Real Life Women: Amanda Maxwell
When I started this blog three years ago I couldn't imagine the new friends I would make. In the beginning it was my mom, relatives and friends who I could blackmail that commented on my posts. Then I started to see new people. Real people. People who didn't have to comment. One of those people is Amanda Maxwell, also known as Pomomama. Her @pomomama twitter avatar is an example of her past big 80s hair. Clearly we were meant to be friends. Amanda is a woman of many talents. She designs jewelry. She blogs. She posts regular self portraits of herself. She has built an entire wardrobe through thrift.
I asked Amanda a series of questions around her style - mostly trying to understand her secrets to shopping thrift.
How would you describe your style?
Eclectic, bewildered, only just getting it right - midlife motherhood is not an easy time of life to establish a personal style; my body has changed with pregnancy, and is still altering as I get older. It's like working with a moving canvas. Right now, I'm aiming for graceful, stylish yet individual verging on boho/artistic without jeopardizing my professionalism if that's possible.
Would you describe your weekend style different from your professional style?
I'm an unemployed, part-time student and stay-at-home mother - the term 'weekend' has no meaning for me.
What outfit/item makes you feel like a million bucks?
Anything well-fitting, with no tight spots, makes me feel awesome. Right now, it's patterned knee-length dresses and a hip-length singing cardi wrap with knee-high boots.
How often do you thrift?
Do I ever not thrift? Actually I'll admit to a recent post-christmas visit to Reitmans where I scored some wonderful knitwear at a fraction of full cost. Otherwise it's thrift all the way, ValueVillage, our local SHARE shop and sometimes the Crossroads Hospice shop.
Do you have a particular approach to thrifting?
If you're serious, don't take the kid! Unless it's stuff for him that I need (and he loves a trip to ValueVillage).
I go with an open mind but a rough idea of what gap in my wardrobe I need to fill. I always look at coats, jackets, dresses and shoes - those are where it's possible to score a great known-label brand or pick up a little something in a luxurious fabric (cashmere cardi, silk dress, devore).
Tips for women looking to start thrifting?
- As above - keep an open mind
- go frequently but be prepared to come away empty-handed and not disappointed
- wear clothes that you can get changed out of/in to easily (makes trying stuff on much less hassle)
- visit near the end of the day if you are looking for footwear (your feet will be the largest they will get so you'll notice any pinch points)
- feeling jaded? - just pick up something in your size, build an outfit round it and get ye to the changing room - it's amazing how inspiring trying on that first item can be
- try something from outside your comfort zone for a giggle - it might just work!
- Wash the stuff when you get home.
Your favourite thrift stores?
ValueVillage and some other local charity shops. Sadly, I haven't found any local vintage sellers here in the 'burbs and I don't have the time to trawl the Main Street treasure troves. Sad, because Main Street is where I found That Dress (the Herve Leger pink number! Below).
How has your style evolved as you have come into middle age?
My style has evolved to cope with the changes pregnancy, breastfeeding and ageing have left me as a midlife mother. I no longer do cute or gamine, I've hit that invisible woman phase which is both liberating and deeply upsetting. Fashion expects us to look young and perky, but is quick to point the "mutton as lamb" finger so it is a bewildering stage to dress. I'm aiming for comfort, as in "Do I feel good in this outfit?" - my wardrobe needs to empower me, and make a statement about who I am, who I was and who I will be. It needs to be authentic and not rely on hoisting my tits youthfully skywards in an effort to fit in with societal pressure nor perennially squeeze me into shapewear simply because I've dared to have a child and grow older.
You are in the midst of evolving your professional life. How has this affected your personal style and approach to thrifting?
LOL! I spent the summer worrying about office wear, and what does the plus-40 intern wear to her work experience gig? ValueVillage is a great source of try-it-out work styling for me - as a former lab rat, I had no idea what office casual meant. As a SAHM and mixed media artist/writer, as long as I don't have to make the school run, I can stay in PJs all day, but I've always made the effort to dress up, trying out various styles. Having my then 3.5y old son announce that I looked like a princess on one of the rare occasions I wore a dress was certainly a wake-up call to personal at-home make-the-effort styling. As a student I can experiment a little more with what to wear outside the home; my younger peers are a great source of inspiration, as are the other mature ladies in the various courses I take. If/when I get an outside-the-home job, will my wardrobe and thrifting change? I think I will always thrift but just in different aisles, looking more for items suitable for the workplace. And appropriate footwear - my collection of wedge sandals didn't cut it this summer!
You do a lot of self portraits on your blog. Has doing this affected your perception of your own beauty? The self-portrait thing evolved from the early glory days of Etsy when a bunch of sellers would take self portraits every Thursday (SPT, or self portrait Thursday), post them in the flickr group then visit the group pool to check in, post comments and generally say Hi. What looks from the outside as a purely vanity moment is more an exercise in creativity and social networking. Although I'm less active in SPT, I still take a portrait most Thursdays; they've evolved into more of a check-in on what's swirling around my head at the moment, which often makes it onto my blog as a jumble of thoughts, a rant, amazement or other. My SPTs have captured some incredibly poignant moments in my life, from losing my hearing, prepping for a colonoscopy and genetic testing, to recreating old goth moments and trying out different sunglass styles. One of my lowest point SPTs was picked up for the book, We Feel Fine, to illustrate the emotion of being overwhelmed. I've never considered myself beautiful but when I look back through my SPTs I can see that I'm strong, capable and resourceful, and a survivor - all things I value much more than just looking good, and which will last me into my old age.
And a Few Fashion Questions...
If you had to save ONE item in your wardrobe in a fire what would it be?
As long as family, pets and the back up hard drive were all safe, I'd try to save my jewelry. I have some real sentimental pieces from my mum and grandmothers I'd really miss.
If you had the opportunity to treat yourself to one big ticket fashion item, what would it be?
Don't laugh - a floor length black leather duster coat; think Keanu Reevs in The Matrix or Christian Slater in Heathers! Once a goth, always a goth.
Most embarrassing fashion moment from your past ?
None except admitting that I didn't really shop for my size until my twenties - too much a hang over of my mum fitting me into the larger sizes so nothing would be tight, and that I'd have plenty of room to fit layers underneath. I spent most of my teens/early twenties in baggy clothing, thinking I was really dumpy rather than realising I had a waist, shapely legs and could look elegant rather than needing to hide an enormous backside.
Amanda is a mixed media artist; blogger and social media communicator; scientist and writer; SAHM and expat trailing spouse; explorer. She arrived in Vancouver over ten years ago, following her husband when he changed his job. She left a career in academic clinical medicine and research, and gained a son, head space and a new homeland. She is now a part-time student, embarking on a midlife career change back into the workplace, trying to fit it all in, around and in spite of her family. Check out her blog Pomomama. And her jewelry here.