Jesica Elise Wagstaff



Jesica Elise Wagstaff is the author of A Sunday Journal, our favorite fashion theory newsletter on Substack. Jesica chronicles how the sociology, philosophy, and economics of fashion impact our daily lives, pointing to the intersectional ways fashion can affect social change. From her home in Washington DC, she eloquently captures how the daily expression of fashion is a personal message to the pockets of society we inhabit, as well as how we cultivate understanding of our own identity through what we wear. 

Her intellectual curiosity is rigorous, but her style reflects a measured ease. Jesica favors the String sandal to elevate even a simple look, from her vintage Levi's 505s to a pair of Klein blue cotton shorts with a white button down, and even a cotton-cashmere knit set. She keeps the String on heavy rotation, and we recommend doing the same for A Sunday Journal.


How would you describe your style?
Today I would describe it as natural with fits of severity, but that is a fairly recent shift. At a certain point I grew tired of presenting myself in such a traditional manner through classic style, and wanted to play with structure and scale. I think a lot of that had to do with turning 40 and realizing I really could present myself however I want and I wanted to lean into ease, interchangeability – not so much a uniform because my style is not as prescriptive as I probably make it seem – but identifying designers that work well together in unexpected ways. That means a lot of Lauren Manoogian, Sofie D’Hoore, and Casey Casey – but also Rick Owens and Ottolinger, as well. Of course there are vestiges of my “old’ style – loads of Barbour jackets, jeans, and fisherman sweaters for the utilitarian nature of rural life, but they’re worn (and perhaps offset) by sculptural, voluminous or deconstructed pieces. In some ways I feel as though I am dressing for some post-apocalyptic soft life! 


What was the last great trip you took and where did you go?
Last year for our tenth anniversary, my “hetero-life mate” Robb surprised me with a trip to Paris that he booked only a few days prior. We typically acknowledge this random relationship date (we’re unmarried) quietly, but Robb was adamant about marking the milestone, even in the midst of some pretty big life changes. Thankfully, we are familiar enough to go on a whim without much planning – Hôtel National Arts et Métiers, museums, cocktails and dinner at Derriere, and lots of people watching. Typically, we do not have to contend with historic storms that ground us in Geneva, or long lines at tourist attractions like the Hemingway Bar, but in wanting to make the trip special we threw in new ideas that just did not come to fruition. But again, Robb was adamant about marking the milestone, so we built in a day of vintage watch shopping – like a horological tour of the city – following the recommendations of friends, shop owners, and Google Maps until we found a Cartier Tank Mini and Tank Must to commemorate a decade of doing a lot of loosely planned activities like this. Interestingly, when I wear the watch now I never think of what went wrong or how wet we got; I think of how we stopped with a full city block of Parisians to witness a complete rainbow, and how exhausted and enchanted we were by the city and our finds with drinks at MINATO Bar.      



What is currently inspiring you? Sartorially, culturally or otherwise?
Color! My wardrobe is almost exclusively white, black, gray, navy, and neutrals so I am trying to find creative ways to incorporate just a bit of color without adding new (and quite frankly unnecessary) clothes. I am particularly inspired by the work of painter Danielle McKinney. The Black women in her work almost always wear a red nail (a color my grandmother exclusively wore and I have recently adopted) and occupy bright, sumptuous, yet accessible spaces. They are women ensconced in silence, contemplation – they know and are comfortable with themselves and there is something so empowering about that at this point in time, socially and politically. 

Sartorially speaking, I cannot pull myself away from the Martin Margiela and Jean Paul Gauthier years at Hermès. Both set the foundation for so many trends and aesthetic sensibilities we largely attribute to more recent designers and fashion brands. If I could own every piece from every collection, I would have an unimpeachable wardrobe!


Guilty or not so guilty pleasure?
Where to begin? Reality television has to be at the top of my list, but not just any reality show, but those pertaining to wealth, status, style/presentation, including (and fairly limited to): 

Real Housewives of New York, Beverly Hills, and Potomac
The Circle (I feel quite strongly that this is one of the smartest and earnest shows)
90 Day Fiancé 
Married at First Sight

I could probably eat a yellow cupcake with white frosting and rainbow sprinkles every day, but I am pretty good at limiting it to maybe one or two every so often. And at some point I became adamant about having fresh white flowers in our entryway. This may not seem like a guilty pleasure, but cut flowers are terrible for the environment, so we are planting a garden for this purpose. 


Last great book that you read?
Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami, Adrienne Geffel: A Fiction by David Hajdu, and The Price of Inequity by Joseph E. Stigliz immediately come to mind. I know you said one, but… 


How would you spend the perfect Spring day in Washington, D.C.?
If it’s a perfect spring day then I think I would have to do away with my rule of domestic sobriety and sit on the patio of All Souls Bar with friends and chat all day into the night. I would definitely order my usual, The All Souls – a sparkling rosè with a Maker’s Mark neat on the side that I always gave to Robb – and grab a large pepperoni to share with the table from Pizza D’Oro next door.

Older Post