Closet Visit: Amber Smith

We recently spent a chilly afternoon with Amber Smith, an insanely talented artist who has played in the band Parenthetical Girls and is presently working on a new musical project, fittingly named Sartorial Excess. Her style is the perfect mix of high/low, vintage, and new all with a big dose of poise. Amber also has a keen eye for quality and construction, whether it’s a vintage trench coat, a pair of dipped patented Alexander McQueen ankle boots, or a perfect Carven dress. Smith also sews recreationally and had a beautiful vinyl waist harness she had made for a past TBA performance on her dress form that we loved. We also got to see Amber’s home studio where she works on her amazing illustrations and braille pieces. Her attention to detail is on point from her perfectly curated room, her intricate drawings and articulate style. 

And don't forget to order Amber's Heroines of Hollywood Calendar!


1. Who is your style influenced by?

I tend to take a lot of inspiration from cinema, with a special fondness for late sixties icons, and the simple yet threatening beauty of women in Dario Argento films.

Specific women include Zoë Tamerlis-Lund, Isabelle Adjani (in Polanski's The Tenant, especially), Jane Birkin, Marianne Faithfull, Françoise Hardy, and Mia Farrow, as well as my Aunt Susan, one of the coolest, most intelligent women I know, with whom I used to go thrift store shopping all the time when I was younger.

(Side note: I've been working on a Style Heroines from cinema calendar for 2014. It's a little late this year, but I'm almost done.)

2. Favorite place(s) to shop in Portland?

Better Bargains, Palace and Yo! Vintage for clothing, Lille Boutique for special underthings, Nationale for foreign toothpaste and other treasures.

3. Describe your style!

My only rule is balance, which is intuitive and vague, taking hair, color, and proportion into account.  In general, I'd say my influences are distilled into a look that is relatively clean and simple with a tinge of sixties, a touch of darkness, feminine, never too perfect.  There always tends to be some disheveled element, and that element of late is my hair.  

4. What is your fall must have?

I got my first eyeglass prescription a few months ago, and am still on the hunt for the oversized frames of my dreams. I want them to strike the right balance--statement glasses, rounded, on the absurdly big side, but still elegant, and preferably black.

5. 5 things you can’t live without?

Copic Multiliner 0.03mm nib replacements, Bristol, the writing of Amy Hempel, MAC Lady Danger lipstick, Jurlique Herbal Recovery Gel.

6. 3 favorite items in your closet?

Black velvet trapeze jumper dress. Paired with a turtleneck underneath, it's been an easy go-to look for years.

Oversized gray furry coat, given to me by my friend Bethany.

Metallic pink, stretch taffeta dress by Carven, a garment no one of my income bracket should own. I made a foolhardy decision, and don't regret it a bit.

7. How do you choose what you wear in the morning?

I'm a bit of a serial monogamist when it comes to clothing, get stuck on a certain piece or look until moving on to the next. I have a few personal uniforms, and am generally always wearing sheer black tights and black shoes.

8. Tell us two truths and a lie!

I grew up as a competitive distance runner.  My mother wore a yellow sweater and blue jeans when she married my father.  LeVar Burton mentioned my Young Authors book on Reading Rainbow.  

9. Any shopping advice you have?

When shopping for self, only spend money on things you love. Better to own a few special pieces than loads of crap. Sometimes it's fun to buy a bunch of crap for cheap though, and that's okay, because you can always give it away when you inevitably tire of it. Dream up something you want and keep it in the back of your mind. If/when you find it, you'll know it was meant to be.

When shopping for others, pay attention.