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Fashion

We Love This Stylist’s Breezy Summer Style

Leah Gust shares how she keeps cool in the heat, plus the number one fashion tip she gives her clients.
We Love This Stylist’s Breezy Summer Style

(Photo: Peter Chatterton)

For Leah Gust, a stylist and entrepreneur from Bowmanville, Ont., getting dressed is an adventure and every day is a new opportunity to experiment. Her fail-safe trick? Layering vintage finds, patterns and bright colours, like this voluminous Eliza Faulkner tulle dress she paired with bold red pants from Canadian designer Mercedes Morin and a matching thrifted bikini top. To stay cool in the summer heat, Gust says light, breathable fabrics are key.

After growing up with a purposefully unremarkable wardrobe designed to blend in, Gust found her personal style by taking risks—her gateway piece was a pink poncho, purchased at a time when she was living in jeans and hiking boots. She now teaches that fearless approach to her clients, many of whom share her former reluctance for dressing outside the box. “It’s okay to try things,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be a 10 out of 10 every time—don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”

We asked Gust to share the formula behind her breezy summer style and the number one tip she gives her clients.

Stylist Leah Gust pictured against a pink brick wall grouted with turquoise wearing red pants and a turquoise tulle tunic over a red bikini top.Gust layered a tulle dress by Montreal designer Eliza Faulkner over a thrifted bikini top. (Photo: Peter Chatterton)

You're a stylist. How did you first fall in love with fashion and get your start in the industry?

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It was a winding path! Growing up, my mom was very fashionable but financially conservative, so we would go thrifting a lot. That's how we spent a lot of our time together. Very early on, I was interested in having things that other people didn't have, things that you couldn't find at the mall.

I didn't study fashion—I spent some time working in finance, but it wasn't a good fit. I decided that if I was going to leave a very lucrative job, I might as well make it worth it. So I moved to the U.K., interned at Harper's Bazaar in London and worked on photo shoots there. When I came back to Canada, I put my time and energy into styling.

How would you describe your personal style? How did it evolve over the years?

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When I was young, I just wanted to wear whatever was cool. I grew up at a time when grunge was really popular, and then there was the surfer look with a lot of low-cut jeans and brands like Quicksilver and Roxy. For a while, I just wanted to fade into the background, so I was following the trends and I wasn't choosing colour.

I have a very clear memory of buying a hot pink poncho, which definitely was not cool at the time. It didn't go with what I would normally wear, it wasn't who I was presenting myself as, but I loved this piece. It's the same thing I tell my clients: Who says you can't wear this? If you like it and it's interesting to you, wear it. Now, I see getting dressed as a little bit of an adventure every day.

These days, I love vintage clothing, colour and pattern mixing. The fun of vintage for me is that you just never know what you're gonna find.

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We Love This Stylist’s Breezy Summer StyleGust wears this Nooworks jumpsuit several times a week all through summer. (Photo: Peter Chatterton)

What's your process when picking an outfit for the day?

I don't buy a lot of new things. Part of my process is thinking of how can I wear what I already have in a different way. How can I try this piece in an unexpected combination? How can I make these pants that I've worn 40 times look new? There's not much of a plan, I just like the challenge of rethinking things. I like layering. It's often how I breathe more life into old things—sometimes, I find the classic two-pieces-of-clothing uniform a bit limiting.

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I have seven-year-old twins. Even postpartum, I still got dressed every single day. I'm not a sweat pants girl. I love clothes, I love fashion, and every day is an opportunity to try something new. I never get tired of putting together a new outfit.

What's your summer style like?

Even in the summer, I'm quite covered up but I still keep cool in the heat. I don't want to feel too exposed—I want to feel comfortable. I still love layering when it's hot, adding a T-shirt under a dress or a cute scarf around my neck. Clueless was a very formative movie in my teen years, and I love the look of a baby tee under a tank with spaghetti straps.

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Colour and proportion are very easy ways to make an outfit interesting, so I like pairing my Eliza Faulkner tulle dress with pants, like the red ones from Mercedes Morin I'm wearing in the picture. I'm wearing a thrifted bikini top underneath so it breathes. As for the other photo, I was obsessed with the jumpsuit as soon as I saw it. It's from Nooworks, a female-founded brand in L.A. that makes their own prints. I love the lavender colour and the snake pattern that has a hint of animal print. It was expensive, but I wear it two or three times a week all summer long.

In general, I avoid synthetic fabrics. I don't like their environmental footprint, or how they feel on. I gravitate toward natural fabrics, and I like the way a cotton dress flows.

What's the number-one piece of fashion advice you give your clients?

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I often work with women who are afraid of fashion. I really like helping people find their own voice, because if you feel good in what you're wearing—no matter what that is—that's always affirming. I don't think fashion should be scary. It's just clothes.

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