Style icon: Grace

Style icon: Grace

I can’t think of a better person to inaugurate my Style Icon series than my perpetually stylish baby sister Grace.

After living in a variety of places around the world (most recently in Kathmandu) for the past few years, Grace now makes her home in Berlin. She is an accomplished videographer and photographer and a licensed yoga instructor.

She was kind enough to spend some time answering my questions and sending me some photos of herself and her wardrobe. So, take it away, Poodle!

Style icon: Grace

How would you describe your personal style?

Someone once said my style was sorta sporty/structured, and I think that is pretty accurate. I wear yoga pants most days and love jackets and drapey stuff too.

Style icon: Grace

Has your personal style changed over the years? If so, why do you think it changed?

I’ve always worn a good deal of black, even when I was younger and now (apart from maybe four colored things in my whole wardrobe, it is all I wear). Shopping is easy now, and when I see a rack of clothes, I just go to the black ones, and if I don’t see anything I like, then I leave. Texture is really important and always has been to me. When I was little, my mom couldn’t take me to fabric stores because I would have to touch every fabric sample… few things change. These days, I love leather, velvet, and lace.

What do you hope you communicate by what you choose to wear?

I find pleasure in getting dressed, and I hope that comes across. How I feel in my clothes is more important than what people think.

Style icon: Grace

What are some crucial pieces of your current wardrobe? Items you wouldn’t feel complete without?

My fuzzy black sweater, my Doc Marten Chelsea boots, my grandma’s necklaces, my silver earrings from Nepal, and my numerous pairs of black leggings and jeans.

Style icon: Grace

What is your most recent purchase?

A pair of black wool socks…it’s cold in Berlin!

Style icon: Grace

Is there anything you’re on the hunt for right now?

A practical leather wallet. I’ve always carried my small, black magic wallet with me everywhere I go, but here I use cash and coins frequently.

Style icon: Grace

Who are some of your style icons?

For me, my style icons are seriously scattered, and they often include places and how I feel in those places: Rishikesh, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Florence… But there are also some people too: Erin Wasson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Tilda Swinton, Amirah Jiwa, Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Style icon: Grace

What do you most notice or admire in a well-dressed person?

Cool, casual confidence. I truly admire people who dress with great confidence and who also don’t take themselves too terribly seriously. Getting dressed should be fun, and my definition of someone who is well-dressed is someone who is simultaneously creative and laid-back. I also admire people who can apply and wear makeup well (I know nothing about makeup and envy those who do).

Gran's Memorial in Ohio

Merci, Gracie! Such fun to read about your sense of style, which has always been distinct, even when you were tiny. More in the series to come (I hope!).

On wearing a uniform

Coco Chanel:
Coco Chanel and a Great Dane.

I’ve realized that the well-dressed people I most admire wear uniforms. Emmanuelle Alt has her black stilettos, jeans, and white shirts. Jeanne Damas is always tucking shirts and sweaters into high-waisted pants. Giorgia Tordini can WORK some menswear, and hence usually does (I’m more than a bit in love with her). Grace only wears black now. Jonathan wears black and white.

Such people have a very specific, recognizable, and definable personal style. This interests me deeply. I think this is what people mean when they say that someone has “great style” — it’s concrete and identifiable; it does not bend to the seasonal whim of sartorial trends.

A uniform is certainly an appealing concept. It is not surprising that the article Matilda Kahl wrote for Harper’s, “Why I Wear the Exact Same Thing to Work Every Day,” sparked such a frenzy of internet interest. We take people who wear uniforms seriously. It appeals to our deep need to feel orderly and distilled in our daily life.

But what does this mean for someone like me, who is neither (a) courageous enough to wear the same thing to work every day nor (b) inherently gifted in the art of choosing and wearing clothes?

