I don’t remember when, exactly, SoCal photographer Kat Harris and I connected over the Internet. But sometime over the past two years, our virtual paths crossed and I’ve been smitten with this sweet girl ever since. A few months back I noticed Kat blogging about style and fashion and clothes in a way that majorly caught my attention. When she and her friend, Em, launched their new fashion blog, The Refined Woman, I was cheering them on from the sidelines all the way from Indiana. I asked if I could interview the two of them for a dose of inspiration for the blog and was thrilled when they agreed! So, without further ado, let me introduce you to two of the stylish women I’ve yet (but cannot wait) to meet! Hope this interview helps you love them as much as I do. Bookmark their blog or follow The Refined Woman on Twitter for more swoon-worthy outfits and fashion tips!
What inspired the two of you to create The Refined Woman?
Kat: Ever since I began photographing a few years ago I have been on the HUNT for that ideal outfit to shoot in. I’m always looking for an outfit that reflects my brand, exudes style and femininity but at the same time proves functional. This has been no small task to say the least! After attending New York Fashion Week last fall I met so many amazing women running style blogs. The only problem I kept finding was a lot of the styles weren’t transferable to my daily life. I’m running around on set or at a wedding for upwards of 12 hours on any given work day, and I need comfortable shoes and clothes I can move in. Needless to say, the wheels started turning, and I began to dream about a style blog for the working woman, which has now become The Refined Woman. It has been such a blessing to have Miss Emily Scott join the journey with me! We really have had such a blast!
Em: Kat and I bonded over style the minute we met. As soon as she began the first Refined Woman series on her blog I immediately told her it was amazing enough to be its own blog. The more we talked about it together it was clear we had a lot of the same passions and visions for a blog like this to inspire and empower women. We realized we had to go big or go home with it, and it’s been incredible to see the response from it so far.
Photo credit (above): Bess Friday; all other photos included in this entry taken by Em and Kat
How would you describe your style?
Kat: I call myself a Classy Boho. My southern roots keep me committed to the prepster style, while at the same time I have always been a bit of an inner hippie child. I love classic silhouettes, pencil skirts, a-line dresses, and have an oxford shirt obsesssion…maybe a problem, but you’ll also find me rocking maxi dresses, and silk flowy tops fairly often!
Em: This is a hard question because I find myself drawn to certain clothing items and I can’t explain why. Most of the time, I am drawn to clothes with history and personality. I love the way fashion can transform you—it’s incredible how different I feel when I am in my sweatpants versus a blazer. I think because of that, I love classic and strong styles. I am a big fan of bold colors and patterns.
Em (at left) & Kat (so stylish I’d be intimidated if I couldn’t already tell they’re sweethearts)
You two were just out at NYC Fashion Week. What was that experience like?
Kat: Before I get started, you have to know that I have a love affair with New York City. I mean my soul comes alive in that city! Fall 2013 Fashion Week was truly a dream come true for Em and me. We hustled around that city (in a blizzard thank you very much), ran ourselves ragged, didn’t really sleep for a week, but it was so worth it! On my life bucket list: Attend a J.Crew presentation, meet Jenna Lyons, photograph Anna Wintour. For some crazy reason we got to do all of the above. On top of that we were able to meet some fabulous ladies and build relationships with other bloggers and people in the fashion industry.
Em: That pretty much sums it up. I wrote about some of our experiences at length recently on Darling Magazine (I love this publication – check them out!) but overall I felt like it was just what Kat said—it was more than I could have ever dreamed it would be. I had this idea Fashion Week was this unattainable thing that somehow one day I would try to reach for. What I am so grateful for is Kat, who helped me realize you just GO and see what happens. You don’t need permission. In a lot of ways it was terrifying—I hate to be told NO—but waiting in a standby line and getting into my first runway show was an experience I will never forget. If I had been afraid of being told NO I would have never experienced such an amazing YES.
Em and Kat backstage at the Billy Reid show
What style staples do you two feel should be in every woman’s wardrobe?
Kat: 1. A men’s white-button up oxford shirt (mine is from Apolis Global): Honestly this is one of my favorite things in the world. I wear it with denim boyfriend jeans or leggings, or under a sweater with riding boots. You really cannot go wrong with this! 2. A pencil skirt: It’s just so versatile. I try to build my wardrobe based off the versatility of pieces. What’s so fabulous about a pencil skirt is you can wear it to a business meeting with a tailored blazer, out to drinks on a Friday night with friends paired with a silk chiffon top and red lips, and for Sunday brunch go ahead and grab that pencil skirt and wear a baggy sweater over the top and cinch a fun belt at your waist with your favorite wedges. Bam. Versatility.
