Sujei, in her trademark look--black and white polka dots with red accents. Gee, I wonder if she is wearing Converse sneakers...

Meet one of the judges in the February Freedom Style Fest and Photo Contest

Ask Sujei Lugo what it was like to be named America’s Most Glamourous Librarian and you get an embarrassed giggle. “It was really like a joke my friends played on me,” said Sujei. Claiming to have no awareness of fashion, she insists the whole affair was a hoax. Try telling that to the avalanche of friends and followers who voted for her in the contest sponsored here last summer.

Since then, Sujei moved from her home in Puerto Rico to Boston, where she is working on a doctorate in library science at Simmons College. Her concentration is collection development and class/gender studies in children’s literature. As someone with a serious mind and a modest nature, discussing fashion with Sujei reveals something about her likeability: she is completely comfortable with herself, but not quite comfortable with such a frivolous theme. Despite her self-proclaimed apathy for style, she admits to an academic interest in clothing worn by characters in children’s literature and what it may say about gender and class stereotyping.

Sujei fell in love with libraries while she was studying to be a doctor. One of her best decisions, she said, was abandoning medicine for librarianship. As a post-graduate student on a tight budget, Sujei is a huge fan of thrift and vintage shopping. “Once I discovered thrifting, I’ve never gone back to shopping retail,” she said. Her favorite discoveries are the $2 dresses she gets at a thrift store in Puerto Rico. “I just love getting compliments on them, knowing how little I paid.”

What are the trademarks of your personal style?

Well, I’m always on the move, so I prefer low shoes. I wear my Converse sneakers with everything. I always want to have one thing that’s going to be the eye-catching piece. I really don’t like a lot of things happening at the same time. There’s always a basic piece that’s the focus of every outfit. I love short dresses and they work well with my long legs. I like a lot of solids and black and white polka dots. I’m not big on color, but I love using a dash of color–usually red–with cardigans, shoes, and earrings. I also wear small prints to add an element of surprise. From a distance, they look serious and understated, but when you get close, you find it’s something whimsical like a print with giraffes, whales, or the Big Ben Clock Tower.

Where do you draw inspiration about styling yourself?

A look from one of Sujei's favorite films.

I don’t read fashion blogs or magazines. I like to watch a lot of movies and maybe I get inspiration from some of my favorite films by the French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. His films typically feature women as the main characters. They wear slim pants and t-shirts, but also short, mod dresses with lots of polka dots, stripes and geometric prints. The haircuts are part of the style. Those films have some wonderful looks that I’ve imitated.

Combining two loves: after deciding to become a librarian, Sujei got this tattoo of a librarian from the 1930s. She looks a little French, no?

Do you have any favorite eras that you like in vintage clothes?

I love the hair and clothes from the 30s, 50s and 60s. I love the 30s so much that I have a tattoo of a librarian from the 1930s.

Where do you shop?

In Boston, I shop The Garment District. They have an amazing variety, so there’s something there for everyone. Buffalo Exchange is one of my favorites. I also like the Goodwill on Davis Square. When I’m in Puerto Rico, I visit Electro Shop. They buy, sell and trade vintage clothing and records. I love music and I buy a lot of vinyl records. One of my best friends lives in Kansas City and I recently bought a cute dress at Donna’s Dress Shop that I love.

What do you like about vintage and thrift shopping?

I like finding unique things and I feel good about supporting local businesses. I can afford higher quality when I shop vintage or thrift.

What’s your best kept secret about styling yourself?

I think fit is everything. I buy things and either alter them or take them to a tailor to get a perfect fit. When you’re not spending much money, you can afford to have a few alterations made. I also think that people ignore hair too much. A hair style should be part of your outfit. I recently cut mine very short and I just love the convenience of it.

What is your philosophy about style?

I think styling yourself depends completely on your body type and your personality. There is really no such thing as age or gender appropriate fashion. People should wear what they feel comfortable in at all times. There should be no boundaries. I like clothes that challenge gender stereotypes with color and style. A shirt with a tie on a woman can be beautiful and I think men look great in pink.

Sujei will join Ingrid Henny Abrams as one of the judges for the Freedom Style Fest and Photo Contest. If you haven’t entered yet, get a move on! We’re accepting entries through the end of February. Check here for details about how to enter!

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.