What Are You Wearing?

Amy Radcliffe on Thrifting, Weird Fashion, and the First Time She Felt Swagged Out

Amy Radcliffe's life is made up of seemingly unrelated ingredients, as she puts it. Part of the time, she works at Crepe Bar in Tempe. She also works with children at A New Leaf, an organization in Mesa that offers support services to families and individuals. And when something comes along that piques her interest, Radcliffe is a freelance painter. 

Radcliffe doesn't seem to follow many rules. Not that she's the rebel without a cause type; Radcliffe just doesn't conform and isn't afraid to do or wear what she wants and embrace what others may call "weird." 

"Freedom to express myself however I want with my style is important to me — so I change it up pretty often so I'm not held to one specific expectation for how I'm going to look," she says. 

When describing her personal style, Radcliffe kept returning to that word. She values freedom in the way her clothes fit, in that one day she may wear a dress and heels and the next show up in sweats, and in that she would rather hunt for individual pieces that she can create outfits around than have a store suggest how she combines pieces. 

Radcliffe sits in a sheer, olive green dress over a fitted black dress, both thrifted, as she explains more about her personal style and what she wears. 

What's one on the weirdest things you have in your closet?
I do have a weird jumper. It's very African-looking, but I love it. It's a strapless jumper, and it's tight from the top to the waist and then it has weird baggy pants-like things. So sometimes I'll wear it with a t-shirt so it just looks like weird pants. So even though it's weird, I can still mix it up. The other outfit that I might wear actually is a newer item. I don't even know what it is because... it's technically like a romper almost but it's longer. It's flowy. It's somewhere between a jumper and romper, but it's just subtly connected [between the pant legs] so it almost drapes kind of funny, but I kind of like that. It's very strange. 

I really wanted to wear this one thing, but I couldn't find it. I share a lot of my clothes with my roommates. But I have this very weird piece. To me, it looks either Oriental or Indian, and it's like a thick lace. It's a synthetic material. It's definitely not cotton. I'm not sure what it is. And it has mesh in between, and yet it has buttons all the way to the top and the buttons stop right about [at ther waist] and then there are slits on both sides. It's so weird. That may be one of the weirdest things, and I definitely have to wear an entire dress underneath it...I'm pretty sure it's honestly some kind of Indian lingerie. That's what it looks like. It looks very foreign like it's not from America. 

Where do you shop?
Definitely thrift stores. Goodwill, but only on the half off days. Even Goodwill is kind of expensive at times. Their base price for a dress is $9.99, which...is kind of a lot for a crappy, used dress. You can find $10 dresses that are brand new on sale somewhere. So I go on the half-off days or the dollar days on Thursdays. Goodwill, for sure, and then, if I'm splurging, I'll go to Buffalo Exchange, which is funny because they're still used clothes, but those are a little more expensive... However, they're pretty consistent. Like if I'm going to a wedding, and I know I'm going to need a dress right now, I'll go to Buffalo Exchange and know I'll find something.

And then I'll shop the Target clearance, for sure... and then, honestly, my roommates' closets. What's been so cool about living here and living with roommates who have similar styles is, especially when my approach is the ingredients approach to piecing together an outfit, having the options of my roommates' closets is pretty handy. 

What was the last piece you bought?
It was that weird rompy, jumpy one [from Buffalo Exchange.] I bought that dress and a different one because I had a wedding, and I just bought them really quickly and then I got home and put them both on and my roommate was like, 'Yeah, that one's kind of weird for a wedding. People may not fully understand." But I think I could have worn it. Put some nude heels with it — they work with everything. 

From where do you draw style inspiration?
I don't know if there is a source where I draw it from... This is a tangent to your question. So, my roommate is a hair stylist, and she does my hair all the time just because. I kind of let her experiment, so my hair changes a lot. Honestly, as I'm thinking about the colors I'm into right now and the style I'm kind of into...my style stays the same, but my color palette changes a lot, and I kind of think it has to do with my hair color. There are colors of hair that I've had that completely change what colors I can wear. And you wouldn't think that that's a big deal because I've mostly had shades of brown, but then I went blonde and that changed everything. I couldn't wear certain colors. I really clung to blues, every shade of blue, when I was a blonde. Now, [my hair's] a little bit darker, so I'm still sticking with the earthy tones. 

I'm less inspired by a specific source when it comes to my style generally because that's always the same stuff. I want to be comfortable, I want to wear things that are flattering, and I want to feel unique and free. So that doesn't really change ever, even when I was in junior high wearing weird things that would probably now be considered really cool... but colors, I'm definitely inspired by colors whether that be my hair color or the seasons. 

What is your earliest memory of fashion?
One of the first moments, and I'll have to [guess] how old I was. I was probably about 6, but where I was like, "I look good. I'm wearing a cool outfit, and I feel good about it." My mom has photos from that day because we were with my family. But you know how sometime you look at a photo and then remember it. No, I remember this like from being me, from my perspective that day. I had a pink raincoat, and pink rain boots, and a pink umbrella, and a pink heart-shaped piggy bank. I think they all came as a gift together but I remember being like, "I am swagged out."

As a little girl, I had a pair of cowboy boots that I wore everywhere. I had a pair of Tweety Bird overalls that I was obsessed with. They were embroidered. They were the short kind too, not the full-length. Oh yeah, loved those. I had this purple windbreaker that I vowed to myself that I would save until I had a daughter of my own because I thought it was so great. And I'm pretty sure my mother got rid of it. 

What is a trend that you wish would stop?
I don't like the no-bra look. But who does like the no-bra look? ...No side boob, none of that. It's just risky. I don't know how you could be comfortable with that. But, you know, that goes with my motivator... I want to feel comfortable, and that's definitely not going to be included in that. 

What are five things that every woman should have in her closet?
1. Simple, versatile black dress
2. An oversized, long-sleeve plaid shirt
3. Salt water sandals — I swear by these
4. This isn't for everyone, but definitely for me, a pari of high-waisted jeans
5. A flowy skirt — something that looks real nice when the wind blows
Bonus: A good bralette 

What is one piece of advice you'd give to people in Phoenix about fashion?
I would say to get creative. That's kind of cheesy, but it's really easy to go to these name-brand stores and buy an ensemble that already put together for you, that you'd see in a catalogue. But you have just as many resources to do that on your own. It requires intentionality, but that can be a good thing when it comes to what you're wearing. And it can require looking at a piece and seeing it as something more than what it is in the gross thrift store where you found it. But that, again, is what makes it so neat, even shopping for used clothing, unique and cool. You're taking something that's old and kind of gross and compared to all the other old and gross things that it's next to can just look old and gross but seeing potential in it and redeeming that is kind of exciting. And it's so much cheaper. 
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Evie Carpenter is a visual journalist. Using photography, videography, design, and sometimes words, she tells stories she hopes make a bit of difference in the world, even if those stories are in list form and include GIFs.
Contact: Evie Carpenter