The ModCloth Frock Project

I’m excited to finally share this with you! It wasn’t exactly a secret, but I felt like keeping it to myself until the project was actually finished. A while back ModCloth contacted me after seeing my frock paintings, wondering if I’d like to paint some of their dresses for their office. Obviously the answer was YES!, of course! and I picked out four dresses from the site to paint. They sent me the dresses as well, which was hugely helpful in deciphering the prints and tiny details, and I also snapped some outfit photos featuring their frocks. There is an interview with me featuring the paintings and some of the photos up on the ModLife blog, you should go and check it out!

I’m also really happy to be passing on two of the dresses to my friends. The chartreuse dress didn’t fit me, so I just gave it to my friend Lauren last night, and the beachcomber dress was picked specifically with my bestie Rachel in mind, it’s a late birthday present for her!

Since their blog can’t have giant posts like mine can, I’m going to share the rest of the photos and interview questions that weren’t printed right here in this post. Thanks so much to ModCloth for giving me such a fun project to work on, I’m endlessly flattered that they wanted to have my little paintings up on their walls! An especially big thanks to Emily and Angela, who worked on all of this with me, thanks cool ladies!

Boater hat: antique mall
Silk floral dress: ModCloth
Green tights: Hue
Rachel Comey platform wedges: ebay

I love the lifelike detail in your watercolors. What inspired you to paint these four frocks?

Well, the frock painting project originally started as a way for me to reclaim bad quality ebay photos of amazing old dresses that I couldn’t afford to buy and make them into something that I could have- paintings! It’s way better than a random photo saved onto my computer, although I still have a whole folder of them waiting to be transformed into new, tangible pieces of art.

With the ModCloth dresses, I looked for interesting lines and shapes, appealing colors and prints that seemed like they wouldn’t be impossible to recreate. I kept being drawn to dark dresses with a lot of black since it was still very wintery when I started on this project, but all dark dresses would have made for a dismal collection. The pieces I ended up with sort of represent each season, going from silky, floaty florals for spring, to bolder bright prints for summer, then moving into deeper colors for fall and then ending with good ol’ winter black.

Why paint dresses? Can you talk a bit about your aesthetic?

I love dresses, they can be pretty epic! For one, they’re instant outfits. You could walk down the street totally naked except for a dress and it wouldn’t seem that strange. Anytime there’s a fashion exhibit at a museum, dresses are usually the main attraction. I think I’ve been drawing dresses ever since I was really young; I was obsessed with old fairy tale book illustrations and was constantly trying to reproduce and invent elaborate clothing. I don’t wear a lot of fancy or complicated things, so painting frilly and ornate frocks is a cool way for me to explore that without having to look like a cupcake.

In your daily outfit pics, you’re almost always wearing dresses and skirts. Do you have a philosophy behind this?

The truth is, I love pants! Unfortunately I only have two decent pairs and it’s WAY harder to thrift a pair of pants than it is to find a million awesome dresses. If you’ve ever looked through a rack of pants at the thrift store, you’ll know what I mean. It’s impossible to eyeball whether or not they’ll fit, or be horrible once you put them on… it’s exhausting! I’m dying for some more cool Swedish fashion blogger slacks, with the perfect rolled-up cuffs and high waists with the pleats!

J Crew striped shirt: thrifted (Value Village in Victoria)
ModCloth chartreuse dress
Red purse: Goodwill bins
Platform peep-toe wedge boots: Aldo

I read on your blog that you were going for a “weird French” look for 2010. Sounds fun! Can you expand on that?

My brain has been taken over by stripes!! I can’t get enough. I want to create outfits that start out with the most classic french look- you know, stripes, red lipstick, a beret, a baguette or whatever, and twist it up with the other things I love right now, like golden straw colors, suede shoes, chambray, scallop shapes, and maybe an unusual print or two.

Currently, what is your all time favorite outfit?

Comfy striped dress, sailor jacket, red lipstick, black tights and my favorite suede flats with a fringe on the toe.

I’m enamored by your “Billuminati” prints! Can you talk about those?

The Billuminati is like my weird little baby. When I first came up with the idea in 2005 I assumed that no one else would think it was funny (the idea that all men named Bill, especially famous ones, are in a secret society together), but I’m glad I finally went for it and finished all the drawings. I think the aesthetics of old fraternal orders are the best things ever, and I want to steal their symbolism and repurpose it as much as I can. It’s kind of awkward to do since these orders (Freemasons, Odd Fellows, Elks, etc) are still active, so I hope they don’t come after me… after all, I’m revealing their darkest secrets! I’m also really interested in feminizing their iconography, even though many of these orders had spin-offs for the women, I think it’s fun to take something so historically male and paint it all in pastels or cover it in flowers. It’s like a big art lady diss.

