A CONVERSATION WITH LA-BASED STYLIST
- SISSY SAINTE-MARIE -
After I left my teaching career I began selling vintage online and that led to styling, oftentimes with my husband who had left music behind and taken up photography around the same time. I started to get hired to style for some LA-based stores and designers, all the while posting my work to Instagram, which at that time was becoming everyone’s new work portfolio. I would get some gifts in exchange for posts. Eventually people wanted to interview me and feature me on their sites, sometimes as a regular contributor. It snowballed little by little and then I got to a point where I was ready for management. Audience stepped up to represent me as a stylist and content creator and that’s been a godsend.
On dressing in 2020
I’d spent most of December in Maui, where I lived a simple life and wore the same shorts, tank top and flip flops everyday for 3 weeks, so when the pandemic Safer at Home orders took hold in March, I was already good and warmed up for a monotonous life of cozy dressing. I already owned a few sweatsuits and had taken to wearing Crocs. I was like a duck in water. Over the past few months designers have been sending me items from their new collections and that has me back to peacocking, or at least being unnecessarily chic.
On the future of fashion
I can’t wait to wear all of the clothes I never got a chance to wear. I know I still want to dress like ME. I still want to wear big sleeves and tall boots and print turtlenecks and trousers. Acquiring a shit-ton of clothing is an occupational hazard for me, but I dream of a capsule collection where everything goes with everything and I only have to rotate items out every 2-5 years. I think that’s what the future of fashion will look like: a slowed-down pace rather than rapidly changing trends, fewer options, less wasteful overproduction, seasonless collections, and people wearing pieces for longer – not just staples but even statement pieces. I just posted a picture of a Ter et Bantine top from 2 1/2 years ago that I still love. It’s definitely a special occasion kind of top, with ruffles and ruching and a corset-effect tie, but I felt like I never got enough opportunities to wear it – and I still love it and it’s really special. So I wore it to the beach for the day, and I’ll do it again. Maybe if people get bored with clothes they’ll consign them and swap them out for other clothes a few seasons old, but without any stigma. I think a lot of people will stop buying into the BS.
Favorite styling hacks
My signature move is to tape my strappy shoes to my feet with TopStick. And sometimes I TopStick my tank top’s straps to my shoulders. I often buy things I like in two colors – that’s why I feature the bodysuit in black and cream. I’d really do that. And the white Reikenen sandals, which I already have in black. But the best hack of all is finding a decent tailor to make important little adjustments to your clothes because when the fit is perfect, you feel great wearing them and get more wear out of them.
On creativity during a pandemic
In the beginning, since I wasn’t being pulled in a million directions juggling multiple projects, I felt a surge of creative energy – I was cooking all day, I got into Ikebana for a moment, I was curating some content related to staying safe at home. Then, fortunately, some opportunities to collaborate with brands and stores came along, and I could create content on my own or with Eddie. I felt very free combining self-styled shoots with cooking, flower arranging, working out, skincare routine, etc all infused with my silly sense of humor. I’ve always felt a commitment to supporting certain independent designers and boutiques and businesses, and I really leaned into that hoping I could help them stay afloat during a catastrophic time.
In June things got even more somber amidst the protests, and I was faced with the gravitas of how I could continue to better use my platform. White people, especially those with a significant social media following were being summoned to amplify Black voices. I began to give my platform over on a regular basis to Black colleagues. Around that same time my husband dropped his first solo album since his chart success in the ’90s. I was hyping his album and videos (which I directed during Covid). All this to say, the most significant change to my creativity and my approach is that I found a real joy in making my social media platform even more of a space to celebrate others.
