Food & Drink

Seattle Signature Styles

Perhaps it’s our laid-back, Left Coast view or the creative juices that fuel such an innovative city

By Kate Calamusa and Michelle LaFrance December 14, 2010

To wit, there isn’t a cookie-cutter Seattle style. Some (regrettably) rock the socks ’n’ flops with their fleece, while others prefer the gritty polish of chicly layered scarves, leather jackets and knee-high boots. Though more apt to pound the pavement (or perhaps climb a mountain) than walk a red carpet, the 20 Seattleites on the following pages represent the epitome of local style, with day-to-day looks packing creative, personality-infused details. Hunting looks from the city’s best vintage shops as well as their favorite boutiques and local designers, these style emblems embrace a larger trend: The “rules” of fashion need not apply. From the quirky (gals sporting boys-club ties) to the classic (men are dressing up again!), we’ve got the insider advice to help you navigate the Seattle shopping scene and put your personal stamp on style.

The Trailblazer: Ali Basye

WHY WE LOVE IT: Describing herself as “anti-status,” Basye, the former editor of Seattle Bride, hunts her often one-of-a kind pieces with two cardinal purchasing rules: Garments must be eco-consciously made and bike-about-town friendly. The unintentional trendsetter wears layers and simple patterns, letting fabric and design construction take center stage. Basye personally knows Gary Graham, the New York City–based designer who crafted her swingy frock. She completed the look by piling on personality-perfect jewels from her favorite jewelry spot, Hitchcock Madrona.
THE LOOK: Basye’s own Gary Graham black silk chiffon shift dress with wraparound tie, from Les Amis, Fremont; layered over a silk charmeuse Gary Graham cream slip with lace detailing, from Alhambra, downtown; Alexis Bittar chunky purple and black beaded necklace, agate and gold ring made by Hitchcock owner Erica Sheehan, and antiqued purple and black stone gold ring, all from Hitchcock Madrona; Kooba tan studded leather bag, from Nordstrom.
WHERE ELSE SHE SHOPS: For statement basics and eco finds, Juniper (Madrona)

Ali Basye is a natural-born storyteller. The Squire Park resident recites fashion lore the way historians can explain revolutions, outlining the origins of the thigh-high boot or the cultural significance of designer Alexander McQueen’s plaid phase with stunning alacrity. “I’m the equivalent of a fashion nerd,” she says. “In a perfect world, I’d hole up in a library and spend all my time researching fashion history.” After digging into the intricacies of the skirt for her 2007 book, The Long (and Short) of It: The Madcap History of the Skirt, Basye started chronicling the bizarre, funny and monumental moments in fashion history on her blog. These witty tales became fodder for her latest venture, the new fashion blog zine Graced with Basye’s clever touch, On This Day, which launched in June, provides daily text bites of the history of trends, shopping resources, stylescopes (style forecasts according to birthday) and her specialty, the stories behind the style. In addition to relating contemporary and past fashion happenings each day, On This Day also guides stylistas on fashion in films, books and the best online shopping sites, served up with a side of style advice.

The Northwest Fleece-ster: Langdon Cook
Expert forager, author of Fat of the Land

WHY WE LOVE IT: We expect some dissension in the ranks when we write this, but when done right, “fashion” and “fleece” are not oxymorons. Cook (the local go-to man for mushroom hunting) tackles trails in gear that is comfortable, climate savvy and convertible for volatile Northwest weather. The fleece fanatic mixes and matches colorful multipurpose shells and Gore-Tex from local mecca REI or splurges at Patagonia (or, as he puts it, “Patagucci”) for a relaxed look that performs under pressure—for bushwhacking and blogging.
THE LOOK: Cook’s own Montrail Torre GTX classic leather hiking boots, online from; convertible ExOfficio Nomad Teflon-treated pants, from ExOfficio Retail Outlet, Belltown; electric blue Patagonia capilene recycled polyester base-layer shirt and burnt orange Patagonia Regulator layering jacket, both from Patagonia, downtown; CamelBak hydration hiking pack, from REI.
WHERE ELSE HE SHOPS: For outdoor gear and accessories, Second Ascent (Ballard)

