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StreetStyle: Brenda Johnson

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Brenda Johnson

Sadly, fashion marketers gear their energy to a younger audience, not leaving much guidance for older generations. Brenda Johnson's found that sticking with classics, using pops of colour and designing her own outfits is how she stays current and trendy. Johnson recently returned from China, where she had a tailor make her clothes for her. Although English wasn't the common denominator, style was -- they made do with drawings, hand gestures and few Mandarin words and the result was stylish comfortable clothing that Johnson felt really reflected her style and wasn't something made for the masses.

What she wore...

Coat -- "It's from a vintage store in the Exchange. The owner had a hidden section on the top floor of the store and that's where he had all the coats. It's actually lambswool, very soft and warm."

Scarf -- "I just spent nine months in China and Kuala Lumpur. I think I got it in Kuala Lumpur and it just happened to match. I was teaching health care in China and then I was doing some development work at a university college in Kuala Lumpur. I'm kind of in transition mode; I might go back."

Gloves -- "These are old; I can't remember."

Boots -- "These are from Polo Park in West Point. I think they're Rockport boots and they're waterproof."

Glasses -- "I got these last year at For Eyes Optical in Tuxedo, but I didn't take them to China -- they felt too loud for China. I didn't realize that they are louder there in terms of style. I just didn't want to look like a really ritzy foreigner...."

How was the shopping out there?

"You know, as an older woman and a slightly larger woman in China, the shopping was terrible. Everybody looked like Barbie dolls to me, especially when they wear four-inch heels and they're into '50s styles. So I had a tailor make clothes for me; I got to design my own oriental designs. It was very inexpensive and it was so much fun. It was about $11 per item. They have fantastic tailors in China. I bought the fabric, but he would take me around and show me the different kinds of fabrics and I would get to choose. He didn't know any English... so I drew it out, used hand signs and a few Mandarin words and that was about it."

Fashion essential

"I love a Japanese- or Chinese-style jacket; they're loose and they kind of have dropped shoulders. You put it on and it's very rich looking. They usually have a little clasp, it's really roomy -- I had a lot of those made for me when I was in China."

Style inspiration


"I don't actually go to any magazines or TV for help because it's all geared towards young people and it's really sad. There's nothing for older women, so we've really got to make up our own style. I think I really try to have grace as I get older -- I don't want to be too trendy but I really like to be creative and feel comfortable with myself. And as I age, that's the most important part. I think I just go for what I like; I think I have a creativity that I use in my style."

Did being in China inspire your style?

"When you go to China, you look for the scholars, and the philosophers and the information on the dynasties and all that, and then you meet modern-day China and it's like billionaires with excessive, gross kinds of things that aren't really inspiring. But I think there is another part to China, ancient China, that is so classic and its own civilization. It's very rich that way, so I enjoy that. Malaysia, there are so many cultures there: 60 per cent Muslims, 20 per cent Chinese, 10 per cent Indian -- you get Bollywood every day on the TV. There's a lot of richness happening. As a North American, you just soak it up. Colour is big over there; for me, I like a pop. I tend to be a little monochromatic as I get older but I like my clothes to be happy. I want them to be happy clothes."

What are happy clothes?

"Happy clothes have life to them, whether it be in the style or the texture. I really love textures."

Fashion tip

"Having a great coat like this is pretty fundamental. I would go back to getting my clothes made. That's fun. I'm working with a co-operative right now for women getting out of prison and they're setting up a sewing co-op for them. So instead of looking for mass-produced clothing, maybe look into something more local and creative. Winnipeg has extraordinary, beautiful women because of the ethnic mix here. I think it's because the lifestyle is pretty set. It's not too stressful."

Twitter: @WpgStreetStyle Facebook: Winnipeg StreetStyle Instagram: @winnipegstreetstyle

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 18, 2013 E10

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