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Hey, I Like Your Style! Exploring the wardrobe of Sydney-based vintage collector, Grace Corby

IMAGE VIA @GRACECORBY/INSTAGRAM
WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

“I have caught and released over 10,000 pieces of vintage clothing over the years. I feel very fortunate to source vintage for a living because it allows me to experiment.”

We know personal style is a journey (I’m looking at you, Tumblr years), so we’ve introduced a new series Hey, I Like Your Style! diving into the fashion psyche of our favourite creatives. We’re talking the good, the bad and the 2007.

While the internet has made our fashion icons feel closer than ever before, even the most effortless of outfits came from a closet with some (well-dressed) skeletons. Clickable product tags, photo archives and lives chronicled in 30-second clips just don’t tell the full story.


For more fashion news, shoots, articles and features, head to our Fashion section.


These are the stories behind the wardrobes, exploring how we develop our own personal style. There’s a brilliance behind the way we choose to express ourselves and at FJ, we know every outfit has a story.

This week, vintage collector and the founder of online vintage store Art Garments, Grace Corby, takes us into her wardrobe. I first stumbled upon Grace’s Instagram a few years back when I was writing about fashion for a now-defunct online publication and during a spot of research discovered her (very excellent) vintage store at the time, Fluff.

I was captivated by her eye-catching yet somehow effortless aesthetic. She is a true vintage connoisseur and her online store and social media feed are both packed full of mind-bogglingly beautiful pieces.

Like a total nerd, I often find myself taking screenshots of her looks and saving them to a folder on my phone titled ‘outfit ideas’ – that’s how skilled she is at putting together a top tier outfit/how obsessed I am with her sense of style. Below, take a peek into her style evolution and hear about her most coveted vintage finds.

Who are you and what do you like to wear?

I’m Grace Corby, a Sydney-based vintage lover/collector/curator. I’m the owner and sourceress of online vintage shop Art Garments. I live and breathe vintage and wear it almost exclusively, 99 per cent of the time.

 

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What has your style evolution looked like? Do you feel like you’ve gained confidence in the way you dress?

I became a teenager right at the turn of the millennium, what a time. Like most my age my wardrobe was populated with Supre and the odd smattering of surf brands like Roxy. Luckily a wonderful friend dragged me into an op shop one day after school when I was 14 and I never looked back.

 

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I have caught and released over 10,000 pieces of vintage clothing over the years. I feel very fortunate to source vintage for a living because it allows me to experiment. I bring pieces home, ‘do a fashion show’ (for myself or my partner if he’s lucky) and decide to keep or sell. I have gained so much confidence in the way I dress through this process.

 

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The sheer quantity of vintage clothing that has passed through my hands has given me such a firm knowledge of fabrics and cuts. I know what works on me, what doesn’t. I have also travelled broadly and encountered many beautiful textile traditions. I’ve been to markets all over the world and absorbed all I could. I have a vast mental cache of references I now use.

 

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I’ve always found dressing to feel like an inventive process. I like to challenge the intended purpose of an item of clothing – bunch it, tie it, wear it backwards, let it know who’s boss. I remember rudimentary experimentation as a teenager wearing a lot of thrifted skirts as dresses. My style icons were Sienna Miller in cowboy boots, Kate Moss in gladiator sandals [and the] Olsen twins in slouchy beanies, slouchy everything.

 

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These women were not obviously dressed in designer or trend-driven. They didn’t have stylists. They combined high and low. Their pieces looked lived-in and loved, maybe scooped up off their bedroom floor and added last minute. I have definitely taken this forward with me. I like to wear fancy with unfancy with unexpected touches. With this perpetual experimentation comes confidence.

 

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Personal style is a journey. Have you ever felt like you needed to fit into a particular fashion box?

