard for me to conceive of an outfit without them."
The dressing difficulties I've had to overcome:
"I'm shorter, so I'm really aware of proportions. I think a little tailoring can go a long way. Just a slight shortening of a hemline or bringing in a jacket can really elevate a whole look."
If I were 80 years old today:
"I dream of having really long, silver-gray hair, so I'd wear whatever works with that!"
My style theme song:
"'Tomorrow Never Knows.'"
Styled by Laura Pritchard, Hair by Bethany Brill, Makeup by Tiffany Patton
Look 1: Vintage pink graphic dress; Zara nude platform heels. Look 2: Vintage navy bouclé blazer; Vintage white blouse with navy piping; Vintage striped oversized short; Zara Printed Platform Sandals with Ankle Strap, $69.90, available at Zara; Christian Louboutin Sweet Charity No Limit Bag, $1,095, available at Christian Louboutin; Love, Adorned bracelet, similar styles available at Love, Adorned.
Photographed by Geordy Pearson