Some thoughts about this dilemma and my desire to be uniform:

  1. Name what I like and why. Continue to fall into that visual rabbit hole that is Pinterest (with which I am unabashedly in love). Study well-dressed people. Take note of why I keep pinning the same images and over and over again. It turns out that I am a perennial sucker for a woman in (a) button-down shirt and (b) a classic men’s shoe. Be exceptionally clear about what I like and dislike.
  2. Continue to edit out pieces that do not fit my concept of my uniform. I think I have now successfully accomplished this, as I no longer own any bright colors, flashy prints,
  3. Wear and use what I have. I do not need more things. I have checked off some of the more expensive staples from my wish list this year (silk shirts, cashmere sweaters), and they should ideally last a long time. I am set. Say this to myself and believe it.
  4. Talk to stylish people and glean their wisdom. I like doing this anyway, but I want to do it in a more structured, disciplined way. I am hoping to feature a few of these people here in the weeks and months to come, so stay tuned.

If I had to shape a daily work uniform from what I already own, I think it would be this:

  • Three-quarter-sleeve gray crewneck sweater from J.Crew (similar)
  • Black trousers from Gap, which I had tailored many years ago and now wear once a week (similar)
  • Black blazer from Forever21, which I am super-ashamed to admit, but it’s actually great and I wear it all the time and it was $15 please don’t hate me I haven’t shopped there in years and never will again (similar)
  • Black Everlane loafers, my dream shoe

Here it is! I am proud of how bad this collage is and how decidedly un-cool-lady-blogger it is.

Little Stories bad collage

How about you? Do you ever think about this? What garments would compose your daily uniform?

On wearing clothes

Wardrobe essentials

“Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” — Virginia Woolf, Orlando

At the turn of each new year, I apparently expend a good deal of mental space thinking about clothes. What can I discard and donate now? What did I not wear in the past year? What, in Kondo’s life-changing phrase, sparks joy?

If anything, the simple act of tidying my wardrobe sparks joy for me. (I unashamedly admit that I love folding my underwear.) Last night, I edited my closet and came up with armful of things, once more, that I ought not hold onto. It thrilled me. I am so much happier with less.

Wardrobe essentials

But. I am struggling with a new desire. I do not want a pile of new things, but I want but fewer, far more expensive, and well-made things. Gobs of cheap garments from Target and Old Navy no longer appeal to me, as they did when I was younger. I just want one ludicrously expensive pair of jeans. Or a luxurious, sustainably made handbag. Which is a different (fiscal) problem altogether.

My style aspirations haven’t changed at all since I last wrote about them. I still want to dress like a Parisienne, however that is within my power in Central Virginia. I have successfully edited out most colors and prints, except for stripes. I wear rather plain things now, and I love it.

Simply put, people who say they “don’t care about clothes” are not truthful. Everyone cares about clothes. Everyone makes deliberate choices about what they buy and how they wear it. Our wardrobes are not happy accidents.

What people mean when they say this is that they don’t care about fashion or trends. Which is fine. But everyone cares about clothes.

And that is why I like thinking about clothes and observing what people wear and why. What we say to the world through what we wear. Is the image that I think I’m projecting through my clothes what the world actually receives? It is something to ponder.

Next: Perhaps some thoughts on uniforms and minimalism.

Fashion lessons from Mom

Things my mother has said to me about clothes:

251/365“All white shoes are tacky.”

“We have to wear bohemian clothes, me and you, because of our curly hair. Do you know how bad we look in a polo shirt or a cable-knit sweater??”

“It cuts me!” (referring to the crotch region of uncomfortable jeans)

“Comfort matters a lot to me. A lot.”

“Well-made shoes are worth the investment. I’ve had these red snow boots since college, and I get compliments on them every time I wear them. I love them. You can’t have them.”

“Is this too matchy-matchy?”

“I’m cold. I’m always cold.” (explaining why she has so many cardigans)

Christmas 2013What are some of the things your mother has told you about clothes?

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.

MONDAY, 5 JANUARY

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.

TUESDAY, 6 JANUARY

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.

WEDNESDAY, 7 JANUARY

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.

THURSDAY, 8 JANUARY

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.

FRIDAY, 9 JANUARY

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.

