fashion

This 62-year-old has 150,000 followers. When you see her clothes, you'll understand why.

Every item that Sarah Jane Adams wears tells a story.

The 62 year old’s oxblood red leather biker jacket – “her Michael Jackson jacket”, she jokes – is an ’80s piece she picked up at Glebe markets last year from a girl who was selling her mum’s clothes.

“I would not have worn this back in the day, I was a hardcore punk-hippy so this would have been far too mainstream for me,” she says.

Her patchwork white jeans are the custom-made creation of a talented designer friend Hamid Holloman, recycled from drop sheets and flour sacks.

She’s had her “sensible, doing it all, kick-ass” cherry red boots since she was in her early twenties and her 1920’s scarf tied expertly around her neck, which is “completely falling to pieces”, was found in a trunk in an abandoned garage in Sheffield, Yorkshire when she was about 25 years old.

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On her left hand is a custom-made 18 carat gold ring that spells her name across several fingers. It’s a token she wears “to keep me cool, keep me company, keep me safe” with “symbolic” detail on the underside which she prefers not to explain because “it’s personal”.

Of course, that only prompts more questions and curiosities.

A familiar sight in her home of 40 years, Sydney’s Newtown, English-born Adams is the kind of person you would double take at if she passed you down the street.

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On anyone else her ensembles would look haphazard or messy, but on her the eclectic jigsaw pieces make perfect sense.

It’s this unique sense of style that has catapulted Adams to become something of an Instagram celebrity with over 150,000 followers, after one of her daughters reposted a picture Adams’ husband had taken of her wearing a red Adidas jacket three years ago.

Adding the hashtags #AdvancedStyle and #MyMumIsCoolerThanMe, the image caught the attention of Advanced Style blogger, founder and photographer Ari Seth Cohen who happened to be in town promoting his book.

“He saw the picture and came over to shoot the outfit again and posted it in on his blog and I got 5,000 followers from that and that was basically the beginning,” she tells me.

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Now the 62 year old is represented worldwide by prestigious modelling agency IMG, regularly snapped by street style photographers and sought after by brands.

While grateful for her following, Adams says followers isn’t something that drives her.

“If you scroll through Instagram, my first pictures are just jewellery and talking about folklore which is what I’m going to go back to doing more of because I’m so bored of myself on Instagram,” she says.

“I know I’m going to lose numbers but actually I don’t really mind, to me [what I post] has got to have integrity.”

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An antique jewellery dealer-turned-designer by trade, Adams has been a collector of things since she was seven years old.

“When I was young, I had a shoebox with ‘Old things’ written on it and I used to dig up old bits of clay pipe and pottery and amulets and things and that’s how I started in this life,” she says.

That doesn’t translate into endless shopping though.

“I never go to shops and buy clothes. Actually I do, I lie, I mean I have to buy knickers. Back in the day I used to wear [UK brand] Marks and Spencer’s passion killers. Now I tend to wear Bonds passion killers. Always pure cotton underwear,” she says.

“For the rest of my things, sometimes I do feel like I look like a sad old hippie so I have to do things occasionally to jazz things up a bit, so every city I go to Adidas is the one store I go to but only if I need a different coloured tracksuit, I live in them… and the designers who they collaborate with, that’s what inspires me.”

Other than that it’s mainly op shops and markets, both local and international.

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“All you need is love” #johnlennon #1967 #allyouneedislove #saramai #mywrinklesaremystripes #sarahjaneadams #india

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“I guess my style [as I’ve gotten older] has changed as I’ve travelled more. I embrace things from other cultures and I do from a mark of respect and learning how to exist and travel within a different space,” she says.

“My style changes according to who I meet and where I am and I have no prediction as to how that is going to be at all. None at all.”

Yet her eclectic taste is minimalist – in a way.

“It looks like I’ve got a massive wardrobe but really my wardrobe is only two and a half metres of hanging stuff and a few drawers and a lot of Adidas jackets. It looks like I’ve got a lot but it’s because I can mix and match it all up,” she says.

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While some prefer to plan head to guarantee a successful outfit, Adams doesn’t, refusing to decide what she’s going to wear until the day.

As well as to consider practically what she’ll be doing, she also needs to know ‘Who she wants to be’ on any given day.

“Sometimes if I’m doing an interview I’ll think ‘I wonder who they are expecting me to be today? Am I a homie, am I a businesswoman, am I a gypsy? Who are these people expecting me to be?’ and then I think, you know what? I don’t give a rats who they think I am, who am I feeling like I am today? And I’m very lucky that I’m in the position to do that,” she says.

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It’s a similar no-BS attitude she takes with the idea of “dressing your age”.

“I don’t actually know what that means because in my head, depending on what is happening in my life, I’m either 150 if my children are being sh**s or if I’ve got the flu or I’m seven again if I’m having a fantastic time finding exciting things,” she says.

