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Spotlight On: Stephanie Cooper

Featured, Influencers, Persons of Interest  /   /  By Nina Louie

Recently, we ducked behind the scenes for a quick conversation with each of the women starring in our new Find Your Perfect campaign. Tune in as we talk closets and careers, brunch spots and beauty secrets, and more. 

Stephanie Cooper lives in a cozy apartment in Brooklyn Heights—so cozy, in fact, that when she told us she’d just moved there in September, it was hard to believe. Already, the place felt so settled, so her. “The things I have, they’ve traveled with me,” she said. But she was being modest. It takes flexibility and grace to settle in somewhere new so quickly—and these are exactly Stephanie’s strengths. We saw it in the way that she arranged her home, with tons of intentionally askew details and odd little conversation-starters everywhere. We also noticed it in her intuitive approach to clothes. For Stephanie, it’s not about perfection—it’s about what feels right. Read on to learn the art of her approach.

SS: You grew up in New York, and then you moved to London, where you lived for 35 years. How did living abroad influence your style?

SC: It was interesting, moving. It’s not that I reinvented myself, but I suddenly felt like I was able to be myself. I didn’t know anyone—except my husband—and I just thought: I can do whatever I want!

It sounds liberating.

It was very liberating. I moved when I was 26, and up until that time I hadn’t really ventured out of my shell. Moving there was a big venture out of my shell.

When it comes to clothes, are you a love-at-first-sight person?

Yes. I never go shopping for something. When I’m out and about and I see something fun, then I’ll get it. But I don’t like shopping just for the sake of shopping.

Are there certain stores where you prefer to shop?

There’s a shop in London called Egg. When I first moved there, I would wear navy blue trousers and a navy cardigan, and the woman who owns Egg, Maureen, would wear her Egg clothes. She had one outfit I loved; it was this great big white cotton skirt that ballooned and then was tight, and then there was this shirt over it with double-breasted buttons.

The shop was two doors down from my house, and there was a pub across the street. We were in the pub one day, and she said, let’s go in the bathroom and swap clothes and see what happens. And when we did, she looked ridiculous. I thought, oh my god, is that what I look like? And I loved her outfit that I had on, so of course I bought it.

Do you gravitate more toward colors or neutrals?

It’s unusual for me to wear red.

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It’s pretty bold.

Yes, I used to have auburn hair, and there was a lot of it and it was very sort of wild, and I wore it quite long. I remember I went to a shop in London, and the salesgirl said, you have so much going on with your hair and your freckles. The simpler you dress, the better. This stuck in my head. I took simple to mean a neutral color: black, navy, gray, white. The shape could be silly as long as the color was plain. And then I let my hair and freckles do the rest.

It sounds like you don’t have a uniform for what you wear.

You know, it’s funny. I do occasionally call my outfits “uniforms” because I have particular pairings in my head, so that I don’t have to think about them.

You mean pieces that you always wear together? I feel like that’s very French.

Yes, well, it works. I love clothes but I don’t like to think about them. Once they’re on, I don’t want to have to fiddle with them.

How did you approach dressing your daughters?

My one daughter, the older one, she let me dress her, but the younger daughter, no. She was so attentive with her clothes. Now my older daughter dresses the way I used to, and the younger one—she’s still making her own waves.

When you say, “How I used to dress,” do you mean the more conservative you?

Yes. As I get older, I get sillier.

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I heard you say that you like to mess things up when you see it looking too perfect. Is there some way you do that when your outfit is feeling too perfect?

My daughters and I sometimes, when we see someone walking down the street, the way they’re walking and holding themselves, we think they’re wearing their favorite outfit. And the outfit is just so matchy-matchy. I never want to look like that person wearing her favorite outfit. Something always has to be just a little bit off.

The idea behind eBay’s new fashion campaign is that everyone’s version of “perfect” is different. What do you think about that?

If there is perfection in women’s fashion, I haven’t seen it.

What do you do for a living?

In London, I worked with interior designers, and I absolutely loved it. But then friends of mine who liked the way I dressed would ask me to go shopping with them and sort out their wardrobes. And then they would tell their friends, and then it became a job.

Fun. Did you coach them on how to not be too matchy-matchy?

Yes. People would come to me because they liked my taste, so it was safe to presume they did not want to be matchy-matchy.

Do you have a favorite hangout in your neighborhood?

I love the promenade. I love the water. I went a few weeks ago when it was warm, and I had my book, and I went to the promenade, and the sun was streaming down, and I was looking at the skyline of Manhattan, just thinking, look at that.

So wonderful. What are you reading?

I’m reading this series of books, called The Neapolitan Novels. Do you know them?

Elena Ferrante?

Yes. Have you read it?

I’m on the first book, My Brilliant Friend.

You are in for such a treat. My daughters have read it. I have other friends in Europe reading it…

It seems like women everywhere are reading it—which is so cool. My mom is reading it, too. 

It’s just wonderful.

You mentioned that you don’t look at fashion magazines—is there anywhere else you seek style inspiration?

It’s interesting, because it’s difficult to find an older person who dresses in a way that I would like, and then I see a younger person and think: That’s too young for me. So I just sort of wander around looking at things. This dress came from a shop in Silver Lake, where one of my daughters was living. I walked down the road and found this shop with Vietnamese clothes, and I thought, I don’t wear red, but I like this. For me, it’s not about trends; it’s just about what I like.

Is there any one person you consider to be extremely fashionable?

Inès de la Fressange. I think she’s amazing.

Did you buy up her collection for Uniqlo?

Yes, I bought some things in store and others on eBay. Whenever they don’t have something in my size in a store, I’ll try it on in the wrong color, and then go to eBay.

I like how she uses red thread for just the top button of a blouse—little details like that.

Yes, she always puts red. What’s funny is that before I even knew that, I used red thread in so many things that I made just because I thought it was nice.

Have you made clothes?

No but I’ve made cushions, knitted blankets, scarves. I made that antimacassar over there, and this cover right here. And the needlepoint cushions. And, I made this lampshade. I covered it…

With grosgrain ribbon?

Antique grosgrain ribbon.

Such a perfect thing to find on eBay.

Ah, yes. You know what I did buy on eBay? These curtains are all French linen sheets. I made them in London, but when I moved here I was one short. I had the shop in London send me the fabric, but I still needed the rufflette and the hooks, so I went to eBay and found them there. It’s fantastic when you go to eBay. You know you’re going to find it there.

Love Stephanie’s look? Browse quirky, comfy clothes here.

Next up, we talk Marimekko and motherhood with lifestyle blogger Brooke Williams. Stay tuned.

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