SATURDAY, 10 JANUARY

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).

SUNDAY, 11 JANUARY

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.

A survey of sartorial attitudes

Questions lifted from the very excellent book Women in Clothes, compiled by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton, which I bought for myself as a new year’s present and have been happily devouring ever since.

What do you admire about how other women present themselves?

I love seeing a woman who seems to really know her sense of style, and thus, herself. I love seeing a woman who is committed to a particular look, too, even if it’s not the style I’m personally aspiring to achieve. I like to see a woman walk down the street with her head held high.

When do you feel at your most attractive?

In a perfectly fitted dress, and in heels, although I hate to admit it. I only wear heels at dressy functions and for a very short amount of time, but I love feeling absurdly tall, taller than or as tall as most men in a room.

Are there any clothing (or related) items that you have in multiple?

I have five blazers and I still want more.

How long does it take you to get dressed?

About 30 seconds, because I lay out my clothes for the work day every evening. But it takes me about 45 minutes to get dressed, do my face, eat breakfast, read, and take care of the dogs on weekdays.

Christmas in the Pines
One of my favorite cardigans, a gift from my sister Kelsey many years ago.

What are some dressing rules you wouldn’t necessarily recommend to others but you follow?

Cut out colors and most patterns from the wardrobe. I am following this rule with more dedication this year, but I would never call it a universal rule. Many (most?) women look great in a wide range of colors and prints, but I’ve decided to stick to neutrals. These days, a spectrum of blue is about as much as I want to venture into color.

What are some dressing or shopping rules you think every woman should follow?

Only buy what sparks joy. Only wear clothes that flatter your body (which is a rule I’d like to observe more devoutly). Reject all garments with glitter.

Do you consider yourself photogenic?

Heavens, no.

What is your favorite piece of clothing or jewelry you own?

Clothing: Gray silk blouse from Everlane. Jewelry: My wedding/engagement rings, which belonged to Guion’s grandmother.

What’s the first “investment” item you bought?

The Oxford shoes from Madewell, which were about $175. I know some people wouldn’t consider than an investment item, but it was to me.

Was there a point when your style changed dramatically?

I’d say now, actually. I’m becoming more thoughtful and intentional about the choices I make when it comes to what I wear. My style was unremarkable/nonexistent in college; I bought cheap things on a whim, usually just because they were on sale. My college roommates used to tease me that everything I owned was in a jewel tone. I had this hot pink cable-knit, crewneck sweater that I wore forever, despite the fact that it was hideous on me. I shudder to remember these things that I held onto for so long.

Do you care about lingerie?

Deeply. I am always ready and willing to shell out a big wad of cash for a great bra. Bras are so important! My mother has always told me this. You wear a bra every day (or, most of us do), so it ought to be an excellent garment. I have a handful of sturdy, utilitarian bras, but I have a particular weakness for lacy, unsupportive lingerie. I am just about small-chested enough to get away with wearing flimsy, lacy little things on a regular basis, and so I do. I’m very basic when it comes to grunders, however; I only wear black, gray, and neutral cotton bikinis. Thongs are abhorrent to me, and I also maintain that they are unnatural and unhealthy.

What are you trying to achieve when you dress for the world?

I hope to project a confident, competent woman. I want to be taken seriously as an adult human being, and I think my new wardrobe goals are striving to communicate this.

Family weekend
With my sisters, Grace (far left) and Kelsey.

How has your background influenced the way you dress?

Growing up homeschooled meant that you grew up in a fashion vacuum. We had no idea, really, how modern kids were supposed to be dressing. Our peers wore a wide range of clothes; some looked like “normal” kids on the Disney Channel, as far as we could tell, since we weren’t allowed to watch it; others, especially girls, looked like they were straight out of Little House on the Prairie. My sisters and I were always instructed to dress “modestly,” but my parents were not big on rules, thankfully.

