Thursday, January 29, 2015

Simple Gray

As I put together this outfit this morning I thought, "My! this is boring." But is it? I'm not sure. I don't know if classics can be boring. I saw the white and the gray together and it felt so fresh and clean I had to wear it.

Mango button up, Gap sweater, Gap jeans, Gap ankle boots (sold out, similar), Target necklace (reallllly old, similar)

In case you were wondering, this is my team's jeans week at school. We can wear jeans with non-school shirts for a week, whereas usually we can only have on jeans with school shirts on Fridays. So usually I'll be sharing workwear that doesn't involve denim, it just happened that two weeks into blogging I had this fluke. Back to normalcy next week!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Trying on a Capsule Wardrobe

Last week, my sister-in-law Aleah and I were discussing shopping and my self-proclaimed mild shopping addiction, and she showed me this beautiful blog, Unfancy. After reading about Caroline's journey towards a simple, cohesive wardrobe, I was inspired. She created a system for capsule wardrobes that I decided ((full disclosure: Aleah totally convinced me)) that I would give capsule wardrobes a try for this season. Although I'm not totally convinced that this method will work for me, I don't want to continue filling my closet with great deals that gather dust in my closet. This post on shopping has given me great perspective about how to make my purchases (including thrift store scores!) more meaningful and this post really hit home with me about how I feel about so many things in my closet . This is her simple guide to capsule wardrobes, and while I didn't follow the rules exactly, I still found her method helpful.  This is the process I went through to get to my own 37 pieces ((full disclosure: more like 39. Or 40. I want to be flexible)) which, I will mention, that I did most of this process without looking at my clothing... So... I don't recommend that.

  1. I wrote down  the items I wore all the time, both to work and otherwise. These are my go-to, wear all the time in every season pieces, like my black skinny jeans and button up blouses. If I had been at home during this process, I would have pulled them out of my closet and made a pile, but between 8 hours in the classroom and 3 hours of class every night... You get the picture.
  2. I wrote down the items that I love, but don't necessarily wear frequently because I don't want something to happen to them (read: glue smears, marker dots, a 3 year old's boogers, salad dressing drips). Looking at my closet, I wrote down things like the beautiful blue silk blouse I've had for 2 years and have worn 4 times, the mauve button up I bought full-price because I couldn't wait to wear it. I added those to the list because I want to wear them. I realized that most of my wardrobe was bought from clearance racks and thrift store piles, and therefore didn't cost much. Almost all of my favorites are basics that are easily replaceable and therefore if something happens to it (read: a 4 year old is so excited to see me they don't wait to wash their hands after painting to give me a hug), I can always find a great deal on another similar piece. 
  3. I filled in the blanks. I used Unfancy's guide to building a capsule, I rounded out my list and included some things I didn't think about immediately- like flats (I hadn't worn any since November until yesterday) and a blazer. 
  4. I created a color palette. I think ideally this step should be coupled with the planning process, like before you shop or pull together your pieces- but being away from my closet I used this more as a check to make sure the colors I put together made sense. I used this tool, then shared my palette with Aleah. We compared our color selections and we nearly had the same palette- classic colors with soft accents. 
  5. I actually looked in my closet. This step should probably come second, no? At this point I made my adjustments to my list- added slacks (I forgot to include workwear, that's why my list is 39 piece instead of the usual 37) and removed some sweaters (I forgot its Texas winter- its 80 degrees today). After I adjusted my list, I adjusted my closet. I moved my other items into storage, or made piles for giving away or selling ((full disclosure: this is still happening. Sorry for the mess, E!))
I found this whole process both exciting and exhausting- I made the mistake of starting building my wardrobe the same week my university semester began... Not recommended.

Although I've only been working within my capsule for a few days, I've had one insight: Having a capsule wardrobe gives you permission to wear what you love all the time. I'm no longer guilt-tripped every time I get dressed- I can wear my all-star piece every day! That alone might keep me using a capsule wardrobe. We'll see how the next two months go!

These are the majority of my pieces- a few of them are thrifted vintage pieces I can't find equivalents of online.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Layered Stripes

The other day I came up with this shirt combo and I definitely questioned it... Until I saw it on. I don't think it looks like two different shirts, it seems to be to look very intentional. I love layering button ups in unexpected ways- theres only so many times you can put a collared shirt under a sweater! Trust me, I do that every other day. But this was a refreshing change!

Another refreshing change was the lack of extra layers for most of the day- I didn't have to wear the blazer (same as yesterday) for most of the afternoon! I actually got hot. A miracle! Sorry for anyone reading this in the northeast who isn't enjoying the piles of snow.

