Winona Forever

I can't remember what the first Winona Ryder movie I ever saw was, but I have been captivated by her, on screen and off, for basically my entire life. She always represented the woman I wanted to be — dark and a little mysterious, strange yet fiercely beautiful. Whether it was Mermaids on channel 11 on a Sunday afternoon at my grandmother's house or Heathers in the living room with my best friends at college, all of her movies influenced me in one way or another, but perhaps most particularly my style.

Tell me you wouldn't wear this off-the-shoulder sweater today.

Tell me you wouldn't wear this off-the-shoulder sweater today.

Winona was a beacon of hope for someone like me; a sign that an odd, bookish girl who liked to be alone more often than not might be considered cool. Sure I didn't feel very cool most of the time (the "cool" kids in movies didn't typically spend lunch period reading books, did they?) but Veronica Sawyer and Lydia Deetz gave me a different model to live by. These characters helped me embrace my weirdness. If a goth teenager with stringy bangs who hangs out with ghosts could become a style icon, what was stopping me? I owe a great deal of my fashion daring to Winona, both the woman herself and the fictional characters she has portrayed.

If her movies helped me navigate growing up in the '90s and early '00s, my obsession has only intensified in my twenties. Adulthood is strange and scary, and at times it can be frustratingly difficult to find the magic I saw everywhere when I was younger. I have to work twice as hard as I ever did to make sure I don't miss out on those moments when the light is just right and you feel like anything is possible. Maybe it's silly, but watching my favorite Winona movies helps remind me who I am. So, too, does getting dressed in an outfit that feels authentic and a little bit daring. Enter: the Free Winona tee.


A friend who shares my love for the actress bought me one of these for my 25th birthday. I don't think she realized what an important gift it would turn out to be, but this shirt has become the unofficial uniform of my summer. I wore it on vacation in Portland, to the beach in Cape Cod, and a million places in between.

Above is a photo of me freeing Winona on a mountain in Oregon while off-roading in a Jeep which, if you know me, you know that's not A Thing I Do. I'm also wearing LOFT boyfriend jeans, & Other Stories belt, and Lucky Brand vest for some highly uncharacteristic ~sporty~ vibes.

The "Free Winona" shirt is probably my biggest conversation piece. It's extremely similar to the design that Winona herself wore on the cover of W Magazine shortly after she was arrested for shoplifting.  I get comments every time I wear it — from those who get the reference and those who don't. I'm not usually one for the whole "talking to strangers" thing, but I'll happily chat with a fellow Winona fan any day of the week.


Erin Mayer