I vividly remember the one time I was told I couldn’t wear something. I was 13 or 14, and I’d purchased a gray mock-neck sweater dress to wear at Christmas. I wore it to my grandparents’ church, with black tights and new black shoes, and I felt pretty. But when we got home, my mother pulled me aside and said that she and Dad had agreed that I wasn’t allowed to wear that dress anymore. I was shocked. I couldn’t think of what could possibly be wrong with it; my arms were covered up, even most of my neck was shielded. I protested. “Well,” Mom said, “you have… um… a young woman’s body now, and your father and I feel that the dress isn’t appropriate and could cause young men to… stumble.” (“Stumble” was always the operative evangelical word for boys getting horny from looking at the female form.) I was mortified and totally grossed out. I never wore the dress again and felt sad and confused whenever I remembered it.

I tell the story to explain the context of “modesty” in dress that I hail from, but my parents were, in comparison to the vast majority of homeschooling parents in our community, quite generous in what they allowed us to wear. There was the sweater dress incident, and once, Mom and I had a fight over a tank top I’d bought with lace trim, but that was it. We didn’t fight about clothes; we were extremely obedient kids. My sisters and I didn’t give them any trouble when we were at home, regarding what we chose to wore. We didn’t watch TV and we didn’t have a ton of peers, so we had no desire to wear a corset and fishnet tights to church to be “cool.” “Cool” to us was having a big evidence binder on medical malpractice policy and a really rad journal to write your devotions in.

All of this is to say that I feel much more freedom about clothes now than I did growing up. I dress to please myself, as a free agent, and I no longer worry about the censure of my community.

Have you ever dressed a certain way to gain a sense of control?

Absolutely. One example comes to mind: I competed in team policy debate during high school, in which swarms of ultra-nerdy homeschoolers pretended to be little lawyers. Dress codes, for girls, were strict. Most girls wore floor-length or calf-length wool skirts, but I always wore a pant suit and heels. I had a short (male) debate partner, and I deliberately chose heels every time, to feel more powerful and to revel in the fact that I was so much taller than him. I towered over our opponents, too. And I daresay I got consistently great speaker points. I think it was mostly for the power suit and pumps.

What are some things you do to feel presentable?

A swipe of lipstick always makes me feel more presentable.

Is there a part of your body that feels most distinctly you?

My legs. I don’t have particularly pretty legs (they are extremely thin, mapped by a network of prominent blue veins, and I have a number of dings and scars), but they are very long. Since I acquired them as a teenager, I have always been proud of how disproportionately long my legs are.

With whom do you talk about clothes?

Grace and Jonathan. They are my style guides and muses.

Can you say a bit about how your mother’s body and style have been passed down to you, if at all?

My mother is a very beautiful and classy woman, and in her post-homeschooling days, she’s also become very stylish. When Grace was still at home, she did a serious closet overhaul with my mom and made her throw away all of her homeschool regalia (denim jumpers, baggy skirts, old sweaters) and start dressing in modern clothes. Ever since then, Mom has looked like a million bucks.

I am not as pretty as my mother, not by a long shot, but I did inherit her body, which I am grateful for (even with all its bizarre, specific quirks). I’ve found this to be helpful, because we know that what looks good on one of us will probably also flatter the other.

I like to match my wardrobe to my dog's. #pyrrhagram

What is an archetypal outfit for you — something you would have been happy wearing at any point in your life?

Dark jeans and a white or blue button-down shirt. I don’t know why, but even as a young teen, I have loved a button-down shirt. That’s all I wanted to wear when I was 14, but I was often dissuaded by the price tags on the most beautiful shirts, so I defaulted to Target clothes for most of my young life. I like recalling this about myself, because this is the basic style I want to return to, and knowing that I have always loved it makes it feel particularly right.

What item of clothing are you on the hunt for?

A cashmere crew-neck sweater (mostly just eyeing the one from Everlane).

What are you wearing on your body and face, and how is your hair done, right at this moment?