Mango button up, thrifted striped top (similar), Gap jeans, Gap loafers, vintage necklace (similar)

Florals and Black

Today I went with a thrifted floral top, a black blazer, and my favorite DIY project, waxed jeans. Simple with a little flavor!
Lauren Conrad blazer (sold out, similar), thrifted floral top (similar), waxed jeans (DIY, similar), Gap ankle boots

Saturday, January 24, 2015

"Fancy" Weekend Look

I love this outfit because it is deceptively fancy looking... Yet it is the most comfortable ever. A sweatshirt and comfy jeggings - perfect for the weekend.

These pants are Forever 21 legging jeans I bought... Well.... Forever ago. Probably before I was 21. About two or three years ago when the waxed/coated jean thing started I decided I would wax/coat these myself. I might convince someone to coat their jeans so I can do a tutorial, its so easy!

Loft sweatshirt (sold out, similar), DIY waxed jeggings (similar non-DIY option, on sale!), Naturalizer metallic flats (sold out, honestly could not find a similar match)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dressing for winter in the classroom

I'm a naturally cold person. In summer, even Texas summer, anytime I'm in air conditioning for more than 10 minutes I get cold. Usually I keep a cardigan or a jacket in my car to take in with me on longer grocery shopping trips (I abandon E when we need to go retrieve milk or frozen veggies) or to restaurants. Unfortunately, that means that I look somewhat ridiculous - everyone in their sleeveless dresses and shorts and I'm huddled in a corner with a scarf and a jacket trying to cover my legs.
So you can imagine what winter is like for me. I can't step outside for a few minutes to warm up- I have to keep my warmth against the wind and the rain and the a/c all by myself. My lead teacher loves a cool classroom so I'm perpetually cold at work. It's not uncommon to see me in a long sleeved shirt and a cardigan  and maybe a scarf and her to be in short sleeves and a skirt! I marvel at her natural warmth. Last year I was cold every day, but this year I'm trying a new strategy. If you have a cold classroom and don't want to be burdened with binding blazers, cumbersome cardigans, or sloppy scarves, you can try my tips below.

1. Layer an additional long sleeved shirt under your sweater or even a button up. Considering I wear a button up almost every day, I had to think of more ways to layer other than a sweater over them. This also allows you to look as if you're at a comfortable temperature rather than wrapped in a scarf or jacket that screams give me a blanket. If you get a cozy, long-sleeved cotton shirt to layer with, make sure it has a deep enough neckline so it won't be visible if you top layer moves during the day.

2. Wear a button up or turtleneck under whatever you're wearing. Somehow both of these styles are now ok to wear- thank you to whoever made that happen because now I look like less of a loon when I wear something like this. For inspiration, check out Anh at 9to5chic. She is my layering guru.

3. Cardigans. They are the answer for almost every teacher prob when it comes to style- they add visual interest to your outfit, can cover stains if your student bumps your mug or you drip something on your shirt in the 5 minutes you have for lunch, and are a great way to add warmth without committing to the awkward trying-to-take-off-my-sweater-without-flashing-my-students tango. I wear a cardigan everyday in late spring and early fall (aka extended summer) because Texas, but I usually opt for something heavier in the winter because I don't take off my layers during the school day. I also move around the classroom so much that it's impractical most days to wear something that will flap around. Imagine a grown woman dancing the hokey-pokey with her pre-k kids with a giant cardigan making her look like a bat. Not cute. Add a big scarf to that and it's hilarious.

4. Leggings under your slacks. You might roll your eyes at this- why would a Texas teacher need this level of layering. I'll tell you- I find anything under 40° unbearably cold. So you better believe that those 4 days a year that are below 40° I have all the layers ever. All. Of. Them. The trick to this one is that you have to have tight enough leggings that they won't bunch up at your knees and they also have to be long enough to pull down at your ankles if they do get bunchy. Pro tip: if you want to confuse your better half, ask them to hold onto your leggings at your ankles while you pull on your other pants.  Their expression will be hilarious.

5. For the love of your ankles, feet, and toes- wear appropriate shoes. Last night after one of my education classes I saw far too many of my classmates darting through the freezing rain in flats. Guys. If its cold and rainy, please wear boots. Ankle boots, riding boots, rain boots- there are so many options that will leave your feet warm, dry, and not the least frost-bitten. Do not leave your house in flats when its 30° or raining. . This is not a tip- its a demand. When we come to our classroom with dripping wet feet we are not modeling good choices for our kids.

