A week of clothes

Wardrobe essentials
New addition to bedroom decor: A furoshiki from Kyoto that I’m using as a tapestry.

A week of sartorial choices, sans photos of what I wore.


Rosemary-hued pants from Zara; cream V-neck sweater from J. Crew; terra cotta-colored blazer from Gap. Madewell Oxford shoes. Which I love, because they are my first true “investment” pair of shoes, but I am realizing that they are a little hard on the heels, especially after standing at my desk all day. This doesn’t change my deep affection for them.

When I get home from work, I decide not to change what I am wearing for small group, even though I am tempted to don something slovenly.

To bed: Long-sleeved dark gray T-shirt from Gap; new red plaid flannel PJ pants from J. Crew.


New black Dannie pants from J. Crew, which I bought on sale with great anticipation, but I acknowledge they are much shorter than I would like them to be. But, the fact that they zip up in the back is an unexpectedly alluring detail. Old royal blue silk-like blouse that I lifted from Grace some years ago; black Forever 21 blazer that is missing a button at the cuff but I still wear because the cut is surprisingly good on me. My one pair of knee-high black boots, which are very comfortable, but are losing their shape because I bought them from Target. Still, they have held up admirably for two years.

At noon, I change into a long-sleeved gray T-shirt with painted navy blue lines from J. Crew Factory, because my department is going to play laser tag as part of a “team-building exercise.” The laser tag facility turns out to be an abandoned Office Depot with no heat and giant piles of brush and pillars of wood pallets, which makes the whole situation infinitely creepier. I make a few kills. I start to get in touch with my minute store of testosterone.

When I get home, I discard the blazer and put on Guion’s enormous gray sweatshirt, because I am cold. I take off my wool socks and boots, because my feet are feeling damp and I hate that more than almost anything. I put on these ancient striped socks and my oversized slippers. I am also cranky with the dogs. They have been hard to love today.

To bed: Heather blue leggings, same gray T-shirt I wore the night before, ancient striped socks.


Work-from-home day, so pajamas until noon, when I finally roused myself to shower. Then: Aging Gap jeans, which have become my home/running errands/don’t-need-to-look-awesome jeans. (They have been replaced in my heart by a pair of Zara jeans, which happen to be softer, cheaper, and more flattering. I’ve realized that Zara makes pants for my legs, more than any other store I’ve found.) Dark gray V-neck sweater; gray oversized cable-knit cardigan from Zara. (I love this giant, heavy cardigan, but it’s pilling terribly, after just about a month of wear. This makes me sad. There’s just about nothing you can do about pills like this. I bought a Sweater Stone, but I don’t think much can be done for seriously pilling cable-knit.) Black boots again with wool socks, because it’s brutally cold out there.

Found my black gloves, which I thought I’d lost, mistakenly tossed in the bottom of a to-Goodwill bag. Silently rejoiced at our reunion.

To bed: New flannel PJ set from J. Crew that I am totally in love with. Even if the plaid is very Christmas-y, I am going to wear it with glee all winter.


10-degree day. Dove-gray trousers from Ann Taylor Loft (it really is a funky gray, with dusky undertones); boatneck striped sweater from J. Crew Factory; very old chunky-knit cardigan from Banana Republic that Mom gave me for Christmas many moons ago. It belts around the waist, in this inset woven ribbon. I didn’t wear it at all when I first got it, and then I suddenly rediscovered it, and now it’s a winter staple. It is also pilling after all these years, but not too noticeably. Brown boots from Target that have held up marvelously after three years. Sometimes you find those miracle shoes at Target. I’ve found that most Target shoes are flimsy things that fall apart after a few wears (especially after they lost Isaac Mizrahi), but then there’s this magical 5% of them that are sincerely great, well-made, long-lasting shoes. These boots are part of that magical 5%.

I put the chickens away first thing when I get home from work. (We had a harrowing incident last night when we thought we lost them forever. But they came back. Like the good girls that they are.) I break up the ice in their water tray and retrieve an egg from the nest box, which has split right down the middle from the cold, taking care not to get the bit of yolk on my black gloves. I don leggings and slippers as soon as I get back inside.

To bed: Heather blue leggings again, long-sleeved gray T-shirt again.


Black pants from Zara; light heather gray v-neck sweater from J. Crew Factory; chunky-knit vest with a belted waist, a hand-me-down from Grace. Black Chelsea boots from Target, which are also part of the 5% magic minority.

I spend the evening planning and proofing for this week’s calligraphy jobs, adorned in my flannel pants and accompanied by candles and a glass of tempranillo.

To bed: J. Crew flannel PJ set.


Flannel PJs stay on till noon, while I am in the heat of three calligraphy jobs. After that, I change into my errand-day jeans; striped v-neck long-sleeved T-shirt; old navy hoodie that has holes in the sleeves but is still so substantial and warm.

I braid my hair in pigtails and put on a swipe of blush, even though I’m not going anywhere today. Over the afternoon, the braids loosen and soften and start to appear more attractive and artistic instead of straight-up Pippi Longstocking.

To bed: Leggings and gray long-sleeved T-shirt again (don’t worry; I’ve washed them).


