Vivian Li and I have been following each other on Instagram for years, in which time I’ve seen her set her sights on, and achieve, a goal: to become a content creator and augment the hours she spends in lab, studying for her PhD in neuroscience, with an Instagram following predicated on her style, travels, and the slices of her life she chooses to share with the internet.
Though Vivian is always on the crest of trends, she openly and deftly rewears the carefully-curated pieces in her wardrobe, with no pretension to the unreal lifestyle of the “never-wears-anything-twice” influencer.
She doesn’t shy away from strategically using her body as a key element in her style, sporting sheer dresses at the ballet and underboob-baring tanks while chilling with horses, her looks are unequivocally designed for a gaze that doesn’t reflexively sexualize the skin and silhouettes that comprise her outfit oeuvre. Vivian dresses for the girls and the gays, for those giddy moments in the bathroom or the queer bar when “you look hot” is a tender, powerful sentiment, not a throwaway line.
In these ways, Vivian is a type of influencer with the uncanny edges inherent in that title mitigated by a strong vision. She prioritizes her specific conception of beauty, an implementation of femininity that is designed for appreciative, not fetishizing eyes. She also happens to be extremely generous with her time, down-to-earth, and, if the PhD in neuroscience didn’t tip you off, brilliant. I was lucky to get to catch up with her this week.
Below is a short interview with Vivian about her East Coast style proclivities, how someone could dress up in a Vivian costume, and the single brand she’d choose to wear on a desert island. Under that, a few outfits inspired by Vivian’s looks, the thoughts she shared with me, and the brands she loves to wear (with a little injection of HR, of course!).
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Vivian on Gossip Girl, German tourist harassment, and hometown brands
HR: If you could dress like you were a character in any TV show or movie’s universe, which would it be?
VL: The original Gossip Girl. My style is very East Coast, and I’m going through a preppy phase right now that lends itself to the whole “16-year old girl who’s discovering her personal style while being forced to wear a school uniform” trope.
What piece in closet has been most worth the money you spent on it?
My brown leather tabi boots! They’re by far the most comfortable boot I own, and they go with everything. I like that they’re a subtle statement piece, so you really have to do a double take to get the effect. They’ve also stirred up a lot of controversy in public (i.e. German tourists calling me a horse on the subway).
If you could only wear one brand’s clothes (head to toe, archival pieces included), which would it be and why?
Prada. It’s the only fashion house I keep tabs on and it’s sickening how many eBay/TheRealReal notifications I get because I track every single secondhand Prada piece that’s uploaded to the internet. I recently bought a navy skirt (for $60!!) that I wear every other day, and some cool sunglasses (also at a steal.) Miuccia hasn’t let me down so far and I don’t foresee her ever doing so.
If someone were to dress in a costume of you, what would they be wearing?
Love this question—probably a midi skirt, boots, and some version of an Edwardian cotton blouse.
Any lesser-known brands you’d like to shout out?
Some other brands Vivian loves:
Outfits inspired by Vivian’s Style
This look pays homage to Vivian’s love of both sheer garments and Prada skirts, includes the green Airpods Max she wears, a bolero much like the ones she often sports, and the brown tabi boots she shouts out above. The Marland Backus bracelet adds the perfect amount of jangliness to an otherwise fairly columnar fit.
- Airpods Max – $549
- Cowl Short Sleeve – $64 (Sale)
- Rib Bolero – $95
- Midi Skirt – $345
- Charm Bracelet – $172
- Tabi Boots – $1120
I wanted to make a cozy look, so I started with this pillowy tooth bag from one of Vivian’s accessory brands of choice, 2801. She rarely wears hats or hair accessories, so I avoided them, focusing instead on earrings. These tie-up Miu Miu flats mimic the ones Vivian owns, but their blue matches the pop of cerulean in the simple but sweet Sandy Liang sweats.
- Audrey Earrings – $452 (Sale)
- Wide Neck Sweater – £375.00
- Tooth Bag – $79
- Tuber Sweatpants – $325
- Flats – Unavailable
This look referenced Vivian’s penchant for cut-out tops, ballerina-inspired silhouettes, and the brand The Arrivals, while keeping it slick but adding some holographic depth with an iridescent purple bag and silver puddle pants.
- Puffer – $248
- Oval Tank Top – MXN $3,000.00
- Birthday Tote – $118 (Sale)
- Puddle Flares – $375
- Capri Flats – €195.00
This look takes fairly literally the costume of an (70s-does) Edwardian blouse, skirt, and knee-high boots, utilizing the combination of off-white and optical white that she often employs in her looks. Finishing with matching Sandy Liang accessories and a Tiffany necklace much like the one Vivian never takes off was a simple denouement to the look.
- Flower Power Scrunchie – $98
- Necklace – $700
- Vintage Blouse – $29.75 (Sale)
- Jaggy Bag – $575
- Skirt – $156 (Sale)
- Riding Boots – $455
Thank you, again, Vivian, for lending your time, smarts, and beauty to all of us on Instagram and especially to HR for this piece! Make sure to check out Vivian at @vivian.yrl, and let me know who else you think deserves the HR treatment via my DMs.