Street style: Classy in the classroom

Coco Chanel once said, “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous”. With her fiery, wind-swept hair, and elegant poise, these are words Heather Evans, an English professor at Queen’s, clearly lives by.

Never one for pants, Professor Evans keeps it classy with her pencil skirts and clean, straight lines. Upgrading simple, timeless black-and-white ensembles with distinctive handmade jewellery, a classic pair of heels, and accented scarves, she maintains an effortless, refined style.

How long did it take you to get dressed today?
I had a really hard time getting dressed today [knowing I was getting interviewed]! Probably around an hour. I usually take approximately 45 minutes. I don’t like to get rushed.

Describe the outfit you’re wearing today:
I don’t know any of the brands I’m wearing. I think I got the skirt at Winners. I’m not sure where I got this [white] t-shirt. I have these plum heels I bought a few years ago that are my back-to-school heels. But I think what distinguishes my style is my use of accessories – I made all the jewellery I’m wearing!

That’s really cool! What are the designs inspired by?
Most of the time it’s the material [that inspires] themselves. They’re based heavily on set gemstones and the colours and shape almost tells me how it wants to be sat! I usually stick with clean, geometric shapes. It might have to be due to limited skills! But I try to keep it uncomplicated and I kind of approach my dress the same way. I sell my jewellery as well.
[www.hevansgems.etsy.com]

What is one article of clothing or jewellery you wear daily?
I tend to always wear a bracelet; it’s not the same everyday but I usually have one on. I also wear this watch everyday. It’s a funny story – I’ve had it for decades. I actually found it on the ground in Ottawa 25 years ago. It was just missing a clasp so I just replaced it and have had it ever since.

What are your biggest fashion influences?
My grandmother. She was a corsetiere and milliner herself so she stressed the importance of well-made and structured clothes as well as the small details in a garment. Coco Chanel is also easily one of my favourite style icons. I love her philosophy of understated elegance and her belief that a woman dresses from the skin up … If the things you wear under your clothes don’t fit right, you won’t look or feel your best. I love Vogue as well … Vanity Fair, and I also keep an eye on Pantene’s regular colour forecasts and their colour-of-the-year reports. My fabulous tangerine silk high-heeled Ralph Lauren espadrilles were purchased the year Pantene declared Tangerine Tango the colour of the year … I’m rarely that attentive to trends, but that colour was just too exuberant to ignore. It was thrilling to own one piece of clothing that was smack-bang on trend.

What are your top three fall essentials?
The first is a good trench coat – a good trench coat will take you anywhere. It’s classic, keeps you warm and dry, has deep pockets and gets you started on your espionage wardrobe. [Invest in] a pair of jeans in a flattering fit. No creeping down the backside! [Lastly is] a good pair of boots – something you can easily walk in and maybe even something that you can transition from fall into winter.

As a professor, what would you say are the worst fashion offences of students?
Fit – if it doesn’t fit properly, it doesn’t matter how stylish your clothes are. There are lots of people who aren’t fully honest about themselves. I’d also say yoga pants. Yoga pants flatter hardly anybody and I’ve definitely seen some appalling yoga pants! [The worst is] exposed bra straps or underwear. As a prof, I really shouldn’t know what colour or kind of underwear a student is wearing!

What are some of your favourite stores or fashion designers?
I really love Ralph Lauren – I loved Jennifer Aniston’s wardrobe in Friends. I also love Mexx. They have great pencil skirts. I’m not a big pants person, even in the winter – I have trouble fitting them. I think skirts are just more versatile and comfortable, especially for work.

Whose wardrobe would you like to take over?
I would love to have the wardrobe worn by most of the major female characters on Mad Men. Even if I didn’t enjoy the plots of the episodes, I’d still happily watch the show for the clothes alone. Well, the clothes and the jewellery, of course!

Some final words of wisdom for her students:
[Do] not…worry about what’s trendy or in style: wear clothes that are comfortable but not sloppy, that fit and flatter your body and colouring, and that express the best of the person you want to be. Moreover, when you start work after your studies are done, dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Aim high and keep it classy. Transitioning from university clothes to the professional wardrobe that may be required as you embark on post-university careers is challenging, not least because it can involve a significant financial outlay, so it’s worth starting to build a wardrobe of well-made staple pieces even while you’re still in school. Pay attention to the details of your clothes and never underestimate the power of accessories: the right jewelry, belt, scarf, handbag, or shoes can easily transform an outfit from ho-hum to wow.

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