Washington Post writer Holly Thomas knows fashion; It’s what she does. No wonder she is one of the Best Dressed List:DC finalists. So, how did it feel being the one answering the style questions instead of asking them? “Interesting,” she said on the Sunday evening we met inside her lovely studio apartment, for a talk and quick look-see of her wardrobe.
all photos: Chris Chen
BYT: What defines D.C. style?
Holly Thomas: I think we really have two very different- I think there is a main current and definitely an under current of, like, people who are doing all thrift stores and all vintage and making their own clothes. And I think it’s a big contrast with what people think of when they think of D.C. style, which is suits and trench coats and, you know, navy blue, double breasted blazers and khakis and all that….It feels to me like the city has changed so much and now when I think of D.C. style, I think of the people on this list. Like the people who shop at Treasury, people who shop at Meeps [& Aunt Neensie’s Vintage] and Mercedes Bien [Vintage] and are buying really one of a kind, unique pieces. I guess that’s my take on it.
BYT: You’ve mentioned some shops. Do you have a favorite in the city?
HT: I have a lot of favorite stores! Depends on what I’m looking for, but I spend a lot of time at Treasury and Legendary Beast, in terms of the small boutiques. But I have gotten really into thrift shopping in the last two years. I was actually just telling a friend, I love to look at vintage stores, but I feel like they’re doing the same thing. They are going to Unique Thrift [Store] and buying this cute little bag for $2 and they’ll sell it for $30, so I might as well do that myself.
BYT: It’s always amazing to find that one special piece…
HT: Yeah. There are a few days when I go and like I can’t find anything and then, there are other days where like everything I pick up is like magical and it’s just like the best day ever.
BYT: What was your most recent purchase?
HT: Probably these boots, which I got online. I stalked them, watched them online for weeks, because I’m a very thoughtful shopper. I’ll analyze things, really try to make sure I’m going to wear it, before I buy it. So, I definitely had them in a shopping cart for like a month. Then finally, the day before Thanksgiving, I was all edgy at work. I’m, like, I’m just going to get them…that’s my recent purchase, other than the fabric I got today to make my own vest, possibly…
BYT: Do you make some of your own things?
HT: I’ve been sewing since I’ve been in High School and I kind of put myself through college as a seamstress, so I alter a lot of my clothes. But I don’t make a lot of things from scratch, because I just don’t have room. But I got inspired today so…I’m thinking…I can make a vest. It will take an hour…
BYT: That’s lovely… an hour to make a vest.
HT: I mean, it’s a vest with, like, basically no fabric. It’s like making a scarf.
BYT: But you could be watching people make clothes on Project Runway in an hour as well, so…
HT: That’s true.
BYT: What’s something you would never be caught wearing?
HT: Oh! I’m really not a label person, so I would never, ever have a Louis [Vuitton] bag or a Gucci belt. It doesn’t really suit me. And I could never be caught dead in Uggs, which everyone knows. Anyone who has read anything I have ever written knows that I don’t do Uggs. Anything that has words on- can I swear in this interview?
HT: Anything that has words on the ass…not ever going to wear that pretty much. Anything that has words on it in general. Like, I’m not a big statement type of person. I think most of the really egregious things I just, I can’t imagine.
BYT: This is a dark one. What would you want to be buried in?
HT: Oh! What do I want to be buried in? Wow! Well, I’ve always said I wanted to be cremated, so to make it I guess even darker, What would you want to be cremated in? I’m going to go with something very elegant, Phillip Lim, very pretty, long dress. That’s a really dark question. I never actually thought about that!
BTY: I can tell that you choose your things very carefully. Do you have a treasured possession?
HT: There’s a picture of my mom that is very significant to me, because we don’t have many pictures, especially of her when she was younger. So, there are my family photos…they are really kind of important. I get a lot of knickknacks handed down, so I have a lot of china, which I’m trying to become classy enough to actually use. I pick up a few items here and there that have become significant over the years, like this snake ring. I looked for a snake ring for, like, two years. I finally found one at his consignment shore in Rockville. Those are probably my most treasured things.
BYT: What about clothing?
HT: I have a lot of my mom’s vintage scarves from the 70s that I really like. I have a tuxedo jacket that I got from a thrift store. It’s Oscar de la Renta for $9. That’s actually a pretty good treasure.
BYT: Where did you find that?
HT: Unique Thrift [Store]. It’s totally some little boy’s jacket he wore at a wedding once….
BYT: Who’s your style soulmate?
HT: Style soulmate…Kate Lanphear from Elle magazine. I’m, like, slowly becoming her with the hair…
BYT: Right! I was going to say, you’re not too far off…
HT: I really admire her style a lot. Let’s see…anyone else…Actually, everyone, like, laughs when I say this, but I really like, in terms of celebrities, Kate Bosworth. I think she does classic pieces very well and she doesn’t look super trendy. Like, I think you could actually look at her picture in ten years and it would look timeless. I think those are probably my two, kind of, icons. But, I mean, I like Katharine Hepburn, because I do a lot of, slightly menswear inspired, like a lot of wide-legged trousers and that kind of thing. So she’s always a good one to kind of revisit.
BYT: Yes, she’s the queen of that look.
HT: And so many people do Audrey [Hepburn]. And I feel like Katharine really doesn’t get enough credit. So…suits me better.
BYT: Audrey exudes more feminine style.
HT: Definitely. She does the more gamine, very cute kind of look and I can’t quite pull that off. It’s very hard to be 5’10’’ and look pixie so…
BYT: There’s Katharine for that…
HT: That’s true. That’s where she comes in.
BYT: What would you steal from your grandfather’s closet?
HT: Um…anything kind of tweed. Maybe if he had, like, a tweed vest or a great tweed blazer. Flannels are always good and a good fedora. This is assuming I have a very stylish grandfather.
BYT: Here’s another odd one for you…
HT: I like odd questions! They keep things moving, that’s good.
BYT: If you were a cannibal, what would you wear to dinner?
HT: If I were a cannibal….something I could get messy I guess, something black. Let’s go with a simple, black sheath and good shoes, because the shoes wouldn’t get messy.
BYT: They’re under the table.
HT: Yes. This is assuming cannibals eat at a table.
BYT: With a fork and knife…
HT: Exactly, very civilized.
BYT: If you could have one designer dress you for the rest of your existence, whom would you choose?
HT: I was trying to think this morning of my top designers. I definitely have three tops that are Phillip Lim, Vivienne Westwood and Alber Elbaz from Lanvin. But I think that if I had to wear it everyday, I would go with Phillip Lim, because the others are very dramatic, very over the top. So I’m going to go with Phillip Lim.
BYT: You like simpler designs…
HT: I like simple, and I think, because, I mean, complicated clothes for me are just too much of an effort. I kind of always feel like I’m not actually wearing it, but it’s wearing me, which is such a cliché, but I don’t like when the pieces are the attention grabbers and it’s not the overall look, which is why I don’t really wear any prints or patterns. My closet is almost all black and grey, denim. I have a friend who wears prints and wears them beautifully and always look like she just came from Capri. I can’t do that.
Holly was our first BDL:DC style profile. Keep checking this space for more scoop from all the finalists.