Sophomore Evelyn Stewart wears a cameo brooch and a knit sweater to encapsulate her 1940s-inspired style. Photos by Lauren Gdowski
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College fashion is constantly shifting in order to accommodate function, follow trends in form and reflect the changing nature of the world that students live in. Here on Butler’s campus, students are finding new ways to merge their leisure time with their professional life. Read on to discover the next of our Dawgs with Style through a Q&A style interview.
Evelyn Stewart, a sophomore history-anthropology major, is just like any other Butler student in the 21st century: attending classes in creaky old Jordan Hall, abhorring early morning treks to an 8 a.m. and at times found with Starbucks in hand like a weapon to face the world with.
But unlike many of her modern peers, Stewart dresses in vignettes of history, with her style inspiration ranging anywhere from the 1910s Edwardian period to mid-century fashion — drawing from the 1940s and 1950s — to anachronistic costuming.
Stewart sat with the Collegian to describe her vintage-inspired look, the appeal and drawbacks of the vintage style community and tips on making modern clothes look historical.
THE BUTLER COLLEGIAN: How would you describe your style?
EVELYN STEWART: I would describe it as historically inspired. I like a mid-century — because I’m using modern pieces — but straight [up] mid-century look, if that makes sense. But then further back, I like a more “inspired,” maybe “costumey,” quote-unquote, or cottagecore-esque vibe.
TBC: [How] has your fashion journey been to get to your current style now?
ES: It all started in high school freshman year … when I found Rachel Maksy on YouTube and Karolina Żebrowska … I was always like, “Oh my god, the outfits are so pretty, but people don’t dress like that anymore. Oh well.” Then I was like, “Oh, straight up, if you want to, you just can.” I was like, “Okay, word.”
I bought just a bunch of sh*t from like Goodwill — but also some modern stores to try to achieve that look, and some from real vintage stores, not just Goodwill, but Goodwill was like the crutch.
It was a lot of me not knowing what I was doing. Especially with hair and makeup, it was a journey. A lot of those clothes that I bought originally, I don’t wear very often now, or I never really wore [them], but I found pieces that I did wear all the time. I found a style that I liked, which was a little more like 1940s schoolgirl-esque because it was also more practical day to day as well. Because before, I was trying to do a little bit more of a mature, Marilyn Monroe vibe, but I was [only] a freshman in high school.
I got my hair cut. It was a Middy cut [popular in the 1940s and 1950s], but my hair was a little shorter. It was [about] shoulder length, so it ended up being shorter than I wanted it to be, so that was a struggle.
It was basically that [1940s academic style], and sometimes I’d wear jeans just because I was lazy, but I tried every day to dress like that. Then I got to college and had an 8 a.m. my first semester, and I was also a commuter, and it wasn’t working out doing that every morning. It’s not that I gave up, but I did relax myself and just [realizing] there’s other ways to look cute, and you can incorporate the pieces you like or the styles you like without doing the whole thing every day because it’s just a lot.
That kind of resulted in my buying more modern pieces that follow the Edwardian trend that’s kind of in or has been in, and then styling those more “Edwardian” or “Victorian.” [That’s in] big, big, fat quotes — kind of like that “inspired by” [gothic] look if that makes sense. But it’s more relaxed and takes less time.
TBC: What are your top wardrobe essentials?
ES: My top wardrobe essentials are, because of the way that I dress:
A pair of black boots that I wear almost every day. They are leather, they’re lace-up, they’re black, they go with everything, and they are a little bit historical-esque minus the zipper on the side.
A pair of black knitted tights for the winter because I think it just gives a more historical look than a regular tight, and it’s warmer as well for the winter because I’m still gonna wear the same black skirt that I wear every day. I’m kind of just describing what I have on because literally everything I have on I wear all the time.
This [skirt] was one of the first things that I bought. I bought it from ThredUp. It’s a black A-line skirt. I think it’s polyester, but I wear it all the time with everything.
The black turtleneck that I have on that is sleeveless, I wear that under things a lot. But then I also have a white button-up that is sleeveless — that I cut the sleeves off [of], as a matter of fact — that I wear under sweaters a lot.
Top wise, [one essential for me is] a sweater. I have a bulky sweater on right now, but then I have a lot of tighter fit sweaters as well that I’ll put on over [as a top layer], and that combination of that skirt, an undershirt and then a sweater over it for me is very much like, “Oh yeah, that’s safe. I can just do whatever I want there.”
TBC: Other than clothing items, what sort of accessories, hair, makeup, et cetera are part of your look?
ES: These days, I don’t wear as many hair accessories as I used to. Really, I just have this one oversized bow that I go to when I want to do an updo. I just put it [in my hair] for ornamentation.
I’ve got a brooch that I wear on a gold chain — it’s a cameo brooch — that I wear all the time. All the time, unless I have on one of my many identical pearl necklaces. Some of them are real, some of them aren’t, but they all look the same.
I’ve got some oversized clip-on [pearl earrings] that I think are very mid-century, and then I have a pair of black and gold cameo earrings that I wear with the cameo brooch a lot.
I’ve got rings that I wear when I remember to put them on. I’ve got a green ring that I wear with my green sweater that I have, and I’ve got a couple of burgundy [rings] that I wear with my burgundy sweater, so I match the ring to the sweater. But yeah, that’s kind of my accessories [that I wear]. It’s very simple.
