Ashley Baluyut doesn’t think of herself as a creative genius. I beg to differ. Anyone who can put together the artful looks she produces with dime-store finds is Einstein in my book. On her blog, Milk Teeths, she has created a sort of hipster-grandma-chic that goes adorably beyond the umbrella of quirky style. Putting her spin on pieces from every era, she has the ability to pull inspiration even from the most unexpected places and infuse her creative flair into everything she touches. She runs a successful vintage clothing store on Etsy and won the title of Refinery29’s Next Big Style Blogger earlier this year. While recently chatting her up, I found that this Orange County native is just as cool as she seems. Emphasizing her overarching belief in the importance of comfort and feeling good about how you look, Ashley took some time to share thrifting tips, and give a little advice on staying stylish all winter long.
Q: Even in their mid twenties, a lot of women would argue that they still haven’t found their “look.” How did you find yourself stylistically?
It’s actually never occurred to me that I have a “look”! All I know is that I like to wear clothing that’s comfortable and has personality. As a lover of vintage clothing, I like to glean inspiration from every decade. A grungy 90s grandpa cardigan paired with a 60s mini dress and Nixon-era penny loafers is a pretty solid outfit in my world. As long as I don’t feel physically self conscious in what I’m wearing, (I’m allergic to ridiculous high heels and overly-tight clothing!), literally anything goes.
Q: Having done a little bit of thrifting myself, I know how hard it can be to find something worth while. You have to have shopping secrets. Spill.
You have to go often. Not twice a month, but twice a week or more. Also, don’t have it in your head that you’re going to find a specific piece because if you walk away without that 1970s fuschia-floral-maxi-dress that you were sure would be at the thrift, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Go with an open mind and scoop up whatever catches your eye! Also, use your imagination! Some of my favorite pieces of clothing I’ve thrifted either had massive shoulder pads or hemlines that were eight inches too long. You need to be able to recognize potential. Of course if your vision doesn’t work out, parting with $3.99 isn’t a big deal. It’s four less Del Taco bean and cheese burritos for the month. At least, that’s how I look at it.
I definitely subscribe to the aspect of beach style that prioritizes comfort and sensibility over being super trendy.
Q: A lot of Orange County natives have the same problem: we’re spoiled. Once winter hits we’re convinced it’s too cold to put any effort into our daily look, so we surrender completely to a pair of sweats. What’s your secret to maintaining your style while packing on layers?
Well, it really never gets too, too cold. It’s not like Orange County people are walking around with North Face parkas and snow shoes on! I think people can dress better in colder weather because there are so many opportunities for layering and creating structured outfits. The more pieces of clothing the more outfit possibilities! I know that when it gets really hot out I literally do not care about what I’m wearing, I slap on a dress and sandals and call it a day. However when it’s colder out, it’s a different story. I’m a big fan of colored tights and I love wearing them with dresses on gray days. The extra pop of color cheers me up and keeps my legs warm. I also think you can get really thoughtful with your dressing when it’s cold out. If you usually wear a winter coat and jeans, consider finding some cute pins and broaches for your jacket lapels or cuff your jeans and let someone sneak a peek at your brightly colored socks. The possibilities are endless.
Q: You’re a recent college grad. Did you start your blog between classes or in a post grad fog?
I kept a version of my blog, which was really just a poorly updated journal that maybe three people read, during the last half of 2009 but really didn’t start updating and making it into the blog that it is now until after I graduated in 2010. Since I wasn’t in school anymore, regularly blogging was something that I could devote my time to and it’s a hobby that I continue to pursue and keep up with.
I’m allergic to ridiculous high heels and overly-tight clothing!
Q: Your online store on Etsy is amazing. Do you see opening up a shop somewhere in Orange County in your future?
Thanks! I definitely wouldn’t rule out opening a brick and mortar store someday in the future but that probably wouldn’t be for a good while. For the time being, I’m happy with selling online. I’ve connected with so many wonderful people, both local folks and international! It’s been great.
Q: What is your favorite free or inexpensive thing to do in Orange County?
Definitely hanging around the beach is one of them, although I almost never go in the water. I like looking for beach glass or checking out the tide pools and cute historic cottages at Crystal Cove. The hot air balloon at the Great Park is a fun way to kill five minutes…that is if you get there early enough to snag a ticket for a balloon ride! And of course, the $1 movie theater in Irvine is pretty great.
Q: I definitely believe that living by the beach influences people’s style. How do you think it effects your look? What are your favorite and not so favorite things about style in Orange County?
When I think of “beach style” I find that there is an overarching theme of comfort. So in that sense, yes, I definitely subscribe to the aspect of beach style that prioritizes comfort and sensibility over being super trendy. I think that, along with the huge influence of the action sports industry, makes Orange County style sort of laid back but still interesting. People aren’t competitive with their dressing and there isn’t a sense of one-upmanship fashion-wise, which is nice. [I’m not a fan of] people who wear factory-ready distressed designer denim with fake tans and blindingly white teeth. That’s an Orange County stereotype that is still alive and well and definitely not my thing. Unfortunately, I feel like a lot of people who aren’t from Orange County think that’s how everyone here dresses, which is annoying.
Q: Now the big question: Where do you see your blog in five years?
Honestly, I have no idea. I’m not going to worry about it. A lot can change in five years. I’m excited to see what happens.
Many of the fabulous looks Ashley donned above are or were for sale on her online store: www.etsy.com/shop/MILKTEETHS