I’m wearing a chunky-knit, oversized cardigan from Zara; jeans from Gap; a dark gray v-neck sweater; and black equestrian-style boots. My face is bare, save for a swipe of blush, a touch of eyeliner, and Burt’s Bees lip color (shade: fig); errands day, so my face is more minimal than it is on a typical work day. And my hair, freshly washed, is at its most curly, so it’s pinned up at the sides.

So! I’d love to hear your answers.

Observations on French style

Disclaimers: I have never been to France. I only know a handful of French people. These are merely an amateur’s observations of French style icons, based purely upon photographs and a small amount of reading.

(c) The Sartorialist. Short, tousled hair.
(c) The Sartorialist. Long hair, long legs.

Observation no. 1: Hair is either very long or very short and extremely minimalist.

Essentially, French hair is the opposite of Texas hair. French hair seems to be best when it looks like you have done absolutely nothing to it. Messy is better than structured and coiffed.

Clémence Poésy. Click for source.

Observation no. 2: Color and patterns are used sparingly.

One color seems to be more than enough for one outfit. French women never seem to overdo it. The proverb seems to be: If you’re going to use a pattern or a crazy color, use them carefully; the pattern and the color should never be excessively distracting.

(c) The Sartorialist. Leather + sheer = sexy.

Observation no. 3: Subtle sexiness.

Again, we find the opposite of American sexiness (BOOBS! In your face!) in the way that the French woman seems to project how alluring she is. French women don’t show a lot of skin, but when they do, they really know how to do it tastefully, playing up their best assets (e.g., a short skirt if you have great legs, an exposed collarbone if that’s your angle). Sheer also seems to be really big in everyday French fashion right now.

Clémence again, looking a little wild-eyed in Chanel. Click for source.

Observation no. 4: FIT!

If it doesn’t fit your body, don’t wear it. I still have a lot to learn in this department. This is something that Jonathan is always (wisely) preaching to me, too. One of my goals this year is to actually take some of my clothes to a tailor! Gasp. I have never done this before. Few of us, as Jonathan says, are lucky enough to be able to buy clothes that fit straight off the rack. The majority of us should get our clothes tailored. Accordingly, French women seem to inherently understand this principle of fit. Their clothes seem to be made for them.

Juliette Binoche. Click for source.

Observation no. 5: Minimal makeup.

It seems that the French trick to makeup is to always look as if you weren’t wearing any. This was always what my mom told me, too, when I started experimenting with makeup as a young teen. French women never look overdone. French women are also famous for their skincare routines and their seeming acceptance of natural skin tone (e.g., lack of the American urge to be perennially bronzed). And if in doubt, just wear a bold red lip with nothing else on your face.

My conclusion is one word: Natural. French style strikes me as so very natural. Obviously, it takes a lot of time and effort and money and a great eye, but French style presents itself as natural: This is the way my hair and face naturally look; I have done nothing to them. These are the clothes that I just “throw on” when I roll out of bed in the morning. That seems to be the consistent theme of French style, if I had to narrow it down, in my limited observation.

To an American like myself, cultivating this aesthetic will clearly take a lot of work before it comes to me “naturally.” But that’s the idea.

Nothing to eat

How to Plant Asparagus

There is nothing to eat,
seek it where you will,
but the body of the Lord.
The blessed plants
and the sea, yield it
to the imagination intact.

— William Carlos Williams

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I am looking forward to:

  • Getting our yard in shape; planting things (pepper garden, onions, potatoes, flowers). I am desperate for some of our flowers to grow. The daffodils and tulips in the front yard have been taking their sweet time, probably because it’s been so unseasonably cold.
  • Actual spring weather. This cold weather and the persistent threat of snow every weekend is really getting me down.
  • Rescue adoption event tomorrow, to which I will be taking Laszlo. Here’s to hoping that he garners some positive attention!
  • Reading again. I have been in a non-reading funk, mainly because caring for a puppy all day means that I have little ability to divert my attention to quiet, stationary pastimes. I think I have also lost a lot of enthusiasm for fiction, which has never happened to me before.
  • Buying clothes and thinking about clothes and paring down my wardrobe. Still musing a lot on fashion and the importance of dressing well. I am reading a poorly organized book on British fashion, The Thoughtful Dresser, but it has inspired some thoughts. For instance: There is a reason why Paris and New York are hubs of fashion. In those cities, women are seen on the streets all day long. In contrast, there is a reason why Wyoming is not a fashionable center; women fulfill different roles (cattle wrangling?) and thus have no need for stylish, meticulous presentation in dress (functional presentation, yes, but no one would see you in vintage Dior even if you owned it). Something else I’ve been thinking about: Why is there such a lack of diversity in men’s fashion? Has it always been this way?

