A former stylist now working in the art world, Christine Messineo has always had a lot of freedom with what she's able to wear to work. Since moving from New York City to Los Angeles, where she's now director of the Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Messineo tells The Zoe Report that her style has evolved in ways that sometimes surprise even her.
Former staples such as business-smart blazers and heels have been traded in for new go-tos like cozy sneakers, loud prints, cool denim, and the occasional hat for good measure. But even as her daily uniform continues to change, Messineo says there's one item she'd be lost without — and it's a classic that's probably hanging up in your closet.
What piece instantly makes you feel more confident and why?
Sunglasses. I probably shouldn’t admit that.
I love fashion and I’ve never felt like I’ve had to compromise my style choices for my career.
How do you define your personal style?
A bit unexpected, but comfortable.
How has your style played a role in your career? Has it opened or closed doors for you? Has it evolved as a result?
I love fashion and I’ve never felt like I’ve had to compromise my style choices for my career. I’m definitely aware that I am given a bit more leeway, working in the art world.
How has working in the art world influenced your personal style?
I can wear sneakers to almost anything! I’ve been dealing with an injury for the past two years and can really only wear flats. Thankfully, I can get away with a flat, a slide, a sneaker, on most occasions. But I miss my heels! I was forever the woman with a change of shoes, high heels stashed in my bag or under my desk, ready for the quick switch.
Getting home to change, between work and an event, even with my best intentions, never happens.
What is your daily uniform? How has it changed? Stayed the same? Why is it your uniform?
The honest version, I begin my day in athletic clothing and I’m only sometimes venturing to the gym. When I lived in New York, I had a plethora of blazers. Soft shoulder, structured, double breasted, two-button. But I rarely wear them in Los Angeles. Here I constantly throw on a three-quarter length, lightweight jacket. It works over a T-shirt, a simple thin sweater, jeans, a dress. Another constant is my black leather jacket.
Things I realized looking through pictures from this past year: I wore hats — a white Lacoste baseball hat, an amazing wide brimmed black bolero that my husband brought home for me from Mexico City, a straw hat that is in almost every photograph from my summer vacation. I spent quite a bit of time playing with my dog in black Nike sweats. Sneakers, socks, and knee length dresses. Lots of that, all at once.
What style item do you covet the most? A category, a designer, a specific item? Or what item do you always gravitate towards? What item do you own multiple versions of? Why?
A white blouse. I know, so simple. I’ve been wearing this great one that is a couple of seasons old, from Dries. My friend Natalie Ratabesi recently founded a line called TRE, she designs the best denim. I love a leather skirt paired with a sweatshirt. All of these things can easily be worn during the day and I can still go to a dinner or an art opening in the evening. Getting home to change, between work and an event, even with my best intentions, never happens.
What fashion category do you feel is lacking? What would you like to see more of?
I hate A-line, mid-knee, skirts and dresses. OK, hate is a strong word, and I know somewhere a photo exists of me, wearing something with an A-line so this major statement will haunt me. But right now, this current version of myself, wishes for a slimmer line or even a longer line. I love a loose but high-waisted pant, cut on the bias.
Can you recall an outfit you have worn that was iconic for you? Either you wore it for a momentous occasion or it signified a turning point in your life or style? What inspired it/how did it happen?
This is not an outfit. About a year and a half ago I began getting acrylic nails. I have no idea how long this habit will last but I was inspired by the artist Elaine Cameron-Weir. The day before her exhibition opening, we went to get our nails done. I got a full set and had them painted silver. I haven’t stopped since. As a long time nail bitter, this manicure has changed my life. My fingers are always in top shape and presentable.
I remember looking through fashion magazines and they would occasionally have this section, ‘What to wear in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s.' ... I don’t think that way ... It’s so much more personal.
Which item in your closet is your most beloved/have you owned for the longest and why?
I definitely have not Marie Kondo-ed my closet so this a more challenging question. I did change out all the hangers so now they match and everything hangs in an orderly fashion. That certainly felt like a major accomplishment. I buy vintage. Traveling so often for work, I love to find the consignment store, to physically go in and poke around. But the longest, I feel like that’s probably a T-shirt from my high school. Not something I’m wearing, but that has sentimental value.
How has the conversation around age and fashion changed in your experience, and how do you want to see it progress?
I remember looking through fashion magazines and they would occasionally have this section, ‘What to wear in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s.” (I think the last two were often combined which also says something.) I don’t think that way, like there are rules to what might look good on you. It’s so much more personal. The artist Barbara Kasten is a dear friend and is the chicest woman. She is 82. When I visit her in Chicago, I love diving into her closet, borrowing her clothing (also she has the best jewelry…), and occasionally sneaking away with something.
How has your style changed, if at all, as you’ve matured? Why or why not?
I wear more patterns. An animal print. A floral pair of Acne cords are a current staple. I’m confident in my more quirky or eccentric choices. I also embrace the casual side, running to the grocery store or farmers market in a pair of leggings and a hoodie. Reviving Patagonia. I’ve always mixed high and low, but tend to be a bit more careful. Not buying things that will just fall apart after a few wears.
To what (or whom) do you credit your interest in or affinity for style? What is your earliest style memory?
Urban Outfitters, Delia’s, Sassy magazine. OK, I’ll stop, because I’ve totally dated and embarrassed myself.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.