Em: For me the right accessories really finish off whatever I’m wearing. I could be in jeans and a white shirt but if my shoes are amazing I feel amazing. I think that a classic black heel is worth paying more for if it’s perfect and goes with everything in your wardrobe. You just have to identify what style you are drawn to (I’m a fan of a pointy-toed classic pump) and then find the best quality you can find. If you take care of your feet they will take care of you. I also think a great everyday purse is a must. When it comes to accessories I stay more classic than on trend because these are the things that last through many seasons. My current purse I received for Christmas 2011 and I still get compliments on today is a Dooney + Bourke satchel that goes with everything I own, and I love it.
Where are some of your favorite places to shop (online or in store)?
Kat: J.Crew, Madewell, and Zara are my absolute go-tos. I have all three less than 2 miles from my house; it’s quite a problem.
Em: I would be lying if I said my favorite place in the world was anywhere but a thrift store. I love vintage pieces but I hate paying a lot for them and finding good pieces among the insanity of a thrift store is the most rewarding feeling. It’s like conquering the world. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s close. I do love thrift stores because I love the quality of vintage pieces—things used to be made with so much more care. My second favorite places are J.Crew and Madewell (you can see why Kat and I are fashion soul sisters.) I also recently visited Opening Ceremony in NYC and I think it’s a good thing it’s so far away from me. The way that store is curated makes me want to go into retail.
What to you say to women who feel like they can’t be inspired by fashion blogs because they think, “No way could I afford any of that?”
Kat: To you I say, ‘Girl I feel you’. I am a photographer in Southern California trying to make things work, and the last thing I have is an abundance of funds to invest into lots of clothes. For me, I look at blogs and magazines and allow it to inspire me to recreate my own version based off what I already have in my closet; it’s a challenge but it’s fun! Also, where is the first place I go when I visit any store? The Sale Rack, and I’m proud of it! Another fun thing I do is find an outfit that I really like, and then go thrift shopping or to consignment stores and try to recreate the look. Lastly, this is another reason why it is so important to find pieces that are versatile. I always tell girls, unless you can think of 3 distinct outfits you can create with a piece don’t buy it! (I just bought a dress with this very principle in mind thanks to you, Kat! — Gail)
Em: I agree with everything Kat said. It’s all about perspective. It’s not about recreating outfits exactly. I try to think about the silhouette of the outfit and think about what I have in my closet that is like that. Something that blew my mind recently was seeing someone put a dress under a skirt. I realized I have all these dresses that could essentially be tops now. That’s the beauty of fashion. It’s about fun and making up the rules as you go along.
What are some of your favorite style trends you’ve spotted for 2013?
Kat: Emerald Green. I am so thrilled emerald is the color of the year; it’s bright, vibrant, life giving, and almost everyone looks good in it! Also, leather baseball caps. Em and I saw so many ladies rockin these in NYC, and have been on the hunt ever since to find one! Mixed patterns + textures. J.Crew Fall 2013 presentation is such a reflection of this trend. Don’t be scared to mix your polka dots with plaid. You own those crazy patterns, work it ladies!
Em: I am personally a big fan of slouchy boyfriend jeans. As someone who works from home, I’m almost always in sweatpants, so making the transition to “real clothes” some days can be tough. Loose jeans, when paired with a tailored top, can be the perfect compromise for me when I need a little leeway. I also love all the full skirts I have been seeing. To me they are the epitome of embracing femininity while still being fun and happy. I may have bought a petticoat recently so be on the lookout for that on the blog soon.
Who in the fashion industry inspires you?
Kat: Jenna Lyons, creative director of J.Crew. She started working in a retail store in her 20s, and now is creative director and the woman responsible for turning J.Crew around into what it is today. She is classy, not afraid to take risks, constantly pushes the envelope creatively with each new line, and is a go-getter. She is a woman in a what seems like a man’s world, and her voice is not only being heard and recognized but valued and celebrated!
Em: I am seriously inspired by Garance Dore. (Okay, Em, I just spent like, 25 minutes perusing this site — awesome! — Gail) Her blog, images + personal style all flow so seamlessly and is so put together. She is the epitome to me of grace and class. She never seems like she is trying too hard in what she wears and she also seems to have fun being a photographer but enjoying fashion at the same time.
And lastly, as a photographer who can NEVER find the right kind of shoes to wear, any recommendations for the perfect pair of flats? (I’m not a heels kind of girl on a bride’s big day!)
Kat: When I wear flats, I wear my Tory Burch Ballet Flats or Gold Bass Penny Loafers. They’re both uber comfy, and I’ve worn them a ton to shoot in!
Em: I do love my Tory Burch flats. But when I have a particularly long wedding day that is also outdoors I go to my Frye Regina ballet flats. They have a good amount of cushion on the bottom, are leather so they flex with your feet, and I have them in black which pretty much goes with everything.