The Dapper Gentlemen: Michael Cepress
opposite page:
Michael Cepress, DESIGNER (RIGHT), with boyfriend
Robbie Turner, ACTOR

WHY WE LOVE IT: It’s hard not to smile around Cepress and Turner, human hangers for Cepress’ classic men’s pieces splashed with a fresh, often funky twist. The lovers of vintage comb the Fremont Market every week for vests and trim jackets, adding modern elements to suit their personalities. Cepress lives in his old-school Levi’s 501s, accenting with bowties (often of his own design, with coordinating vintage tiepins), cuff links and metal bracelets commissioned by artist friends. Turner, a topnotch Liza Minnelli and Lady Gaga impersonator, favors the bold: giant white polka dots adorning his shirt, a favorite blood-red scarf, or mixing prints with a white vest. His grandfather’s black square spectacles often top off his eclectic look.
THE LOOK: Turner’s own Club Monaco blue and white gingham checked shirt and white cotton ribbed vest, both from Club Monaco in Pacific Place; vintage red and white polka dot tie, vintage store find; vest fish pin from his grandmother; his grandfather’s vintage spectacles. Cepress’ own vintage Ernst square tie and vintage tan vest, rummage sale finds; jet black antique glass pin, from his grandmother; antique pocket watch fob, from his grandfather.
For vintage tiepins and accessories,
Deluxe Junk (Fremont); for vintage suit pieces, Fremont Sunday Market
Oslo’s (Queen Anne)

Michael Cepress (above right), 29, may be the renaissance man for menswear fashion. The grandson of a watchmaker, Cepress is a Seattle Opera–trained tailor who doesn’t describe himself as a clothing designer so much as an artist. The Capitol Hill-based designer’s twee designs—bowties, seersucker jackets and trim, colorful slacks—are spreading down the hill, popping up on a generation newly reintroduced to the merits of classic wear. “My designs are hybrids of classic shapes and styles; they take nods from 1960s surf wear or the Ricky Ricardo jacket,” he says. “Reimagined, it has a hint of that cultural reference.” This old-meets-new philosophy carries into button-up shirts mixed with unique bell collars or the classic bowtie re-envisioned in a jaunty checked silk fabric. Cepress’ clothes act as character actors in his larger design theory. “We have technology and can mass-produce garments, but lost is the heart and soul of clothing. I want to make clothes with that heart, soul and serious style.” Available at


The Artsy Sophisticate: Brangien Davis
Arts & culture editor, Seattle magazine

WHY WE LOVE IT: We fight (sharp) pangs of envy daily with Davis in our office, often sighing over her calf-length patent leather boots, or perfectly matched collared shirt, skirt and pullover. Her funky-meets-prepster style is a mix of foraged finds from Value Village and statement pieces from local boutiques, achieving an easy, sophisticated sass that would make us curse her, except she is just so gosh-darn nice.
THE LOOK: Davis’ own royal purple Kersh cotton knit sweater, from Sweetie in West Seattle; patent leather cherry La Canadienne boots, available on; Jamie Joseph ring, from Essenza in Fremont.
For “it” jewelry and topnotch consignment section, Show Pony (Fremont); for quirky vintage finds, Value Village (multiple locations, including Capitol Hill)

Denim “Reina” skirt with vintage kimono fabric circle patches by Seattle-based RikaRika, $99,
available at Velouria in Ballard

The Hip Family:
The Saunders Family
Bambi, Rudy’s Barbershop stylist;
Brent, bassist for Post Stardom Depression and owner of Pebco Painting;
and son Jude

WHY WE LOVE IT: The Saunderses give the straightforward Seattle jeans and T-shirt uniform an in-the-know upgrade. Expectant mom Bambi makes her family’s everyday outfits fresh and noticeable by pairing classic staples with on-trend accessories. It’s all about putting the right pieces together. Skinny maternity jeans with Frye boots and chunky Jamie Joseph ring for Bambi? Brilliant. Levis, Chuck Taylors and eye-catching eyewear for Brent? Neat. Bargain designer duds from resale children’s shops and toddler ties for Jude? Adorable!
THE LOOK: On Brent: skinny Levi’s 511 jeans, from Levi’s downtown; black Converse Chuck Taylors, from The Sneakery, Ballard; vintage leather jacket, from Red Light, Capitol Hill; black Prada eyeglass frames, from Nordstrom. On Jude: second-hand boys’ Levi’s, from Rising Stars, Greenwood; black cotton Kiss T-shirt, from Boston Street, Pike Place Market; velvet Cherokee blazer, from Value Village; red Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, from The Sneakery. On Bambi: cognac Frye boots, from Nordstrom; Kimberly Baker Ariel necklace, from Kimberly Baker Studio, Fremont; Maternal America skinny maternity jean, from Village Maternity, University Village.

