Tawnee Clifton Wants Phoenix to Have an Underground Fashion Scene

Tawnee Clifton's style inspirations also include Alexander Wang and Lydia Deets of Beetlejuice.
Tawnee Clifton's style inspirations also include Alexander Wang and Lydia Deets of Beetlejuice.
Andie Flores

If you look inside of Tawnee Clifton's closet, you'll find nothing but black clothing.

The 20-year-old wears black every single day, which means she not only has to get creative with her style, but she also understands the importance of a good layering piece.

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Clifton, who was born in Mesa, grew up in Gilbert, and now resides in Tempe, has always liked clothes and has always worn what she calls "really strange things."

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"I had this outfit growing up that was all tan and fringe, and I'd wear it three times a week to elementary school. I just liked things that were a little different."

Clifton says she wasn't conscious of the meaning behind her clothing choices when she was younger, but in high school it began to come together more clearly.

"I was pretty stuck in the whole hipster vibe for a little bit, but I always felt a little uncomfortable. Currently, I like a feminine yet androgynous style. I like to take masculine fits and make them feminine. When I started at EVIT in Fashion Merchandising, I just started paying a little more attention to high fashion. From there I developed an understanding of what I saw to be more artful."

The real art is how Clifton has been able to keep her day-to-day looks fresh while working with a black-on-black palette.

"I wear black every day but I don't have to use patterns to make an outfit," says Clifton. "I use fabrics and textures to make things a bit more sculpted. Good layering pieces turn any wardrobe into a bigger wardrobe without actually having a ton of pieces.

"When I think of my style, it's very clean but very drapey, flowy, and fun. It's a mixture of all the things in the world that aren't colors. Textures, shadows, silhouettes. I'll even look up architecture when I'm getting ready to give my outfits a different feel."

Clifton says she likes to mix a "badass, monochromatic Alexander Wang look" with a 1960s fun, spirited look. While fashion of the '60s was colorful and vibrant, Clifton still achieves the retro style by working in the same A-line dresses and silhouettes of the time.

Alexander Wang is Clifton's biggest designer inspiration, but she's also loves style icons like the Olsen twins, Victoria Beckham, Edie Sedgwick, Winona Ryder, Jean Seberg, and Françoise Hardy. She's also a fan of darker pop-culture characters. There was a time period when Lydia Deets from Beetlejuice was Clifton's main style icon, and she cites Morticia Addams as her spirit animal.

Clifton has done some clothing designing and loves sewing, but she isn't sure she'd like to make that a career. Instead, she would love to organize arty fashion events.

"I have this image of running a whole fashion show that's an art piece. Yes, we have things like Phoenix Fashion Week out here, but I want an underground fashion scene.

"Imagine pop-up fashion shows in warehouses or houses," suggests Clifton. "Having it all set up with projectors and food and people and dress themes and a DJed after party all in one night. That's what I'd like to see. Mixing the world and subculture that we have and putting the fashion into it."

The idea is Andy Warhol-esqe, and a testament to Clifton's vision of fashion as art.

"Why are we trying to be these big rock stars of fashion? Let's have fun with groups of people."  

What are you wearing? I'm wearing some vintage Via Spiga patent leather pointy boots, a half-mesh pencil skirt I got from Buffalo Exchange, a MaxMara pullover drape blouse, and a white layering piece.

Where do you usually shop? I definitely shop at Buffalo Exchange a lot since it is in the neighborhood, but I also love thrifting at places like Meat Market Vintage when it was still open, Cellar Door Vintage, and Goodwill. I wear a lot of retro styles so I like to pull pieces from thrift stores and mix them with things from higher price points and things with more construction to modern times.

What was the last item of clothing you bought? This MaxMara top.

Name five things every woman should have in her closet. 1) Good layering pieces 2) Black, strappy, thick leather sandals 3) A great ankle boot 4) Pencil skirts -- always 5) A pair of good relaxed-fit shorts

What's a trend you can't stand? I'm not the biggest fan of the Coachella-goer look. The fringe, the light wash shorts with a floral top and a weird headpiece... I'm pretty over it.

Give us a childhood memory of you and clothes. When I was younger, purple was my very favorite color. I got a purple tank top and wore it every day. I had been wearing it three days in a row and at dinner one night, my mom told me she wanted me to change so she could clean it. I threw a really big fit, and just to make a point, I bit a hole through the shirt. I was never able to wear it again. But that way my mom would never ever ask me to change out of my favorite clothes ever again. This was in kindergarten but I'd probably still do something like that today.

What's your one piece of fashion advice for Phoenix? Don't think about it so much. What you wear really makes you you. There's nothing that's ever particularly out of style. Don't be afraid to mix it up or tone it down. I wear basics every single day but I mix so much into it. Take everything you wear and turn it into a piece of art.

Editor's note: This post has been modified from its original version.

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Buffalo Exchange

227 W. University Dr.
Tempe, AZ 85281

480-968-2557

www.buffaloexchange.com


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