Happy Friday!

All dresses, all the time

I just received a spam comment on this blog that said, “STOP! What are you doing blogging will never make you any serious money.” Too true, too true, spambot. (That is, unless you are a trendy Mormon lady blogger…)

Why I only ever want to wear dresses

Abby and Kelsey (Childhood)

I would like to only wear dresses, ever.

My mom told me that when I was a tiny child, if she tried to dress me in pants or shorts, I would tear them off and INSIST on being put back in a dress. (My child-mind reasoning went as follows: Girls wear dresses. I am a girl. Ergo, I must wear dresses.) I still feel this way (that I must wear dresses, not that all women should or must).

While I must give homage to my feminist forebears for the freedom to don jeans, I have never looked good in pants. My legs are too bony and shapeless to fill out pants, and so I labor under the delusion that my bird legs look better under a breezy skirt. They might. I wear pants, obviously, particularly in the fall and winter, but you should know that I’m always doing it against my will.

I counted them the other day. I currently own 37 dresses. And yet I still feel like I need more.

I hope maxi dresses stay stylish for a million more years. I want to live and die in a maxi dress. I want to buy all the maxi dresses. I want to be in one right now.

Men, you don’t know what you are missing. There is tremendous physical freedom* in dresses. (*At least, in modern dresses. Lord knows I wouldn’t want to be a woman living in any time period prior to 1920, caged in and weighed down by yards of stilting fabric.) I encourage you to try a dress, or at least a skirt. It really is a shame, for your sakes, that you are not culturally permitted to wear dresses. Because dresses rule. Your lives would change if you could wear them.

In college, I started a little challenge among my friend circle, No Pants April. We had to wear dresses or skirts every day for the month of April. (The only exception was exercise clothes; no one except good, pure homeschoolers should suffer the indignity of having to work out in a skirt.) It caught on quickly and soon I had a dozen women joining me in the challenge. Word has it that Grace has even tried to keep up the tradition there.

You see, I am a fundamentally lazy dresser. This is why dresses are flawless to me. Dresses can do no wrong. You jump into one and you’re DONE. No need to pair tops and bottoms and belts. It is the Complete Outfit, the perfect uniform. A complete godsend for sartorially anxious, lazy people like me. I will wear dresses until my last breath, until it is no longer even mildly appropriate or attractive for me to wear them. I pledge to further eradicate pants from my wardrobe, for the good of my soul.

My personal fashion icons

I’ve never purported to be fashionable. I tend to wear things until they wear out. I might dress like a soccer mom sometimes. Almost all fashion blogs are extremely boring to me. I don’t know anything about how to put an outfit together.

And yet. I really want to be “fashionable,” whatever that means. I am surrounded by many women who unfailingly rock whatever they are wearing. I envy them and simultaneously I love watching them wear just about anything. These are not famous people, but they should be, because they know how to wear the hell out of a garment.

To name a few of my personal fashion icons:

GRACE

Grace has been obsessed with fashion since she was a child. She wore my mother out by insisting on changing her clothes every few hours. When Grace was five, my mother finally gave up battling her every Sunday on what she would wear to church. So, little Grace showed up for Sunday school in a “101 Dalmatians” bathing suit, a pink tutu, and snakeskin cowboy boots. The kid was very forward-thinking.

