2018, it would seem, is shaping up to be ‘The Year I Pushed Myself Well Out Of My Comfort Zone’. I started BEST DRESSED GUEST and I also started contacting random women I found on Instagram – and meeting up with them. (Bit stalkery.) One such woman, Kate McGuire, received an out-of-the-blue message from me back in January. ‘Hi Kate, my name’s Stacey. You don’t know me, but I’d love to interview you for a site I plan to launch.’ No questions asked, she agreed immediately. Just my type of gal.
“The more Google put me off the scent (there are a lot of Kate McGuires in the world), the more stickybeak-ish I became”
Kate McGuire’s Instagram is a very stylish place indeed, but ‘Who the hell is she?’ I thought, as I went for a Sunday scroll. I knew she couldn’t possibly work in fashion, because everyone who works in fashion knows everyone else who works in fashion. Nope, this woman was a total new kid on the block. The more Google put me off the scent (there are a lot of Kate McGuires in the world), the more stickybeak-ish I became. Like I said, stalkery.
“By converting clothes languishing in closets, McGuire shows women how to create something up to date and current out of something old and forgotten”
When we meet at a café in west London, McGuire tells me how she used to be a headhunter in the city. But, after having her son five years ago, she’s since decided to turn a lifelong hobby into a new career. Her brand-new website, Converted Closet, is a digital platform helping women ‘transform their clothes into modern pieces that fit and flatter’. By converting clothes languishing in closets, McGuire shows women how to create something up to date and current out of something old and forgotten. This, I might add, is not carried out at some extraordinarily expensive and exclusive couture house – McGuire has things sewn and remade at the local dry-cleaner’s.
“Refusing to be defined by the scales or ‘become a victim of “sizing”’, she raided second-hand shops, trawled the sale rails of Topshop and taught herself to sew”
McGuire is also very open about her struggle with weight, which began in her early teens when she gained three and a half stone. Refusing to be defined by the scales or ‘become a victim of “sizing”’, she raided second-hand shops, trawled the sale rails of Topshop and taught herself to sew. Having spent most of her life upcycling, converting and experimenting with hems, waists and sleeve lengths, she discovered how to convert clothes to flatter her shape.
“Instead of buying the latest latest, she trawls theoutnet.com, then alters the pieces, making them into something completely unique”
Sustainability and upcycling may be at the core of McGuire’s modus operandi, but there’s another thing to consider: the homogenisation of fashion. Turning up at an event wearing the same thing as someone else isn’t the kind of situation McGuire would ever find herself in. Instead of buying the latest latest, she trawls theoutnet.com, then alters the pieces, making them into something completely unique. As if all that isn’t impressive enough (and by the way, by the end of the meeting I sat there open-mouthed, barely able to speak), when she showed me her newly launched video channel I looked up from my cuppa and said, ‘Crikey, this is a BBC TV show in the making – OMG, it’s The Clothes Show.’ Watch this space – you heard it here first.
Once I’d regained composure, I asked McGuire to pick out her six favourite looks for six summer events. So, here you go: six splendid ways to wear Converted Closet style.
1. Formal wedding
Larissa tiered jumpsuit, Osman, £895
Shoes, Louboutin ‘Nosy’
Hat, Philip Treacy vintage
It’ll be dress overkill at a formal wedding, so buck the trend in a jumpsuit, which straddles both formal and fun. The draped, high-neck haltertop fastens with a mini zip at the back of the neck, which is really rather clever. Yes, it’s backless, but it doesn’t have to be, of course – whatever is worn beneath could change the tone of the whole look. When extra formality is required, a de rigeur oversized black blazer would work a treat. The way the legs divide into two unexpected tiered columns is a work of art – and the length, with a heel, keeps the silhouette super flattering. The orange cocked trilby pops a powerful punch.
Blue floral organdy midi dress, Scrambled Ego, £480
Shoes, Jimmy Choo
Vintage bird-of-paradise hat, £40
An emerging Italian brand, Scrambled Ego is one of my obsessions. I love this stiff, floral, oversized Alice in Wonderland sheer organza dress. I popped a slinky nude bodycon slip beneath it for wit, which makes the whole thing feel bold-couture-cum-cool-sports-romantic. Ascot demands modest limb exposure, but, hmm, there’s room to rebel. A little vintage feather pillbox hat tops off the look and a pair of Jimmy Choo cage sandal-booties complement the midi-dress length.
3. Black-tie dinner
Delani gold-sequinned maxi dress, Diane von Furstenberg, £748 (half price at The Outnet)
Despite out-and-out golden bling, this maxi manages a wonderful metallic subtlety, courtesy of the casual, loosely draped top and burnished, matt sequins. The look speaks volumes without shouting. Fitted beautifully around the hips, the vertical front skirt drape catches the light and allows the sequins to dance softly. Golden Jimmy Choos peep from beneath the slightly raised front hem, so no further twinkle – other than obligatory diamond studs – required.
4. Country wedding
Fluid satin midi dress in pale lilac satin, Balenciaga, £1,575
Hat, Gucci, £295
The Best Dressed Guest is most definitely wearing this Balenciaga dress to a summer country wedding. Silky and sensual, this lilac beauty evokes a feeling of relaxed romance the moment it is slipped over the body. Oodles of thick pale silk cascade down the body, featuring raw edges, which counteract the perfect sheen of the fabric. There are two long, triangular panels of fabric attached in both side seams, which add extra volume to the length look but not bulk to the body. Genius, Balenciaga. I’ve chosen a classic extra-wide-brimmed Gucci sunhat to add further romance and to balance the width of the dress hem. The black hat ribbon adds a touch of London cool, which is reflected in the smart, subtle, grown-up Mary-Jane-ish Louboutin pumps. Part Perspex, part patent, all fun.
5. Summer opera
Green maxi dress, Badgley Mischka, £332 at The Outnet
A Mediterranean waterfall of fabric cascading from the waist, out over the hips and rippling down to the toes. Fluid panels of fabric sway like reeds in water as the body moves. The minimalist, simple, fitted bodice counteracts the voluminous lower half. Perfect for the opera.
6. Opening night
Fit-and-flare white woven gown, Maticevski, £,1895
Sculpted to perfection, the asymmetric line shooting vertically across the collarbone gives the illusion of strong, broad shoulders, then narrows to the bust and finally to the waist, which looks small in comparison. And the two folds either side of the midriff serve perfectly to lengthen the torso and provide perfect width again, in contrast to the compressed tummy, which isn’t actually as much as it looks!
Thank you, Kate! Have a stylish summer…