Real Girl Wardrobes - Sophie Joyce

28 April 2015

In any given week Sophie Joyce travels back in time, pulling together picture perfect outfits from decades past. She does futurisitic too. The 23-year-old photographer, artist and part-time op shop assistant puts a lot of effort into how she looks, and what she wears is informed by her identity, her politics and never by practicality.

This is something I really want to know - where do you shop?

Without sounding too inner-westie, I love shopping at op shops. I also work in an op shop.

Oh, you must get the best stuff!

Well yeah, basically from an ethical standpoint we're not allowed to just pick and choose what we like until it's been priced and put on the floor and everyone else has access to it. I think that's pretty fair.

Do you have favourite op shops in Sydney?

I only really know about Vinnies. I love the Newtown store, it has a lot of really quirky stuff. Summer Hill is really good too, they're only a small store but I've found quite a few really weird and different items there. Where else? Randwick, if you're in the eastern suburbs, that's a cute little store.

Do you buy the bulk of your stuff from op shops?

Yeah absolutely and probably more so when I was living more on a budget. I’m not loaded now but I remember moving to Sydney and being a freelancer, I shopped either at K Mart or at Vinnies but I found that at Vinnies the stuff was better quality for the same price as stuff that's at Target or K Mart. And there’s probably more variety, care and love that’s been put into it. 

One of my favourite things about op shopping is when you find something and it still has the tags on it. I found a blouse and it still had the Polaroid of the model from a shoot or something that was attached to the tag. 

My second favourite thing is finding something that's handmade because I think about all the effort and love and affection that's been put into this frock. I think about how proud they must've been - maybe they made it as a gift for someone or something like that so it was too precious for them to throw away. They've donated it hoping that someone would find it and find it as quirky and as fun as they did - that's the stuff I'm attracted to.

With handmade stuff I feel like it's extra special if it fit said person and then it fits you.

When I move into a house or when I buy something second hand, I think about the person that owned it before me and the life they've had. It's super corny but I love it, like the life that they've had with that ring - who gave it to them, was it their favourite, did they wear it everyday, did that ring see a million different things they went through? That sort of stuff. I'm really sentimental about clothing.

Do you have heaps of clothes?

I sort of hoard clothing and then I put on weight and it doesn't fit anymore and for a certain amount of time I keep it, thinking that it's going to fit one day but it doesn’t. So I have to be like - okay, I've no room for this, I live in a one bedroom apartment, I need to pass this on to someone else. Hopefully it's in good enough condition that someone else can buy it, love it and think - wow this is so weird and quirky.

You’ve shared your two favourite things about op shopping but I want to know what you’re looking for when you’re going through a rack?

I don't think I have a specific style, one day I'd be wearing something a bit out there, like a headband with Easter eggs on it and other days I'll be wearing a pair of jeans and a cool t-shirt. I'm so unpractical when it comes to choosing clothing. I just think what's the loudest, weirdest, coolest thing here - like look at that pattern, feel the texture - that's so bizarre someone made a dress out of that. 

What if anything inspires your style? 

I like putting effort into the way I look in the same way I like putting effort into everything else. I like putting effort into relationships, I like putting effort into my art making, so I think it's just the same sort of attitude that goes into the way I look. 

The other day one of my best friends said, ‘You know, your eyebrows are quite far apart, they're a bit uneven,’ and I said, ‘Yeah I know.’ I don't think I'm very good at things like make up or dressing myself but I put effort into it and I love it. 

What does that mean time-wise? 

If I’m going to work and decide that I'm going to wear make up that day, I’ll usually leave myself an hour before I catch the bus. That gives me time to pick out my outfit, if I haven't already picked it out, to put a bit of foundation on, draw my eyebrows on - cos I have uneven eyebrows! I think it would take me half an hour to 45 minutes. What's the Beyonce lyric? She says, it's gonna take us 45 minutes to get dressed up, we ain't never gonna make it to the club. That is me. 

Do you plan your outfits in advance?

I'll be like - tomorrow I'm getting coffee with someone I haven't seen in five years and so I need to look as successful as possible. So I'll pick out something really bold, so to an extent I plan it. When it comes to working as a wedding photographer I have to go - can I take photos in that? And also what sort of wedding is it? Is it a very formal wedding, is it a very traditional wedding, practically what is it? That sort of stuff.

Is there an item that you find yourself buying over and over?

