She’s got the look

Posted Feb. 13, 2009, at 7:09 p.m.

Style is more than what you wear. And it’s more than how you wear it. Some say it’s an attitude, but we think that’s too simple.

True style can’t be bought. Though it might be informed by trends, it won’t be led astray by them. Instead, it makes its own statements — its own rules — confidently and fearlessly.

The five recipients of the ShopGirl Style Awards embody all of these elements and more. Our judges — Bangor Daily News photographers Bridget Brown and Kate Collins, who is the creative genius and guiding force behind these images, as well as Sergio Ramos of The Exchange thrift shop in Hampden and myself — were blown away by the entries. In fact, we had a hard time choosing only five. Though we were a little disappointed that no men entered, it thrilled us to see women of all ages and all walks of life who absolutely owned their look.

It got even better once we had the chance to meet them. You’ll see some of eastern Maine’s most fashion-forward women and learn a little bit about what makes them tick. We hope you are as inspired by their style — and their stories — as we were.

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Shanice Cruz, 16, Bangor

What we loved: Though Shanice takes a playful, joyous

approach to dressing, she has an understanding of fashion that is far beyond her years. She instinctually knows what works, and she has a knack pulling off unusual

combinations with grace and elegance. Not surprisingly, she aspires to a career in fashion. And her sky-high, purple patent leather Marc Jacobs pumps sealed the deal.

Shanice on shopping: “My thing is, it has to intrigue me. It could look kind of ugly, but if it intrigues me, I have to have it. I don’t really follow any rules. I just kind of go for it.”

Martha Wolford, 71, Chester

What we loved: Martha had us at “Hello.” Her entry photo showed Martha posed near her woodpile, resplendent in a belted leather jacket, with a mischievous gleam in her eye. When she arrived at the studio and whipped out a sassy white faux fur coat, we knew we had made the right choice. Oh, and she hasn’t worn pants since 1978, when she went to work for the U.S. Census Bureau.

Martha on her favorite outfit: “I want to be buried in it so no one else can have it.”

Cara Oleksyk, 24, Bangor

What we loved: Cara mixes and matches patterns, colors and textures in a way that leaves us wishing we were a little more daring. Cara has overcome many obstacles in her life — which made her realize there are things a lot more daunting than the idea of wearing stripes with polka dots or a ’50s dress with ’80s leggings. We love her boldness.

Cara on owning her look: “I’ve always been a little bit different. I think it’s controlled chaos. I love color. I kind of just like the chaos of things, and I think that comes together in my outfits.”

Cara Doiron, 13, Bangor

What we loved: Cara’s spunk. At 13, most girls want to look like everyone else. Not Cara. She has been sewing for as long as she can remember, and it is her goal to become a fashion designer. After seeing her skills as a seamstress in person, we’re quite sure she’ll succeed.

Cara on individuality: “In a world filled with Abercrombie & Fitch lookalikes, I want to stand out. … I don’t want to be like everyone else. If I was like everyone else, life would be bland.”

Laura Michaud, 34, Veazie

What we loved: Laura has modern classic down to a science. Though we generally shied away from “careful” dressers in our judging, Laura’s look had polish and finesse. She’s the type of woman whom you walk by on the street and think, “Jeez, I wish I were half that put-together.”

Laura on Laura: “I just like clothes that never go out of style. I like trends a lot, but I only choose the ones that work for me, and I think that’s important for everyone to do.”

We would like to thank Sergio Ramos and The Exchange (formerly Ofelia’s), a thrift store located in the Old General Store Antiques on Route 1A in Hampden, for donating a $100 gift certificate to each of our winners. We would also like to thank Kim Blood of the Old General Store Antiques, for donating a $25 gift certificate to each of our winners. And, of course, we are incredibly grateful to all of the stylish women who entered.

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