Real Girl Wardrobes - Nadine Crowley

06 August 2015

I’m excited to introduce you to Nadine Crowley, who co-owns a cool new business in Wagga Wagga and has enviable no fuss style. Today, the 38-year-old happily shares what's on high rotation in her wardrobe, how she navigated corporate dress codes and what she gave up wearing when her son Baxter came along.

How would you describe your style?

Pretty basic. I like simple and prefer more structured things. I used to be much more monochrome and I’ve only recently gotten into patterns because I liked more of the bold patterns that are out. It suited where I was at too, I was a bit more free in what I could wear and blending work and home was a bit easier.

My mum was a strong influence when I was a girl, she was about simple style but was always keen to encourage a bit of fun and individual elements. My sister Stacie and I are similar but different in how we display that now, and in this photo I’m wearing a dress from Big W.

You used to work at one of the few places in town that has a dress code. What was that like? 

It was meant to be corporate so people can take that quite literally to mean suits and cardigans. Jeans were only on Friday or on a casual day. I wasn't into matchy-matchy suits but I thought as long as I mix it up and put a jacket or a blazer on, it met the code. I've always loved jackets, I have way too many of them. I had a leather pencil skirt, which was one of my favourites and on high rotation for work. I liked to push it a little bit. 

What has it been like to leave that environment and run your own business, where you can wear whatever you want? 

I actually found it really difficult because my identity for so long was tied up in working in a corporate environment. I'd pretty much worked out my wardrobe around that for years. It's kind of been changing, I wear a lot more jeans.

Running a creative business, do you feel pressure to look designy? 

I’ve thought about that but then I thought - I just need to look like me. I've got a whole graveyard of outfits from me trying things like fluffy jackets that I see on Sienna Miller that look so cool. I’ll wear it and I'll find myself taking it off. 

How did your style change after you had Baxter? 

You just can't give as much thought to it anymore. I used to put a great deal of thought into outfits and spend a lot of time contemplating different purchases, whereas for awhile there, shopping was done really rapidly. Your style changes a bit because you’re doing different things and accessories went completely out the window and for me never came back. I just realised I didn't need it. 

My wardrobe requirements with a boy are cheap t-shirts and comfy shoes to keep up with scooters. And apart from a determination to wear tracksuit pants, Bax wears whatever is presented to him. 

Do you shop in Wagga Wagga? Or online? 

I don't shop online. I'm one of those annoying people in a shop that will be grabbing and feeling everything! If there's something that I know and I've had it before, yeah sure I'll go back and get it online but I'm really hesitant. I haven't had great success with it. I use online shopping to scout an awful lot and then I do bursts when I get to Melbourne or Sydney.

I do lots of basic shopping here. I'm a big Kmart and Big W shopper and my sister is always really frustrated because she's always like - I love that, where did you get it from? And invariably it's always from a shop like Target or Kmart. I don't really buy the trendy pieces although that said one of my favourite pair of pants is from Kmart, a drapey pair of black pants. I just bought them to fill a gap and put them on and thought, hang on a minute, these are really nice. So I went back and bought another two pairs! 

Do you wear them out equally? Or do you kill one pair at a time?

Equally! But it was always my aim, it's still my aim, to be one of those people who can buy really high end staples, like the $100 white t-shirt. And I'll always go - nah, can't do it.

How do you shop when you find yourself in a city? 

It's frantic because I never have enough time, I'm always there for something else. I tend to absorb what I want to wear from watching other people and I love magazines but when I'm shopping it's quite distinct and quick. I  go straight for something that will catch my eye and I'm pretty ruthless at going - that'll suit and that won't. 

I like Topshop and highly recommend booking in with Topshop Personal Shopper for a bit of fun. It’s free and they’ll throw things at you that you may never have tried on, like this sparkly number that I absolutely loved, but sadly had no invite to the Logies to justify buying it.

What’s your approach to hair and make-up?

