Effortless cool, minimalist chic! Meet DC creative and IT-girl, Emily Wall, the mastermind behind the highly popular street style blog DC HERE NOW. A documentation of our city’s brightest individuals and “the pleasure of getting dressed.” This girl knows style. What she also knows is how to style her life in a way that makes REAL sense. We caught up with the photographer/fashionista to get the inside scoop on paring down your wardrobe and creating that ‘just right’ collection (with pieces you love, adore, and oh yeah, already own). It’s ALL about the minimalist approach: cutting out the superfluous and making room for the real you.
all photos: Jeff Martin
BYT: How EXACTLY did you end up with ONE rack of clothing?
Emily Wall: You know, I really can’t say. I woke up one day, maybe it was winter time or just spending more time in doors…you’re more likely to find a pastime to toil away. I wanted to consign and clean out the closet. And then I started applying that impulse to everything in my environment and my apartment. It just kind of started! I realized I was doing it when it already had begun. Like spring cleaning, but winter cleaning! You know? [Laughs] It was like a normal impulse that just kind of went out of control!
BYT: What inspired you? Did DC HERE NOW play role?
EW: When I started working on DC HERE NOW, I had the opportunity to print out ALL the photos and have this big celebratory party at the Dunes. When I saw all these images on a wall together I realized a common string. The people I found most interesting ALL had a strong individual style. Particularly, I found, there is a difference in being fashionable and having a style that’s simply not easy to sum up. The people that look unique and pulled together usually are. And as a young person finding my way through fashion – I hope to be one of these people. To get to a place where I can express myself confidently in every way.
BYT: Wow. Words of wisdom.
EW: Well, it started through necessity. Not shopping! And then I began to look through my closet and develop a better idea of what I loved and what was…just okay. AND, I think my inspiration came from women that particularly are not afraid to look different. Women who really look – however they want to look. I have what I need. And understanding that…Why would I add superfluous stuff that I don’t like and doesn’t energize me the least bit?
A long time ago, I saw this photograph, I think it was in New York Magazine. It was this older (and wiser, I’m sure) French lady with really funky hair. She said, “American women need to stop going shopping and stop looking at magazines!” Ha. And it stuck with me. More is not always more, you know? And that might mean you shop less and invest in the clothes that are well made. Don’t get me wrong – I love Zara and H&M. But, as I get older, I hope to continue to buy from the brands and people that I really dig.
BYT: That would be really difficult for me, I’m addicted to Vogue. Any advice?
EW: I do like style, but getting dressed can be stressful. Facing a pared down closet makes the whole process a lot more manageable and faster. Having less choices but more options has made the getting dressed easier and more fun. I like accessories, so, I’d rather the clothing just be easy, you know. One of my favorite blogs, Advanced Style, is of older women with the sickest style. Older women who have tons of style and wisdom about being a woman and unapologetic of who you are. Those ladies are MY idols.
BYT: How did you decide what to keep?
EW: Material is key to me. I love natural materials. And materials that breathe. Things that are versatile and things that feel timeless. When I’m attracted to something it’s usually because there’s a timelessness to it. When you look at a piece and have to debate it…you don’t really love it. It’s similar to going to an art museum. That decisiveness you experience is something that I started applying to my clothes. If it was something that I wore and felt good in…or something I can dress up and down, make new combinations with, you know? I don’t want to feel cornered by any of my clothing.
BYT: A lot of neutrals and backs. You have a very minimalist approach.
EW: My mother always says that she only wears black, beige, and white [laughs again]. So, maybe its genetic. I hope to embrace color too. But for now, to start, I wanted a blank canvas. I’m still learning what colors suit me. I’m still learning to discriminate between colors that are “in” and colors that I’m actually crazy about. Black, beige, and white feel like the right starting point. I don’t want this collection of clothes to corner me in either. I reserve the right to decide I want to wear ALL orange or go into a paisley and polka-dot phase it if suits my fancy. By no means do I feel like I’ve arrived at my style; rather, I hope that my style continues to change as I change. You visit a new place, you see something new–I’m sure if I surround myself in different aesthetics–that impacts who you are and how you dress.
