Finding your personal style with Kate B. of @ReadWriteThrift
She recently went viral on TikTok with her 'How to dress like a Danish Fashion Influencer' video, but Kate B. (aka @ReadWriteThrift) has a lot more going on than becoming a TikTok star. We got to chat with the PhD candidate about finding your personal style, becoming a fashion internet person, and the unfortunate redundancy of lighthouse keepers.
Tell us a bit about yourself...
I’m an upper-year PhD candidate in History at the University of Toronto, I’m in the final years of finishing my history dissertation and becoming Dr. Kate! I work as a teaching assistant and in the summer I’m teaching my first full seminar course - it’s one that I designed to be a weird and conceptual look at history from an environmental slant. For the privacy of my students I’ll brag about it more once it’s done!
My research looks at lighthouses as sites of conflict, contestation, and change in Canadian history. I’m researching the construction of lighthouses on the coasts of Canada, but focusing mostly on the development of automation technologies that made lighthouse keepers - those solitary, grizzled mariners we imagine from pop culture - redundant.
You can read a bit more about it here and here. One of the big questions my dissertation asks is: why do people like to visit lighthouses? It’s been a weird, long journey being a grad student during the pandemic, but luckily I’ve had some fun side pursuits to keep me chugging along.
You've amassed a really dedicated following on social media while also staying authentic and true to your own style - how did you get into this fashion/styling/Instagram/TikTok world?
I live in Toronto, and I started my “fashion internet person” social media journey in the spring of 2019. I started thrifted pretty regularly - I grew up loving vintage hunting and thrifting and did so all through my time in Montreal while I attended McGill.
I started to find so many cool things and didn’t have a place to share them so I started @readwritethrift as a place to catalogue thrift store finds, but it blossomed in the very-online pandemic world into a platform to share my personal style journey and love of all things secondhand, sustainable, locally-made, and ethical.
“Staying true” to my own style has meant something different at different times! I tried and failed publicly for a few years to nail down what “my” style was - the perils of being a public-facing fashion person were that I was often pulled in shiny new directions to try trends or emulate people whose style I coveted. I’ve ended up with a style I would describe as mix of “bookworm barbie,” “your hot androgynous prof,” and “thanks, I thrifted it.”
Ugh it was SO HARD to decide how to dress up in some of my Eliza Faulkner collection. One thing I love about Eliza’s designs is that it’s so easy to mix and match seasons - especially because so many pieces are designed for layering.
I wore the pink tulle Madlyn dress and Tilly skirt for my post-wedding brunch reception. I got married in September 2022 with only close family present, so we held a brunch for extended family the next weekend.
The soft pink was perfect for a bridal-esque feel without being overtly wedding-y. I wore these pieces with secondhand Miu Miu platforms and it came together perfectly. The tulle skirt can shift so easily to comfortable and casual, and I especially love styling it for the winter: with a knit and some chunky boots for a monochrome feel.
Putting my magenta ribbon mesh turtleneck from AW22 with the yellow Cece dress from SS21 felt euphoric. See what I mean about mixing seasons? These colours are the ultimate fruit salad.
The neon New Balances represent a trend I’m loving: outfits that sit at the axis of utilitarian and ultra-feminine. It’s saucy to wear gaudy but practical running shoes with a ruffle top and voluminous jacquard dress. It almost feels illegal, and I love it. I added verucasWRLD mis-match earrings and lace socks from Okie Dokie to finish this look.
This combo represents the three EF pieces that do the most work for my personal style: Lavoy pants, Jane turtleneck, and my all-time fave, Sawyer top. If a look could be my uniform, this would be it.
I love the ultra-fine merino mockneck that lends itself effortlessly to layering, the shape of the shirt and pants both being ostentatiously big while still feeling feminine. Of course, practical sneakers and my Chopova Lowena necklace round this one out. This is a look I would wear teaching, getting coffee - in other words, doing life.
How do you inspire yourself to dress up in the winter months?
A fun-coloured mohair moment or a faux fur pastel coat (a personal fave) make staying warm into something much more whimsical.
You wear a lot of vintage mixed with new pieces - what is most important when choosing vintage/second hand clothing?
The lure of vintage is the lure of the one-of-a-kind, the “where did you get that? Sorry, it’s vintage” feel of owning a piece of the past. I have fallen into the trap of coming home with something just because it’s a cool vintage piece, not because I actually want to wear it.
Mixing vintage and new is the best way to build a fun, functional wardrobe. Go in with an open heart, a logical mind, and a discerning touch.
There is so much out there - focus on adding things to your wardrobe that fit your life and style! If you’re new to vintage, going for pieces that are a vintage echo of something you already like (like a vintage blouse with a fun collar if you already wear white blouses) is a great way to get started.
I’ve also learned the long and hard way that just because something is vintage, it doesn’t always mean it’s guaranteed to be great quality. Sometimes, vintage fabrics have a life span! When hunting for anything older than 20 years old, always check the care label. I avoid polyesters because they tend to irritate my skin and hold body odours more than natural fibres.
For shoes and bags, take a look at any glue or seams to see if the wear and tear of age has compromised their integrity.
What are you looking forward to wearing/styling in 2023.
So many things.
Ugly sneakers, big dresses, chain necklaces, wide leg pants. I draw a lot of personal inspiration from Scandinavian and Japanese styles and designers, and I’m really into asymmetry, exaggerated elements, and boxy cuts. I also am dying for the return of warm weather so I can wear my Margiela tabi flats!
In my fashion life, I want to live somewhere on the spectrum between Sara Camposarcone and Chloe Sevigny. But I also am setting more intention with my purchases and outfits. I want to feel like me, feel at home in my body, and feel confident in my clothes. I’m taking note of the things I wear a lot and letting those guide me forward. Like anything in our life, personal style is a lifelong and ongoing learning process. I feel really lucky to be where I’m at and can’t imagine where it might take me in the future.