Inside the Closets of Real Girls

Between Vogue's It Girl Pack and the people who never leave their houses, there lies a narrow social stratum that's often appreciated but rarely immortalized. You might call them the "cool girls." You might refer to them as having "great style," the merest frost of jealousy in your voice. And you mind find yourself subconsciously thinking about them when you're lost in the innards of the Salvation Army sweater aisle or trying to compose an outfit for the night's festivities. They catch the eye because their way with clothes is just a little more savvy than everyone else's. A little more unique. A little more alive.

I'm lucky enough to know several of these not-yet-famous cool girls (and I have no qualms about approaching total strangers and asking to photograph their jewelry drawers), so I'm here to present you with a series of casual analyses of their style. Consider it the portrait of the Cool Girl in a few quick brushstrokes: a snapshot of her closet, an interview question or two, a selfie, a bit of style wisdom. There are a million ways to (creepily) peek inside the closets of celebrities, but sometimes, it's the people you pass on the street that you're most curious about.

First up: a girl named Meriwether Clarke. Yeah, yeah, Meri has an amazing name, ridiculously great hair, writes beautiful poetry at UC Irvine, and is one of my dearest friends, but that's not important right now. The reason I bring her to your attention is that Meriwether Clarke is the embodiment of the girl-with-a-uniform — and she does it better than anyone else I know.

To anyone passing Meri on the street, "uniform" would be the last word on their mind — she favors the flowing, the colorful, the goddess-like — but as someone who's seen Meri in more maxi dresses, nipped waists, and major earrings than I can count, I can confirm that she's got one. Meri knows her shapes and proportions well, and rarely strays from them. Instead of acting as some sort of weird arbitrary restriction, her "uniform" (the word feels so boring -- let's call it her "palette") is merely the jumping-off point.

The cult of Meriwether requires a vintage fan, artisanal candles, fresh flowers, and enough necklaces to sink a man.

Recurring closet themes: fur collars, polka dots, and full skirts for days.

BUSTLE: If someone forced you to describe your style, what would you say?

MERIWETHER CLARKE: I'd describe it as fortune teller chic. I'm not really interested in specifically being or looking like one thing, but one look that comes out does tend to be lots of long flowy skirts and dresses, bangles, giant earrings, shawls… basically, all I need is a crystal ball and the talent of clairvoyance and I'd unintentionally be in business!

Who or what are your biggest style influences?

My biggest style influences are women who just wear what they love and what represents them without caring or thinking about looking cool or trendy. Frida Kahlo is probably my subconscious influence; her entire aesthetic is so awe-inspiring! And, of course, my mother and grandmother are the women who taught me to appreciate beautiful, unique, and well-crafted clothes. From a young age it was made very clear to me that what makes something beautiful isn't how much (or how little) it cost, what the name on the label is, if it's "one of a kind," etc., but the artistry behind it and how it makes the wearer feel.

Meri as Frida Kahlo

Do you have a goal in mind when you're getting dressed?

My goal is to be happy and feel good about what I'm wearing! I'm a huge believer that fashion is about EMPOWERING women and men to feel good about who they are and what they look like. Consequently, my primary goal is to buy and wear clothes that I feel confident in, that allow me to be proud of the version of myself I'm presenting to the world.

A few of Meri's signatures: lots of silver bangles, bold earrings, and layered perfume.

What's your favorite item in your wardrobe?

Eek, that's tough! I have this gorgeous Tracy Reese lacy black shift dress I absolutely love. It's a little formal, but perfect for dressy occasions. I also love this floor length metallic silver pleated skirt I got on sale from Urban Outfitters online! It was a totally random purchase that has slowly become a staple of my wardrobe. Accessories are also big for me: I have four crewelwork wool shawls from India that immediately make any outfit more daring (and warm!). Also, I'm all about jewelry. [Ed. note: you should see the gems at her mom's store.] My favorite pieces are my Oaxacan earrings — they're not only beautifully made but peppered with traditional images of hands, birds, and flowers.

A classic Meri outfit: defined waist, luxe scarf, and that famous metallic skirt.