Taking a style pulse: Where I am now

This is the 3rd in a series.  You can read the first part, Moving Past Cardigans, here.  And the second part, Style Secrets, here.

So, let me be clear.

The cardigans were not the problem.

The cardigans were just a symptom of the problem.  The real problem was that I had just become too dependent on a tired old formula (white or black tank, cardigan, boot cut jeans, and clogs) for representing myself in the world (and also that I was tired, given the B12 deficiency and all).  And it wasn’t that my uniform didn’t work in some settings- it does; in plenty of settings.  But it was that the formula didn’t work for every setting that I was using it for and, hence, I wasn’t representing key elements (my energy and creativity, for example) that are true about me out into the world and I also wasn’t benefitting from the energy burst that I sometimes get from how I dress (because, let me tell you, my 10+ khaki to light brown colored cardigans just don’t rev my engine despite how warm they keep me).

For perspective, a story and a thought.

First, the story:

When I was in high school and college, I typically dressed pretty casually.  On any given day, you’d see me with Levi’s Jeans from the men’s department, a rugby shirt, and hiking boots or leggings, a long sweater and, ahem, hiking boots.  But whenever a test or presentation was on the calendar, I dressed up.  There was something about tights, fun flats, a skirt, and a fun blouse or sweater that just made me feel up for any challenge.  During exam week, I wasn’t the girl who went to exams in her pajamas after pulling an all-nighter.  I was the girl who actually showered before an exam.  Doing that made me feel awake, vital, alive, professional, prepared.   It worked for me and so I did it, even at 15.  Today, I still get that burst of energy from representing who I am completely- by both how I am in the world and how I put myself together.  At 38, my professional look looks different- there is more edge involved, more whimsy, more color, but I do know that how I dress can reflect my accessibility, my professionalism, my sense of fun and adventure, my quirk, my attention to detail, my creativity, and I am settled enough into motherhood that I’d like to honor that on a more regular basis and not just when I have to officially leave the house to live my mission (i.e.: teach, speak, give a workshop).

Now, the thought:

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece for Voxxi on whether or not I think paying attention to one’s personal style can be synonymous with having a positive body image.  In that piece, I explained:

What might be one person’s unique expression is training for endurance events, another may showcase her creativity through how she puts together an outfit. Neither of these expressions is better or worse; it is simply true for the person embracing that expression.

Self-acceptance doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy dressing up or making yourself up.

Self-acceptance and style do not have to be mutually exclusive.

If you want both style and self-acceptance in your life, you can navigate those desires in a way that allows you to stay true to you while enjoying the creative expression style allows you, and, as all good things do, it begins with balance.  Taking a self-accepting approach to style means that you inherently know that your style does not create your worth, it simply is one of many expressions of how you see yourself.

I share that story and thought to explain that I don’t believe my worth comes from my sense of style but to relay that I do get a charge of energy and a sense of preparedness from how I dress.  In my personal style renaissance, I wanted to convey more of who I am without over-complicating my life or my style as the reason I got so streamlined was because after motherhood and a diversifying professional schedule, I needed things to be as easy as possible– especially getting ready in the morning since I just don’t have the time that I used to have.

So, today, I wanted to share 5 finds with accompanying tips that I’ve embraced in my personal style revolution.

1.  BRING ON THE BOOTS.  I’ve long loved boots (notice that hiking boots were my go to shoe in the 1990s?), and I love that they are so readily available now.  A few years ago, I went on a birthday boot buying binge.  I got black Lucchese  cowboy boots for one birthday and Frye Harness boots for the next.  I LOVE those boots, and they are so, so comfortable, and, yet, I wasn’t wearing them because clogs were easier to slip on and because  my boot cut jeans covered them anyway.  So I made 2 commitments: to actually take a minute to pull on the boots and to find jeans that would allow me to show off my boots.  I met both commitments (jeans reveal below) and found I then wanted more boots.  So this fall saw another boot buying binge.  I got 2 more pairs– a great Sebago knee high boot (I bought these with birthday gift cards from friends to Amazon) to wear with knee-length hemlines and the Frye Engineer boot (an extravagant present from BF for Valentine’s Day- if you know our story, you know it was to make up for the year he stole my cupcake .  I kid. I kid.).
My boot dream is to one day win the actual lottery and splurge on some Old Gringo Boots like these.

