When people think style on Martha’s VIneyard, a certain vision sweeps over the minds of the unknowing. Salmon-colored shorts with tiny smiling whales. Pastel-pink dresses with teal embroidered flowers. She wears, but is not limited to, Vineyard Vines, Ralph Lauren, and Lily Pulitzer. Martha’s Vineyard — home of the kings and queens of prep.
But anyone who’s spent more than an afternoon on this Island knows that’s a far-off presumption. Martha’s Vineyard can be a pretty casual place. So what is Island style?
Meet Eunice Youmans. She’s the project director for the Food Waste Initiative at Island Grown Initiative (IGI). She’s been in her position since January, and spends her days shoveling compost, turning food waste, writing reports, and whatever else the day may throw at her. Her style tends to reflect that same flexibility.
How do you like to dress for work?
My favorite thing to wear is jeans, but I also wear wellies, hats, flannels — anything Americana. I love western cowboy hats and cowboy boots. I could probably live in everything Ralph Lauren. They do this great mix of real luxurious pieces, like leather and high-end fabrics, and then straight Americana denim. I’d say I wear something denim every single day.
What would you say inspired your style?
I was born in Alabama, and I spent half my life in the rural south — right around the corner from Harper Lee, where ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ was set. I grew up tipping cows and riding tractors and three wheelers.
My family always had a flair for the dramatic. My mom was a social worker, but at the same time, she had this really interesting take on clothes. She’d get really fascinated by these three-piece wool suits with a hat — and this was in the 80’s. I’m not sure anyone, aside from myself, would consider her fashionable, because she was pretty outrageous. But she wore really clever pieces. I think I take after that flair for the dramatic.
Talk about some of your clever pieces.
I have this African caftan, which is a Moraccan robe that goes fully down to the ground. The lining is emerald green and has cream embroidery all over it. I got it in a thrift store in Washington D.C. for like $3.
What does a day in the life look like for you, and how do you dress for it?
Some days I’m shoveling compost and standing knee-deep in food waste. I’m walking the property [at Thimble Farm], overseeing operations, checking mechanical things — that’s the dirty work. I usually wear wellies and whatever I don’t mind getting dirty.
The other part of the job is talking to a lot of people. Going to meetings, the board of selectmen, meeting individuals — those are days where I have to be a little more dressed up. My favorite thing to wear in the summer is jeans, a white T shirt, and this Ralph Lauren seersucker jacket that my mom bought me 25 years ago. There are holes in it but it still looks great.
Some days I’m writing, doing different reports, and researching. I’ll spend some time in my office in West Tisbury, and for those days, in the summer I’ll wear a dress.
Talk about being part of the Island’s women workforce.
As a female leader, I have to think about the balance of my girliness and the need for gravitas. I’m very conscious, and I think a lot of people are conscious, about what they wear here. In Boston, everyone wears suits. Here, if you wear a suit, you’re seen as an outsider. I’m always bringing balance to my natural girliness. I love clothes, makeup, all that kind of stuff, but I’m also a dedicated environmentalist and I live in a remote place. I could live in a yurt with no electricity and be very happy. I’m always conscious of the fact that it’s my brain that’s heard, not my lipstick. Even though I love lipstick.
What about shoes?
My favorite shoes of all time are my waterproof hiking heels. I wear them almost every day in the winter, and summer. They’re made by Sorel and they’re a wedge boot. I can run in them, hike in them, they’re waterproof for snow and rain, and it’s a three-inch heel. They’re the best shoes in the world.
I tend to wear the same jewelry every day. I put it on, and it stays on. I love turquoise, and I’ve been wearing these turquoise earrings for a long time. My favorite jewelry store is Red Fish Blue Fish in Hyannis. That’s where I buy all my recycled sterling silver jewelry. They sell amazing native pieces. I recently bought a wampum necklace there that I wear every day. It’s a mix of wampum and turquoise. I love everything in that store.
Do you get many style compliments?
I do! I was at a New York City gallery one night, and a photographer from Vogue Magazine asked if she could take my picture for their ‘Focus on Fashion’ section. I was wearing this navy blue pin-striped suit, that I probably found on the Macy’s discount rack, with a straw cowboy hat. I love clothes. It’s my fatal flaw — one of my fatal flaws.
Just this past Friday I went out to dinner with my 12-year-old son. I’d just got this amazing dress from TJ’s or Marshalls. It’s a floor-length dress, really inexpensive, but a fantastic dress. I wore it to the Martha’s Vineyard Chowder Company and the hostess just loved it. I had a bathing suite on underneath. My son and I went straight from dinner over to Big Bridge. I guess that’s the Hallmark of my style. I like to be dressed for dinner, but ready to jump off Big Bridge at any time.
What’s your favorite store on the Island?
Slate in Edgartown; it’s just wonderful. The owner does a great job curating her store.
Any off-Island go-to’s?
The easiest thing for me is Nordstrom. If I know I have to buy something, I’ll usually go online and just order it from their website.
I don’t buy clothes often. When I do, I try to buy things that are timeless and will last a long time. Like my Ralph Lauren jacket that I mentioned before, I also bought a tweed coat from Ralph Lauren that I’ll have for another 30 years. I have a beautiful Marc Andrew leather jacket that I’ve had for 10 years, and cowboy boots I’ve had for 20. I either buy things that are super interesting, or super classic.
Has your style evolved since moving to the Island?
It’s really funny because before I moved to the Island, I didn’t own an item of polar fleece. Now I own several.
How would you describe Island style?
I think there’s a real mix of style here. In the morning, I’ll wear wellies because I’m walking down to the salt marsh, or am knee-deep in all kinds of stuff. But by the evening, there are all these great restaurants and cultural things, so you’re always sort of balancing what’s functional in this environment. If you like to be outside, you need every kind of gear to live here. Rain gear, snow gear. That’s Island style to me. You have to be ready for everything.
Is there someone at work you often shower with style compliments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll give them some love in the next edition of The Local.