If you want some out of the box inspiration for styling yourself, look no further than Ingrid Henny Abrams, one of the judges for our Freedom Style Fest and photo contest. (By the way, where are your entries? If we don’t see any entries by Monday, I’ll take matters into my own hands. Please. Don’t make me do this: I’m going to become a roving street photographer, looking for entries in America’s heartland, Indianapolis.)

Back to Ingrid: I love her remarkable sense of fun about clothes. “It seems like everyone is candy colored until we reach a certain age,” she said. “After that, it’s all black and beige.” Those are two colors you’ll rarely see on Ingrid, who is usually dressed in something bright and sparkly. She is also fond of cool details and styles that incorporate animals.

As a children’s librarian working in Brooklyn, New York, Ingrid’s flamboyant clothes serve a higher purpose in her daily life. “Sometimes the only reason an infant looks you in the eye is because your shirt is bright,” she said. “When I wear things like my dinosaur earrings, little boys come up and start talking to me about dinosaurs. I think it makes me more approachable to kids.”

Her latest vintage favorites are square dancing skirts, which are perfect for staying covered while sprawled out on the floor with kids during story time. “When I discovered my first one, I didn’t even know what they were,” she said. “It’s not like you see a lot of square dancers in New York City.”

Ingrid also loves vintage hats and accessories like gloves, but admits to being perplexed about when to wear them. Hoping to get some perspective on what was once considered appropriate, she consulted a beloved fashionista known for her classy style—her 92-year-old grandmother. “She gave me such a complicated formula that I never really figured it out,” Ingrid said. “I usually just save them for special occasions like a wedding.”

Here are flashes of insight gathered from a recent interview with Ingrid.

What are your favorite vintage periods?

I probably lean toward the 1950s because they seem so good for women of different body types. Even when I was a size 2, I had a curvy body. The 1950s styles seem to like that body type. They had such happy looking dresses. I just love the splashiness of crinolines and petticoats. I’d wear them more, but you tend to take up a lot of space in those dresses.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I read a lot of fashion blogs, but never fashion magazines. I’m always scanning Etsy and Ebay. Some of my favorite blogs are:

Agent Lover (She wears these hilarious hats that look like cakes.)

Gala Darling (We share a love for sparkly things and she’s also inspirational.)

What do you like most about buying vintage or thrifted clothes?

I could afford to shop in places like Forever 21 and H&M, but I worry about where my clothes have been made and how the people making them are treated. The only things I buy new are my shoes and underwear. Pretty much everything else is vintage or thrifted. I feel like I’m not feeding the disposable clothing outlets that rip off designers. When I’m tired of something, it goes to Goodwill and the cycle starts all over again.  I also love the quality of vintage. When I visit my grandmother, I see clothes that have lasted her for decades. They are still in great condition. She bought them at a time when she didn’t have a lot of money, but clothes were made so much better and with a lot more care.

What’s your fashion philosophy?

I think your clothes should make you happy. The way I dress cheers me up. My mother will occasionally look at something I’m wearing and say, ‘That’s not a grown up outfit.’ I tell her, ‘This is the kind of grown up I’ve become.’ I think you really have to be a little fearless. You should only buy things that you’re really in love with. Once you have those things, it’s a matter of playing around with them.

If I were coming to New York to shop vintage, where would you recommend I go?

Goodwill on Steinway is ridiculously wonderful. I also shop at Matilda’s Vintage Curiosity Shop. I’ve picked up some of my best things there. She has the most eccentric styles. Fox and Fawn in Brooklyn is great and very affordable. I find things under $20 that are in great condition.

If you’d like to know Ingrid better, check out her blog, Magpie Librarian. It’s fun, sparkly– and full of depth, just like Ingrid.

Watch the blog next week for an interview with America’s Most Glamourous Librarian, Sujei Lugo. Better yet, subscribe to the RSS feed in the sidebar on your right!

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.