Elizabeth Kingston Timeless Styling
Some young girls are really into pink. Others insist on dressing up – princess for a day is a popular theme. And others prefer to step out in a dropped waist dress, carrying mother’s handbag and sporting a mini-bouffant. And that’s just to visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Even at age three, a sense of timeless styling had Elizabeth Kingston in its grip.

The Brisbane based stylist, sewist, and storyteller is known for her eclectic style, bold use of colour and accessorising, that she herself states is never in fashion and so never out of fashion.

‘I learned quite some time ago, that it is more rewarding to dress for myself, and to have fun doing so,’ she remarks. ‘To make the statement that expresses who I am and how I feel on any given day. Before setting up my Instagram, I took some time to decide on my moniker. I decided upon Timeless Styling as it reflected a concept of dressing which had no beginning and no end’.

Combining a variety of pieces which haven’t come off the same clothing rack in a department store, or from the collection by one designer, really resonates with me.
Elizabeth Kingston in Upcycled Vintage Sari Dress

Elizabeth Kingston in Upcycled Vintage Sari Dress, photo by Darin Rose

A self-professed thrifter, Elizabeth credits her eclectic style to her ability to access several decades worth of clothing and accessories. ‘Since I turned 50, I have developed an increased confidence to express myself in a manner which reflects my personality. Accessories have become my signature styling element, I like to combine stacks of bangles, layering with necklaces, statement rings, and earrings, as well as hats or turbans to complete the look’.

Additionally, she tips her hat to the infamous Advanced Style movement, spearheaded by photographer Ari Seth Cohen. His muses Iris Apfel, Debra Rapoport, Tziporah Salamon, Judith Boyd (Style Crone), and The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas – each trailblazing bold fashion choices for older women, typified by a bold expression of colour, pattern and lavishly applied accessories.

It was the 60’s, and like many her age, young Elizabeth’s mother made fashion accessible by making a lot of their clothes herself. At age eight, Elizabeth started to mimic her mother by mocking up crude outfits for her doll out of the scraps of fabric that had been left over.

‘I wanted her outfit to match what I was wearing. In time I was able to assist my mother with the pinning and cutting, but it wasn’t until I was about 12 that I took complete ownership, and started making my clothes from start to finish’. From hobbyist to home economics prodigy in secondary school, Elizabeth refined her craft at University whilst embarking on a Visual Arts Teaching Degree, Majoring in Textiles, covering spinning, weaving, dyeing, and printmaking. ‘This was a fabulous extension of my knowledge and love of textiles. The process of creating my own fabric from scratch was just exhilarating’.

At the same time, a part-time job at fabric store, Sckafs, in Indooroopilly, gave her access to a swathe of exotic fabrics from overseas, further fuelling her passion. ‘Customers always appreciated seeing the fabrics in context, made up into garments – so it was a great excuse to be experimenting with different cloth’.

Once in the classroom, Elizabeth tried to squeeze textiles into the curriculum wherever possible, finding that students, both male and female alike, were really responding to the possibilities offered in working with fabric – its varieties, origins, and surface manipulation – the learning process even having a reciprocal effect on her own practice.

The natural progression was starting her own label, Tpinjii Designs, in the early 1980’s, which drew upon her own Maltese Heritage. Tpinjii, an anglicised version of a Maltese word meaning ‘to be drawn’, started by producing one-off hand-printed pieces with a focus on bold colour, pattern, asymmetry, and layering.

After scooping the pool at the Sunshine Coast Fashion Design Awards in 1988, taking out both the Daywear category and the Supreme Award, she decided it was time to leave the teaching game temporarily to concentrate on developing the line, which was gaining a following. Elizabeth continued to design, print and produce three collections a year until the end of 1993 when she decided to re-commit more time to herself, and her own personal journey with fashion.

And while fashion may be transient she says, timeless style endures. ‘For me, it’s about the development of a style’.

‘Over the years I have been drawn to designers for their use of colour, surface embellishment or choice of print-mix,’ she says. Just as my style is eclectic, so too are my many sources of inspiration. I draw upon various periods of history, namely the 1920’s to the 1960’s; and cultures predominantly Japan, India, Mexico, and Africa. There are also artists, such as Sonia Delaunay, Frida Kahlo, the De Stijl and Bauhaus movements, as well as fashion photographers such as Tim Walker and Mario Testino.’