I hope that if you, too, find yourself rubbing your hands together and wishing you could teach in a puffy coat these ideas will help!

Cozy Sweater and Rainboots

Clearly I spoke too soon about spring arriving- it was freezing and rainy! I can never complain about the rain though, I only get like 5 chances to wear these boots a year. I've gotten more compliments on these rain boots than on any other part of my wardrobe. ((Full Disclosure: before I moved, I totally stole these from my mom. She has excellent taste, and I still owe her some boots.))

Gap Factory sweater (I got this on clearance for $5!), Old Navy turtleneck (I also got this for like $7, winning the sales), Mango jeans, random rainboots (thanks mom! similar)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Blush, plum, and gray

First day of the spring semester! It definitely felt like spring today! Yes please, keep the 60 degree weather coming. I love these colors together- there's something feminine and relaxed about blush, plum, and gray together. Sorry for the super baggy knees- I was on and off the floor all day today with the kids.

Target pants (this color is sold out, but the gray and black on clearance!), Gap sweater, Loft blouse, Gap boots, Citizen watch

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday at the cafe

I wore this to go work on E's essay at a cafe. Another gorgeous day in Texas! ((Full disclosure: I definitely added tights and a sweater. Did I need it? No. Did I feel silly leaving my house in January sleeveless and pantless? Yes))

Target dress (old, similar), Nordstrom Rack pashmina scarf (old, similar), Gap ankle boots (sold out, similar), Bulova watch

Discussing "Basics"

The past few days I've had a series of excellent conversations with my dear friend M, who is also a university student developing her own personal and professional style. We've mostly been talking about what piece you need in your wardrobe to get started- your basics. I searched Pinterest for an embarrassingly long time for a list of basics that would actually be helpful but I kept running into the same problem. One list would have almost everything that I thought was necessary and then throw in something like a pair of stilettos. As a future elementary school teacher- probably one dealing with young enough children that I will sit criss-cross apple sauce more often than in my desk chair- I have zero interest in stilettos. Or any heel, regardless of the thickness. I then thought of M, who I've never seen in heels. I then thought of about 20 other women I see regularly in flats.

This made me realize that, even if I did think that stilettos were for me, they certainly wouldn't be for everyone. Then I began to question the entire institution of "basics." I can easily describe my own basics- neutral colored button downs, black skinny jeans, a pair of ankle boots, and an oversized sweater. That's what I consider my uniform. I could wear it every day and be happy. But what about M? She doesn't wear skinny jeans- so my own list of basics isn't 100% useful.

At the risk of continuing on describing the pitfalls of basics lists, let me just say this. One of the most important things I've realized about fashion is that what we do every day getting ready for the day isn't actually fashion- its style. Fashion seems to be the institution of creating new ideas for clothing, while style is the personal application of clothing.

Instead of looking for other people's ideas of basics, we could be looking at the things in our closets that we love wearing, that make us feel excited and confident and ourselves, regardless of whether or not that fit of jeans or style of jacket is fashionable at the moment. If we know what we love to wear, that will guide our future style choices and help us shop smarter. Here are some questions that might help you decide what your basics are.
  • What does your perfect (shirt, pants, shoes, jacket) look like? How does it feel?
  • Think of the people whose style you most admire. Why do admire them? Do you like what they're wearing, or how they wear it?
  • Think of your daily life- your profession, hobbies, family life. What is practical for you to wear? Could you function in heels and dresses? Is it work appropriate to wear jeans every day?
  • Look in your closet. What items do you have a lot of? If you have a lot of colorful dresses or muted t-shirts, that you actually wear and love, then that item should be on your list of basics.
Here is my own list of basics, both for work and play.

Neutral button ups

Skinny jeans

Oversized sweater

Ankle boots
Gap ankle boots, sold out (similar)

Reasonable flats

Moto jacket

((Full disclosure: my own jacket is faux leather from a teeny bopper shop in Kansas City. However, this one is a much better alternative.))

Men's watch

These basics work for winter and most of fall and spring, but come summer I replace jackets and boots with sandals and tank tops. But the formula stays the same, generally neutral colors with skinnies and flat shoes. I know that where ever I go, that will keep me comfortable, functional, and confident!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Saturday Afternoon

Thrifted button up, H&M high waisted skinny jeans, and Gap ankle boots (similar)

Today it was beautiful! 60-something in January? Yes please! This is my go-to uniform for the weekends (and when possible at work) when its not freezing outside. Also, I adore high waisted anything! Its a flattering cut on most people and it makes me feel like I put a little more thought into what I'm wearing. Everyone needs to try a pair. I tried desperately to find a good pair thrifting- that ended with me nearly breaking my thumbs attempting to remove a pair of vintage Tommy Hilfiger jeans off... So H&M it is!


