So thrilled to collaborate with the Denver Art Museum, the CelebrARTE program, and the SPUN exhibition for a blog post. Check out the interview and inspirations from the museum on the DAM blog.
#1: Pink 80’s crochet look swim top- Catalina brand, thrifted, Black shorts- Not Your Daughter’s Jeans brand, thrifted and cut, Abarca Sandals- GiBlack brand (Spain), Vintage shawl, Black cardigan- Banana Republic, Plastic hair flowers from a 4th grader’s stand at a mini-society sale, Pearl necklace- a gift from my mom, Vintage turquoise rings I wear almost everyday
#2: Linen denim look shirt- Ralph Lauren, thrifted, Vintage skirt- a gift from my sister, Vintage boots- eBay, made in Mexico, Double wrap leather belt- J. Jill, Vintage silk scarf, Vintage turquoise rings and bracelet
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself – who are you, where are you from, what are your interests, and what you do?
My name is Tess Vigil and I am from Denver! I grew up in The Highlands before it was fancy, haha. As a kid in this great city, I always loved fashion and clothes and often spent time putting together outfits with things I’d make at home on my mom’s sewing machine. I also spent more than my fair share of time hunting through thrift-stores to find vintage treasures. My love of fashion, music and dance led to NYC for college. I studied Spanish Literature and Visual Arts at Columbia University for my undergraduate degree. Immediately after graduation, I joined Teach For America and moved to Los Angeles to teach middle school English as a Second Language in South Central. After years of teaching, I decided it was time to get serious about my main passion: fashion. I started my women’s clothing company, 50 Dresses, three years ago in my LA basement. I now balance designing clothes and operating my small business with other things I love like running my blog, writing, teaching kids sewing classes, and lots of yoga!
2) You have a great style blog, “Tess Dressed,” could you tell us a little bit about how you put together an outfit, or create a style? How are you inspired?
My blog is a celebration of quotidian style, or fashion as we wear it everyday. I want to encourage people to find inspiration for style in all arenas of life, and not wait till the weekend or a special occasion to think about what to wear. Style can be casual or fancy, but must be particular to the wearer. I see the world through garment-focused glasses and I like to share my perspective to encourage others to cultivate their own aesthetic. I like to source my clothes and accessories from many outlets – thrift stores, vintage stores, clothing swaps, and sales. I don’t like the idea that in order to be fashionable, we must spend a lot of money, or even buy new things. I am notorious for bargain hunting and repurposing clothes. I am inspired by vintage femininity and classic beauty, but I like to keep things modern and wearable.
Does your culture or heritage influence your style in any way?
I am a proud Latina, and growing up in the Hispanic Southwest with our family in New Mexico and Colorado has had an important influence on my style. I admire the beauty and strength of Latina women and the old-style heritage look of Spanish and Mexican women as depicted in art and old photographs. I’ve always loved the Spanish flamenco-inspired style that migrated to the United States with the Spanish Colonial era, and how the traditional Mexican and native American Indian aesthetics have blended together through the years, as the people have, to create a rich Latino visual landscape in design, art and style that we live with today in Colorado and New Mexico. My father is a cuentista, or storyteller, who is committed to keeping the oral tradition of the Hispanic Southwest alive. As a little girl, I went with him to countless museums and events in the city celebrating the arts and culture of Latinos in this part of the US. It is engrained in my aesthetic to find beauty in my culture, and the DAM has a great collection of art reflecting these styles.
3) What at the DAM inspired you to put together this/these outfits?
The DAM is a wonderful art resource. Even the two juxtaposed buildings housing the works are inspiring. The SPUN exhibit is amazing! I love how it focuses on garments and textiles, and how it is spread throughout the entire two buildings.
For the first outfit pictured, I was inspired by two works in the museum. William Penhallow Henderson’s Fiesta Brown Eyed Beauty (1924) features a beautiful lady with a flower in her hair, pearls and a shawl. There is something so elegant and classic about pretty flowers as hair accessories. A shawl’s purpose is two-fold: to keep warm and to adorn. I love how a shawl can travel with the wearer throughout time and serve many purposes. Perhaps it is a grown woman’s comfort blanket! I was likewise inspired by the beautiful examples of a silk Spanish style shawl – Manton de Manila – also on display in the SPUN exhibit near Henderson’s painting. The colors and the silhouettes are just gorgeous. I love the fringe, the bright flowers, and in particular the crème and fuchsia combination.
For the second outfit, I was inspired by William H. D. Koerner’s “The Tent Law,” Don’t you Go Frettin’ Sallie, I’ll Tend to It. This painting, from 1922, was an illustration for the Saturday Evening Post. I love the western look captured here. The feminine spirit is intact, but you can tell Sallie is going to get work done no matter what she looks like. I am often inspired by western clothing since I love how it looks, and also because it seems everything they wore in the west had to be worn to work too. Sallie’s green skirt, work booties, collared shirt and neck scarf is an outfit I’d wear any day. Her tea-length skirt is also echoed in the painting of the Archangel Raphael, who also wears a nice cape style garment around his neck. A full skirt and covered shoulders is a silhouette you can see in many pieces throughout the DAM. In addition to the paintings mentioned, The Navajo bracelets and gold necklaces on display in the DAM are a great inspiration for the vintage styled turquoise, silver and gold styled jewelry that I love to wear.
4) What would you say these DAM-inspired outfits say about you as a person?
I hope these DAM-inspired outfits convey my role as a style maven for the people – a plebian style ambassador! Style comes from everywhere, and it is important to be resourceful, creative and wear what you love. I see style wherever I look, and my perspective is different from everyone else’s, but we can all share and inspire each other. In our study of art and history we are interpreting our own version of what tomorrow’s world will look like. Live by what you love and share it with all of us!