Carolyn Purcell, 26
Fashion-design student at Parsons School of Design and design intern at John Varvatos
What she’s wearing:
A black sequin dress she designed and sewed, BCBG heels, vintage 1940s Schiffer necklace worn as a bracelet, and “a random black sweater.”
Did you make the dress for a specific event?
“I didn’t make the dress for a specific event, it was more for an event I hoped to go to. I always love sequins, but they’re not easy to sew. When you cut into the fabric, the sequins break off and they get everywhere and you can never pick them all up. I made that dress over a year ago, and I still have sequins stuck in between my floorboards and hiding in corners. They’re like a disease.”
What else do you like to make?
“My favorite thing to make is coats. I recently finished a gray wool swing coat that has a huge shoulder-width collar that I’m really excited about. I love coats because you could have pajamas or hot pants on underneath, but because you have a great coat on, you look completely put together.
Who are your favorite designers?
“My list of favorite designers changes periodically but always includes Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. When you look at their collections, you can tell that they don’t care about being on-trend or anything like that. They just make what they like, and that’s how trends are really started anyway.”
What eras in fashion inspire you?
“My favorite fashion eras are the 1920s Jazz Age and early-1960s mod. Both generations were the first to dress with motivation to shock their elders—the 1920s with knee-length skirts and no corsets, the 1960s with crotch-length skirts and no bra. I love that the mod generation didn’t think anything was impractical and made dresses out of shower curtains and paper and those Paco Rabanne chain-mail dresses that you assembled yourself at home.”
What will you be wearing this spring?
“I just bought a few yards of this brilliant red chiffon, and if the dress I want to make out of it turns out, it’ll be a very ‘kicked out of the Russian Ballet’ look. I’m planning on wearing it with a great coat and smeared makeup. So I guess for spring, ‘mental patient’ is the new black.”
There’s something about hosting a house party that means you get to wear whatever you want. Invite your friends over and trot out a fun dress or an over-the-top vintage piece you haven’t found an occasion for. Black sequins are a relatively tame starting-off point. Take inspiration from the late English fashion icon Isabella Blow, who threw extravagant—and wildly costumed—parties and often asked guests to don something from her own collection of avant-garde gear.