You know I love to talk about clothes. And about fashion in general. I love to read about clothes, look at pictures of clothes, and research and plan what clothes I need or don’t need. And I adore talking about all of this with anyone who will listen. My friend Krista loves to talk about clothes as much as I do. Okay, maybe not quite as much as me… but a lot. And that’s what we did one afternoon and evening last week. We spent hours and hours talking about clothes. And we had a blast.
I met Krista McNamara when she was a young teacher and I was the English and Languages department head at John McCrae Secondary School. We met in the principal’s office for her job interview for a position in my department. Diane, my principal, and I were bowled over by her energy, her enthusiasm, and her creative ideas. While Diane dutifully took notes, which is what we’re supposed to do during interviews, I kept thinking: “I want to be a kid in her class. Please, please let’s hire her.”
After Krista had left the room, I looked at Diane and said exactly that. Then I commented on her gorgeous burgundy pumps. Diane laughed, and, lowering her voice in case someone might hear and her reputation as a stickler for protocol might be blown out of the water, she said, “And her matching bag.” Then we both chortled. So Krista came to work in our school, and the utterly false rumour that you had to wear great shoes to get into the English department at JMSS was born.
I’ve been wanting to introduce you to Krista for a while now. I thought you might like to hear what other women who love fashion (but who aren’t me) have to say about clothes. Women who are smart, dynamic, and who aren’t twenty anymore. Krista is definitely smart and dynamic. And she has wonderful style.
One trait we share is being slightly anal about how we organize our wardrobes. That’s one of the things we talked about the other night, the strategies we each use to build and edit a wardrobe that works for us. You know what I do because I’ve written about it so many times.
Krista says that for several years she has made anecdotal notes about her wardrobe at the end of each season. So, twice a year, she divides the pieces in her closet up into categories: tops, pants etc. Then for each category she writes her observations for the season: what worked, what didn’t, pieces she particularly enjoyed wearing, and what she needs to consider for the next year. Just like me, she has a little book where she keeps all her notes. And before she shops again for that season she goes back over her notes from the previous year.
For the last few seasons she has kept a purchase list as she shops throughout the year. She notes what she bought, where she bought it, and how much she paid for it. She can look back at purchases for previous seasons and see how much she spent, if she still likes the piece, or even if she still has it. That’s brave, I think. I total up the number of pieces I buy each year to see if I can keep it under 25 or so. But I haven’t been able to bring myself to keep a numerical value of how much I spend. Krista says having all this information down in black and white helps her to avoid wasting her money. And to avoid waste period.
Krista has such an outgoing, effervescent personality you’d never guess that she has a hidden analytical side, that she’s so self-disciplined, so good at keeping herself on track. But both qualities are what made her such a good classroom teacher, and help to make her a good principal now.
Last week when Krista and I met in the Byward Market area of Ottawa for our photo session, we found a quiet courtyard with a photogenic stone wall, some cool street art, and a convenient bench. The sun was just beginning to go down, and the tourists were thinning out. Krista had brought her tripod and her camera. We yakked as we moved the tripod around. Even chatting to a couple of cycle cops who pedalled by. Curious, they’d stopped as Krista was peering through her lens at the blank stone wall. “What are you doing?” one asked. We both jumped, and Krista said, “Are we not allowed to do this?” Ever the teachers, we were worried about breaking some arcane bylaw by photographing a wall. Ha.
But they only wondered “why photograph a wall?” “Oh we’ll move into the shot eventually. We’re taking photos of our outfits,” Krista said airily. “For a blog,” I added, as if I did this kind of thing every day. As if I weren’t too shy and embarrassed to drag my own tripod downtown and take photos on my own. Funnily enough, that evening I was utterly oblivious to the passers-by. Some looked at us curiously. Others just smiled hello and moved on. You know, I may have to try this more often. Maybe after five years of doing this blog it’s time I grew out of my impostor syndrome.
After we had exhausted the photographic possibilities of the courtyard, and were exhausted ourselves, we decamped to a cool restaurant for dinner and continued talking about clothes. I asked Krista whether getting older has changed how she dresses, or how she looks at clothes. She says that it hasn’t really. Except, now in her mid-forties, she doesn’t make as many “stupid purchases.” She says that she understands her “relationship to [her] clothing” better. Better than when she was younger. And better than many of her friends.
She attributes some of this to the program I mentioned in my last post, Dressing Your Truth. A friend had recommended it, and when Krista explored the website she found she fit the “type four” category. Words like bold, striking, efficient, and analytical seem to aptly describe her, she says. She doesn’t follow the program slavishly; it’s not the be all and end all. “It’s just one more tool,” she says. “And it helped me understand why I’m so picky about my clothes.”
As we moved on from the fish and chips (two east coast girls are gonna have fish for supper!) to coffee, I asked Krista to describe what she loves about clothes. Simplicity is important, she says. She hates bobbles and do-dads on her bags, obvious hardware, tassels. And she likes structure. Me too, Krista, me too. She likes elegance but with a certain amount of energy, with flow. And nothing too eccentric, or boho. Krista says her biggest style challenge is that she needs both “structure or refinement, and flow.” And it’s tough to find that particular sweet spot in one garment. Like all successful professional women, Krista pays a lot of attention to how she dresses for work. How she presents herself to students, colleagues, and parents. She needs to be approachable, yet professional. And modern.
Krista and I had a great evening together. Good food and a glass of wine. Lots of laughs, and even a close call with the coppers. Ha. I remember laughing when she pulled those Valentino shoes out of her bag. She’d not been wearing them when she arrived. Of course she would be packing a pair of gorgeous shoes. Isn’t that how we met? She laughed when I mentioned the old story of her interview and the rumour about shoes and the JMSS English department, saying that she’d “completed her story arc.” Yep. We’ve come full circle. Not that the story is over. Friendship is, after all, a continuing saga.
Krista asked me to give a shout out to one of her favourite stores. A small independent boutique in Carleton Place, about 50 km from Ottawa, called The Dress Shop. That’s where she bought her Lisette cropped pants, above, with the silver button detail on the leg. And the black tank. The tank is by Dominica Maazur who owns The Dress Shop and is the in-house designer. I spent a few minutes this afternoon on the Dress Shop website, and I think I am definitely going to make a day trip out to Carleton Place.
You know, working with Krista on this post has made me think it’s time I branched out a bit more bravely with my own photos. Carleton Place is a lovely old town on the Mississippi River, not that one, the other Mississippi. It has lots of photogenic stone walls. Maybe I’ll pack my tripod and a pair of great shoes for my day out. I’ll let you know how that works out.
You can find more of Krista’s photos on her Instagram account White Streak Black Dog.
Now it’s your turn my friends. Are you a talker when it comes to fashion? Do you regale your friends with what you’re wearing, what you’re shopping for, and why? Or maybe you’re more of a quiet listener? Or does the whole talking about clothes thing bore you rigid? Come on, you can tell us.
Some links in the post are affiliate links and it you click on them I will earn a commission.