Anna Spiro’s new book A Life in Pattern


Celebrated Queensland interior designer Anna Spiro has a beautiful new book out, A Life in Pattern. In the below extract, she talks about how she always wanted to be a fashion designer and the similarities between how she puts together outfits and rooms.

Anna Spiro approaches dressing the same way she approaches decorating

In my younger years, if ever I was asked what I wanted to do for a living, I would always reply, ‘I’d like to be a fashion designer.’ I used to read every Vogue magazine and I would paste tear sheets of cool fashion shoots and fabulous rooms I loved all over my bedroom walls –a wallpaper of my dream life, so to speak!

Fashion is something I am still intensely interested in. There is definitely crossover between designing a divine, interesting room and designing an exceptional dress; many of the same principles apply. Just as I like to create rooms that are always different, I love wearing clothes that nobody else wears, clothes that make people curious. 

What I wear is an expression of me. It can show who I am and what I am about. Therefore, most of the clothes I own are either vintage or are pieces I have had tailor-made. I believe the art of dressing well, as with dressing a room well, is in the combinations. For example, I may pare back a stand-out dress by combining it with an unusual vintage vest or an elegant blazer –it’s about pulling together interesting pieces to create a totally individual look.

Recently, a lovely woman contacted me via Instagram, as she had a set of cool vintage curtains that she wanted to offer me. She’d had them made in the United Kingdom many years ago and had carried them with her all the way to Australia, but no longer needed them.

Knowing my penchant for singular vintage fabrics, she thought I would love them. She was right! I bought the curtains from her and ended up making a fabulous dress out of them. People 0ften ask me, ‘Where did you get that amazing dress?’ I love that it is one of a kind and that it is made out of recycled material that had been loved and cared for since the 1970s as curtains and is now loved as one of my favourite dresses.

Vintage fashion is such a wonderful concept. You don’t have to go full-on vintage from head to toe, but by incorporating one or two pieces into your outfit – whether it’s a coat, vest, earrings or a hat – you can make your outfit your own while at the same time supporting recycling. Whether upcycled or repurposed, fashion or furniture – vintage is great for the environment and creates fun, unrepeatable outfits and rooms.

When it comes to fashion, I am fastidious about fit. I think having something made to match you and your shape is really important and can make a big difference to the overall appearance of your outfit. Knowing what styles and cuts best suit your body shape is paramount. I’m lucky that my dearest friend, Sophie, is a dress designer, and I can always rely on her startling talent to make me something stunning and different that suits my shape perfectly. 

Since I started having most of my clothes made to fit, I now find it difficult to buy items off the rack. They never seem to fit well and always look ‘wrong’ somehow. Not to mention there’s the added risk of turning up to an event wearing the same dress as someone else! 

If having your clothes custom-made is out of reach, consider taking a trusted friend shopping with you, to get a second opinion as to whether the fit of the piece you are considering is right for you.

Photography: Tim Salisbury

A Life in Pattern by Anna Spiro published by Thames & Hudson | $90 | Available in November 2021.

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