Behind the seams: Peta Mathias on her style evolution & what she wore to her wedding

14 July 2022
By Fashion Quarterly

In a seven-part photographic series, we ask our favourite trendsetters about how fashion makes them feel.

Peta Mathias wears Issey Miyake 'Pleats Please' dress, Italian-made earrings, purchased in France and Alberto Gozzi shoes. Image: Holly Burgess.

This week we talk to chef, author, and broadcaster Peta Mathias about her penchant for Issey Miyake, her style evolution, and the red veil she wore to her wedding.

How would you describe your personal style? 

I’ve written a whole chapter on personal style in [my book] Shed Couture. Basically, your style comes from knowing yourself so you can liberate your personal flavour — the purpose of clothing is to tell the world the story of you. My mother taught me style and my French friends taught me that elegance is visual politeness. I try to wear colours and shapes that actually suit me — that’s half the battle.

What are your go-to outfit staples? 

I wear a lot of Pleats Please Issey Miyake and the Italian designer Marni. With Pleats Please you can mix and match, dress up, dress down, layer it, do your fast walk, sit on a plane for 12 hours, throw it in a drawer — and it still looks good. I also wear a lot of my Indian outfits I buy on my tours to India — gorgeous hand block-printed, loose, beautiful garments. And then of course, there’s the avant-garde Marni — colourful, feminine and eclectic.

How or in what ways has your style evolved over time? 

What you wear and the type of men you are attracted to over time changes depending on your stage in life. When I was at school I wanted the best-looking boy and the trendiest clothes, whether they suited me or not. When I was in my twenties I hung out with long haired intellectuals and wore hippy clothes. When I moved to Paris in 1980 my style changed completely because my French lovers said ‘you’re not going out dressed like that are you?’ They were sophisticated and stylish and taught me a lot — less is more, refusal is elegance, quality is better than quantity.

How would you say fashion makes you feel?

I buy my clothes mostly, but not entirely, in sales and recycle designer shops all over the world. “Buy less and buy better” is my rallying cry. If the outfit isn’t right for your mood, you feel out of sorts all day and it’s so easy to fix! Fashion is a simple way to make yourself happy, like good food. Looking good on the outside helps if you’re not feeling great on the inside.

Do you think fashion has the ability to alter your mood?

Fashion has the ability to alter everything — it’s about beauty, art, history, emotion, memory and above all, joy. I can change clothes three times in the morning before I am happy. Endless long lockdowns in Auckland taught me that dressing up counteracted sadness.

What is your preferred way to shop?

I use online shopping very little because I have to see the garment on myself. Having said that, millions of people shop online and the best recycle designer site is The RealReal. Because I travel a lot with my tours, I buy clothes both overseas and in NZ. When I’m sick of them I pass them on.

Can you tell us about one of your all-time favourite outfits that you’ve ever worn?

One of my favourite outfits is my wedding dress. It was a black Italian designer outfit matched with a red veil and black stilettos with red heels. I got married in Paris and caught the metro with my husband and friends to the Mairie of the 14th arrondissement where we got married. He was wearing a morning suit and almost stole my thunder with his good looks.

What about one of your first memories of a good (or bad!) outfit?

The worst outfit I have ever worn is my primary convent school uniform — black shoes, socks, pleated serge tunic, black hat, black cardie. The only thing that saved it was the striped tie so I looked like a 10-year-old ambulant pedestrian crossing. The nuns wanted us to look like baby nuns which is why I rarely wear black today — it’s not a colour, it’s the absence of light.

What is it about fashion or what you choose to wear that excites you?

The colour, the way it can cover faults and the fact that it is the closest I will ever get to art. Fashion is mysterious, irresistible and alluring. 

Discover more of our favourite trendsetters and the transformative power of fashion in the new winter issue of Fashion Quarterly, on sale now

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