Capitol Hill's Robin Held Dresses Without Limits

Independent curator expounds on the virtues of donning clothing creatively

For Capitol Hill’s Robin Held, there are no boundaries when it comes to sartorial self-expression. “I like convertible clothing,” says the creative strategist and cultural entrepreneur who has held prominent positions at Henry Art Gallery, Frye Art Museum and Reel Grrls. “I have skirts that make great tops.” When she travels, Held packs just enough pieces for one or two complete outfits and uses her imagination to combine them to create 10 different looks. “I’m not interested in idiot-proof clothing. I like the freedom to change things around.”

While she’s not a big shopper—and almost exclusively buys used clothing—Held lists among her favorites minimalist and innovative designers Rick Owens (Held and Owens both lived in rural Porterville, California, while growing up, but never met), Comme des Garçons, Ann Demeulemeester, and friend and local designer Mark Mitchell. “As an executive woman, I appreciate clothing that is not so restrictively gendered, and structured pieces that aren’t overly revealing and that allow for personal expression.” Garments that are well made and wear well are interesting to Held, as they age to reveal a new texture or fade to a different patina.

Despite her conscientious and deliberate aesthetic choices, Held is not overly attached to her clothing. “I buy things that matter, but they’re ephemeral,” she says. “I’m not a collector, or comfortable owning too many things. I like to make my attachments to people.” However, if she finds something that she loves, she commits to working with it over time and watching it evolve. One necklace became so hopelessly tangled that she decided to “accept the tangle” and wear it as is. Another accessory—a pendant—has lost many pieces over the years, transforming into a surreal dragon she calls her “spirit animal.”


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