Storytelling Through Style with Sammi Cohen of The Soubrette Brunette

I first launched my retro style blog, The Soubrette Brunette, in 2013 merely as a means of documenting my daily outfits. I’d recently moved back to my hometown of Rochester after a brief post-grad stint in New York City, musical theatre degree in-hand, and I wanted a way to express myself creatively while staying occupied between productions. But after nearly 10 years of sharing my #ootds (outfits of the day) online, it’s become so much more. I cherish the opportunity to connect with thousands of other vintage fashion enthusiasts, share my costume-y point of view, and find every possible excuse to explore – and theme my outfits around – the homegrown gems the Flower City has to offer.


As a water sign, I love living so close to the Erie Canal and Lake Ontario. This outfit is perfect for a walk along the waves! Photo Credit: Sammi Cohen

It all comes down to my insatiable need for a good story. My background in performance has allowed me to immerse myself in other worlds, embody different characters, and chronicle new narratives. Ditto for the work I do in digital marketing and with Dear Blossom Studios, the portrait photography business I run with my co-founder, Emma Rizzo.


I approach personal style in much the same way. My thematic method of dressing means I always feel like the main character in my own book. But more than that, it brings me a lot of joy. It gives me something to look forward to and always provides an excuse to experience something new.


Whether I’m taking a stroll through the sunflowers or appreciating local art and architecture, I always dress for the occasion. I think that makes life much more vibrant.

I believe personal style should be celebratory. I dress in a way that makes me happy and that feels like a work of art. That ethos sometimes results in more attention than I’m comfortable with. (I’m very much an introvert!). But my desire to support that day’s story when I go to a festival, a museum opening, a U-Pick farm, or a picnic with friends is stronger than my natural introversion. When I see the smile my outfits bring to other people’s faces, it doesn’t feel like such a superficial choice to make.


Not everyone wants to be asked whether they’re wearing a costume in everyday life. (Given my qualifications, I don’t exactly mind!) But I love seeing others dress in any way that feels unique, authentic, and joyful. If it tells a story that’s all your own…there’s nothing more special!


Rochester has so many stories to tell – yet another reason I’m glad I ended up where my own story began. We have a plethora of historic sites, several organizations that preserve the legacies of local legends, and more community-created art, music, dance, theater, and special events than one person can ever hope to experience in a lifetime. I’m constantly inspired by this city. Even if the story being told is hundreds of years in the making, Rochesterians are doing their part to keep it alive (and make it better) through commissioned murals, local agriculture, seasonal soirées, and new traditions in the making.


That said, not every Rochester story is a rosy one. Our not-so-distant past can be painful to recount. Telling those stories is crucial, even when they aren’t celebratory…especially when they aren’t.


I’ll be the first to admit that my fashion philosophy provides a bit of welcome escapism, much like a visit to the Lamberton Conservatory or a walk down the Ontario Beach Park boardwalk. Is it always practical? Nope. But we need light to combat the darkness. It might be delusional to think that a dress can do all that, but what we wear can be powerful. So, I try to use my style choices for good.


This summer, I’ll make my annual visit to the Wickham Farms Sunflower Spectacular, head to an amusement park or carnival, grab some frozen custard from Abbott’s by the water, take my pick of local art and music festivals, and appreciate the natural beauty of this region. And you can bet I’ll be dressed to the nines – and always on-theme. It’s my attempt to make the everyday extraordinary. I hope to see you there, dressed in a way that tells your story.




Follow Sammi’s style journey through Rochester at www.thesoubrettebrunette.com or @thesoubrettebrunette on Instagram and TikTok.