Who are some of your favorite designers and artists?

Current designer favorites include Rachel Comey, Nadinoo, Miu Miu, Colenimo, Rachel Antonoff. I can’t get enough of my internet friend Alison Scarpulla’s photographs, every time she posts something new I am blown away. She has talked about moving to Portland someday and I hope it happens so that we can explore some serious forests and conjure up some woodland spirits.

Do you consider ever designing and producing your own clothes?

Always!! Maybe one day I will show the internet my imaginary line of clothing that I sketched out late one night based on the outfits in old She-Ra cartoons (or maybe not). I swear it isn’t too terrible? I would love to learn to sew properly and maybe someday when I have more time I’ll take a class, until then anything I sew will be very DIY, but I’ll keep imagining my ultimate sewing fantasy: printing my own fabric with very tiny Masonic symbols and then making it into a comfortable and versatile dress that fits me perfectly.

Long cardigan: thrifted
Modcloth beachcomber dress
Fur collar: thrifted
Suede fringe flats: Salvation Army

What are some of your favorite things about vintage and retro clothes?

I love that I am constantly being surprised by the old clothing I find… there’s an endless amount of amazing vintage out there and I get especially excited when I come across an unusual print that I’ve never seen before. For example, I recently sold a blouse from the 50′s or 60′s in my shop that had little medals printed all over it! One of my favorite dresses features elk and ferns.

If you could magically fill your closet with anything in the world, what would it be?

Bizarre and beautiful 1920′s and 30′s handmade clothing, with more modern silhouettes (no drop waists!) and a magic durability so they would never fall apart and I could wash them without being afraid. I would also like some of those amazing cat print shoes from Miu Miu, or really just a lot of incredible expensive shoes that have the ability to become very tiny so that they don’t take up tons of space in my house.

I’ve read that you have two chickens. That’s awesome! Can you talk about those feathered friends of yours?

Our chickens (Scramble and Bunny) are endlessly entertaining. We got them when they were only a few days old and they’ve been inseparable ever since then! Best friends, always wandering around the yard together. They are both very docile and soft, they make very funny noises, and they eat up my yard and turn it into delicious fresh eggs that I can cook up. The yolks are an unreal shade of orange! They each lay an egg almost every day. What a couple of nerds.

40′s umbrella: antique mall
Trench coat: thrifted
Dress: Modcloth
Knit tights: F21
Suede maryjanes with gold-tip heel: Steve Madden, thrifted
Bow hairband: Gift from Julianna

What are some of your hobbies or passions you have other than painting and thrifting?

I love to cook and eat, Portland has the best food in the whole country. I also like shooting and editing little personal movies, documenting the places that I’ve been and secretly filming the people that I love in candid moments. I like nature hikes and mushroom hunting, yurt camping and trips to the coast. I want to get really deep into houseplants.

What are some of your favorite spots in Portland? Travel spots?

The places that I appreciate the most in Portland are outdoors, like the Japanese Gardens, the Grotto, Forest Park, the bluffs… and all the food! I highly recommend Screen Door, Farm, Toro Bravo, Navarre, Little Red Bike Cafe… the food list could honestly go on forever. Also, a combination of both- you can pick a lot of edible, wild plants in Oregon! Nuts, berries, herbs (both cooking & medicinal), mushrooms… it’ll be a cool place to be when the post-post-apocalypse is going down and everyone has to start farming again.

Whew, the end! Hope it was not too boring to read. Also, say goodbye to my scraggly locks, I’m getting a haircut this afternoon! My first professional cut since 2003, if you can believe that. I’m excited.

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  • Rhiannon

    This is really wonderful! You’re so talented . . . outfit-wise and painting wise, and Rachel Comey shoes??!! Can I go to Portland and steal them?


  • nataliette

    what a delightful interview. i didnt know you had chickens, that is pretty sweet that they are gentle! i had 2 chickens as well when i was a young girl and they loved to peck off bits of my arm… grr. we ended up giving them away… no prizes for guessing what happened to them :S i wonder if you eat the eggs that your chicken produces? heh.
    p/s. i told you before but i have to say this again: i adore your dress illustrations! every one of them.