TBC: What about [your] hair and makeup?
ES: For hair, I don’t really wear [hair accessories] as much. I used to do the oversized flower a lot when I was wearing more victory rolls and stuff, but I don’t gravitate towards that so much anymore …
For makeup, I keep it really simple. I don’t usually wear foundation. I wear powder. I tell myself that it’s because it’s historically accurate and not because I’m lazy. And then [I also wear] just minimal eyeliner and then some mascara, and I do my eyebrows because I keep my eyebrows thin for that kind of look.
I’ve got a burgundy lipstick, and then more than one red lipstick that I wear depending on my outfit. And those are the two that I go through the most, but then I have an orange one and I have a couple pink ones that I sometimes will go to.
TBC: Do you tend to curl your hair often?
ES: Yeah, I curl it. Most times when I’m lazy, it’ll be a braid curl. But when I’m doing the mid-century look, I prefer the look of pin curls, so I tend to do pin curls, but sometimes I do foam rollers when I’m being lazy. And then when I’m going for a softer, more like quote-unquote “historical” look, I will sometimes go for rag curls, which is what my hair is in right now. This is the remnants of yesterday’s rag curls.
TBC: You’ve mentioned ThredUp; you’ve mentioned Goodwill. What other sorts of places do you get your clothes from?
ES: It’s a lot of Goodwill, but when I want to splurge, there’s a lot of online shops that do vintage reproduction clothes. Vivien of Holloway is a good one, and then like Unique Vintage, I’ve got some stuff from them, and then Etsy and eBay are good places to get secondhand things as well that’s not Goodwill.
I do prefer to shop in person, so it is a lot of Goodwill, and then also just other vintage or even some antique stores that aren’t clothing stores. Sometimes they’ll have a booth that has clothes, and sometimes there’s like a gem in there. I very rarely buy anything [firsthand and not secondhand], and if I do, it will be from one of those online boutiques.
TBC: So why do you stick to secondhand fashion usually?
ES: It’s a handful of things. I would like to say it’s all sustainability. It is also money — even though sometimes you think [secondhand fashion] would be cheaper, and it’s not [always cheaper than buying firsthand].
[Sustainability] is a big part of it now, but it didn’t start that way. It did really start just [in order to access] the styles. A lot of 70s fashion, for example, has kind of an Edwardian vibe; a lot of 80s fashion can have kind of [a] mid-century vibe. Things from those [older] time periods are expensive and hard to find, but things from the 70s and 80s are not … so it was easier for me to buy [80s clothing] and style them like they’re from the 40s even though I know they’re from the 80s, or [style 70s items] like 1910 … than it is to buy something or to make something from a pattern from those time periods.
TBC: Have you sewn anything from a pattern before?
ES: I have. I’ve only ever made skirts though because they’re the easiest thing to sew. I made a skirt that’s like an Edwardian skirt … the whole thing is big; it’s heavy. But that’s the most complicated thing I’ve made. I’m afraid to do anything more complex.
TBC: In general, what is the appeal of vintage fashion — or vintage style rather — for you
ES: That’s actually a tough question that I’ve thought about but [have] never come up with a good answer for, like for myself. I feel like “I just like it” is a bad answer, but that is true. I do like it and enjoy it.
To me, I don’t know, it feels like [because] I’m a history major, so I’m interested in kind of — because I’m also an anthropology major — how people live their lives now but [also] how people live their lives in the past because I think there’s a lot more overlap than people think. And dressing — even just in the styles, if not the actual clothing from the past — kind of feels to me like, I don’t know, like a connection to that, if that makes sense, like [a connection to] people that existed but don’t anymore … But yeah, I think that’s a big part of it.
TBC: Sometimes, there can be [incorrect] assumptions about people in the vintage fashion community [regarding personal values or beliefs]. What are those assumptions, and how do you feel about them?
ES: That’s tough because you’re referring to this idea that if you dress like you’re from the past, you’ve got to think like you’re from the past — which one, is unfair to people from the past because not everyone from the past was racist or stupid, et cetera, et cetera.
Sometimes people think that about you in a “good,” [faux complimentary] way. One thing I always hear is I dress like how women dressed back when women knew how to dress. I’ve heard that so many times in real life; it’s always from older men. They think they’re complimenting me because they think I’m like, “Yes, I agree!” I don’t. And I don’t like that people think that I would.
There’s this thing that people say: vintage fashion, not vintage values. And that’s a big thing amongst the vintage style influencers. So very clearly, most people, I think, who dress vintage or historical even don’t want to be lumped in [with conservatives].
TBC: What advice would you give to people who want to dress in vintage style?
ES: Don’t blow all your money at Goodwill when you’re 15 — or do, but if you are going to blow your money, blow it at Goodwill. What I’m getting at is it takes time to build a wardrobe.
“Vintage” is very broad, and also “historical” … they’re very broad terms, aesthetic wise. So, understand that your style may not be every possible thing [within vintage style]. Like I was saying, that kind of Marilyn Monroe vibe wasn’t necessarily for me, especially at that time. It also wasn’t sustainable for me day to day. But a more academic, kind of like schoolgirl look was a little bit more sustainable, and I felt more comfortable in that.
So understand that even within that style, people have different styles, so you have to find your own, and that takes time. And it does take wasted money on pieces that you never wear, but try to be conscientious when you’re buying things, and there’s no prize for spending the most money. That’s my biggest thing.