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Elaine Irwin


Elaine Irwin has been modeling since she was 15 years old. The mother of two boys and a young daughter, she’s been all over the world and worked with many of the fashion photography greats: Richard Avedon, Stephen Meisel, and Herb Ritts, to name a few. Despite the glamorous life, her perspective remains refreshingly grounded.

Q: What do you do?

My name is Elaine Irwin. First and foremost, I am a mother. I’m also a model. Good jobs if you can get them. Originally, I’m from outside of Philadelphia—the Gilbertsville area. I feel like I was really fortunate; it was a great place and time to grow up. I still go back and visit friends that are there and have wonderful memories.

Q: You’ve had a very extensive career. How have you changed as you’ve gained more experience?

Looking back, I started out as a naïve, very young girl. I was 15 when I started modeling, and I didn’t quite understand what it entailed or what opportunities it offered. Over the years, I think you just adjust your priorities to what makes sense for you. It really isn’t my full-time job at this point in my life. When I do work, I look at it as a great opportunity to do something creative with amazing people. It’s also a wonderful excuse to travel the world, see amazing places, and work with people that you otherwise wouldn’t cross paths with.

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Q: How do you feel that the industry has changed since you started?

It’s evolved to include more people. For a long time models were a specific group of women that looked the same, the same age, the same shape. Now I think the fashion industry includes a variety of ages and ethnicities and sizes and backgrounds. As consumers, we want to see more diversity. I think the industry has started to change to reflect that.

Overall, women can reinvent ourselves like never before. I love that Chico’s is actually embracing and celebrating women in all aspects of their lives. The idea is that you create whatever you want to be as you go along. Now, you see women entering the workforce in their 40s, in their 60s, creating things, becoming entrepreneurs. There are so many more opportunities now to create the life that you choose.

Q: What’s the best thing about getting older?

With age comes wisdom and experience. I think there is something great about when you’re young and naïve and you rush into something without any sense. You’re not apprehensive. As you get older you look at things differently, you’re more considered. There are advantages to that too.

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Q: What is your personal style philosophy?

Wear what you love. Wear what you’re most comfortable in. Choose things that you feel good about and that you’re going to feel good in, not what the trend is or what you think the style is. There’s something to be said about being surrounded by things you love and choosing them wisely. I love mixing things. I love finding a great vintage jacket and pairing it with a really comfy pair of jeans.

Q: Why is style ageless?

If you’re wearing something that you feel good about and you feel like you look good, it shouldn’t be associated with a certain era. Now, if you’re wearing something and you feel like, “Oh, this should belong to my mother,” or, “This should belong to my daughter,” then you’re probably not in the thing that you love.

Q: What are you looking forward to?

I look forward to every day: time with my family, time with my children, time with my little daughter. I celebrate my husband, my marriage, my family. I love trying to enjoy my time here on earth.

Q: You’re a stylish mom. Do your kids pick up style tricks from you?

I have one son that doesn’t think a lot about style. He dresses like a 1950s gas station attendant. I think he owns the same two pairs of jeans, and he wears those everyday with a white t-shirt. Sometimes he gets crazy and wears a black t-shirt. My other son is a painter so he’s a little bit more creative with his outfits. My daughter is two and a half. She likes anything that she can put on by herself. And things that have sparkles. Rain boots are very big; she likes a bathing suit and rain boots. It’s a bit of a train wreck but I like that in her.

Q: What’s the best thing about being a mom?

Every part of it.

Watch our exclusive interview with Elaine here:

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6 Responses

  1. Elaine, you would have loved my mom. She, too, was very grounded and a great mom. Pearl spent her whole life in Philadelphia (with occasional excursions to Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Aruba, Nassau, San Juan…you see the trend?). She was my fashion heroine…she carried boas, squash blossoms and gigantic rings easily (because of her large size). She spent countless hours in Chico’s styling me, her only child. She would have been 85 today, and still hip. Miss her much.

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