BYT: We heard you recently cut off ALL your HAIR? Tell us about it.
EW: I’ve been blonde. I’ve had red hair. I’ve had long hair. And now, I have short hair. Some people find their signature cut and stick with it. I don’t think that will ever be me. It’s a fun, easy, and impermanent way of feeling a little new. There is something to be said for having a signature look, but I always like to throw a curve ball. Hair is a fun, easy, innocent way of doing it (that doesn’t effect anyone else)! Short hair is always something that I wanted to do.
Also, I love how people our age can play with gender and fashion. I wanted hair that would make me feel simultaneously like Audrey Hepburn and Elvis Presley. I am excited that our generation is playing with gender versus more traditional boundaries. Women in the past also have worn short hair. But, it has felt like a new experience for me. Less traditional and less “girly.” Fashion and hair are great arenas for taking risks and surprising yourself.
BYT: What treasures did you find going through this process?
EW: I found that jewelry is very sentimental to me. A gift of jewelry (be it from a family member, something you’re passed down, or a lover in your life) has an energy that is hard to casually toss away or imagine giving to someone else. My jewelry: that’s my TREASURE chest. In terms of clothing, things that I couldn’t get rid of…a jacket I purchased in Nashville on ridiculous discount. It never fit me, but I couldn’t imagine it going to just anyone. Some of those treasures have found a second life with women I love. Or, in the case of the jacket a real FIRST life on someone else. I’m a big believer in fashion karma or clothing karma. Sometimes you’ve got something that is intended for someone else!
BYT: Any personal-style discoveries?
EW: Right now? Right now, I want clothes I feel comfortable in. Clothes that I can take long walks in [smiles widely and lets out another laugh for good measure]. Nothing too delicate. Clothes that say something about who I am. But, clothes that still allow me to blend in a little bit. I’m not the girl in the room that has the most outrageous thing on. I’m never going to show too much skin. A friend told me, “you really dial it up or you dial down.” There are times you want to be anonymous and relatable and totally unpretentious. And then there are times you don’t mind turning a few heads. Sometimes you want to be in your own world and sometimes its fun to step out and make the street your own runway.
BYT: Life like a catwalk. An adventurer to say the least.
EW: Honestly, I’m doing what a lot of people are doing in their 20s: figuring out who you are and what you want in YOUR life. Growing up, you know. I think that’s the personal journey–the clothing is just a reflection of that. I want to be getting out in the world to meet new people and experience new things. You have to try a lot of things. You can’t be afraid of trying new things if you want to do them. I’m too young to be tied down by stuff.
BYT: Okay, now here’s the hard part. Rapid fire! Tea or Coffee?
BYT: Shoes or Bags?
EW: Mhm, that’s a hard one. Yes, definitely shoes. There’s a great feeling of not having a bag.
BYT: Desert island. One item?
EW: A crate of matches. For a fire. I’m obviously a practical lady. And a tooth brush. I don’t like feeling cold or feeling like I haven’t brushed my teeth. A book would be good too.
BYT: What’s your perfect day?
EW: It’s got to include a lot of walking and a lot of sunshine. Conversations with strangers. An amazing meal and a bubble bath.
BYT: Style icons?
EW: Gosh, I think of Johnny Cash. Or Iris Apfel? From Advanced Style. She’s amazing. Manuel, from Nashville. He’s this incredible guy who makes classic “honky tonk” sequin suits. And Sophia Coppola.
BYT: DC go-tos AND secret hot-spots?
EW: Redeem, Treasury, Good Wood, Rock It Again, Dr Ks Vintage, Ida’s Idea, Current Boutique. I love looking at my clothing and seeing an amazing cross section of the places and friends I love in DC. All the people who own these places and make DC that much cooler. And secret spots? Ponytail Shoe Shine Parlor and Sewing & Alterations on U Street.
BYT: And last, but assuredly not least, what’s next for Emily?
EW: Getting a few more pairs of socks for sure. And continue to surround myself with people and things I love as much as I can.
GO TO: DC HERE NOW + KEEP checking this space for more scoop on local style, fashion news and more. THANKS, EMILY!