  • lindsey

    man. you are the coolest.


  • Rachew

    love u


  • Andi Pants

    I love seeing the dresses with your paintings of them next to them. The paintings are beautiful!


  • Alesha

    WOWEEE!! Incredible shots and paintings, my friend. You have done a wonderful job!!!
    LOVE IT!


  • Victoria / Justice Pirate

    wow you are incredibly talented and this is a great feature indeed! Congratulations on being able to design AND wear/own your dresses! That’s so brilliant!!! You look wonderful.


  • kelley anne

    You’re so endlessly inspiring. Thanks for sharing this with us.


  • Blair

    Your watercolors are amazing! You’ve got talent. :D


  • The Clothes Horse

    These are so lovely. It’s a wonderful project!


  • Alli (One Pearl Button)

    Wow, so exciting! I love the dresses and the paintings. Congrats!


  • Nicola

    The yellow and navy dresses are my favourites that suit you the most. Cute


  • Milla

    Anja you’re so talented! I’ve been hoping for dress prints in your shop. My sister loved the Bill Murray, too.

    Also how cute is that chickie! My chickens say hi to yours.


  • Quincy

    oh, how exciting! that first dress is my fav :D


  • tere

    such beautiful paintings! and you look wonderful!


  • Mandi

    congrats! How fun! You are very talented AND lovely.


  • Jenni

    these are lovely! I like your art work better than some of the dresses, even!


  • Jennette

    Anja, thank you, so much, for always sharing great restaurants with us! Coming from Seattle to spend the weekend in Portland, staying at The Ace and are always looking for new foodie joints. Coming to see great music, eat good food and shop til I drop! Thanks again!


  • Anabela

    This is amazing, and oh my god you are so funny. I am particularly fond of the picture of you and the chicken!


  • hannah

    adorable. you are always making me want to move back to the other coast. so dreamy and romantic perched on those steps with CHICKENS! you are super.


  • The Storialist

    WOW! Congratulations! That is too darn exciting. Those paintings are so lovely.


  • Jenny

    Oh Anja, congratulations on this project! Your watercolors are wonderful! Even prettier than the dresses although the dresses look so so so pretty on you that I might have to take that back.


  • LH

    omg, so beautiful dresses:)carvings!


  • chloe

    what delightful dresses and paintings! love that pic with the chicken – she looks very docile and nerdy indeed :).


  • Sally Jane

    These are so cool! I was sitting on the couch scrolling through this post with my boyfriend and he commented on how much he liked the illustrations. :) They couldn’t have picked anyone better to work on this project.


  • Lexie

    aww! i didnt even know you had chickens!

    your paintings are beautiful! such a multi-talented lady you are!


  • Fabiola “Fab”

    you’re brilliant! love the drawings alot!
    everything looks so beautiful on you! I adore your blog.


  • Marjorie

    OH!! Congratulations on this project Miss!! I’m over the moon for you! How exciting! Your illustrations of the frocks are beyond lovely!! :)


  • Mousevox Vintage

    Anja! This is amazing. So proud of you! xo


  • Rachel Red Lips

    you’re so darling! these are beautiful paintings and i can’t wait to see your new hair do!

    congrats, doll


  • .amanda.

    seriously wonderful! I like all of them! [I hope you make some prints of them for your etsy shop, they are lovely for a dressing room or a little girl's room!]



  • melly

    All the paintings are beautiful! So simple but so so well done Anja! I particularly love the last one, the painting and the real dress. And I also love the length of your hair right now :]

    Have tonnes of fun at SXSW and the weddings too \m/


  • Elissa

    You’re really talented! Love all your paintings/clothes and definitely admire your painting skills. Have lots of fun during your trip!


  • Aimee Jo

    I so enjoyed this post! What an awesome project. I’ve been reading your blog for some time now, and always come away inspired. Gorgeous paintings! And can I just say that the picture with your chicken is one of my favorites ever. Love it!


  • Casey

    I’m totally late on this, but wanted to say congratulations, Anja!!! This is way too cool–you are so talented and I love looking at your dress paintings! :)

    ♥ Casey
    blog |


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  • Angela

    Hi Anja!

    I only found this link now and I just wanted to thank you for the post shout out! Your interview is one of my favorite posts yet.

    woohoo! Take care!



  • Laura

    congratulations on an amazing project! your paintings are so delicate and precise.


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