It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 10 years of Dress Up. The Melbourne-based fashion label, started straight out of uni by designer Stephanie Downey in 2006, has continually championed an understated and intelligent approach to everyday dressing. Downey’s vision has remained constant; each season is a mix of practical separates in quality fabrics, with just the right amount of statement. Learn to recognise the Dress Up details and you’ll soon begin spotting Downey’s clothes on all the best-dressed around the city.
Since the recent birth of son Arlo, Downey splits her days between home and her Collingwood studio. She tells Broadsheet why shopping bores her and what she wears when she’s not in Dress Up.
Broadsheet: Be honest, how often are you in pajamas when you’re working from home?
Stephanie Downey: I don’t wear pajamas! I try to get dressed. I won’t lie, it’s nothing fancy and I’m not putting on make-up every day. But it’s still important to me to get dressed in the morning and feel good in what I’m wearing.
BS: What’s a lazy outfit for you, then?
SD: Probably jeans and a T-shirt most of the time. I just always want to be comfortable wherever I’m working. I feel really comfortable in pants or jeans rather than dresses because I feel like I can move easily in them.
BS: How would you describe your style?
SD: My style is quite understated and casual – an extension of the label’s style, I suppose. Beautiful fabrics are one of the main elements of Dress Up clothes, and I’m also very picky about the fabrics in the garments that I wear and buy. I’d prefer to spend more on fewer garments that will feel nice to wear and last me longer.
BS: So is there a distinction between what you wear at work and outside of work?
SD: Not really. I probably wouldn’t wear something really good to work, like a silk dress, or something I’d get my lunch on. If I make too much of an effort, I feel uncomfortable towards the end of the day. It’s the same idea with the label. I want people to feel like they can wear things during the day for work and later they can go out and still feel appropriate.
BS: Despite the name, the clothes you make for Dress Up are actually incredibly functional and subtle. Where does the name come from?
SD: I love the idea of telling people about yourself through what you wear. Every day is dressing up, even if you’re just really casual – because everyone does think about what they are wearing when they get dressed in the morning.
BS: Has your style changed much over time?
SD: When I was younger, I did put more thought into my outfits. I had more energy for it. When I got a bit older, I got more simple – and that’s the style that I wear. I’m usually always wearing something Dress Up. While I was pregnant, I didn’t wear as much because I was just wearing stretchy stuff all the time. Now I’m back to constantly wearing our high-waisted pants.
BS: Where do you go shopping when you’re not pulling from your own collection?
SD: I really don’t enjoy shopping very much. I don’t have the time and I often get bored within five minutes. I do like online shopping sometimes. My favourite is Maryam Nassir Zadeh online. I recently bought a few Marques Almeida knits that I love and have been wearing heaps. I love Margiela and Marni shoes. Other favourite labels I wish I owned more of are Bless, Cosmic Wonder, Céline, Dries Van Noten and Carven. And I do like shopping for baby clothes.
BS: How far away is a Dress Up line for babies?
SD: I haven’t made anything for Arlo yet – he grows out of things in two seconds. Mum used to make my siblings and me little Christmas outfits. We got to choose the fabric; it’s really nice thinking about it. But I do remember mum being really stressed out the week before Christmas trying to get them all finished!
Dress Up is running a pop-up store at 128 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, from Friday 27 November. Hours are 10am–5pm, Mon–Sat.