Brooke Kao became interested in fashion four years ago. Prior to that, she says, “I was one of those emo kids who wore the same black cargo pants every day and barely showered.” Then one day, after thumbing through old issues of Vogue that her mom had lying around, “my heart began to change,” she says.
Kao started her blog, the Fashion Void That Is DC, in 2007 when she began reading fashion blogs during her downtime at a summer job. Her blog began as a place to post pictures of her eclectic ensembles—Kao likes to layer thrift-store finds and pair them with chunky accessories and bright lipstick. While her Daily Wear posts are still a staple of the blog, she has also branched out to include write-ups on local stores—she says her list of secondhand stores is extremely popular—and lists of clothes and accessories she wants to buy but hasn’t.
Kao is a rising sophomore at American University who hails from the Maryland suburbs. She turns 19 next week and hopes to get a job in graphic design when she graduates. “All I really want to do is something creative,” she says. “If I can’t do that, then it’s back to school.”
We caught up with Kao to quiz her on Washington style and fashion. (Don’t worry—she’s not as hard on the area as you might think.) Read on for her favorite summer fashion trend, advice for the fashionably inept, and where she shops for bargains.
Five words to describe your style:
“I like trying too hard.”
Five words to describe Washington’s style:
“Occasional standouts among hipster/J.Crew ubiquity. Is that five words?”
Number of items in your closet:
“A large enough number that most people who walk into my room are tickled or sickened to varying degrees. Why? My room is a closet. Seriously, clothing racks surround my bed and shoes litter the floor.”
Total cost of the outfit you’re wearing right now—including shoes:
“Hmm, this is one of those rare days I’m not wearing any secondhand. I’m a bit ashamed to say that I’m a slave to the high street today, but here it goes: Norma Kamali for Wal-Mart blazer, $20; striped blouse, $15; Tripp NYC hot-pink skinny jeans, $20; H&M studded belt, $10; H&M chunky platforms, $50; and two Forever 21 bracelets, $10. That’s a grand total of $125.”
Three basics every woman should have in her closet:
“It would be pretentious of me to say that I don’t believe in basics, but uh . . . something that makes you feel powerful, something that makes you feel chill, and nail polish.”
Best way to individualize an outfit:
“Hair and makeup. Seriously. Here’s a flower metaphor: People are going to look at the rainbow rose with a normal stem first, not the red rose with a rainbow stem. Although now that I think about it, I’m not really sure if this is the most appropriate metaphor.”
Best thing about summer fashion:
“Basically, if you’re not wearing shorts and a T-shirt, you gain individuality points. Sweaty business suits don’t count.”
Trend you’re most excited about for fall:
“I’m not sure which trends belong to which season, but I’m looking forward to digital prints on pants and jackets, architectural shoulders, pointy-toe shoes, and crazy-colored lipstick. I think I’d like to call this ‘X-treme dandy.’ ”
Biggest fashion pet peeve:
“Leggings as pants. This is a serious Washington epidemic, and it’s just not flattering. Michelle Obama always keeps her whole butt covered, so why doesn’t everyone else? And if the back door is hidden, then by association so is the front door, unless you’re wearing one of those fishtail shirts, in which case you need to reexamine your life decisions.”
One piece of advice for the fashionably inept:
“Just go fitted no matter what your body type is—not tight and not loose. If your bra strap is clearly outlined, it’s too tight. If your curves are completely obliterated, it’s too loose. The same goes for men, except replace ‘bra strap’ and ‘curves’ with ‘manly pecs’ and ‘manly figure,’ respectively.”
Favorite Washington boutique for a splurge:
“A consignment shop called Second Chance in Bethesda. Yes, discounted secondhand goods are considered a splurge to me, but this store’s selection is incredible. They carry Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake, and a bunch of other designers that you’d be hard-pressed to find at full-price, upscale boutiques.”
Where you go for a bargain:
“Thrift stores, my favorites being the ones scattered around Falls Church and Rockville. I used to work in a vintage store in Georgetown called Vintage No. 5 that was also quite a bargain, but it’s temporarily closed.”
Most fashionable Washington neighborhood:
“Of the neighborhoods I frequent, probably Georgetown. Not because of what most people are wearing, which is either way preppy or hipster, but because of the few urban/street folk scattered around, standing at corners or working at Rugby or Commander Salamander. Maybe if I frequented Dupont Circle more I’d revise my assessment.”
The most money you’ve ever spent on an article of clothing:
“This is going to sound really sad, but every time I’ve splurged, it’s been at Zara. I’ve spent more than $100 on an item of clothing twice—both Zara jackets. In my defense, the most expensive piece of clothing I ever bought was a $200 leather motorcycle jacket, and it’s amazingly soft and always timely in terms of fashion, and I’ll definitely wear it forever and ever.”
Finish this sentence: “I never leave home without my . . . ”
“ . . . Watch-necklace, which is a necklace with a watch face as the pendant. Well, I do leave home sometimes without a watch-necklace on (like today), but I always feel insecure without it.”
Best comment you’ve ever received about an outfit you’ve worn:
“ ‘Your outfit looks fun.’ Not because of the comment itself but because of the context: One day, I got on a really long Metro escalator and some middle-aged, frumpy-suited man was behind me. I felt his eyes on me for the duration of the ride, and, nearing the top of the escalator, he walked up suddenly from the left side to pass me and said that. I think the mix of the innocent comment coming out from a potentially creepy situation was what got me.”
Favorite local fashion blog besides your own:
“Eeeeeeeeeerm, about that. I don’t, um, read other Washington-based fashion blogs. But in terms of normal blogs, I read ones that list events around town, like Greg’s List. Does that count?”
Next week, we've got three of the writers behind DC Foodies. Check back on Wednesday to find out what they think of the Washington food scene, where they like to dine out, and what they like to cook at home.
Have a favorite local blogger you’d like to hear from? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.