From Drab to Fab
Modern Mess tests the boundaries of fashion with a mix of eclectic and smartly practical apparel that allows ladies to take risks in their fashion style with confidence.
Ready to feel like you’re walking the runways of New York or Paris? Or maybe you just want to stand out from the crowds of women clad in the usual yoga pants, flip flops, and slogan tees for a change. After all, you can always wear your Boomer Sooner crimson or Pistol Pete orange, and you can always wear a standard business suit. But sometimes, a gal just needs a fun, fashion-forward outfit that makes her feel a little more like a model than the usual work or home wear.
You’ll find playful, creative, cool clothing to help you achieve a more edgy fashion style at Modern Mess, one of the boutiques at Tulsa’s hip, underrated downtown shopping area, The Boxyard. Modern Mess tests the boundaries of fashion with a mix of eclectic and smartly practical apparel that allows ladies to take risks in their fashion style with confidence.
Owner Carley Johnson is a natural fit to owning a women’s clothing boutique, having developed a passion for fashion at a young age. “I’ve loved clothes for a very long time,” she says. “I walked into my first local boutique [Dolce Vita] when I was 13 years old. The owner was just so inviting and so sweet that even though I couldn’t fit into the clothes, she let me try on these Betsey Johnson dresses, and it just left this lasting impression on me.”
That moment of serendipity showed Johnson two things — one, that fashion was something she couldn’t get enough of, and two, that working at a boutique might be the perfect career choice. She began helping at Dolce Vita when she was 17, learning the ins and outs of the boutique business. “I fell in love with it,” she says.
While in college, she created the concept of her boutique, Modern Mess, for her senior project. When she graduated, it seemed a natural progression to start a business based on the concept. And thus, Modern Mess became a reality. “I did a business plan,” she says. “I found out about The Boxyard, and the timing just really aligned. I decided to go for it.”
The concept behind the boutique is to bring Green Country’s ladies fashion-forward, eye-popping, out of the ordinary apparel. “I try to pick the fun, quirky pieces you would see on celebrities and on fashion bloggers, more downplayed versions of what you see on the runway,” says Johnson. “I go to market in Las Vegas, where I get to find a lot of brands that you don’t get at the nearest market in Dallas.”
Johnson’s eye for cool fashion choices and her determination to stretch the boundaries of what Tulsa wears make for an appealing combination. “I look for really unique pieces that people will look at and feel like it is almost speaking to them, and it belongs to them,” she says.
And when you browse the racks, you’ll see what Johnson means. It may be the starry gold mesh top that calls to you to rock it like you’re summering in Los Angeles. Or perhaps it’s the frilly, open-backed leopard print dress for a flirty special occasion. Or maybe you’ll be drawn to the ruffle-sleeved black leather top that doubles as a little half jacket layer or a sophisticated blouse — the sort of thing you might wear if you’re with the band backstage at The Joint: Tulsa, Paradise Cove at River Spirit Casino Resort, or the BOK Center.
“A lot of my brands are out of Europe, really popular brands that are recognized amongst bloggers in the fashion industry,” Johnson says. That’s one of her tricks of the trade — scanning the fashion bloggers and fashion trend publications for ideas that few others are bold enough to bring to Tulsa, making Modern Mess one of the leaders in unique, haute apparel.
Johnson’s goal is to bring these hot, hip fashion choices to Green Country when they’re hitting big on the East and West Coasts. So, for shoppers who love wearing clothes that are on the leading edge, a trip to Modern Mess makes a lot of fashion sense.
If you’re not used to taking those fashion leaps in your outfits, Johnson will be happy to ease you into it by consulting with you as you update your wardrobe. She already has a set of regular customers for whom she does this. “They love that I take them a little bit further out of their comfort zone every time they come in,” she says.
Modern Mess typically carries XS through L sizes, as well as a plus size line from Denmark. Along with the seasonal clothing on the racks, the boutique offers a selection of accessories, including purses, bags, earrings, funny greeting cards, and the popular Quay brand of sunglasses out of Australia. Items are affordable with pieces averaging around $50 so that everyone can find something that fits their budget as well as their style.
For spring, Johnson expects to see pops of color and lots of ruffles. But when in doubt, she says, go for denim, which is always wearable. Pieces sell quickly, and Johnson is always bringing in new items, so there’s always something offbeat and eclectic to find.
Johnson has a word of advice to women who need a little encouragement to explore their fashion edge: just do it. “I’ve done this,” she says, “where you put something on and you absolutely love it, but then you look in the mirror and think, ‘I live in Tulsa; I can’t wear this. I’m going to get stared at.’ Wear it. You’ll be so surprised to find that people are admiring you and loving what you’re wearing. That’s what I’m pushing as Modern Mess. If you like it, wear it. The end. You don’t have to worry about what people think.”
502 E. 3rd St., Unit 4 | Tulsa
Monday-Thursday: Noon-7 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Sunday: Noon-5 p.m.
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