Summer is coming to a close and fall is quickly making an appearance, I hope. This week we had the pleasure of speaking to Sabina Vajraca. As wonderfully put on her website, she’s a “filmmaker by day and fashion lover by night”; film and fashion, two words that sound too perfect for each other. At a glance Sabina is a New Yorker with a bit of the classic touch; she posts pictures of everyday attire mixed with a bit of her grandmother’s closet. I personally think that in a word so keen on the future should look to the past a bit to see the finer points in fashion. This is why coming across Sabina is such a treat!
Story Leather: I have to ask, what inspired you to look through the old fashion lady attire?
Sabina: My grandma Azemina was a product of old European aristocracy, and a lady in full sense of that word. I spent most of my early childhood with her, listening to stories of life before WWII and glamour of old money that her family lost when the Communists came. She never left the house without her lipstick on, and wore only furs in winter. To an impressionable young girl with wild imagination she might as well have been a movie star stepping right out of those old Hollywood films I was already devouring at that point.
It wasn’t until many years later, however, that I realized that those years with her had a profound influence on me, most deeply in my fashion sense. I love coming up with outfits that grandma Azemina would approve of, and try my best to never leave my house without my lipstick on, even when rushing to a film set at 4 o’clock in the morning.
Story Leather: How did you come up with your fashion philosophy?
Sabina: I have to credit my mom on this one. She always had a very unique style and taught me not to be afraid to try things even if no one else is doing it. It took me years to get as confident as she is, though. But at one point I started thinking “what would mom wear” and dared to push my fashion to the realm of my own.
I’ve been told many times “only you can pull that off” to which I always reply “I am nothing special. Anyone can pull anything off. You just have to dare to do it.” Besides most of the time I am not really doing anything that unusual. I’m just putting things together in a perhaps a more unique or unseen-before way. Anyone can do that!
Story Leather: If you had to pick two outfits, new and old, and represent you the best what would you pick and why? I know two is tough.
Sabina: Oh man. That’s really a tough one. But if I think about it, I’d say these two fit the bill very well:
The first one is a beautiful vintage gown I wore to a friend’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival a few years back. It’s glamorous and ladylike in that old Hollywood sense that I deeply appreciate, and channel whenever I can.
For a whole decade before settling into my grandmaesque style I was very much into punk and still love finding ways to add that dash of rebellion to my style. The second dress is a good example of this, allowing me to pair up a dainty dirty pink color and simple pumps with a leather wristband and a cool oval purse that looks like it just might hold a Tommy gun. After all, as much as I love the 1920s for their fashion, music and a general sense of etiquette, had I been alive then, I would have probably been a suffragette.
Story Leather: On your blog I saw a wonderful outfit that’s in your profile picture, the sailor outfit with white parasol, could you tell us about that one?
Sabina: Oh thank you for the compliment! It’s one of my favorites! J
Whenever I visit my parents in Florida, my mom and I hit all the local thrift stores. I love shopping in thrift stores. You always find only 1 of everything so you’re guaranteed to walk away with something unique, like this fabulous sailor dress.
I wore it many times since then, in various combinations, but this particular photo was snapped at the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island. This annual summer shindig has been going on for many years and used to be quite underground. The whole 1920s scene was. I stumbled into it on my search for ladylike things to do some 4 years ago and have been in love with it ever since.
The idea is that for two weekends in the summer a lawn on Governor’s Island in NYC is sectioned off and turned into something straight out of The Great Gatsby. There is a big band that plays tunes from that time, dance lessons, period cocktails, and dozens of people all dressed in the period attire mingling, dancing and picnicking together. It’s really lovely!
I always create my outfits for these events from what I already have, turning modern dresses into period outfits with accessories and hair/make-up. I find this to be more authentic in a way and it fits with my fashion philosophy of creating something unique vs buying straight off of a manikin.
For this occasion I paired it with a white parasol I bought 10 years ago in Chinatown for those painfully hot and sunny NYC summer days. I added a pair of white knitted gloves I got on a whim once because I thought they were pretty (I buy a lot of things with this idea – if you love it, and can afford it, get it - you’ll find a way to wear it, at some point, guaranteed!), put a hair in a bun, donned some pearls and finished it off with my standard white flat shoes for the comfort of walking around on the grass all day.
Story Leather: What helpful tips could you give to someone trying to find that right mix of style, comfort, and budget?
Sabina: I say start with what you have. Look through your closet and dare yourself to combine things in a completely new way. You’ll be surprised how many gems are already there, waiting for you to notice them. Just because you wore that white shirt (for example) so many times you can’t imagine it fitting with anything but the pants/skirt/jeans you always put it with, does not mean that it’s old and boring. Put it with something else, something you’d never think goes with it, and see if it makes you smile.
Also, take the time to get to know your body and your comfort level and be honest with yourself. In my experience if you don’t feel comfortable wearing something, no matter how cool/beautiful/sexy/trendy that something is, you yourself won’t be. I’ve seen plenty of people look stunning in jeans and sneakers and miserable in skin-tight dresses even if the jeans were old and the dress was the hottest new trend. Know yourself and trust your gut.
Story Leather: Lastly I read that you’re a filmmaker, does your love of fashion influence the types of films you make or vice versa?
Sabina: That is a very interesting question and one I never really thought about before. I’d say that my love of pushing boundaries and thinking outside the box definitely spans across both mediums, but I have to admit the characters in my films are much less adventurous in their clothing choices than I. J That said, I do believe the clothes we wear can tell a lot about what we’re going through internally, and try to convey that in the films I create. As my costume designers will attest, I am definitely one of those directors who will take the time to work out the entire character arc through their costume choices. Nothing is accidental. Even if all she wears is gray or black, you can believe I thought long and hard why she’s in that particular shade of gray at that point and how that informs us of her journey. Maybe no one else will get it, but I firmly believe that greatness is in details, and I aim for greatness, always, be it in the films I make or in the outfits I wear.
Story Leather: Are there any last tips or words or worldly wisdom you’d like to add?
Sabina: Oh, that’s an invitation to open up a Pandora’s box! J Just kidding. Honestly, I think we all tend to overcomplicate everything, fashion included. So I say don’t take it, or yourself too seriously. Laugh as much as you can, learn to recognize what’s important and what really truly isn’t, and do your best to eliminate hate from your life. It serves no one, least of all you.
I wanted to thank Sabina to finding time in her busy schedule to give us a glimpse at her style and for showing us that items from any era are and will always be in style! Don't forget to check out her fashion blog at: fashionablefilmmaker.com for all her style tips and if you want some extra help you can contact her there.
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