Karen Resta is known for her bright yellow hair, whimsical style, and for her daughter, fashion writer Kristen Bateman. We met Karen to find out where her style comes from.
“I‘m a food writer, a former executive chef, I’m 66 years old, a true smiling Libra, and long-time New Yorker. I’ve also lived on a sailboat in City Island, an Airstream trailer in the Florida Keys, in an apartment in the 9th arrondissement in Paris, and in the rural South.
I guess my style could be described as ’quirky’, more or less. I’ve always liked dressing up, whether for fun or for making a statement. I lived in Soho in the 70s before it was commercialized and gentrified (in a 5000 square foot semi-space AIR loft for $500 per month rent) and used to shop at Canal Jeans. Outside were huge bins of used jeans for $1 a pair, inside, in the back, were racks of vintage clothes from the 20s onward, including pink silk lingerie tops, print rayon midi dresses with narrow waists and shaped collars from the 40s, and random t-shirts.
In the 80s I wore chef’s jackets as a chef, which never fit me because they were only made in men’s sizes at the time, followed by cute little Tahari suits when I moved into a corporate job. When I was ready to leave the corporate job, I got tired of those suits which more or less were required in that environment and started wearing brightly colored leather mini skirts with fuzzy angora sweaters to make my point.
After moving to rural areas of the South in the 90s I wore jeans and flat shoes, because there was more mud than sidewalks, and nobody dressed up. I also dressed in a basic way then because I wanted my young children to feel that I was there for things that were childish and messy, like playing in the woods, or making art with colorful paints, or fishing in a pond then cleaning the fish. When I wore a silk scarf around my neck with a basic outfit during that time, it would be widely commented on by everyone I ran into that day. When I returned to NYC, I began finding interesting things to wear once again.
My style has always been this colorful – apart from when I lived in the rural countryside. People I’ve known since the 70s remember me wearing dresses I made myself which had a lot of draping in the designs, or, for example, on the Bicentennial Celebration when the Tall Ships came to the NYC harbor in 1976 I wore a wide swath of long blue velvet tied around my waist for a skirt with a cotton American flag as a halter top, with gold platform stiletto sandals and gold glitter rick-rack tied in my hair.
My daughter Kristen works as a style writer and designer – I have to try a lot harder when I dress up, if I’m going anywhere with Kristen. She’s developed her own unique way of dressing that’s awe-inspiring.
I’ve been helping Kristen color her hair bright colors since she was in high school, and at some point, she persuaded me to try it myself. I tried fuschia, then turquoise, then orange-red, and finally decided to try yellow. I love the color, it’s a happy color, and now I just keep it yellow all the time!
What inspires my style is everything I see on the streets of NYC and on social media, as well as my daughter’s fearlessness in dressing how she likes.
This outfit started when I decided I wanted to make a mid-1970s-era outfit. The suede jacket is a classic, people wore them everywhere then. I like it now, particularly, because actual suede is pretty rare to find in clothing at affordable prices. This one came from Beacon’s Closet in Greenpoint which is my favorite place to shop in NYC.
The white blouse is almost “Western” style, like cowgirl clothes, but also has that “peasant” thing going on. I got that on Etsy, and I also liked it because it has 3/4 sleeves. As a “petite” size, the sleeves of regular shirts are generally too long for me. The blue skirt I got at Beacon’s Closet on 13th Street in Manhattan. I liked the print a lot, it’s almost a 50s-style design.
I tend to shop as if I were foraging, on an ongoing basis, and am always bringing in things to sell and buying new ones at the same time. It’s like an activity, more than ’clothes shopping’, and always involves having food and drinks nearby afterward. I have a method of shopping that’s kind of OCD, I always follow the same ’path’ through the racks in the shops and I always shop by focusing on the fabric of the piece rather than anything else, which makes the shopping go more quickly, while ending up with better quality pieces. I often find outfits that go together simply by randomly moving things around in my closet! All of a sudden I’ll see two things that give off a vibe that I never thought of, which I love. ”
Follow Karen Resta on Instagram @karenresta