Here's the thing about street style: For all the inspiration it serves and the little styling ideas it gives rise to, it's a fantasy — or at least 99.99% of it is. Because of borrowed pre-season clothing and car services that make it possible for people to wear shoes they can't actually walk in (or forgo tights or coats, or even a purse), most of what you see in those slideshows is exactly what you've feared: nothing more than a put-on.
But there exists that .01% of showgoers who treat Fashion Week like a regular Tuesday afternoon. They might make sure they're a little more considered, or actually pull out the flat iron in the morning — but their clothes, their outfits, and their style are totally real. Street style truthers, meet your magic bullet: Jenny Walton.
Walton is an illustrator — check out her work at Makers and Microns — and works alongside Scott Schuman at The Sartorialist. She's got a good eye, no doubt, but it wasn't the fact that she could put together a beautiful outfit that caught ours. It was the fact that she repeated items — a lot. Her vintage-looking clothes really looked vintage. And when we scrolled through her Instagram, we found that some of the pieces she wore in street style photos that made her outfits iconic (see: here and here) were from J.Crew and Zara. According to Walton, the only real difference between her regular outfits and her Fashion Week outfits is versatility: "I travel for a few weeks with just one suitcase — this is a challenge! I have to be smarter and more efficient than at home, because I have the reality of not having very much space!"
We visited Walton at home to get a preview of what pieces are making it into her suitcase, and to hopefully glean some of her shopping secrets, so our eBay, Etsy, and mall excursions can get a little closer to being as fruitful as hers.
How would you describe your signature look?
"I think there's something very classic about my look, and I think that just comes from what shapes I like and that they read as classic. I'm more petite on top so I like smaller, more fitted tops. I like things that are fitted at the waist and I tend to like fuller skirts. I like my neck and jawline so I love pulling my hair back and wearing big earrings. For me, I know that's a part of my body I like, so I choose to highlight it and it makes me feel great. Also, I mainly buy vintage, but I layer in things I find at Zara or J.Crew, as well as a few really special splurge pieces."
Tell me about those ribbons!
"I actually bought the ribbons at M&J Trimming in Midtown to wrap up some books as presents. I loved the color of the ribbon, so I grabbed it from a stack of books and tied it around my neck because it's simply a great color."
What's the secret to buying items from fast-fashion shops that don’t look like they’re fast-fashion?
"I think it comes down to two main things. Firstly, it's a process: it's a lot of sifting through things. Secondly, it's also about having styling smarts and being able to see each piece individually beyond what they have merchandised it with in the store.
"I am someone that, for whatever reason, has always enjoyed analytical shopping (I consider almost everything), but at the same time, I buy barely anything. You have to be both extremely open, and at the same time extremely selective. You want to wear the clothes, you don't want them to wear you."
Tell me about your vintage obsession of late.
"I love Victorian lace blouses, but they're a bit buttoned-up (literally). The trick is to not wear them the way they wore them 100 years ago! (As tempting as that may be, because that's still really beautiful, but you never want to look like you just came from a costume party.) They have all these sexy openings in the back (if you choose to strategically unbutton them), so I turned the blouse around and wore it backwards. All the sudden, it's lost its context, and I didn't change the actual piece. If you want to get good at this, you can look at magazines and see what stylists are doing. They take something that you think of in one way, and they turn it on its head so you think of it in another way."
That gold, pleated skirt is so fun, and I recognize it from a few of your street style shots.
The gold skirt is Gucci, and I love it. This is one of those few new statement pieces I own, and I think it's worth it to splurge on because it's so unique, and it ends up elevating everything else in your wardrobe that you pair it with. I imagine I’ll be wearing it for a very very long time." [Ed. note: For contrast, Walton's green pleated skirt is from Zara!]
What items do you typically spend the most money on?
“Usually I spend the most on shoes. The good thing about investing in a pair of shoes is that they’re always going to fit, so as long as you take care of them, you're set. Now that there are so many ways to buy and so many different sites that you can go to, I think it's worth it to spend a little time hunting around for something — I've bought Miu Miu shoes on eBay, for example. I don't have too many rules, but the one I would say is to not to buy vintage shoes. A few seasons ago on discount are fine, but I've bought shoes from the ‘60s before and they always break within a few wears, so I've just learned it's not worth it — no matter how pretty they are!"