Assistant professor Erica Allen-Kim teaches architectural history and urban design at the University of Toronto. Her wardrobe is a mix of life-long investment pieces, fun items she grabs on sale, and one workhorse bag she pairs with everything. “It has changed my life,” she explains. “All it can hold are keys, a phone, a few cards and chapstick. I think of it as part of my body at this point.” Here, Erica shares five looks she wore in a week…
“This kilt is really important to me, since it’s a hand-me-down from my aunt. She’s a concert pianist and picked this up when she was touring the U.K. in the 60s. I pull it out every four or five years and wear it for a short while, and then put it away for safekeeping. It’s too big for me, really, but it connects me to my family history. Aside from the kilt, the rest of the outfit is pretty typical for me. I wear this Uniqlo gingham top with everything. It’s baggy, but I like the artful tucking and untucking of things, like pushing up a sleeve to show the shirt under the sweater. I tend to do that throughout the day — just rearrange myself a bit to reveal another part of my outfit.”
“This jumpsuit was an epiphany for me. At the Toronto boutique Horses Atelier, I saw the beautiful, GLOWING pink fabric, but I’m petite and I knew the jumpsuit would be way too big. The sales associate was like, ‘Just see what happens.’ I put it on and felt totally overwhelmed. But then I started rolling the sleeves, rolling the legs, popping the collar, and all of a sudden it was just like, ‘This is the most ME I have ever felt in my life.’ Now it has become my power suit. I wear it to work all the time — especially when I’m feeling down or doing final reviews. I feel strong and purposeful, that I’m working hard and I’m good at what I do. I’ve sort of become the professor in the pink jumpsuit.”
“Oh my goodness, this outfit is amazing because it feels like one giant sweater! I eyed this skirt for years before I bought it. Every time I tried it on, I would think, ‘It’s too form-fitting, it’s not age appropriate.’ I don’t know what changed — maybe I’m just getting older — but finally I was like, ‘Who cares? Why am I worrying so much about what other people think? It’s elegant and comfortable, and it’ll keep me warm!’ If I’m self-conscious, I can layer it with a long sweater and if I want to show off my shape, why not? Clothing conveys our mood and how we want to project ourselves in the world. This is my no-nonsense academic outfit, but it’s still soft and cozy.”
Ring: Corey Moranis.
“I love this lucite ring because it’s handmade, it’s not very expensive, and even though it’s lightweight it’s basically indestructible. And when you have two boys — I have a six-year-old and a nine-year-old — it’s bit of a challenge to wear fine jewelry. I actually lost a stone in my eternity band! Most days I just put on this ring and nothing else.”
“Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have been caught dead in pants like these. I would have assumed the wide, cropped silhouette would make me look really short. But cropped pants have come a long way, and I learned how to style them by showing a little ankle. These ankle boots make every outfit amazing (as you can see, I’m wearing them in every look!). I actually bought them in a total panic, when I was on my way to a job interview six years ago. Back then, all I wore were Birkenstocks, clogs, sneakers and sandals, and right before leaving I realized I had no dressy shoes! They’re Rachel Comey’s Mars booties and they were a HUGE expense, like 400 dollars. You know how your budget suddenly goes out the window when you’re desperate and in a rush? It was insane. But now I wear them every day. They turned out to be a great investment.”
“Old-school mini markets like these are disappearing in Toronto, for many reasons. Part of my research is looking at gentrification of different neighborhoods, so I’ve been really interested in looking at what’s happened in my own, Kensington Market. This place is one of the hold-outs and I love it. It’s super cheap and convenient, and I like that I can get random things, like fish sauce and lavender honey, in addition to basic groceries. I always have at least two of these Baggu bags on me at all times. They’re cute, they wash well, and they have great patterns. Sometimes I use a carabiner clip to keep them together. It’s like we’re going on an expedition, my kids and I. Before we go out, I’m like, ‘All right, everyone got their bag?’ It just keeps life easy. No matter what happens in your day you always have the bag, thank goodness.”
Thank you so much, Erica!
(Photos by Judy Nguyen for Cup of Jo, taken at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design.)