FASHION SPOTLIGHT: MARGARET LEVI

bloggers, fashion blog, fashion, style, Bay Area, San Francisco, Artists, Art, Jewellery, Australian Aboriginal Art, Alistair Trung, Annette Goertz, Betty Cooke, Trippen, Urban Archaeology Jewelry bloggers, fashion blog, fashion, style, Bay Area, San Francisco, Artists, Art, Jewellery, Australian Aboriginal Art, Alistair Trung, Annette Goertz, Betty Cooke, Trippen, Urban Archaeology Jewelry We are surrounded by fascinating, creative women whom we admire from all walks of life and are now sharing their style stories on our blog.  Today we are giggling away with Margaret Levi as she shares her wisdom, humor and spirited sense of the world!

bloggers, fashion blog, fashion, style, Bay Area, San Francisco, Artists, Art, Jewellery, Australian Aboriginal Art, Alistair Trung, Annette Goertz, Betty Cooke, Trippen, Urban Archaeology Jewelry
Margaret wearing a gorgeous Alistair Trung coat!

Margaret came into our lives because we all go to the same Pilates studio. Each time we saw her before class we noticed her intricate yet minimal outfits,  her bold statement jewelry that seemed historical, yet futuristic, and her beaming smile.   We thought she must be an artist or a sculptor or a designer, and were even more curious when we found out she is the Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford, has authored 6 books, and continues to focus her research on how to improve the quality of government.  We were honored that she invited us into her world to share her love of Australian Aboriginal art, sense of inner strength, and bold use of confident fashion.  She radiates great energy and intelligence while always weaving humor into her wonderful storytelling.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

I always like to look different (laughs and pauses), but in a very nice way.  Not in such a WEIRD way that people think, ‘that is WEIRD.’

Have you always dressed uniquely?

ALWAYS.  Almost always.  Sometimes my choices were really BAD (chuckles) I mean if you decide you want to look different and not look like everybody else and not be a cookie cutter, then how can you not make some bad choices?  You have to find the right space where you are not totally out on the edge, but not totally conformist – somewhere in between.

Have you ever wanted to stand out? 

I never wanted to stand out.  I just wanted people to comment on my clothes and notice me, just a little.  Not like “WOWWWW” (makes roaring sounds) but like “Oh you look nice, that is interesting.” …and notice the details of a piece of jewelry or a nice fabric, just to notice the  little details that give my outfit a little extra.  When I decided to be a professor, it was still largely a man’s world and my Mother said, ‘Always dress up because you never know who you are going to run into and you want to make a good impression.  You want to look like you are in charge – that is the way to do it.’  So it was a question of finding a style that I felt comfortable with.  But I was always more dressed up than most of the other women around me.  Most of my other female colleagues dress very casually.  If you had seen me today going to the office, I was casually dressed, but there was something different and put together about my look.  There are always different elements to my clothes – I’ll wear a vest and it will be fuzzy (chuckles) rather than something from REI or North Face like other Stanford professors.

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How has art influenced your life? 

I grew up in a household that always went to art museums.  What I wanted for my birthday present when I as twelve was a print.  My mother and father belonged to a print club and they would buy original lithographs, because they couldn’t afford expensive art, but they moved in circles where people were major collectors.  And at that age, art was what I wanted to have surrounding me on the walls.  I always remember loving things that were beautiful – loving ceramics, loving textures, loving objects of beauty.

Growing up did your peers also appreciate style and art?

Well I went to an all women’s high school – the oldest public school for women in the country.  I don’t know if I was interestingly dressed until college, but I do remember I was always experimenting in high school.  My prom dresses were never like anyone else’s because I didn’t like those pink flouncy things, so I would always choose something I could wear again.  When I got married I wore a green silk Kenzo dress because I knew I would wear it again.  I also got into the habit of only buying one or two designers.  So at the time Kenzo was in New York City and I was just in love with the clothes.  And then I fell out of love with them.  And then I had a Max Mara period.  But that became too conservative.

Are you practical about the way you dress?

The thing about my aesthetic is that I like having a closet full of varied, interesting things that I can put together on different days for different circumstances.

Did your parents encourage you to become a Professor?

My parents had two girls, and they both encouraged us a lot. My father was a very unusual in that he believed that girls could do anything, and that they should have those choices.  My sister became an art dealer who is interested in politics and I am a political science professor interested in art.

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Necklace by Joanne Sugura, Urban Archeology
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Necklace by Betty Cooke

You travel a lot – how do you pack?

I have a tiny suitcase.  I don’t pack a lot and I travel with this size of a suitcase for 3 weeks sometimes (makes a TINY square shape in the air).

So you are an ornate minimalist?

Much of my jewelry can be folded up, almost everything I wear can be washed by hand or go in the shower with me and be steamed.  I never buy clothes that have to be ironed or dry cleaned.  I pack a lot into a little suitcase.  A couple of nice outfits will get you far, and people don’t notice or don’t care.

Would you describe yourself as messy or neat?

I would say more messy.  My desk is never neat, my closet is never neat.    I look forward to having a cleaning person who will put my shoes in order.

bloggers, fashion blog, fashion, style, Bay Area, San Francisco, Artists, Art, Jewellery, Australian Aboriginal Art, Alistair Trung, Annette Goertz, Betty Cooke, Trippen, Urban Archaeology Jewelry

bloggers, fashion blog, fashion, style, Bay Area, San Francisco, Artists, Art, Jewellery, Australian Aboriginal Art, Alistair Trung, Annette Goertz, Betty Cooke, Trippen, Urban Archaeology Jewelry
Necklace by Tzuri Gueta
bloggers, fashion blog, fashion, style, Bay Area, San Francisco, Artists, Art, Jewellery, Australian Aboriginal Art, Alistair Trung, Annette Goertz, Betty Cooke, Trippen, Urban Archaeology Jewelry
Water buffalo horn beaded necklace by Alistair Trung

Do you like movies?