I've never really been good at make-up. In the last year, I've been trying to make red lipstick more of a habit. I don't associate looking at myself with lipstick, it kind of doesn't compute. When I put it on, I always think - is everyone looking at me? 

One thing that I do is go to the hairdresser, I love it. I go to Plush and have been going there for nearly 10 years. The first time I went was just after I had Bax. Before that I just had long hair, no fringe, just all one length and it was part of that becoming a mum thing. I’d never been there before and I had this picture of Katie Holmes just after she'd married Tom Cruise. That was the last time I went in with someone else's hair cut. I just let those guys do what works for my hair and face shape, and they know that I like having a bit of a rock star hair do. I went platinum blonde for awhile there, it was like Debbie Harry blonde and I loved it. 

We've spoken a bit about accessories, can I ask you about handbags? I really like your big gold bag.

I'm really low maintenance. I bought this handbag because I needed that colour, it’s Esprit and I saw it in Myer. It became the bag I carry all the time, I just find the tan goes with everything.  I like the soft ones and I've always carted half my life around in a bag so that's why I've got that gold one now. 

So you have a handbag and a life bag - what's in the life bag?

Gosh, everything! My laptop, a camera, notebooks and sometimes folders. It's Uashmama and was an online purchase. I saw it in a magazine and I was going through a metallic phase. I looked for a long time for a big tote that doesn't scream laptop, doesn't look like a nappy bag and was a little bit funky. Probably the only other accessories I wear are my sunnies, which are just the Rayban Wayfarers and I'm a one pair of sunnies person. That said over summer when it was super hot I found this $10 pair of aviators and I wore them because they were a little bit lighter. 

What do you wear on weekends if you’re going to meet up with friends? 

There's very little difference to what I wear to work. I wear a more relaxed coat, more flowy skirts in summer or a bit more playful stuff that I probably couldn't get away with wearing to work, like overalls. Things that make me question if I'm pushing the age limit a bit.

There was a moment where I realised I couldn't dress like I was in my early 20s anymore, I just become aware of my age in a way I never had before.

I've suddenly become re-aware of it again as I'm closer to 40. I think - I can't let myself be someone that just continues to wear the same thing and other people are going - oh lady, come on! I don't think it means not following trends but it's probably being a little bit more aware of body shape and that kind of thing.

Tell me about dressing up, what would you wear to a wedding? 

After a long wedding drought I went to my cousin's wedding at the end of May and I agonised over what to wear. I haven't got anything on call anymore. After much searching I went back to my wardrobe and went through it forensically. I actually pulled out something mum had found in a church sale. It was this beautiful lace top with a little Peter Pan collar and the skirt was silk. I wore that because the wedding was on the beach and I thought it was a bit more relaxed but still dressy. 

My sister and I recently had a sister date at Vue de Monde in Melbourne. We both decided we needed something spesh to wear so we went to Gorman and had a great time with the girls there who threw everything at us to try on and kept us laughing. I got a black catsuit which I’d had on my list for awhile to wear with my red lipstick and Stacie got a great dress. 

You're a big jacket person, do you have favourite spots to pick them up?

This is one of my favourite coats and it’s my grandmas. I can still remember her wearing it and now I have it. I wear it with everything. It would probably be about 40 or 50 years old and the lining is just starting to give.

When your grandma passed away you were given the job of dressing her for the last time. How did that job fall to you? 

It fell to my mum and I realised mum couldn't do it, it was too hard and I remember actively going - Mum, you can't do it. I picked an outfit that she'd worn to a family occasion not that long before and I knew she really liked it. I had said, ‘You look lovely,’ and she said, ‘Yes it's new.’ So I knew she thought she looked good in it. 

Thank you Nadine. If you live in Wagga Wagga, you might like to check out the Comms&Co front window, where Nadine works, which has cool installations that are constantly changing. A big thank you to Sally for suggesting her friend and co-worker for this series :)

More Real Girl Wardrobes interviews here.

Photos by Nadine Crowley.

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