Shower day. New dark jeans from Zara; fisherman-style blue sweater from J. Crew; black puffer jacket; Chelsea boots. Want to look stylish to go see Maddy at work at the new French bakery in town, MarieBette. It’s packed and we see many familiar faces. Guion works on Nettles posters and I read Independent People.

To bed: Leggings and long-sleeved T-shirt.

Closet visit

One of my 2015 resolutions is to simplify my life, particularly my wardrobe. I’m far from declaring that I have achieved a streamlined, minimalist wardrobe, but I think I’ve made progress. It’s a start, at least.

Closet visit
Tapestry by Laura Dillon Rogers.

A physical benefit of attempting a pared-down wardrobe is that we have TINY closets. Simply, there is no space to have an expansive collection of clothes. When we moved in a year ago, I begrudged this seeming limitation and envied women with those luxurious walk-in closets. But now I feel grateful for this small space. It has forced me to become a conscientious and ruthless editor over time.

Closet visit

Closet visit
Shaker dictum calligraphy print, by me.

This is it:

Closet visit

Closet visit

And then I have three drawers (grunders not pictured).

Closet visit

Closet visit
Shirts, transformed by the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying (a la Marie Kondo).

My shoes live on a little shelf outside the closet.

Closet visit

The surrounding goals are to (1) discard/donate more, (2) reduce colors, (3) refine what I consider to be my personal style, (4) buy less, and (5) buy better-made clothes when I do buy.

Closet visit
Silk blouse from Everlane.

I still have lots of progress to make, but I am feeling refreshed and inspired with this small start. An added benefit is that my mom and sisters (and some of Grace’s friends) are joining in this goal to simplify our closets, and so I have a good deal of peripheral, personal support. I am thankful for them, and for this year of new beginnings, even if it is starting with something as ordinary as a collection of clothes.

“Through housewifely care a house recovers not so much its originality as its origin. And what a great life it would be if, every morning, every object in the house could be made anew by our hands, could ‘issue’ from our hands. In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent van Gogh tells him that we should ‘retain something of the original character of a Robinson Crusoe.’ Make and remake everything oneself, make a ‘supplementary gesture’ toward each object, give another facet to the polished reflections, all of which are so many boons the imagination confers upon us by making us aware of the house’s inner growth.”

— The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard


Virtue and dwelling

Encroaching fig tree
Our bedroom; encroaching fig tree.

My mother used to say that keeping a beautiful home could be seen as her spiritual gift. She has a cornucopia of spiritual gifts, but I agree that hospitality and housekeeping are chief among them. And I use the word “housekeeping” not in the dim, 1950s housewife way; I think of it in the Marilynne Robinson way: housekeeping as a holistic lifestyle, the way that one dwells in a physical space, the way that you create and keep a home. (Accordingly, men engage in housekeeping as much as women do, even if they’re not participating in its most obvious elements, such as decorating and doing such “female” chores as cooking, laundry, sweeping, etc.)

But back to Mom: She has a great eye, which she passed along to Grace. I wouldn’t say that Kelsey and I are devoid of this eye, but we certainly don’t have its abundant powers, which are so clearly manifested in our mother and youngest sister. I aspire to this spiritual gift of the beautiful home, and so I study people like my mom and my sister, and people like Catherine, Stephanie, Ross, Matt and Liz, and Cate, who also have this gift. I want to know how they know what they know. How they can walk into stores that look crammed with junk and find this perfectly patina’d treasure. How they know what works and what doesn’t. How they show such control and restraint.

Can I have a beautiful home if I don’t have the great eye or the gift?

I don’t know, but I do see this ability — to make a beautiful home — as a spiritual gift. A peaceful, welcoming, lovely house shows fruit of the spirit. It’s not everyone’s gift and nor should it be; but I maintain that it is a gift and that it can work on souls with as much power as prophecy.

I read a few books on feng shui during my interior design-reading craze. Although I had trouble believing in many of its essential principles or suggestions (e.g., “Sprinkle sea salt on the floor where you sense negative energy”), the majority of the feng shui wisdom applied to interiors made so much sense to me, even as a western person. It makes sense that high ceilings make the spirit feel freer and lighter and that low ceilings make one feel trapped. It makes sense that mirrors open spaces and that the direction of windows can significantly affect one’s chi. I am fascinated by these tenets, because I have felt the truth of them in many spaces.

Alain de Botton writes in The Architecture of Happiness:

If buildings can act as a repository of our ideals, it is because they can be purged of all the infelicities that corrode ordinary lives. A great work of architecture will speak to us of a degree of serenity, strength, poise and grace to which we, both as creators and audiences, typically cannot do justice–and it will for this very reason beguile and move us. Architecture excites our respect to the extent that it surpasses us.

Buildings work and act on our hearts, whether we want them to or not. And this is why I believe in the spiritual gift of beautiful housekeeping and homemaking. We are beguiled and moved by the physical spaces we inhabit.

Now I just have to figure out how to attain this gift myself. Starting with finding a house with higher ceilings.


As of Tuesday, I have read 100 books this year, a sizable portion of which were how-to books about keeping houseplants alive. My fiction numbers are down considerably from last year, a fact which I still blame on David Foster Wallace.


Headed off this weekend to see my brother Win get hitched to my soon-to-be sister Tracy! Can’t wait.