Elizabeth Kingston Timeless Styling

Elizabeth Kingston at the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, photo by Evelina Fietisova

‘Though I like that modern fashion is more transformative, trends can be seasonal, and can evolve. For me, I don’t have to rely on what’s currently ‘in fashion’, but rather create a blend of the old and new into my styling’, she says. ‘There are times when the street art near where I work can inspire an outfit. I have even designed looks around a specific collection of jewellery’.

For Elizabeth, the most constant of influences over the past three decades has been that of Japanese designer Issey Miyake –

I am drawn to the sculptural, architectural silhouettes of his work. I love that he treats the human figure in the round – that there is a point of interest to be seen from every angle. I try to adopt this into my own work whenever possible.

This intrigue with Japanese design, its sensitivity to the human form, has further blossomed whilst working in the Fortitude Valley boutique of Japanese-Australian designer Akira Isogawa, who also shares a love of embellishment, and the re-use of vintage textiles.

‘Akira’s own textiles are the real highlight for me’, she beams. ’He designs all his own fabrics and then has them hand-produced by artisans from his very own original artwork. Because of my textile background, I am able to translate his knowledge and share it with our customers, creating awareness that what they are buying is a piece of wearable art’.

Icons aside, what most underpins Elizabeth’s interest is a commitment to sustainable fashion, reconnecting people with the process by which their clothes are made, an awareness she sees as vital to the future of the planet. ‘The Slow Clothing movement is slowly gaining traction’ she remarks. ‘Around 90% of my wardrobe has been either made by me, is vintage, has been thrifted, upcycled or handed down by girlfriends’.

‘The upside to thrifting, beyond saving another garment from making its way into landfill, is finding amazing designer pieces for which you get to be the next custodian, and you also get to support various charities, which is a fabulous way of giving back to the community’.

Recently, at the invitation of Textile Beat founder Jane Milburn, and resin jewellery company, Ruby Olive Jewellery, she became a participant in Brisbane’s Revive and Recreate Sustainability campaigns. For Revive, which is a celebration of second-hand fashion, Elizabeth transformed into Frida Kahlo, her outfit made entirely of hand-made, or thrifted pieces. Her second parade outfit – a denim pinafore constructed from three pairs of upcycled men’s jeans.

Looking to the future, Elizabeth has also given thought to working as a mature model, as the consumer need for older models increases, and as she says, ‘to represent the work of designers who have the vision that their creations extend beyond any boundaries of age or time’.

‘I began my foray into social media a little over two years ago as a way to create a visual portfolio of my daily style. Sharing my interpretation of how I sewed using Vogue Patterns, and ideas on how to combine colour and pattern through fabric and accessories,’ she says. ‘Many of these ensembles have been photographed in the urban environment, utilising street art as my backdrop. I would love to take this one step further, by curating the work of designers into editorial style shoots, to tell stories through location and props.

Elizabeth Kingston Timeless Styling at GOMA

Elizabeth Kingston blending in at the Yayoi Kusama Exhibition, photo by Terry Memory.

Currently also exploring her interest in beading, Elizabeth has started running frequent workshops in and around Brisbane but plans to take these interstate as interest grows.

When asked to give her thoughts on ageing, she reflects, ‘Being older gives us the hindsight to put our experiences into perspective. To take less in our life for granted, and realise that sharing what we have with others, does, in turn, benefit everyone. Life is about learning and exploring, and as I get older I know I need to embrace opportunities when they come my way’.

‘Whilst there is much work to be done breaking down the barriers of ageism, I am pleased to see movements like Advanced Style, and even some design and cosmetic houses giving visibility to the older woman – sending the message that there is beauty far beyond the tween-years.

‘I have never really focussed on my age as such – but the thought of maturing like a good wine leaves a delicious thought in my mind’.

Like Iris Apfel once said – If you’re lucky enough to get old, I think you should celebrate it.

Elizabeth Kingston, aka Timeless Styling, is a sewist, curator, storyteller and artistic collaborator whose unique personal styling has become a benchmark and inspiration for women of all ages interested in being inspired by her use of colour, pattern, and adornment. Elizabeth is passionate about sustainable fashion and believes that with the right attitude shift, away from being ‘in fashion’ to being ‘in style’ will help curb much of the unsustainable waste created by fast fashion and the need to have a new wardrobe every season.