10 minutes with Vintage Queen, Rosalind Jana

The internet is a wonderful thing - and no, not just for online shopping. Social media may be much maligned these days, it's been responsible for bringing people who's paths would otherwise rarely have crossed together, between cities, counties and countries.

Two of those people are myself, and this magical creature - Rosalind. Rosalind is one of those friends you have who just fills you with awe every time you hear what they're doing next. Whether she's doing beat poetry in Paris or writing guides to being teenage, working on glorious fashion magazines or shooting her own Wuthering Heights-esque Instagram shots, she's always doing something creative.

As someone who's never quite pleased with what they're wearing, I've always had a huge admiration for Rosalind's relationship with clothes. It feels so confident: she wears things she loves, always listening to her body shape over the distant din of faddy trends.

So for one of my first interviews for ODT, I really wanted to ask her some questions I'd always wondered about. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did. 

You seem to have a deep understanding for the relationship between the human condition and fashion. Why do you think we have such a deep connection to what we wear?

Oh I love this question, and OH I could spend paragraphs talking about it, so I’ll try to keep this condensed. Essentially, I think we inevitably have a very interesting connection with what we wear because it helps to define the way we move through the world – and, crucially, the various ways we are seen by others. Clothes are such a fascinating social tool. They can make you feel powerful. They can mark you apart. They can be profoundly uncomfortable, or out of place. They can make you feel on-top-of-the-world magic. They can align you with other people, or communities. They can help disguise you. The capacity for what they signal and express and sometimes mask – well, it’s endless.  

In that respect, I don’t think we have a connection. We have connections: plural. When you’re talking about the human relationship with clothes you’ve covering everything from body image and physicality to confidence and self-definition to cultural or religious associations to the ways we define ‘attractive’ or ‘ugly’ or ‘provocative’ or ‘conformist’. Quite literally, they help to make up the fabric of our lives – and god they make it interesting.

Your style is the envy of many (me included). What are your top 3 styling tips for us mere mortals?

Thank you! And goodness, I don’t know.. I always feel very averse to rules or suggested ways of doing things, because I feel that so much of dress is about working out what’s best for you: sometimes by trial and error. But I guess there are a few things I stand by:

  1. Choose the clothes that make you feel comfortable and, crucially, confident. The ones in which you know you’re fucking fabulous. The trousers that will give you more stride. The dress that skims and frames and emphasizes your figure in all the ways you love most. The shoes that are ridiculous, and therefore wonderful. I spent too much time when I was earlier going for clothes that nearly worked: that might look fantastic, but were itching at my neck or were too tight under the armpits, and thus leaving me squirming all evening. Or even just the ones that were okay, but never quite looked right when on. They’ve all gone now.

  2. Know that dressing for your body shape should be about possibility rather than shame. This is something I’m still learning, I think, though I’m much better at it now. I changed shape in my late teens from very slender to quite a bit curvier, and at first I was perplexed: still dressing in the way I had when I’d had no real hips or boobs to speak of. There were things that had suited me then that just didn’t work anymore. And I was also trying to navigate all those crappy cultural ideals about the figures and ideals we’re meant to valorize. Now I know my body better, I also know what types of shapes and silhouettes are guaranteed to work for me (it’s hard to go wrong with a seventies maxi with a plunging neckline) – and I know there are things I can wear assertively now that wouldn't have been as great in my teens, either.

  3. It’s hard to go wrong with a polo-neck. They go with everything. And might make you feel like you’re Joan Didion. Or Marilyn Monroe, depending on your style…

Dressing for your body shape should be all about possibility, rather than shame
— Rosalind Jana

Who’s your style icon?

I’m so boring because I always come back with the same answers to this question – but that’s because I consistently adore the same people. It would have to be Kate Bush, first and foremost and always, because her magic abilities to metamorphose and use dressing up as extension of her creative output consistently enthralls me. Plus, I love a good seventies Wuthering Heights style dress. I always come back to Katharine Hepburn and her insouciant, comfortable style of dress too.

Actually, more recently, I feel like I’ve been drawing lots of inspiration from Tove Jansson too. Best known as the author of The Moomins, she was also an amazing adult writer and accomplished artist. There’s something about all the images of her swimming in crowns of flowers and hanging around in tartan trousers and big jumpers that I definitely want to emulate at the moment.

What brands are you loving at the minute?

I’m just going to go for all the ones I stare at longingly and dream about one day owning: Roksanda Ilincic always. Her designs are so sumptuous. I’ve loved Burberry since I was a teenager, and there’s no sign of the affection letting up yet. Also Reformation, because they’re such a great example of a company whose ethics and aesthetics are equally important. Oh, and Racil. I’m obsessed with their suits. I’ve been really admiring Ghost recently as well. I’ve got one of their vintage slip dresses, and the modern designs look just as dreamy (and perfectly cut).

You’re known for your love of vintage – what’s your tips for sourcing the real gems?

Give yourself time, and search with an open mind. Some of my best vintage finds were hidden behind fleeces in charity shops in tiny market towns, or pulled from mounds of t-shirts in village hall jumble sales. Sadly I think it’s becoming harder to find treasures now, given how the homogeneity of the high street has filtered down into a lot of charity shops – but there are still some exceptions to the rule.

Beyond that, I’d say it’s just about putting in the hours, and having fun with it! My favourite thing about vintage is that I usually have absolutely no idea what I’ll walk out of the shop door with, if anything..

Oh, and also: only buy things with a breezy promise that “I’ll alter it to fit properly” if you’re someone who will ACTUALLY do that. I have too many things I purchased that weren’t quite right, and they’re still sitting in a drawer four years on because I still haven’t got the sewing machine out.

What have you got coming up in the pipeline?

I’m currently working on various book proposals/ synopses/ sample chapters of things, so am hoping there should be some exciting things on the horizon there: ideally spanning fiction and non-fiction. I’m also writing a lot of poetry, including a verse novel. No idea where that will go yet, but I’m enjoying it! Beyond that, I’ve been doing various behind the scenes things for Violet’s website, so watch that space…

Rosalind's book Notes On Being Teenage is out now - buy it here

You can follow her on Instagram here and Twitter here