I always overdress and I’m glad for it. I don’t believe in casual. I *get* dressing purely for comfort but I don’t believe in activewear unless I’m practising an activity like that minute, and even then I prefer an ’80s cotton/lycra bodysuit. I believe in making an effort in the every day and I think that’s getting rarer. But I find the process of getting dressed to be an exercise in creativity (thus fulfilling), so it makes sense to me to invest a little time and energy each day into it. I know others would find that a tiresome waste.

 

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It’s amazing to me the symbolism of clothing, the signals it sends, how you can alter the energy you give off by changing your look. I’m always conscious of this when I dress myself, about the energy a look gives. You can’t opt out of this. Even if you’re Steve Jobs. The same skivvy and jeans every day tell people something about you and what you believe. Of course, you don’t have to care what it is but it’s still sending a message.

 

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Being completely honest and vulnerable here, I always want my exterior to hint at a rich interior. I guess I strive to make my looks ‘interesting’. Just a little pique. They’re not for everyone, I know I’d appear insufferable to some, but I’m not hailing them. I trust my messages are received appreciated-ly by the right people. Sometimes I get heckled, sometimes I get compliments.

 

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Take us back to those awkward teenage years. Do you have any fashion regrets?

I’m remembering my Supre at Youth Group era where I would copy the older girls… an off-shoulder sweatshirt with the word ‘famous’ in glitter across the front teamed with capiz shell earrings, low-rise denim flares and cork platforms. I actually don’t regret that outfit but more the thought of directly carbon-copying my youth group leader. Get your own thing, girl!

 

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But I was 12 so I should give myself a break, I was just finding my feet. It’s hard to regret anything, even the cringe outfits like a knee-length brown silk dupion bubble skirt I made very unskilfully in Fashion Tech at school, an old ’80s tee with a cut neckline and cowboy boots. Even looks as bad as this were a lesson.

 

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What are the most expensive and least expensive items in your wardrobe?

Most expensive is probably my Margiela patent Tabis. I wanted them for a decade before I decided to purchase them – I needed to be sure! Least expensive would be a tie of hundreds of items I’ve picked up over the years at op shops and flea markets for less than a dollar.

 

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Recently a neighbour nearby put suitcases of clothes on the street (which of course I quickly ferreted home). One was her daughter’s that remained unpacked from a 1998 trip to Japan. It was like a time capsule! These pieces were blessedly free so they win the ‘least expensive’ award.

 

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What is the most meaningful fashion piece you own?

That’s a tough one, I own so many pieces. I think it would have to be my year 12 formal dress, weird I know! It’s a general rule of thumb that 2007 formal choices are a site of affectionate embarrassment but mine was and remains one of the most beautiful gowns I’ve ever found. 1970s salmon crepe, voluminous batwing sleeves and full skirt. Delicate trail of buttons on the back.

 

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I remember hunting for something with no vision in mind, just the idea that I would know it when I saw it. I found it at Shag on Oxford St (now sadly gone). I think it’s meaningful because I persevered on a very long hunt and instinctively fell in love on sight. It was different to anything I’d owned but I followed my gut. The workmanship in it, the specialness of it.

What’s in your cart at the moment?

Lots of vintage Manolos. I’ve become a little obsessed.

 

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What fashion piece are you saving for right now? 

Last year I sold much of my vintage eyewear collection and now I’m considering reinvesting. I’m very drawn to ’70s and ’80s Dior – there’s something magical about them. I have a few pairs now and yearn for a display wall full.

What are the wardrobe items you wear on repeat?

Silk scarves. They’re so versatile and add a bit of interest and texture to anything. My friend who’s a textile designer teamed up with me last year to create a small range of wearable silk artworks – quite literally Art Garments – that are designed to work on your body or on your wall. We made larger squares that work as tops, sarongs, butt-bandanas or longer runners that work as sash belts, tops. I’m always adding them to my vintage [collection].

 

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Who are your favourite local designers?

I exclusively shop vintage – I’m a bad person to ask about this!

See more of Grace’s killer looks here. and explore Art Garments’ range here.

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