Kate Jones is the jewelry designer behind Ursa Major Collection. Known for her style and beauty (she’s been profiled by Backyard Bill), she’s also an authority on Maine style, having grown up here. She currently lives at the end of Cape Cod so I spoke to Kate about the clichés, authenticity and truth about New England style.
Define New England style in a few sentences.
Functional, conservative, maritime-lumberjack, un-fussy, un-premeditated.
How does the way people dress here differ than elsewhere in the country?
Well speaking as a coastal Mainer who lives at the end of Cape Cod, our maritime roots would probably be the greatest point of difference. We’re a little salty, with wool fisherman’s sweaters, thick flannels, cotton duck canvas, and heavy peacoats. And denim. That’s seven months out of the year. The remaining five are humid and cotton’s about the only thing good for that. Cotton shirts in the day, cotton sweaters at night. And denim, always jeans. Of course there’s also the WASP influence- or the colorful prep. All of the khakis, the yellow whale embroidered pants, the pink polos, the Nantucket reds- they all exist, and at times, in excess. However, both of these styles; the maritime and the prep, in their authenticity, are un-premeditated. As contrived as the bright pastel polos and the cliché embroidered pants may seem, that way of dressing is just second nature for those folks, it’s everyone else that makes it contrived. I lived on Nantucket once, so I think I can attest to that. All of that said, and truth be told, L.L.Bean has probably dictated much of the way people have dressed here for the past 100 years.
What’s the most classic New England-centric piece clothing, footwear, or accessory that you own?
L.L.Bean bags- 1 leather tote, 2 all canvas totes, 2 flannel-lined cotton totes with leather handles, and 1 waxed canvas duffle bag.
Do you think fashion in New England is underrated? Or perhaps overrated?
The clichés of fashion in New England are overrated, the true authenticity is underrated- probably much like many things, but above all, true, true New England style in understated.
What’s your favorite thing about how people dress here?
The above; they don’t over think it. And the tradition- maybe call it heritage. I’ve spent a good portion of my life living on a sailboat, it’s nice to see that maritime past everyday .
We’ve been on a few “worst dressed” lists. Why do you think that is? And did they get it wrong?
Haha. Really? I can’t imagine any of it would be bad enough to make a “worst dressed” list. Yeah they probably got it wrong. Or maybe they were just focused on the mis-matched pastels and madras, or all the folks who don’t dress to be “stylish”- there’s nothing wrong with that, but I know many very stylish New Englanders, and I’m not the only one who considers them stylish.
If you had to dress as a stereotypical New Englander for Halloween, what would you sport?
Oh that’s a hard one, I’m not sure which direction I’d take. Suppose a pair of Bean boots, some jeans, a a roll-neck sweater, a Grunden’s slicker, and maybe a tattered UMO cap for good measure.
How has your personal style been influenced by your Maine roots?
Most people say I dress like I live on the sea, or just stepped off a boat. I’m happy with that. But I don’t like to be predictable and I don’t like to be stereotypical. So I gotta say, for that reason, I don’t own a pair of Bean boots (everyone else who’s not from New England does these days), I don’t wear my boat shoes as a fashion statement, and I have a limited number of striped shirts in my closet- because when I do wear these things it almost feels cliché to me. If that makes sense. But that’s also because Bean boots are really for hunting and boat shoes are for boating. And people seem to think I wear a striped tee 4 out of 7 days of the week, and I don’t, it just seems fitting that I would. I don’t even have to wear them to embody that look, apparently. I get a kick out of it. So it seems New England style is engrained in me, I take the mentality, I don’t over think, and I like the function of things- style always follows function. And although I seem to have developed a natural aversion to the WASP way of dress, I do have a thing for bright pops of color…and maybe that’s to blame.