I’d like to describe the style continuum, as I see it, in terms of science. At one end is the basic stuff you can manage without too much fuss such as wearing a well-fitted pair of jeans, t-shirts and a good pair of shoes – this is high school science, the kind they safely let kids dabble in because no one can be stupid enough to go too wrong with that. At the other end is an artfully put together wardrobe that renders every inch of you into a well-turned out vision of stylish goodness – this to me is rocket science. My interest is in breaking down the various moving parts that make up great personal style. I turned this problem over to OneSmallWindow collaborator, stylist/design student Ayesha Tellis. Let’s break this down one basic question at a time!

Take us through your favorite looks – casual day, semi-formal evening, formal Indian, and party at night.
AT: To begin with, San Francisco [where I am currently based], dictates what people wear, usually. The weather makes it imperative to include layers and the steep slopes, deathly beautiful, sway you towards comfortable feet, usually.

Jeans, more often than not, fuel my casual day. I’ve discovered the fun in playing with various styles; skinny, boyfriend, high waisted. It helps to add a little variety. A good jacket/blazer is the other toy. I try and mix prints, color and silhouette. Again, the way the city is, a semi-formal evening is basically what most evening events are. Taking my casual day to night by accessorizing: an edgy bag, cheeky shoes and the inevitable jacket.

Whether in India or here, formal Indian hasn’t been a frequent necessity. I like to make my looks a little “desi” by pulling in Indian jewelry and flipping a shift dress into something interesting with funky tights to work as a churidaar, or a schoolboy blazer belted over an anarkali. There is much fun to be had with Indian. The sari games I leave for weddings.

A night shift is the little window to go a little Carrie Bradshaw. This is when the fatal heels under the bed come out to assist the teeny skirts and micro shorts. Again, I love color and texture, so a little neon goes a long way for me. My traffic stopper neon bag is always a conversation starter.   

What is the one piece of clothing from your wardrobe that you wear most often?
AT: It would have to be my faux leather jacket I picked up a couple of years ago from an inconspicuous stall in Shillong. It is my go to staple. Recently, I found another foolproof repeater – Cole Haan LunarGrand Wingtips, they have Nike comfort and look scrumptious – win win!

How often do you shop for new clothes/shoes/accessories? 
AT: It really depends. I don’t have an “it’s-time-to-shop” moment. I don’t do well with shopping spree days, in the past I have inevitably bought things I absolutely regret and never ended up doing justice to. So, it would have to be a right place, right moment, right something that accommodates the right budget.

Are you an impulse shopper? Do you browse around a store and pick stuff if you like it or do you go in with a plan like, “I need a pair of pants”?
AT: Well I have those moments only when I’m looking for an investment piece; a winter coat, a stylish yet versatile “everyday” bag, basics that are weirdly enough extremely hard to find. A perfect white t-shirt is not easy to come by. I find my favorite things when I don’t go into a store with an intention to buy.

What is the oldest item in your wardrobe and the newest? 
AT: My wardrobe has pieces I’ve owned since 8th grade!! But the oldest item would have to be my mother’s white oversize grandaddy pullover her brother gifted to her as a child. When I was younger it sat at the back of my wardrobe because I didn’t have a clue how to pull it off. Today it’s my comfort clothing.
My newest is a really fun scorching coral lace skirt from Anthropologie .

When you buy something new, do you view it in the context of your existing wardrobe or do you use it to make a change to your style? 
AT: A little of both. It’s important to me that the item is versatile and is something I can play with. I don’t steer towards one-time only wear. I like to get the most out of it and the best part is mixing it up to give me lots of different looks. Sometimes, I like to push myself and pick out things that are new to my comfort zone. It’s exciting and could possibly, on some occasions, spark a “who’da thunk it” moment!

Do you have a ‘uniform’ for everyday wear?
AT: Well, my everyday is usually school and that governs what I throw on. I can have a little fun in Design class but I’m aware of comfort for Construction class. Oh and all of it depends on the phase of the semester. More stress and sleepless nights = Hobo/Granny Chic and Out of Bed madness. Think oversized!

Is there a common thread that runs through your clothes? 
AT: I am an absolute emotional dresser. I can pick out a dress and it would remind me of the memory it holds, much like a holiday playlist. I also go through phases but mostly I think I have an affinity towards a deconstructed, lazy rocker-chic; androgynous meets ground zero of a neon explosion. I think.

How do you organize your wardrobe?
AT: I have a Monica complex. I organize and if I could, it would be through micro filters. But wardrobe space restricts my eccentricity from going overboard. I absolutely believe that what you don’t see, you don’t wear, so I make it a point to organize it in a way that allows me to see…as far as possible. Although, I do have boxes with labels, I love labels.

What is your advice to someone who wants to makeover their wardrobe? Where to start?
AT: I believe a person’s wardrobe has so much to do with who they are and how they feel that sometimes it boxes the possibility of taking the plunge. To makeover a wardrobe requires resolving those little inhibitions and also analyzing your existent wardrobe. I realized I had too many solids because I was fussy about prints; especially florals and I would overlook them at stores. When I wanted to change that, I paid more attention and was more open to it as long as it met me halfway; a little of that and yet a little of me. It boils down to allowing for a little adventure, you never know which ride you love most till you try it and yes, scream you’re guts out while at it!

Photos: Ayesha Tellis