The look: Vintage dress and vintage Bruno Magli shoes, Hoffman’s own from Lula Vintage Wear. PHotos by Erika Loeks, Hair & Makeup by Margo Gordon, and Styling by Jahna Peloquin.
Within the Minnesota state capitol’s conservative fashion scene, a colorful tie is about the limit of personal expression. So on nights and weekends, Pahoua Yang Hoffman likes to break out the bright colors and bold patterns.
As director of policy for the Citizens League, a nonpartisan nonprofit working to increase civic engagement, Hoffman develops and advances policy recommendations, as well as helps to place students of color in paid internships at government offices, nonprofits, and lobbying firms in an effort to bring much-needed diversity to the capitol.
Born in Laos, Hoffman spent the first year of her life in a Thai refugee camp before she and her parents immigrated to the United States. Her global perspective has influenced everything from her passion for diversity to her eclectic style, exemplified by the airy, two-level Whittier condo she shares with her husband, Brian. Their home is filled with mid-century furniture, family heirlooms, Asian artifacts, and a custom-built buffet, bed, dining room table, and bookcases by St. Paul–based maker Duff Thury. A chandelier and light fixture were salvaged from the 1939-era home of Brian’s grandparents, as was a 19th-century Asian panel that fills a living room wall and a lamp made from a Chinese vase. Globe-trotting elements such as a Persian rug, accent pillows made from Laotian fabric, and a Hmong story cloth purchased in a remote village in Laos flank a pair of vintage teak chairs and a distressed leather couch from local restoration studio Danish Teak Classics. There are also quirky touches, including a painted model of a marlin and a street art–inspired wheat paste mural the couple had commissioned from Brooklyn-via-Minnesota artist Eric Timothy Carlson.
Hoffman’s Living Room
The Hoffmans have maximized their condo’s square footage through smart design and effective use of space. For example, a Thury-designed rectangular table made from distressed acrylic (surrounded by Ligne Roset polypropylene-rope woven chairs) doubles as a dining table, a food-prep station, and a work desk. (“I didn’t want to be fussy and have to worry about caring for wood or dealing with glass,” Hoffman notes.)
Her personal style—which she describes as “preppy, tailored, but with a bit of edge”—is similarly low-key. Monday through Friday, her typical uniform is a black or navy button-up shirt, pencil skirt, and blazer from J. Crew. “I like to look polished for work,” she says. “Feeling put together makes me feel ready for any meeting.”
While she keeps her makeup fairly minimal—a quick once-over with bareMinerals Warmth all-over face color followed by a dash of NARS blush in Amour—she gets her nails done regularly in a neutral shade or classic red. “Hands are the first thing I notice when I meet people,” she says.
When dressing up for special events, such as weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and fashion shows, Hoffman goes all-out in bolder, brighter looks, including vintage finds from Lula Vintage Wear and pieces commissioned from local designers. “I’d rather be overdressed than underdressed,” she says. On the weekend, she opts for a Splendid t-shirt, a long cashmere cardigan, and her favorite pair of AG or J Brand jeans. “For me, there’s a line between work and play, so I don’t dress down even on casual Fridays,” she says.
The look: Engineered Garments shirt dress, $264 @ BlackBlue; vintage Salvatore Ferragamo shoes and vintage Tudor watch, Hoffman’s own
Pahoua Yang Hoffman’s Style Crib Sheet
On the challenges of being petite: At 5 feet tall, Hoffman’s biggest challenge when it comes to shopping is finding her size. More often than not, she has to get her clothes taken in and shortened. “A hem half an inch too long or a suit jacket with a shoulder a smidge too wide will make me look like I’m swimming in my clothes,” she says. “A proper fit is critical for everyone, but especially if you’re petite.”
On her hair care routine: She uses Shu Uemura volumizing shampoo and conditioner and Oribe’s styling shield balm before blow drying, finishing with their soft molding paste if needed. “I like touchable hair so I use products sparingly,” she says.
On what clothing she avoids: “I don’t shy away from any color, but I do watch out for prints,” she says. “Being small-framed, I generally avoid large graphic prints.”
ARTWORK BY ERIC TIMOTHY CARLSON