Roughing it in style

Photography by Tina Sargeant • Hair by Josh Vasquez, Evolve Hair Studio

With busy schedules and family demands, it’s rare for me to have an opportunity to carve out time with girlfriends. It’s even rarer to spend some quality downtime with girls who share a similar passion. However, on a recent weekend, I did just that. While channeling our inner girl scouts, my friends and I talked fashion, families, careers, fall/ winter trends we were excited about, swapped styling secrets, sipped hot chocolate, and dined on S’mores. It was good ol’ fashioned girl time — “glamping” style. In true stylist fashion, we paid tribute to our glam theme but gave a nod to the great outdoors when it came to packing for our girls’ getaway.
That being said, you’ll notice our glamping attire wasn’t all Hunter boots and plaid button-ups. So sit back, put your feet up, and go camping with us, girls’ style. I promise valuable fashion insight, with some laughs sprinkled in along the way, as I give you a glimpse into the lives and minds of some of Lakeland’s leading fashion experts. Who knows, maybe this will inspire you to schedule a night off, drink in some of Lakeland’s cooler fall weather, and plan a girls’ night under the stars.
Meet Marie Massey, Ashley Gardner, Paige Milam, and Sarah Powers.
Marie Massey took an interest in fashion at a young age. She started out playing dress-up as a little girl, sketching clothing on napkins in grade school, styling and photographing friends as a teenager, and studying fashion her first year of college. All of those things eventually led her to styling and selling vintage items in her online store, Loco Flamingo. Her real passion is creating looks for photo shoots because she “never stopped playing dress-up.” (
Ashley Gardner and Paige Milam have always been interested in fashion and got their start at the International Academy of Design where they received their B.A.s in fashion merchandising.In 2009, the two began their styling venture, “Of a Feather.” Together they’ve styled for television projects such as ION TV, the Contour Top infomercial, and Good Day Tampa Bay on Fox 13 News. They’ve also styled for publications such as Vegas Magazine, VM International Magazine, and La Palm Magazine. They worked New York Fashion Week for Nicole Miller with preshow production, backstage look assembly, and as ushers to attendees. They participated in New York Couture Fashion Week, Miami Beach Fashion Week featuring Mission Catwalk finalists, and the Tampa Bay Rays’ Benefit Fashion Show. They assisted Tim Gunn for Tim Gunn’s Fashion Exhibit in Tampa, styled Mindy Hilty from the TV show, Smash, and assisted with wardrobe selection for clients such as Kristen Stewart, Alicia Keys, and Carly Rae Jepsen for various celebrity appearances. They also pulled garments for set wardrobe with hit shows like The Carrie Diaries and Gossip Girl. (
Sarah Powers, mom to three daughters and one son, has a strong interest in fashion and a background working in youth ministry. In November 2012, Sarah founded Top Buttons, a
nonprofit organization that offers young women a fashion resource with a modest twist, including fashion educational services and new wardrobes for underprivileged teens. Top Buttons’ online fashion blog has contributors from around the world. (

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Who has been your biggest influence stylistically, and how has that shaped your personal aesthetic?

Marie: Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen have been my style icons since I was young. I love how their wardrobes are so eclectic. They put together different styles of clothing, creating such unique looks. I get bored easily, so I love how they constantly switch it up while keeping a bit of their signature looks.

Ashley: I enjoy watching classic films; therefore, women like Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Katharine Hepburn have heavily influenced my style. I wear mostly black, white, and beige, and like to layer jewelry to create a chic yet modern look.

Paige: My biggest style influence is Rachel Zoe. She has such an innate style that seems effortless but makes a major statement. The way she tells a story of who she wants to be on a particular day through clothing and accessories is so inspiring to me.

Sarah: My biggest style influence is one of my best friends, Paula Roach. Whether she’s wearing an inexpensive teal jacket from Walmart or a fancy little black dress, Paula always has a trendy and classy look. Her passion to serve and care for others keeps her from impulse or indulgent buys, and her attire never demands attention. With a life that reflects a rare and genuine beauty, it makes what she wears even more lovely. Maybe this isn’t the typical answer for this question, but it’s her balanced perspective on fashion that has impacted my personal aesthetic the most.

What style secret do you feel our readers would benefit from knowing?

Marie: More often than not, wearing vintage from head to toe does not create the best look. I always mix vintage pieces with new pieces. It keeps the outfit from looking like a costume.

Ashley: The greatest styling advice I’ve ever heard came from Jackie Walker, the Dr. of Closetology and author of I Don’t Have a Thing to Wear. She told me the only way to get dressed in the morning is to truly know yourself, and that means knowing your own style, what you’re comfortable wearing and feel beautiful in. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have every trend down the runway, but rather that when you go shopping, incorporate pieces into your wardrobe that mean something to you and make you feel good.

Paige: Dress for your body type. I see so many women who are insecure with their clothing sizes when in reality no one but you is going to see the tiny, insignificant number that’s inside. It’s all about the lines — finding the right cut can instantly make anyone look taller and thinner. Tailoring is a simple and cost-efficient way of gaining that perfect fit for your body without paying the couture bucks.

