I first met Cora Hyatt at The School of The New York Times, where we were both Summer Academy students, which makes me sound a lot richer and more pretentious than I actually am. Anyway, we technically met there, but I was too intimidated to actually talk to her, on account of her killer looks and IDGAF attitude. I was sure that someone that cool wouldn’t have anything to do with me, but luckily we stayed in touch on social media, and without physically having to be faced with just how much cooler she is than me, our friendship was truly allowed to blossom, and I also began to see her for the incredibly talented writer, artist, and creator she actually is, rather than being blinded by her piercing blue eyes and somehow-both-hip-and-unfailingly-classy fashion sense.
She is undoubtedly the most fashionable person in the Midwest, but it’s worth saying that her prose is as sharp as her eyeliner (and I hope to see her work published someday soon). Her eye for fashion also translates to a keen artistic taste; her paintings cover an array of subject matter but they all have a magnetic emotional intensity behind them. She is able to visually expound upon her personal experiences, but also has the humility to creatively explore universes beyond her, and she expresses both with a poetic clarity that I’m incredibly jealous of. It’s been a real honor to watch her develop a voice and come into her own. It’s a rare pleasure to watch in real time the creative trajectory of someone you know is going to take over the world one day.
Who are your style icons?
Weirdly, the first that comes to mind is Sid Vicious. I love his look, it’s so classically punk. I could do without the shirts with the Nazi swastika, though. I adore Kate Moss’ style from the ‘90s too. Right now a big style icon for me is Melissa Joan Hart’s Sabrina Spellman. Everything she wore makes me jealous. I don’t have many icons from the 2000s. A lot of recent trends bore me (but there are a few I can get on.)
Who are your favorite designers?
My absolute favorite is Rei Kawakubo. Unlike a lot of designers, her work has nothing to do with self-expression, and I love that. I hate when designers try to act as if every piece they make is something personal, most of it isn’t. A lot of fashion nowadays, even high fashion, is based on trends. I like that she admits that. Despite that fact though, her work is still that of a visionary. There’s nothing like it. Many might try to imitate her, but they’ll never be able to get close enough.
It’s hard to say I have any other favorite designer after talking about Kawakubo, but I do admire Gianni Versace, Pierre Cardin, and Alexander McQueen’s work.
What's your favorite outfit?
Anything I’ve incorporated cheetah print into is my greatest outfit achievement. Right now, my favorite outfit is my mesh cheetah print shirt with a silky red bomber and black pants. I switch the shoes up for that, sometimes white sneakers, sometimes white patent leather boots. I’ve worn a Gucci belt with the outfit before but I’ve retired that. They’re out of fashion now, tragically.
Though it’s not an outfit, my favorite thing I own is a pair of coyote teeth earrings. They go with everything and can completely transform a boring look.
Has your style changed over time? How?
Oh, definitely. I first started developing a personal style in middle school. The issue with that was that my favorite band at the time was My Chemical Romance, so I had to dress like Gerard Way. Think a lot of band shirts, ripped black pants, and red lipstick that didn’t quite work with my skin tone. You never outgrow emo, so I’m still wearing a lot of black and red lipstick (I figured out how to pick the perfect red, though). Now I wear a lot more leather, a lot more fake fur. If I had to describe it, I think it would be Robert Smith meets Meryl Streep in the Devil Wears Prada meets witch living in the Siberian wilderness.
Where are your favorite places to shop?
There’s this cute consignment shop in my town that I love. I’ve gotten a lot of my favorite pieces there, including a rabbit fur coat. Back when I was a true emo, I got some spiked loafers from there. I still have them somewhere. It’s really hard shopping in person in the Midwest because there’s really only the big fast fashion brands (Forever 21, H&M, etc.) Online, my two favorite stores are Dolls Kill and Reformation. Reformation is dope because they really emphasize sustainable practices and I’m about that.
Is it hard being stylish in the Midwest?
Well, it’s easy to be the most stylish person in the room. The Hoosier uniform tends to include jean jackets and cowboy boots (not that those things can’t be stylish, they just shouldn’t be worn together in my opinion.) However, the moment you step out in something betraying that uniform, you get a lot of weird looks. I’ve had to defend my style choices for years now. I can’t leave the house in platform boots without my dad asking where I got the “stripper heels.” I think there’s an idea of conformity drilled into the heads of Midwesterners from the time they’re born. A lot of the horror stories set in the Midwest featuring townspeople who reject outsiders are drawing from the truth. Most Midwesterners won’t murder you for being different, but they’re definitely going to tell their mom about your outrageous outfit.
Are you interested in a career in fashion?
Yes! For a long time, I was torn between wanting to be a designer or an editor but I think I’ve settled on editor now. Honestly, I want to work at one of the biggest fashion magazines. Not American Vogue though, they need to fix themselves first. I’m thinking one of the international Vogues or Harper’s Bazaar. I’m being a little ambitious but I think I’d be just as happy working at a smaller publication.
Do you have any unlikely sources of inspiration for your outfits?
Is it bad to say my own art? Or perhaps my unlikely source is just art in general. I could say Renaissance or Rococo, but honestly, a lot of my inspiration comes from Dadaism. Dadaism is frequently referred to as ‘anti-art’, basically, it’s art that challenges what we consider art. I’d like to think I take that approach in what I wear. I try not to recreate looks I see online, I want to put them together myself. The ultimate philosophy I draw from it is I can wear anything because nothing matters anyway.
I think probably my most questionable inspiration would be Steak n’ Shake’s interior. Like me, Steak n’ Shake is indigenous to the Midwest. Its interior is your stock photo of a retro diner, basically checkered tile, and a red and black color scheme. With those basic components, it’s relatively easy to make an outfit out of it that still looks good. Recently, I matched a black and white coat and a pair of red boots to the restaurant.
What do you hope is someone’s first impression of you?
Just from my clothing, I want them to think of me as powerful. That seems arrogant, I know, but that’s how the clothes make me feel and that’s what I want people to glean from them. I’ve always wanted the aura of someone you don’t want to fuck with. I hate talking to strangers in public, and I feel like since I’ve started dressing the way I do the number of strangers approaching me has really fallen.
Do you think fashion is important? Why or why not?
That’s a question I ask myself every day as I squeeze myself into leather pants. On a macro level, one’s idea of fashion and their own personal style reflect both their own culture and the time they’re living in. As I said earlier, the Hoosier uniform is something I see on a daily basis. You could look at an outfit and easily identify that that person came from the Midwest. As for time, if someone showed you a pair of Adidas superstar sneakers and asked you to place the year they were popular, you could pretty easily.
On a personal level, your style is what you want the world to know about you right off the bat. As Miuccia Prada said, “when you get dressed, you are making public your idea about yourself.” People will always judge you immediately based off what you look like. I think especially in current times, fashion has become important just because of that. Politicians don’t wear what they wear just because it’s what they like, they wear it to be taken seriously. Fashion controls perception.
Images used in collage c/o Cora Hyatt