Takeaway tip:  Survey the Scene.  I follow a few style blogs and they’ve been so inspiring to me, especially Sally McGraw’s Already Pretty (she singlehandedly has reignited my boot devotion.  Sally’s boots make me covet, and I am not a very covetous person in general.)  I’ve been paying attention to looks I like and really developing a sense of what color combinations, texture combinations, etc I want to try and have found that has really upped my sense of style adventure.  Whether you use Pinterest, blog reading, magazines, catalogs, or a combination, keeping an eye out for style combinations you like can really inform your own sensibilities without making you a copycat.

2.  GET THE BLUES.  My next style renaissance objective was to find jeans that allowed me to showcase my boots.  The perfect jean for me?  The Gap Always Skinny style.  I love the way they fit; they work great with boots and now they have all sorts of colors (although I’ve only got indigo so far, I am thinking it might be time to branch out).

Takeaway tip:  Ask people what they are wearing or for advice.  I found the Gap skinny jeans by asking board members at a Circle de Luz meeting where they had found their jeans.  People love to share and talk about style–  so don’t be afraid to ask!  I found my very cute, very comfortable (that’s the number 1 factor for me in a shoe) new navy flats by asking my Facebook friends if they had any suggestions for me.  I was sent all sorts of suggestions and ordered my shoes from that input!

3.  UPGRADE FROM THE CARDIGAN.  For years, I was a hoodie girl.  Then I became the cardigan girl.  Clearly, I have a thing for casual layering.  And so rather than totally rebel against it, I decided to just add a few pieces that would allow me to dress up my layering.  Enter the blazer.  

This Tweed Boyfriend Blazer I scored for $3o from Sundance.  I also got a great navy blazer for its versatility and a bright pink one for its flair (those were from Talbots and Gap, respectively).  These three blazers have allowed me to easily dress up my look and all of them worked with my Skinny jeans and boots styling.

Takeaway trip:  Trust what has worked for you.  Cardigans have worked for me.  The formula (and my cardigans) was just getting a bit worn.  But I kept the same idea by going with a blazer and then jazzed up my remaining cardigans with some more interesting tanks (think stripes over plain white and black) and accessories.

4.  BAUBLE.  For years, my souvenir from my travels was a necklace.  It always fit in my luggage (I am a chronic under-packer who takes the smallest possible piece of luggage with her wherever she goes), and it was a cool way to remember where I’d been.  People often ask me about my funky pieces, and I love being able to recall my adventures when I tell someone where a piece came from or touch the necklace.  I also really like pieces that are little works of art themselves.  Seeing them inspire me.  But I had gotten into the habit of wearing the same simple little necklace and silver hoops everyday and so I decided to be more deliberate about switching up my jewelry and wearing some of the pieces that I’ve been given or collected over the years.

Takeaway tip:  Delight in what you’ve got.  Enjoy the necklace grandma gave you, those fancy earrings and everything else that you’ve been saving for a special occasion.

Now, with spring underway and summer near, the boots, jeans, and blazers aren’t going to work in the crazy heat and humidity of North Carolina so it’s time for a new search. But I still really want pieces that are synonymous with who I am stylistically and with what self-acceptance looks like to me– so practical with flair and fun. What I am looking for?  The perfect dress that is right for my body and versatile enough to go from teaching to driveway basketball sessions with Happy.  And, drumroll, please, I think I’ve found it…

5.  DRESS IT UP.  I discovered Karina Dresses on Already Pretty.  With a tagline for “dresses for ‘every-body'”, Karina creates dresses that look great on women of all shapes, sizes, ages, and body styles (their models are proof!)- allowing you to be both stylish and self-accepting and keeping you from having to compromise on either.  Their styles are fabulous.  So after coveting Sally’s dresses, I had to have my own.   But how to choose?  After much pondering, I went with the Megan (the style pictured here but in black with purple polka dots!).

Karina Dresses are made of limited edition fabrics, making each dress a virtual one of a kind garment, and they are machine washable and don’t need ironing.  The dresses are made in Brooklyn by seamstresses who receive a living wage.  What more can you ask for?  Well, a discount code– which the good folks at Karina Dresses have graciously provided for my blog readers.  The code (MOLR30) will provide $30 off any full-priced dress.  So go get your dress on, too.  And then let’s twirl together !


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