Runway Style in Real Life

As a fashion lover, I happily anticipate Vogue’s arrival in my mailbox every month. Its thick stack of glossy pages highlights the season’s trends and collections from the world’s most celebrated fashion designers— in such abundance that issues have been known to weigh as much as four pounds.

But high fashion also comes with an emotional weight: It can seem intimidating, inaccessible, and out of reach. Few can afford a $4,000 dress or pull off more outlandish looks without shocking their cubicle mates. But taking inspiration from haute couture doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money or blindly following trends. Our spring fashion feature is full of fresh inspiration for the season, from how to mix prints like a pro to how to style a runway piece for the street.

When I was younger, money was my biggest barrier to dressing like a fashion model (OK, and maybe height as well). Growing up in a middle-class, fiscally conservative family, I was largely limited to shopping at discount retailers and secondhand stores. But what could have been a hindrance turned into a boon for my creativity. I became handy with a sewing machine—and an excellent deal hunter. I discovered the art of being stylish while also being thrifty.

Instead of shopping at a department store for my prom dress, I snagged a gown at designer discount store Opitz Outlet for a cool $10, marked down from $250. Reminiscent of Barbie’s iconic, 1960s-era, black tube dress with tulle flounce on the bottom, the style was being referenced on the runways at the time by the likes of Oscar de la Renta and Valentino. It still hangs in my closet.

Today, practicality often stands between me and runway-style looks. On any given day, I could be dashing between the office and a photo shoot, meeting with our art directors, and dropping by a boutique. I need to wear something that allows me to bend down to fix a hem on a model’s dress—and clink a glass of bubbly at an after-work event. If I want to be comfortable yet chic, I don a pair of silky jogging pants and my sleek, white Zara high-tops with a tailored jacket. If I want to feel put-together at the office while showing some personality, I mix a striped dress with a polka-dot shirt, bright tights, and a bold necklace. If I want to look cool and classic going from an art opening to a rock show, I go for my trusty leather motorcycle jacket, black skinny jeans, and stiletto ankle boots. But sometimes on a night out with the girls, I can’t help but strap on some six-inch platform shoes more suited to the runway than a slush-covered Minnesota sidewalk. You only live once, right?

For me, the key is pairing some great runway-ready pieces with easy-to-wear basics. And when the opportunity presents itself, it’s better to go big than fade into the background.