Once Kelsey and I left home, Grace took over the giant walk-in closet that was supposed to be shared between the three of us. Instead, it’s now a bedroom-sized space for her gargantuan wardrobe. Kels and I like to joke that she has a preternatural sense of where everything is, despite the fact that it often looks like a disaster. If we happen to borrow a T-shirt from a folded stack of about 50 T-shirts, Grace knows. She comes into the closet, sniffs the air like a wolf tracking something, and says, “Did you take something?” (We swear she knew when we took some of her dresses and skirts and other enviable pretty things home with us when she was abroad.)

Grace is the person you want by your side when you venture into Goodwill or any other thrifting location. Scanning for gems in a thrift store might be her spiritual gift. She pulls things off the rack that look totally absurd and gross, but the minute she puts them on, they are transformed and she looks like a goddess. We all hate her for it.

Her style has evolved over the years and I think it’s become increasingly crazy, which I like. She is a huge fan of layers. Whether she’s layering vests or skirts or bangles, she likes to wear many things at once. She does not believe in minimalism when she dresses and yet she always makes it work. Grace, thanks for being my perpetual wardrobe inspiration and for always showing me how I can wear something better.

CATHERINE

So hot right now
L to R: Catherine, Emily, and Jonathan. All three of them should be my lifelong fashion icons, really.

From the first day I met Catherine at UNC, I have been enamored with her wardrobe. I always want to look exactly like her.

Even though I have never been to Europe, my general sense is that Catherine has a very European style. (She’s half English, after all, and has family in France.) Catherine is extremely cultured and elegant. She partakes in the finer pursuits; she is a gifted ballerina and violinist and speaks beautiful French.

Her wardrobe always speaks of this elegance, and yet it is very versatile. One day, she will wear a gorgeous dress from some Paris boutique; the next, she will look incredible in her running skort, t-shirt, and big earrings. I don’t know how she does it.

One of my favorite things about Catherine’s style is how she picks an accent piece and wears it with everything for a week or more. Sometimes it would be a pair of earrings. Sometimes a bracelet. Sometimes a lavender-colored pashmina. Regardless of the weather or the situation, Catherine would wear that one piece. She brought class to every environment. Whenever I see her, I am usually stunned by how amazing she looks. I think she can do anything.

ANGELA

So fashionable right nowAngela pretends like she doesn’t know about fashion, but she always looks 110% incredible, so I don’t believe her. I’ll give her a compliment about whatever fabulous thing she’s wearing and she just says, “Abby, stop it! I love what you’re wearing!” And I’m wearing some dingy T-shirt and jorts or something like that.

Angela excels at minimal outfits with a lot of personal panache. On their own, the separate items of her dress seem simple and plain, but when she puts them all together, she looks nothing short of magnificent. (It helps that she’s also exceptionally beautiful.)

COURTNEY

I think Courtney was probably an artist in her former life, because if anyone knows how to use color, it’s this girl.

I had the great fortune of getting to live with her during my senior year of college. CoCo was always busting up in the living room wearing something fabulous and making the rest of us jealous. Her use of color is inspiring to me and I wish I had her sense of how to combine things for maximum effect.

Courtney is also very capable with mixing and matching, as her 30-day project demonstrated. She has a way with clothes and should be soundly commended for it.

CATE

Cate and Charlie. Source: Stolen from Cate's Facebook.

Mary Boyce and I were talking at church the other day about how we want to dress more like Cate. Cate just had a baby and looks like a rock star. She has the most incredible look that’s a mix of spontaneity and deliberate lines. She also dresses almost exclusively in whites and neutrals, which I find compelling and amazing. Because of Cate, I want to buy more white things. I foolishly think that if I only had more white pieces, then I’d look as fabulous as she does all the time.

Also. If I had a friend who was my male fashion icon, it would definitely be JONATHAN (see photo above with Catherine and Emily). He’s taught me the dire importance of tailoring. And I very often just want to steal most of his clothes (especially his shirts, which are amazing).

Do you have any friends, family that you’d consider your personal fashion icons?