I love movies, but I don’t go to the movies very often.  I grew up on a diet of European films. I did just see “The Martian”, and it was really good!  “Annie Hall” is one of my favorite all time movies.  I watch a lot of stuff on Netflix, HBO, and Amazon Prime.  I just finished a series called “Borgen” which is about the Danish woman who is Prime Minister – it is one of the best things I have seen on television about politics since “The Wire.”  Better than “West Wing”.  And I love “Game of Thrones.”  I think “Game of Thrones” is just beautiful to look at, and great for the intrigue and drama.

You collect Australian Aboriginal Art with your husband.  Tell us a bit about your relationship.
Well we were part of a friendship network and that’s how we met.  We don’t know how long it took, but we eventually started paying attention to each other.  I asked him out and he turned me down.  And two years later he asked me out. He says he was waiting for me and I am his only and first love.  He was not my only and first love (lots of giggling ensues).  I assure you I had been around the block a couple times.  I’d lived a very full life before him and a far better one with him.  My Father said he had never seen two people like each other so much!
How do you dress for work?
Well most of the other women Professors looked really dowdy and frumpy or were wearing very conservative suits.  Then I noticed the European women would have one or two great suits either by Armani or if they were French, Dior.  I really liked the European style a lot more than I liked the American style.  And even though my name is Levi I never liked Levi’s jeans.  I am not a jeans person.  I will wear tights or other kinds of pants.  So I found clothes I felt comfortable in that I could wear all day that had a European elegance.
bloggers, fashion blog, fashion, style, Bay Area, San Francisco, Artists, Art, Jewellery, Australian Aboriginal Art, Alistair Trung, Annette Goertz, Betty Cooke, Trippen, Urban Archaeology Jewelry
Cork and hand-crafted beads by Joanne Sugura; Silver necklace on Margaret by Betty Cooke
Is there a period of history you are fascinated by?
Before WWI – right at the turn of the century.  As people had adapted to the industrial revolution and lights and electricity had come into the world.  Downstairs was moving upstairs.  It was a very interesting period and people were thinking hard about what the world should look like.
 
If you were to move anywhere in the world, where would you live?
If I were to move, I would move to New York.  I’m a New Yorker deep in my heart.  I LOVE being able to go to art museums and theater music and have intellectuals around me.  But a world that is real.  A world where you can go get ethnic food and you have to think about poverty and can’t avoid it.
What do you not wear besides jeans?
I don’t wear high high heels, I don’t wear parkas and I don’t like to look like an REI model.  I think REI is outdoor wear for particular functions, not for everyday dressing.  I don’t like to wear bras either, they are so uncomfortable.  I don’t think I have a thing that is pink or will ever have a thing that is pink or baby blue or light orange. Some people look great in jeans, but its just not my look.  But on the right person jeans are great.
What are your favorite fictional books?
I love Jane Austen! Persuasion is my favorite.  Pride and Prejudice isn’t bad.  Emma isn’t bad. Proust is another favorite.  I am also a great fan of contemporary fiction.  Recent favorites include: Red Plenty by Francis Spufford and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.  But I wouldn’t want to dress like the characters in those two books.
Do you like the fashion of Jane Austen?
No, I hate it actually.
If your house were burning, what would you save?
Jewelry, this pile of jewelry.  These are my treasures!  I can’t pick up a piece of art sadly and carry it out of a flaming building.
What inspires your style?
Architecture.  Jewelry has an architectural quality.  So I am very drawn to that, where there is a design but a functionality.  I also love art and have a very broad taste in art.  If I could afford any art I would buy Manet.  I like Pre impressionism.  I wouldn’t mind a Van Gogh.
What is your fashion advice?
I would not advise people about fashion.  I think everybody has to find their own voice.  And not be a conformist.
Who are your favorite designers?
I love Australian designer  Alistair Trung  and German designer Annette Gortz
For jewelry I love Betty Cooke, Flora Book and
Urban Archeology by Joanne Sugura who makes pieces composed of commonly found materials but designed to flatter the wearer and take on a new personality.
I also shop at a boutique in Seattle called Baby & Company   
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Inside Baby & Company in Seattle
For great shoes I wear Trippen shoes
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A Trippen Shoe
bloggers, fashion blog, fashion, style, Bay Area, San Francisco, Artists, Art, Jewellery, Australian Aboriginal Art, Alistair Trung, Annette Goertz, Betty Cooke, Trippen, Urban Archaeology Jewelry
Necklace designed by Flora Book

bloggers, fashion blog, fashion, style, Bay Area, San Francisco, Artists, Art, Jewellery, Australian Aboriginal Art, Alistair Trung, Annette Goertz, Betty Cooke, Trippen, Urban Archaeology Jewelry bloggers, fashion blog, fashion, style, Bay Area, San Francisco, Artists, Art, Jewellery, Australian Aboriginal Art, Alistair Trung, Annette Goertz, Betty Cooke, Trippen, Urban Archaeology Jewelry bloggers, fashion blog, fashion, style, Bay Area, San Francisco, Artists, Art, Jewellery, Australian Aboriginal Art, Alistair Trung, Annette Goertz, Betty Cooke, Trippen, Urban Archaeology Jewelry

Photography by Victor Bittorf

 

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