“Dressing [for your age] is bullshit. I don’t understand it. I feel terribly sad, men, women, whoever they are, feeling that way. Being [always self employed] it’s never been part of my world but I’ve started to appreciate that a lot of people feel that way.”

Listen: The show that will make you rethink growing old gracefully. Post continues after audio.

Colour, print, vintage finds and mix-and-match layering may be a staple for Adams, but she’s aware that doesn’t work for everyone.

“You need to find your body shape and what works for your body shape. I think you need to find what you feel comfortable in.. dress for yourself rather than for what you think people might want you to be,” she says.

“If you can be comfortable within yourself, then you will project in a far more strong and confident way. And so a lot of that other crap, people won’t even notice because they’ll see you. So that’s my advice. Just dress for yourself.”

You aren’t expected to read all this, but for those of you who ask the questions, just this once, here’s a detailed answer. Winter has arrived and it’s cold, potentially with rains coming later. (Under the shirt I’m wearing an old cotton T shirt, and under the trousers I am wearing Adidas tracksuit pants, both for warmth). The jacket and big boots protect me from the wet and are easy to move in. I am running around doing business errands all day, and need to be comfortable and armed up against the elements and for some of the tasks in store. Working it like a BOSS. This is a protective, strong look, reflecting my attitude for the day. Don’t mess. Check more at the link below http://blairemagazine.com/time-blog/5f73wmzdjvbrzztkhrqvsui7wr1jgr ​Snapback purchased in Coney Island NYC​ cost approx $30 Jacket purchased from Sydney flea market 10 years ago cost approx $100 Shirt purchased from @houseofraoof​ cost $30 Tattered T shirt of my father’s from the Riley Club Centenary 1998 cost GBP 10 Adidas track pants purchased from Sydney @AdidasOriginals cost $75 Turkish trousers purchased in Istanbul 8 years ago cost approx $35 New Rock boots purchased in London mid 1990’s​ cost approx GBP 75 #saramai #sarahjaneadams #ootd #boss #whatiwore #mywrinklesaremystripes Thanks to @iamthetreasurehunter @blairecreative

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Thanks to her background of antiques, Adams has a rich and extensive knowledge of fashion and design history and is instantly able to identify the historical features and influences of each “new” trend.

When I first met Adams at Fashion Week earlier this year, she was wearing a genuine Edwardian silk, slightly tattered, high-necked blouse (again rescued from a forgotton trunk) because she’d seen in a show the previous day a collection referencing the seventies, which was a rehash of Edwardian.

“Why people wore the high neckline then was because back in the 1900s a member of the royal family had a scar on her neck so she wore that and strands of pearls to hide a big scar on her neck which Princess Diana brought into fashion again with a big clasp in the ’80s,” she explains.

“Nothing is original anymore, it’s just been tweaked.”

References to past fashions abounded at #mbfwa and prompted me to put this ensemble together. Starting with a now very tatty, 100 year old silk blouse having a neckline which was made popular by Alexandria of Denmark, who became Queen to King Edward VII from 1901-1910. Alexandria had a scar on her neck caused by a childhood accident. She used high choker necklaces and fitted high necklines to hide the scar, also thereby starting a fashion trend, which was made popular again in the 1980’s by Princess Diana. Underneath is a 1970’s handmade American cotton cowgirl style olive green floral dress, with rikrak detail. Both pieces also featuring lace…. The silver and pearl Belle Epoch inspired brooch at neck is from the Saramai Jewels collection. I’ll talk about my belt, etc. another time! #saramai #sarahjaneadams #ootd #nothingnew #fashion #recycle #mywrinklesaremystripes #whispersofthepastaspirationsoftoday [email protected]_

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However while the cyclical nature of fashion may be exciting for some, it poses a particular set of challenges when you lived through the original trend.

“As somebody who lived through that period, I have to be really, really careful. For example I was talking to somebody about what I’m going to wear with a black dress to an upcoming event and I was going to bling it up with some ’80s gold but then I thought ‘I can’t do this, I look like Joan Collins on a bad day. I look like I’m out of Dynasty!’,” she says.

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“Being the age that I am I have to be really careful that I don’t look like an old lady who has just kept things for way too long and just brought them out randomly. I’m not giving myself prop but it’s a skill and it’s an art, I think, knowing what you can wear from those days and make it work.”

With both people inside and outside the fashion world captivated by her unique style and attitude, many call Adams a fashion icon.

She doesn’t see it.

“I have twin daughters and they don’t think about [the way I dress], it’s just the way I am, it’s just mum. They think this whole thing is hilarious and ridiculous and it’s really good that they think that because it keeps me really grounded,” she says.

“No-one took my photo until three years ago… I’m not trying to do anything or be anything and I don’t really want to be held up as a representative for any cause of voice for this or that. I’m just doing what I’m doing, living my life.

“I don’t not like [being called a fashion icon] I just think it’s funny. I think the idea of calling yourself an icon is slightly strange. I don’t need a title. Just Sarah Jane Adams.”

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