An American Classic: Cormac Mahoney
Chef/co-owner, Madison Park Conservatory

WHY WE LOVE IT: The man behind the cult-fave late eatery Tako Truk and new Madison Park restaurant The Madison Park Conservatory, Mahoney is the antithesis of the sloppy chef. We first caught him in our office in perfectly worn-in jeans, sweater vest pulled over a white T-shirt, and a crisp cap (we may have stalked him a bit for this article, but can you blame us?). Mahoney exudes a laid-back, classic American style that is part newsboy, part “grandpa chic,” with the occasional addition of the geriatric-gone-hip vest. Comfortable and relaxed, the sneaker-obsessed taco slinger and admitted “lazy utilitarian” also loves to add a touch of cowboy, often sporting his beloved Tony Lama gold eagle belt buckle.
THE LOOK: Mahoney’s own Parke + Ronen cotton gray striped button-up shirt, from Kuhlman, Belltown; vintage wool gray vest, a Goodwill find; classic Levi’s 559 jeans, from Levi’s, downtown; Tony Lama leather belt with gold eagle buckle, a gift.
WHERE ELSE HE SHOPS: For sneakers, Five Doors Up (University District); for splurges, Butch Blum (downtown)
ALSO FIND LOOKS LIKE THIS AT: The Field House (Ballard)

Uptown Girl: Rose Dennis
Public relations manager, former professor of fashion, retail and marketing
at Edmonds Community College

WHY WE LOVE IT: Philanthropic mover and shaker Dennis turned every head last fall at the Neiman Marcus opening gala, clad in a fuchsia gown with one-shouldered bow detail custom-made by her client, Luly Yang. Pretty in pink (and pretty much anything else she puts on), the blond, bobbed Eastsider radiates elegance in timeless shift dresses and cardigans à la A. Hepburn and G. Kelly, accented with inexpensive jewels to refresh her Park Avenue look.
THE LOOK: Dennis’ own lilac cashmere shift dress and matching flutter shawl, from Luly Yang Couture, downtown; crystal earrings, cocktail ring and pearl necklace set, clear Lucite bracelet, from Neiman Marcus at The Bravern, Bellevue; YSL plum patent leather heels, from Nordstrom.
ALSO FIND LOOKS LIKE THIS AT: Canopy Blue (Madison Park)

The Chic Cyclist: Juliette Delfs
Co-owner of Hub and Bespoke, an urban cycling boutique

WHY WE LOVE IT: We adore Delfs’ choice of cheerful fabrics and cute dresses that still perform while she navigates Seattle’s bike lanes. Like her new Fremont biking boutique, Delfs is committed to cycling as a lifestyle, staying fashionable in easy wool and jersey pieces with striking accessories. Never sacrificing comfort for style, Delfs maintains her shopgirl-chic look with waterproof boots, helmets in bright colors and flirty tights.
THE LOOK: Tristan & Iseult rayon/poly slate gray dress with pleated skirt, a New York find; Ibex black long-sleeve stretch shirt, from Hub and Bespoke, Fremont; light wool jersey black and white striped scarf, from Fini, downtown; wool blend Tintoretta cranberry polka dot tights, from Anthropologie; black Merrell waterproof knee-high leather boots, from Nordstrom.
WHERE ELSE SHE SHOPS: For comfortable jackets and dresses,
Baby & Co. (downtown); for accessories, Horseshoe (Ballard); for arm warmers and funky socks, Monster Art & Clothing (Ballard)

Northwest Boarder: Bryce Philips
Owner of Evo snow sports and apparel shop, professional skier for K2