Nearly 5 years ago, after graduating high school, I left for a year of service in Haifa, Israel. This was not only a crash course in culture- at the Baha'i World Centre where I was serving I was immersed in cultures from all over the world- but this was also my first time out on my own, managing my own life. One of my big take aways from that experience was style. Not my own style, I was fresh out of high school and from the Mid-West, what style was there to have? Being surrounded by people with all kinds of fashion sense, some of which I admired and attempted to emulate- I realized that I really had no sense of style to speak of- I wore jeans and t-shirts and the occasional dress. My clothing was generally from Target. Wisely, my mom took me shopping a few weeks before I left. We got a few nice button ups from Eddie Bauer, a cardigan from Gap, and a few pairs of reasonable shoes (in Haifa we pretty much walked everywhere, something a Kansan was not used to!) This was not only a great mother-daughter experience, but an opportunity to think about how I wanted to look for the next year. When I got to Haifa, I was definitely a little intimidated by the fashionable (to me) crowd I was suddenly surrounded by. I quickly decided to take some cues from the people I admired most and began to explore the options I had- namely cheap clothes from the Hadar (market) or I could go to one of the malls and be dazzled by places like Zara. Oh Zara. Even now I become unnecessarily excited by that store. Zara became my ideal of what it was to be fashionable. If I could shop at Zara then I could be fashionable. Again, I was 18.

 When I returned home from Haifa I was determined to dress better. This would require me to go shopping, as I had about 6 shirts I thought were up to par and maybe one pair of pants. The problem was that, even after about 25 applications, I had no job and therefore very little money in the summer between coming back and university beginning. This was the summer I discovered thrift stores and began the ongoing love story between these musty overstocked shops and ever-wanting self.

One of the best things about thrifting is that it offered you so many different kinds of clothing- vintage and new, full of different patterns and materials that you would likely never choose for yourself unless you had a chance to experiment with it beforehand. Silk, leather, tweed- these were not things you found in Forever 21 and Target.

After spending more hours in thrift stores and in front of my sewing machine than I care to admit, I had created a wardrobe inspired by the people I had most admired in Haifa. I had huge baggy button ups and pencil skirts, loose silky crop tops and harem pants (this is also when I realized that Australians and Europeans were way ahead of the fashion game than those in the Midwest. I know. Shocking!)

By the time college came around, I was dressing how I wanted. I would take my meager earnings from working at the university day care and spend it on things that I liked without worrying whether or not my classmates would also be wearing similar things. This was mostly because my clothing was thrifted, but also because I didn’t want to dress like them anymore- I didn’t want to wear Northface jackets and Uggs, I didn’t want to wear denim miniskirts (yes this was still when people wore those) and flip-flops. After a few months, I got a better job working as a teacher aide at an elementary school, so my clothing needed an upgrade. Instead of scouring the loaded thrift store racks for funky vintage prints, I trolled for Gap slacks and Ann Taylor jackets. Instead of going to work in jerseys and cheap cotton, I felt so confident walking in with decent wool trousers and silk-blend sweaters, all for less than $5. You can probably tell this, but thrifting gave me a rather overinflated ego. Anyone can go into LOFT and buy some full priced trousers, but I felt like it took a special skill to go into Goodwill and find the same pants one size too big and craft them into a killer pair of pants. This skill, no matter how border-line superfluous it might be, allowed me to get the clothing I felt professional in.

Fast forward to today- I have a well-stocked closet (maybe a little too well-stocked) full of thrift finds from stores I could have never afforded as well as a handful of random vintage pieces that add some funk to my style. I also discovered that a lot of the brands I love have both great sales (stuff like 60% of clearance- which is both awesome and unfortunately seductive) and teacher discounts (because teacher salary). I got married a year and a half ago I moved to Texas, where I now go to school full time to become an elementary school teacher, and work full-time as a Pre-K teacher aide. I’m continuing to develop a professional style and a consistent off-duty look so I can have a focus in my shopping and styling. This blog is my remedy to my slight shopping addiction- by sharing my outfits I hope I can be more creative in my assembly instead of simply buying more! I'll share mostly what I wear to work, but also a few weekend looks.
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