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What to Wear this Week: Katharine Kjerland Finds Inspiration in the Streets, Not Online

In today’s edition of What to Wear This Week, Katharine Kjerland, floral designer and New York resident, breaks down the mechanics of what she wears and why. 

What do you think about when you get dressed in the morning?

The weather! I’m always cold so I like to layer. The first thing I do in the a.m. is check the tempertaure to see just how many layers I need.

Do you start from the shoes and then work your way up, or clothes and then down?

Pants first, then I figure out the rest.

How does living in N.Y.C. influence your style? What about where you’re from or where you grew up?

I grew up in Yonkers so I’m a New Yorker through and through. Back then, Yonkers was still woods. I wasn’t very fashion conscious. I started working in the Garment District modeling for Priscilla of Boston – bridal gowns – when I was 19. From there, I followed the birds (and my career) to Miami, modeling for photography and runway shows. My first was Emilio Pucci. He came from Italy and touched everyone’s asses. He wouldn’t let us wear girdles or bras, both of which were staples in ’50s fashion. His silks were some of the softest I ever felt.

I moved to D.C. for my first husband. D.C. style was bleak. Their idea of fashion was navy suits and sheer stockings with a sensible heel. I used to come back to New York for trunk shows and stand on the corner of Madison Ave and just watch people walk by to get my fashion fix. Eventually the pull of N.Y.C. brought me back and I never left. New York style is inspiring (but let’s be honest, I still wear all black). Depending on where you live you dress accordingly: street style varies from the Upper East Side to downtown, east side vs. west side, Bowery vs. Hudson.

You pick up ideas just being on the street and looking at people. I am constantly asking “whose boots are you wearing, where did you get your coat,” etc. It’s all-around inspiring.

Help! One getting-dressed-in-the-winter tip:

Layers! And cashmere.

What do you like your outfits to say about you?

They’re very reflective of my life experience. On any given day, I combine old with new — Halston cashmere with AYR denim, Tse tees with a contemporary pant, a vintage sweater or jacket with my favorite leggings. My outfits fit my personality (and lifestyle). That being said, I am usually in some sort of gym shoe and legging. On any given day I can be found in the flower market or the gym – my clothes have to suit my lifestyle and work as hard as I do.

What’s your foolproof styling trick?

Simplicity. And know what looks good on you.

The one garment that never lets you down?

My Norma Kamali coat. It feels good, it’s versatile and it’s a showstopper – which is funny, because you can literally hide in that coat.

What item of clothing makes you feel most like yourself? Why?

My leather moto jacket. I always wanted a motorcycle. I grew up with two younger brothers who always had bikes and still ride to this day. It makes me feel close to them.

At what point in your life did you really start to come into your own in terms of personal style?

In my 40s. I was working for Halston in his New York atelier and his style of dressing women was flattering in a way that I saw fitting for my own style. He was all about clean lines; his use of the bias made women look sexy and classy all at the same time. I still remember the day he brought out a custom hammered satin dress that was the most beautiful single piece of fabric I had ever seen. It’s still sitting in my closet and is coveted by my granddaughters. I think it would be a great wedding dress, actually (hint, hint)!

What are your favorite three places on the Internet to get inspired?

I look at street style. To be honest, the internet is not a hub for me the way it is for young folks. All you have to do is look around you. Sit on a park bench, peek around your neighborhood restaurant, observe real life as it happens. That’s where I find inspiration.

What about three favorite places in the city (or the world) to get inspired?

I live in the West Village, so that’s one. The Upper East Side gives me a different sense of inspiration – young people on the Bowery or in the East Village or Soho. There are fashionistas, bohemians and chic ladies who lunch all mulling around the same city.

Outside of New York, Italy and France host some of the most stylish women in the world. All you have to do is sit outside at a street café and observe the buzz of beauty around you. Egypt and India were extraordinarily inspiring for flavor as well.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned in the last week?

That I’m going to miss the Obama family so much – it’s hitting me hard.

Best song to get dressed to?

“Pretty Woman.” I went to Cherry Lane Theater the other night to see a one-woman show that was fantastic. It was all about her life story and it reminded me of how much I love that song.

Photos by Krista Anna Lewis.

Amelia Diamond

Amelia Diamond

Amelia Diamond is a writer, creative consultant, and Man Repeller alumnus living in New York City.

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