Woman in Clothes: Lisa Spagnolo
Mom, meet Lisa. She’s an artist, designer, and stylist who lives and works in Chicago.
I remember, very well, the first time I met Lisa... way back in college, visiting University of Iowa with her childhood friends. I can picture her dorm room perfectly- uniquely bohemian with paintings on the floor, plants on the window sills, vintage clothing artfully displayed on weathered furniture Lisa had (no doubt) found for chump change at the thrift store. Lisa was an art major. She made paintings mostly but had taught herself to sew and could easily craft beautiful clothing from things she’d found just lying around. Everything she created was elegant and exotic to me, so decidedly un-Midwestern, that I wondered if she’d been raised “abroad.” She had such confidence about everything aesthetic, such a way of seeing beauty and potential in discarded stuff. I wanted to see things the way she did.
After college, Lisa moved “abroad”, to France (aka the bastion of good taste), for a few years and returned to start several small businesses (lovely purses and bags, vintage dinnerware), of which I’ve been an faithful customer. I’d buy anything Lisa’s selling.
Currently, Lisa’s employing her artistic vision as an interior designer and stylist. Her work is seriously stunning. And her personal style’s never been better, newly minimalist but still distinctive and daring.
Here’s Lisa on her singular approach to getting dressed:
What do you admire about how other women present themselves?
I am always so impressed when some of the first attributes that I notice about a person are their strength, confidence and humility. It’s a rare combination and I am very drawn to people who possess those qualities.
What are you trying to achieve when you dress for the world?
I struggle with the fact that, in today’s world, every brand, company or app you choose is a statement about who you are. I want my wardrobe to be less complicated than that. I strive to have a wardrobe that is versatile and classic. Once you have a base of staples, it’s easy to add unique and interesting pieces in there. I am inspired by men’s fashion in that there really aren’t crazy trends. The best dressed men wear well-tailored staples that last years. That concept hasn’t really been embraced in women’s fashion. As a stylist, I can’t tell you how many women I’ve heard say “I have nothing to wear” as they are staring at a closet full of trendy clothes.
Do you have any style icons?
Probably not a surprise to those who know me best- most of my style icons are French :). They all have an understanding of what a classic wardrobe consists of and yet have a strong aesthetic and unique sense of style. Some of my favorite people to draw inspiration from are Clemence Poesy, Sophia Coppola, Stella McCartney, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, Caroline de Maigret, 70s Lauren Hutton, and Pharrell Williams.
When do you feel at your most beautiful?
When I’m traveling- I always feel so open, content, and inspired. And when I’m not wearing makeup, sweating and stretching in yoga.
Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple?
T-shirts. And basics.
How long does it take you to get dressed?
It actually doesn’t take me long to get dressed (however, trying to tame my unruly hair takes forever!). That’s a big benefit of having a cohesive wardrobe- it makes it pretty easy to put outfits together. That, and I usually wear different variations of the same thing almost every day.
What is the favorite piece of clothing or jewelry that you own?
My mom’s signet ring with her first initial on it (which happens to be the same as mine). My worn-in Levi’s that I wear several times a week. My oversized wool blazer that I can wear 3 out of 4 seasons.
What was the first investment item that you bought?
An embroidered dress from a market in Florence when I was 20. It was actually only $75 but at the time it felt like a fortune! In general, I’m a big believer that good design and style don’t need to cost a lot. I find that when you give yourself a budget, you become more intentional about what you buy and more resourceful about where you’re buying from. You learn where it makes sense to invest a little more. Living in Chicago, I never spend a lot on summer clothes, as we only wear them 3 months out of the year. Outerwear, jackets, jeans, and shoes, however, are worth the investment. They are worn the majority of the year and need to be able to survive life in a big city.
Was there a point where your style changed dramatically?
There have been two times in my life where my style has shifted- when I moved to France and when I became a men’s stylist. I always had a strong opinion about what I wore, even when I was young, but I used to dress pretty weird if I’m being honest. I remember buying a pair of red flare pants when I was 13 and I thought they were the coolest thing (SCM says “THEY WERE!”). Moving to France taught me the art of subtlety and elegance. It seemed like French people had this innate sense of style and a strong connection to aesthetically beautiful things. I admired that effortlessness and the air in which they carried themselves. Fast forward a few years, becoming a men’s stylist, I learned about the power of basics and great tailoring. A man could be wearing jeans, a white button up, and a well-fitted blazer and look amazing. That can translate to anyone. You can be wearing something as simple as a white tee and jeans that fit impeccably well and you’ll look great.
Do you have a unified way of approaching your life, work, relationships, finances, and chores?
I’m more of a big-picture person and sometimes I forget to focus on all the details that it takes to achieve the bigger picture. It’s something that I always have to remind myself of. It’s amazing how all of those small interactions in your relationships, daily efforts, quiet little moments, chunks of change, and simple tasks have the power to add up.
Thanks so much Lisa! You’re a real beauty, inside and out!!
Lisa’s always known how to get good the good stuff, find the good finds.
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All photos by Jack Li
(All questions taken from Women in Clothes, by Sheila Heti et al)