Ampersand Woman: Fashion Writer Cotton Codinha
December 05, 2014 | Filed in: Woman of the Week
We’re not ashamed to admit we have a bit of a girl crush on today’s Ampersand Woman, fashion writer and self-proclaimed “general brainstormer” Cotton Codinha. A native of Boston, she worked as a journalist in Washington D.C. before moving to New York two years ago. Supremely well-read and thoroughly down to earth, she now spends her days writing fashion features, hosting literary salons, and championing the art of storytelling. Here, she styles pieces from the MM.LaFleur fall collection and shows us what easy-going elegance is all about.
Forgive the cliché, but do you have a “style philosophy” when it comes to dressing for work?
I always want to look like myself, which can be harder to achieve than people realize—it’s not always necessarily what is in fashion. I admire the style of people who move through the world comfortably and have something a little messy about them—hair a little undone, clothes that look like they’ve been worn, jewelry pieces that function as talismans.
As a fashion writer, do you feel extra pressure to dress a certain way?
There’s a real curiosity about what happens at fashion magazines and in the ever-mysterious fashion closet. I would love to say that I get to wear my choice of luxe items just off the runway or borrow dreamy dresses and leather jackets from obliging designers, but it’s just not the case. I do get to see a lot more of what’s out there, which opens my eyes and gives me ideas. But there are many days when I’ll just wear an oversized APC sweater and flats. And I think a simple silk shirt is such a great look.
Let’s talk sweaters. You seem to have some opinions on the topic.
I have a pretty impressive sweater collection. As soon as fall comes, I’m always in a knit, maybe because it’s very, very difficult for me to be in a room without an open window. A friend once described it as a German trait—over there it’s called frische luft—but I think it comes from growing up in a drafty New England farmhouse. I’m not comfortable unless the room has a stiff breeze and is around -2 degrees.
My fail-safe, besides oversize APC sweaters, is a black dress—usually with an interesting detail, like a three-quarter-length sleeve in the winter. This dress is trim, easy, and the belt cinches the waist in a flattering way. Darcy has contributed a fine layer of fur to the front to give it that great lived-in look.
The asymmetric cut of this skirt reminds me of a suede-and-Astrakhan Chanel suit my mother had when I was growing up—the same slim, straight cut and black suede wrap. I love the look of a skirt that hits high and tight on the waist and then goes long. I think it can make your legs look long in a really unexpected (almost coltish) way, like maybe you just outgrew your clothes but can’t really be bothered to get new ones.
What’s the best work-related advice you ever got?
Bring a pen and notebook everywhere you go. I’m not sure if I got that from Harriet the Spy or my dad, but either way, it’s great advice. And from my mother: Ask people about themselves and listen to what they say instead of thinking of your next line. People have a way of telling you the most interesting things if you stick around to listen.
I love anything tuxedo-inspired, and this jacket-cardigan has really lovely details: the peaked shoulders and the almost-pointillist seam down the spine (there’s an eyelet quality where it trips down the back). And this dress is gathered in a way that’s a little bit sexy, while being totally forgiving.
I didn’t get my ears pierced until two years ago, so I’ve amassed an impressive collection of clip-ons. These babies were a Christmas gift from my sister. They’re so big, I have to take them off to talk on the phone (“have to” is a strong phrase—but it’s a dramatic touch that I love).
For day, I like a no-makeup look. But at night, I’ve found that a red lip is just so easy. This is Gucci’s Iconic Red, which somehow looks perfect on everyone—and I’ve lent it out enough to know.
I think a white dress is the epitome of chic and always appropriate. The black belt keeps this look office-oriented, but I also love this dress without the belt as a very simple, clean look for night.
A few rapid-fire questions. If you could have happy hour with anyone, who would it be?
The Mitford sisters.
Success is… telling a great story.
Happiness is… listening to a great story.
Pedigree… is overrated.
Hustle… is underrated.
What’s your motto?
All photos by Frances F. Denny