For ages I was buying the same summer dress  over and over and I didn't realise it. Now I have a million of that dress and I'm like, where the fuck am I going to wear this?

Was it a 90's style sundress? 

I wish. I've always worn really high-necked things and now I'm a little bit older and little bit more comfortable with my sexuality I want to feel a bit sexier, I don't want to feel like a little girl anymore and that's how I felt like I was dressing and buying over and over.

Is there a new item that’s replaced the sundress as something you keep buying?

Now I'm liking stuff that has really weird neck stuff. I've also been buying a lot of stuff with frills, tassels, anything sheer. I like being a bit risqué and just wearing a bra beneath something see through. For me, that's enough. I know for a lot of people that isn't new but it's new for me.

Are there people you’re inspired by style wise?

I don't really have a style, I'm so inconsistent. Maybe Lee Lin Chin? And Kath Day-Knight, you know from Kath & Kim?

I never really realised that so much thought goes into what you wear in a way that’s kind of political.

Totally. When I say that I'm not qualified to talk about the politics that influence fashion, I do feel entitled to speak how my politics influence my style and my politics are very much about treating people with respect that deserve it, treating people kindly and by doing that I respect people by not appropriating things that don't belong to me. 

Are there particular shops or labels that you especially like? 

I looove ASOS. I love it. The pink coat I’m wearing is ASOS. The frilly collar that's ASOS.

So you shop online?

No, I buy it from op shops from other people who've shopped online! 

Do you use a handbag? I can’t remember.

At the moment I have a backpack from Dangerfield, it's really cute, it's my favourite and it goes with everything. 

What about sunnies? 

I have two pairs of sunglasses, one of them makes me look like I'm from out of space, another one makes me look like I'm out of a Tarantino movie. That's sort of my aesthetic.

What about accessories more generally, I mean today you're wearing an Easter egg headband, I've also seen you in the past with a Nick Cave necklace.

I used to wear my Nick Cave necklace every day and then like I got a Nick Cave t-shirt from work and I'm like - if I wore both is that like double denim? I have a necklace and it's got a little crystal on it and absolutely everyone asks me what crystal it is and I don't know. It just looked cute and I bought it for really cheap. But I found that all of the jewellery that I wear always tarnishes my neck. So now I'm trying to buy silver stuff cos I'm like a big girl. 

I've got a bunch of scenarios that I would like to know what you would wear to said thing. What do you tend to wear to work?

High waisted jeans, a frilly neck blouse or 15-year-old t-shirt with Nick Cave on it.

What about if you have to dress up, if you're going to someone's wedding as a guest, as opposed to as a photographer?

I'm never invited to classy things so I have no idea. I would be at a loss in that situation. I'd care so much about it that I'd have to go and buy something. I don't have anything nice to wear to a wedding that my mum would be okay with.

What do you wear at home on a Sunday? Do you ever do track pants? 

When I'm at home I'm just naked or I wear underwear. It's over the top or nothing at all. I don't live with anyone at the moment except my boyfriend, although I have to close the blinds because there's a hospital across from the bedroom. 

What do you wear on a road trip or if you're going travelling?

Something that looks good enough that if I bump into someone I know at a petrol station, I look cute but something that's not going to make me too sweaty. 
Are there any fabrics that are off-limits to you? When I moved to Wagga Wagga I realised that I can't wear polyester anymore, it's just not practical.

I know and all my favourite blouses are polyester. It's like I go to work and I look really cute up until about 12 and then the buttons are like slowly popping open, I've got sweaty upper lip and it's melting onto my lipstick or something. 

You mentioned that in your style and in your art, you find kitsch and tackiness particularly endearing. Why?

Because people look down upon someone's choice of style and see it amateur or think that they don't understand as much as everyone else and that's what I find really appealing. It's sort of like being quite young at heart. It’s the naivety of liking something that is considered in poor taste.

Do you mean like when you’re a kid, and you just like things wholeheartedly but not in a way you can explain? 

Exactly, and my family say that all the time with art, ‘I don't know anything about art but I know what I like,’ and I'm exactly the same with fashion. I know nothing about the theory or history of it, I wouldn't be able to analyse it very well but if I see something and I like it, I'll wear it.

Thank you Sophie! Follow her on Instagram for semi-regular outfit updates, you might also like to check out her artist page or hire her as a wedding photographer (I did!).

P.S More Real Girl Wardrobe profiles here.

Photos by Sophie Joyce.

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