WHY WE LOVE IT: Philips celebrates the nexus of Pacific Northwest lifestyle and fashion: outdoorsy, comfortable, fashionable. His self-described “low-key” look stays fresh with subtle twists, mixing tough, durable action sports labels with casual, top-of-the-line streetwear from much-frequented local shops Zebra Club or Deli.
THE LOOK: Army green Clae canvas sneakers, from Market Street Shoes, Ballard; WESC slim-fit organic cotton jeans, from Zebra Club; white Hanes T-shirt, from Costco; black leather belt, a Pike Place Market find; Bench camel-colored sport jacket and Smith sunglasses, both from his shop Evo, Fremont.
WHERE ELSE HE SHOPS: For street-savvy basics with a twist, Deli Seattle Boutique (Pioneer Square)
ALSO FIND LOOKS LIKE THIS AT: Snowboard Connection (South Lake Union)

The Power Suit: Steve Pool
Anchor/chief weathercaster, KOMO4 News

WHY WE LOVE IT: No wonder GQ magazine named him one of the nation’s sexiest weathermen: From his trademark ties (found in San Francisco and New York during his travels, as well as hometown Nordstrom) to crisp, custom-made suits, Pool’s impeccably sharp appearance both on- and off- camera is a how-to lesson in polished, power suiting.

Retro Glam-bot: Sammy Mar
Owner of Helmet Head salon in Georgetown

WHY WE LOVE IT: Channeling the smoldering sex appeal of voluptuous bombshell Jane Russell, Sammy Mar often looks as if she stepped off the fuselage of a World War II bomber. Inspired by “old movies where women looked like women and were drag queen fabulous,” Mar dresses up vintage, one-of-a-kind garments (many from the 1940s and ’60s) with glamorous, ladylike accessories to create a fearlessly well-coiffed look.
THE LOOK: Mar’s own vintage red cotton dinner dress with black trim and buttons, Capezio fishnet stockings, vintage black ruffle pumps and vintage Czech necklace and earrings, all from Diva Dollz, Pioneer Square; black and red jeweled bangle bracelets, from Helmet Head Salon, Georgetown
For accessories, Susan Wheeler Home (Georgetown); for vintage frocks and shoes, Pretty Parlor (Capitol Hill)
ALSO FIND LOOKS LIKE THIS AT: Bellefleur Lingerie Boutique (Fremont)


Vintage Hip-Hop: Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White
of Seattle music duo TheeSatisfaction

WHY WE LOVE IT: Irons (right) and Harris-White create evocative ensembles with a wild array of garments sourced from the city’s most eclectic vintage stores—many on Capitol Hill, such as Atlas Clothing and Red Light. Though their closet would overwhelm most of us, with its seemingly discordant elements—pastel long sleeves with acid-washed jeans and colorful socks alongside vintage eyewear—their self-described “Afrocentric, space- and time-traveling, New Nubian, ’80s–’90s soccer mom” style creates an intoxicating melody.
THE LOOK: Irons’ own gray wool hat with green felt strap and navy knit Dennis cardigan with wood buttons, both from pun(c)tuation, Capitol Hill; red checked shirt, a vintage New York find; acid-washed high-waisted jeans, from H&M; white canvas Keds high tops, from 5 Doors Up, University District. Harris-White’s own custom-made hat from a relative; gray cotton T-shirt, from Urban Outfitters; Versace red denim high-waisted skinny jeans, $22, from Red Light, Capitol Hill; checked Vans slip-ons, from
WHERE ELSE THEY SHOP: For vintage jeans and tops, Atlas Clothing (Capitol Hill); for separates like zip-front hoodies and accessories, American Apparel (multiple locations, including downtown)
ALSO FIND LOOKS LIKE THIS AT: Crossroads Trading Co. (University District)

