My Favorite...Retro Polka-Dot Suit
To celebrate her new album, Detroit musician Olivia Jean tells us all about her favorite polka-dot outfit.
Signed to Jack White's label, Third Man Records, Detroit musician Olivia Jean has a unique retro style that's all her own. She tells us all about this amazing polka-dot suit, which she found in a Michigan vintage shop.
How did this retro outfit come into your life? "I've collected vintage clothing since I was 12 or 13, and growing up in Detroit there were a lot of great shops. What I liked about it is it's kind of similar to a 1950s or 1960s airline stewardess. I have so many vintage dresses that look like stewardess uniforms. I love that kind of style, things that match, whole outfits in one color...that suit caught my eye. It was just perfect! I know how to sew, so I was able to alter the dress myself and make it fit me perfectly. I thought about selling my vintage clothing, but this is something I'll never let go of. I'll have it forever. Every time I wear it, it's such an attention-grabber, I always feel really good when I wear it out."
What first got you into vintage? "Well, I was born in 1990 so I was pretty young when the Austin Powers movies came out, but I love unique fashions and mod clothing; I've loved really flashy vintage clothes for a really long time. I was playing in the [band] Black Belles so I wasn't able to wear it onstage because we only wore black, but I'd be hanging out with people, and it would always grab a lot of attention—because it's just an amazing suit. And at that time, I'd wear my hair in a giant bouffant. I went through a phase where I would wear vintage clothes every single day, and it would always be a dress of some kind. I remember going to see a show in Nashville and I was way overdressed. It was funny to see the reaction of people."
I bet! What did they say? "They just said they liked it! It was really funny because I looked like I was dressed up for Halloween, almost. I wish people would dress like that every day".
Do you? "Not so much anymore, mostly because I'm too busy, but I used to, and I want to start dressing like that again."
Would you say there's a relationship to your music, and this particular outfit? "Yeah, I'm influenced by a lot of 1960s artists and I love surf music from the '60s, so the dress is from that era and very retro. Also, I'm pretty obsessed with the actor Jerry Lewis. I've been watching his movies since I was just a baby, so [my mom] would play those movies for me when I was a kid. And he always had a sidekick, a leading actress, and they're always wearing these outfits that are matching. So that's also an influence; this style of clothing and the movies I grew up with."
So how can one pull off an outfit like this? Any styling tips for readers? "I think you have to be pretty committed to that style; you have to do the hair, you have to do the makeup to match, you have to do the shoes that look like they're from the same era, so you'll be a showstopper when you walk into the room, because that's how they did it back in the day!"
When you see the suit hanging in your closet, what's the first word that comes to mind? "Just amazing!"
Check out Olivia Jean's debut album, Bathtub Love Killings.