She might have worn a uniform for nine years at St. Francis de Sales School in Lake Zurich, but Amber Doyle still made it look fashionable, adding crazy tights, stylish shoes and hair accessories.
Her knack for fashion became her career, and today, Doyle is a New York City designer who creates clothes for celebrities (including Janelle Monae's famous suit from the 2013 Grammys), Vogue magazine fashion shoots, movies and musicians.
Red carpet fashion trendsNew York fashion designer Amber Doyle, who grew up in Lake Zurich, talks about the trends we're seeing on the red carpet this awards season:
• The colors yellow and pink. "Yellow is a daring color and I enjoyed seeing it on so many women. I'm surprised people don't wear it more. And I have a metallic pink suit in my collection."
• Head-to-toe sequins and embellishments. "The more sequins, the better."
• Plunging necklines. "It's not new, but I like that more women are doing that. It's a really flattering cut. It feels very 1970s to me, and I like that it's being brought back."
Doyle's pick for best dressed at the Golden Globe Awards? Evan Rachel Wood, in a custom Altuzarra silk pantsuit. "To me, that's still the coolest thing you can wear. It's the sexiest, the most shocking, and oh, by the way, the most comfortable thing. It's Katharine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich. ... If I ever went to one of those award shows, I'd wear one of those tuxedos hands down."
"It's really fun to have this idea, put it on paper, and bring it to life. It's like you put some fairy dust on a sketch and it comes to life. I love the creation of clothing," Doyle said. "When you put something on that's beautiful and ornate, it transforms you. I really like that about clothing."
Doyle has her own self-titled fashion line (and previously, two New York boutiques). Her current collection, "Return to Glamour," combines masculine and feminine styles for a look she describes as "Katharine Hepburn Hollywood starlet and glam, rock 'n' roll star."
Inspired by glamorous Hollywood looks from the 1930s, she designs clothes for both men and women using a lot of nontraditional menswear fabrics, such as boucle and leather, and cutting them in traditional, classic ways. She's a big fan of suits.
"I'm just changing the world one suit at a time," Doyle said, laughing. "I really love the pantsuit on the girl. I've been rockin' the pantsuit since high school. I love that it's shocking for a woman to wear a suit. For me, it's so easy and so basic."
Doyle's mother taught her how to sew at a young age. Her mom would make clothing for the family, and Amber started out making things like a purse out of scrap fabrics, and clothing for the dog.
At Lake Zurich High School, where she didn't have to wear a uniform anymore, Doyle's fashion sense blossomed. She got into art, underground music, punk and David Bowie. When Bowie's "A Reality Tour" came to Rosemont's Allstate Arena, none of her high school friends wanted to go. So Doyle had her mom drop her off and she went by herself.
"It was the most incredible show," she said.
Bowie's style would later influence Doyle's designs.
"He was really androgynous in the way that he never let clothing or idealism get in the way of what he wanted to say. He was so free and fantastical about the things that he wore," she said. "Musicians kind of really paint this image of this sound and vision."
Doyle loves to dress musicians, and she's done custom clothes and tour uniforms for several, including Chain and the Gang, DJ Jonathan Toubin, The Avett Brothers and Brian Newman (Lady Gaga's jazz bandleader and trumpet player). She also designed one of Sean Lennon's Grammy red carpet looks.
"I get excited coming up with new designs, and having them worn, and hearing back from the people I make these things for on how great it makes them feel," Doyle said. "It's a different thing when you make something for somebody. It's like wearing this piece of artwork."
• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for people from the suburbs who are now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make an interesting feature story, email them at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.