On cultivating personal style
I think my personal sense of style was formed by 3 things in my formative years: watching my mom dress to go off to the office every morning, playing with a toy called Fashion Plates, and playing dress up with antique dresses from my grandmother’s cedar chest of family heirlooms. Witnessing the pressure my mom felt to look good, the process of building an outfit, and the joy and playfulness of it all, were all ingrained in me at a young age, like 4-5. My personal style continued to evolve. I still love 70’s silhouettes: secretary dresses, pleated trousers, nice blouses. When Phoebe Philoe sent models down the Céline runway in braided ponytails and hoop earrings, that is how I started wearing my hair. That same year Lemaire models had long wavy hair, so I’d do a day of braided ponytail and a day of wavy long hair. Was that 2015? 2016? I would be happy if things had just frozen in time right there. Clothing was smart and classic and suited my age and body type and taste at that moment. Suits and sets and monochrome. I never wanted to be one of those women stuck in an era but damn, those were such good times. I’d be happy to dress like that forever, and I probably will settle in that zone. My longing for the mid 20teens is likely compounded by the trauma of who took office in 2016, ending an era. Weird that at the same time, things in fashion got really escapist and not timeless. It seems like novelty took over, just bald-faced consumerism. Not to get too Debbie Downer though – I love how unconventional and psychedelic-infused many of these new trends feel. A lot of it is made with youth culture in mind, but I still like to take part. I am adaptable and love to embrace some new fun trends, as long as they aren’t too silly or impractical. The Jacquemus Le Chiquito bag for example is a big “No” for me. I’d just feel robbed. That is why I wanted to include limoncello jeans, denim shorts, and a print turtleneck in this editorial for Edit/Mode. These are the kind of practical items you can incorporate into a capsule wardrobe to easily update your essentials. Essential for me would include midi skirts, high-waisted jeans and trousers, neutral boots and sandals, trench coats, bodysuits. But I could modernize my look by subbing a denim culotte for an A-line skirt and achieve the same silhouette. I was surprised to find limoncello pairs with almost every color and neutral making it a very wearable staple. Print turtlenecks are great for layering or on their own.
Dressing for her body type
I think I have an ample booty which I don’t love to accentuate and a small waist which I do like to accentuate. So I wear a lot of A-line skirts, high-waisted mom jeans and trousers with tight tops and bodysuits and blouses with a nipped in waist. I have a robust belt collection, and I often wear heels to elongate my legs because I think it is more flattering. I’m hung up on my asymmetrical facial features and I think that’s why I wear big earrings – to bring some symmetry to my face.
Sissy’s FW20 wishlist
Honestly, I have enough. I don’t actually NEED anything. Except maybe everything worn in this shoot 😉 If anything, I’d love to keep refining the perfect capsule. I just want the perfect version of each thing. Sometimes I think I keep rebuying the same kinds of things because I settle for less than perfect… I’m still too intimidated to try things on in fancy luxury designer stores. I prefer online stores with an easy, free return policy. I can try on pants by The Row or a Bottega belt in the comfort of my own home and don’t feel pressured to buy and can make sure things really fit well and have a place in my wardrobe. I can see the value of what you get when you pay more for quality craftsmanship and good design. Now I see that – no – my Asos bodysuits from 3 years ago don’t hold a candle to Khaite bodysuits. Sure it’s 1/10th the price, but how many fast fashion cheapies did I buy and throw my money down the drain trying to cut corners and never truly fulfilling this important wardrobe need? They are either too sheer, the straps fall down, I don’t like the fabric, they bag out at the waist or they don’t have a snap crotch. But the Khaite bodysuit has me convinced. The lustre, the feel against the body, the way it drapes and hugs in all the right places – perfect. I shouldn’t be buying fast fashion anyway. If I can ever afford to splurge, I can see why it would be wise to do so
Sissy’s favorite brands
Lemaire, Shaina Mote, Jacquemus, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Miista, By Far, and Nehera. I like The Row, New Bottega Veneta and Jil Sander for inspiration but never splurge on things that expensive. But I’m first in line when a new Lemaire U collections drops at Uniqlo. It’s the only thing that could get me to step foot in the Beverly Center.