Geek Chic: Gopi Palamalai
Software design engineer,

WHY WE LOVE IT: Gopi Palamalai is everything that’s right with business casual. His wardrobe of menswear basics is punctuated with well-cut suits, cardigans and vests that pair with dressed-down sneakers and jeans to keep him comfortably put together, no matter how stressful the 9-to-5 gets. Palamalai breathes modern perspective into business silhouettes with unexpected patterns, splashes of color and forward-thinking cuts like slim pants and lean-toe-box shoes.
THE LOOK: Ben Sherman black ankle boots, from Edie’s, Capitol Hill; J. Lindberg skinny jean and blue and white pinstripe slim-cut cotton button-up shirt, both from Kuhlman, Belltown; Trovata navy and cream striped sweater, and APC black wool suit jacket, both from Blackbird, Ballard.
WHERE ELSE HE SHOPS: For fitted jeans and jackets, Ian (downtown); for on-trend vests and shirts, Barneys (downtown)

Rocker Chick: Linda Derschang Owner of hot spots King’s Hardware,
Oddfellows, Smith, Linda’s and more

WHY WE LOVE IT: Cultural curator Linda Derschang builds outfits like she does her businesses, which drip with her personal sense of style: informed, subversive, decidedly urban and full of gritty glamour. Derschang, who owned the Capitol Hill clothing store Basic in the 1980s and ’90s, now frequents local boutiques such as Veridis and Totokaelo for limited-run pieces and obscure lines. She loves stumbling onto vintage furs, men’s hats and chunky jewelry pieces that keep her self-described “slightly rumpled, sort of boyish, eclectic” look one of a kind.
THE LOOK: Linda’s own Earnest Sewn skinny black jeans, from Barney’s, downtown; black cotton Future Classics circle-cut sweater (over white cotton tank), Marsèll wood clogs with removable leather heel cover and wide leather belt with silver circle clasp, all from Totokaelo, Pioneer Square; silver signet ring, from Tiffany & Co.; black leather studded bracelet, from Hermes at The Bravern in Bellevue; Jamie Joseph black stone cocktail ring, from Essenza, Fremont; key and safety pin necklace, a New York find.
WHERE ELSE SHE SHOPS: For leather jackets and tops, Veridis Clothier (Capitol Hill)

The Hillster: Jeff Carlson
Stylist, Gary Manuel Salon

WHY WE LOVE IT: Unexpected and provocative, hairdresser Jeff Carlson makes choices that are often off the beaten path—and we adore him for it. Pairing fashion-forward investment pieces from local resources like Blackbird and Barney’s with wallet-friendly basics from H&M or Urban Outfitters, Carlson builds eclectic looks that express a more thoughtful, grownup perspective now being sported on Capitol Hill, adding youthful hipster elements to more tailored, trim attire. Though his tone varies slightly from day to day (and he does love go-to black), perennial elements like brooding metropolitan palettes, modern silhouettes and heavily worn fabrics always add up to a look that’s youthful and alive.
THE LOOK: Julius waxed distressed jeans, Julius black wraparound stole, black cotton layering shirt and Odyn Vovk black denim jacket with goat leather sleeves, all from Blackbird, Ballard; tan cotton undershirt, from H&M; Guidi black leather boots, a New York find.
For slim-cut pants and fitted jackets, Urban Outfitters (multiple locations, including Capitol Hill)
ALSO FIND LOOKS LIKE THIS AT: Jack Straw (downtown)

Uptown Urban: Joan Kelly
Founder of Fashion First fashion show, fashion marketing instructor
at the Art Institute of Seattle

WHY WE LOVE IT: A New Yorker by birth (and attitude), Kelly has updated her Manhattan label-loving look with edgier pieces from Seattle faves like Wyatt Orr and Jamie Joseph. Never caught in flats, the heel-lovin’ Kelly often mixes the unexpected: gritty ripped-up jeans topped with stacks of jeweled necklaces and her luxe Abi Ferrin architectural coat with asymmetrical seaming for a fearless cross-coastal concoction.
THE LOOK: Kelly’s own Current/Elliott olive green jeggings, $198, both from La Ree Boutique, Bellevue; Vince brushed leather black jacket, $995, from Neiman Marcus; gray Gucci 4-inch heels, from Nordstrom; Rachel Burklund chunky agate button necklace, $352, from La Ree Boutique; green agate ring, from Sway and Cake, downtown; Roger Vivier sunglasses, a New York find.
WHERE ELSE SHE SHOPS: For consignment designer duds and bags, Ragamoffyn’s (Kirkland); for layering basics, Lizzie Parker (Issaquah)

Originally published in September 2010


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