Inside the Closet of Whitney Manney

Brooke Vandever

   If Kansas City fashion designer Whitney Manney, 24, had just three words to describe her fashion style they would be “relaxed, eclectic and bold.”

   “I’m unapologetically authentic,” says the 2012 Kansas City Art Institute fiber arts graduate, whose label, WHITNEYMANNEY, is available at “The feeling that I want women to have when they put my clothing on is an instant boost of confidence and being completely comfortable with who they are because my work has a lot of color and pattern and texture to it. You can’t be shy wearing it. That’s how I found myself, my voice, through my work. So if I can help any woman figure that out, too, that’s awesome.”

   Manney, who taught herself how to sew when she was 13, estimates that at least 70 percent of her wardrobe consists of thrift shop finds that she adapts for her own personal style. For 435 Magazine’s photo shoot, she wears a layered look featuring jeans and a sweater that she designed, a crop top from Forever 21, a blazer from Arizona Trading Co., a gold charm from Charming Charlie, her own “WM” logo chain, a “Go Crown Yourself” pin and Jordan sneakers from Fast Action.

   Read on to learn more about Manney’s closet and her distinctively exuberant style—she even hand-jewels her sneakers.


Who are your favorite style icons past or present?
Diana Ross, Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, Grace Jones

Favorite runway or emerging designers?

Jeremy Scott, Mary Katrantzou, Balmain, Patrick Kelly (vintage), Di$count, The Blonds, KTZ, Ashish, Alexander Wang, Halston (vintage) and we cannot forget Versace. 

What is your go-to casual look?

These days, I’ll usually go for bleached/ripped jeans with leggings underneath, a printed crewneck with a contrast button-down underneath and my biker jacket. Depending on my mood, I’ll add sneakers or heeled booties.

What fashion item should every stylish woman own?

A really nice statement coat. Not like your boring everyday coat but something that will keep you warm and match the fab outfit you have on underneath. We gotta remember that outerwear, especially in the Midwest!

What fashion item should every stylish man own?

A pair of dress shoes in an unorthodox color. Love bold suede men’s oxfords.

What is your personal shoe fetish?

Sneakers! Adidas are my favorite right now, but I love Jordans, Chuck Taylors and Nikes. The brighter the better. I just love that so many colors or patterns can mesh well on a small space.

How about handbags?

I’m not a huge handbag person. I usually end up carrying cute backpack purses because I always have a lot in tow. I like to be able to keep a sketchbook and whatever book I’m reading at the time and if it can fit my MacBook, even better.

Do you have a signature scent?

Not really. I’m kind of working on that. I feel like the older a woman gets she should have a signature scent and a set of pearl earrings.

Best fashion sources in KC?

Red Racks for the win! Salvation Army and Arizona Trading Co. are also my favorites. I just recently found out about Perfect Style Boutique, so I can’t wait to start shopping there. I also like to shop my KC small business/designer friends when I’m participating in pop-up shops like Gypsy Market Royale.

Fashion item you lust for if money were no object?

'90s Versace anything.

Best fashion find ever?

A pair of authentic leather Maison Martin Margiela boots! In my size, at Arizona Trading Co.

Most sentimental piece in your closet?

Probably my senior prom dress. I ran for queen that year and didn’t win. But I’ve been winning ever since, so I can’t complain.

Best fashion in movies or TV?
“Mad Men,” “Dreamgirls” (2005), “The Devil Wears Prada,” “The Wiz,” Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman look in “Dark Knight,” “Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold,” Whitney Houston’s looks in “The Bodyguard,” “Mahogany,” “Spice World”... so many good platforms.

What do you consider a fashion faux pas?

Lack of confidence about what you’re wearing.

Best way to add instant polish to your look?

A pair of sunglasses, a vibrant shade of lipstick and a smile.

Best fashion advice
You can’t change clothes once you’re gone, so you might as well wear what you feel like now.