Sarah: Many of the current options for clothes are made with thin or sheer fabrics, making undershirts and slips essential for keeping the outfit comfortable, smooth, and professional looking. When you find one that fits best and provides the coverage you’re looking for, buy a few in multiple colors. They’ll wear out more slowly, and your favorite may not always be in stock.

What’s your favorite fall/winter wardrobe staple?

Marie: My boots. I have a collection that ranges from tall, sleek, black boots to old, beat-up cowboy boots. When it starts to get chilly, I wear boots with almost every outfit. If I need to dress up an outfit but don’t want to wear heels, I wear my dressy boots, and when I need to dress down an outfit, I put on my cowboy boots. Couldn’t live without them.

Ashley: Boots. I love wearing all kinds of fall/winter boots, like ankle boots with tights and a skirt, or knee-high boots paired over skinny jeans and a billowy top. In my opinion, boots are the best thing about fall.

Paige: The cardigan. Whether it’s oversized or a slim fit, it’s the perfect layering piece. It’s also a way to be comfortable and look put together as well, which is always a plus.

Sarah: The jean jacket is my must-have fall/ winter staple. It crosses over from one style to the next and is currently both a classic and trendy piece. Personally, I love the contrast of
layering it with delicate, feminine dresses for something a bit unexpected.

How will you incorporate your favorite fall trend into your wardrobe this season? What trend will you not be spotted in?

Marie: I love mixing styles, so I’ll incorporate leather into my wardrobe. I love putting unexpected pieces together such as wearing a leather jacket over a floral dress. One trend I probably won’t be wearing this fall is statement outerwear. While I love vintage furs, this Florida heat does not accommodate that trend.

Ashley: I love the fall trend of rocker chic. It can be as simple as incorporating a little leather into your outfit, like wearing a long-sleeve shirt where the sleeves are leather, or a skirt with a peak-a-boo of leather at the bottom. The trend was shown on runways with flannel and studded boots. One fall trend that I won’t be sporting is that of menswear fabrics and coats. It’s too oversized for me and isn’t flattering on my body type. Again, it’s all about knowing yourself and what you are or are not comfortable with.

Paige: Right now I’m really feeling fur — faux, of course! I think a little bit goes a long way, so whether it’s a fur vest or even on the lining of a jacket with cropped sleeves, it adds a touch of instant fab to your look. One trend hot off the 2013 runway you won’t see me sporting is the return of the turtleneck. While Donna Karan and J.Crew seem to make it work, my round facial structure with this trend is a hit and miss.

Sarah: With the coming of fall and winter, I love to [incorporate] flannel into my outfits. But this year I plan on wearing it as a soft boho-style maxi skirt instead of a top. It’s safe to say, I will not be spotted wearing a sheer top with only a bra or bandeau underneath even though it has become a popular trend.

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What’s one of the biggest fashion mistakes women make?

Marie: Everyone’s body is different, and there are some trends that don’t look the best on certain body shapes. I’m guilty of this at times too, but all it takes is seeing one picture
of yourself in that trend to realize, That’s not a good look for me. Sometimes there are ways to modify the trend to your body shape. Always ask a friend (one who’s not scared to tell you the truth), or take a picture at different angles to see how it really looks.

Ashley: One of the biggest mistakes I see women making for fall is wearing leggings as pants when they’re wearing a normal-length shirt. The legging trend should be paired with long billowy tops or short dresses. It is just so unflattering to be wearing leggings with a short top; they show every flaw in the body.

Paige: One of the biggest fashion mistakes I see women make is wearing the wrong size. Going up a size can save us from the dreaded “muffin top.” Also, finding the right undergarments is a huge help. Spanx has a ton of options for both tops and bottoms and gives your body that smooth look.

Sarah: In today’s culture it’s increasingly more popular for women to show confidence by baring their skin. But I believe women will actually feel the most confident when wearing clothing that is comfortable and proper fitting, while still expressing their own unique style. It’s important to keep in mind that what’s trendy isn’t always appropriate. We can be inspired by some trends, but we shouldn’t feel pressured to wear them.

What are some of your favorite Lakeland fashion spots you would encourage our readers to check out?

Marie: Salvation Army and small thrift stores in the downtown area. But you have to enjoy the hunt. I love when I find a vintage gem for under ten dollars. Half the fun for me is taking an old piece of clothing and making it come to life again by mixing it with the modern clothing in my closet.

Ashley: I shop at The Loft, and New York and Company in Lakeside Village because they have classic pieces that I can easily incorporate into my wardrobe. Also, Paige and I love thrifting at stores like the Saint Francis Thrift Boutique on McDonald Street and Good As New on South Florida Avenue. Target also has a lot of great trends in its store. Phillip Lim just launched his Target line, and it has some really great pieces.

Paige: Lately I’ve been a huge fan of Pac Sun. They’ve started carrying a few new lines like Brandy Melville, and Kendall and Kylie which have some amazing finds. But I also love the shoe selections at Charlotte Russe, which has been a long-time favorite of mine.

Sarah: As a busy mom, I often grab some groceries, diapers, and a new graphic T-shirt, all while shopping at the south-side Target. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time to spend shopping around for my personal closet. But, without fail, if I want to find a new piece for a specific upcoming event, it’s at Hattie’s Branches Boutique on South Florida Avenue.