Photo by Rebecca Baust of The Daily Muse, who deserves some high fives.
The first time I saw Natalie of Nat The Fat Rat, she was wearing a huge white tulle skirt and a Raglan sleeve skirt at the ALT White Party. In a room full of designers, she kinda won that party. Let’s take a look at her outfit:
Right? Right!? Slow clap, Natalie.
I could tell just by looking at her that she had a sense of humor, and my brain whispered, “Heeeey. Hey. Will you be my friend?” as I passed by her. Without making eye contact.
Fortunately, a few months later, Sarah Bryden-Brown hosted a Sunday Supper, and Natalie plopped right down next to me. She’s been writing online since 2003, and said she’d been reading Mighty Girl for years. We talked and laughed all night.
Bam! Friended up.
Over the years, Natalie’s site has catalogued her struggles with infertility, the joyful birth of her son Huck, and her life in New York with her husband Holbs. She’s a full-time mum who still loves dressing well, and one of my favorite things about her site is all the photos of her pushing a stroller around with her maxi-skirt fluttering in the wind.
In person, Natalie is just as kind, but much more dangerous than she is on her site. Admit it, Miss Natalie! There’s a midnight skinny-dipper in there. I see through your hipster Sandra-Dee act, and your closet does too.
Many thanks to Rebecca Baust of The Daily Muse for taking the lovely photos and bringing Natalie’s happy face over here.
Take it away, Ms. Holbrook:
I’m the kind of person who is completely in love with the idea of a minimalist “uniform” when it comes to getting dressed. There is something so emotionally satisfying to me about a really well edited, perfectly considered closet. In fact, when I was in high school, I took this idea very, very seriously. (Not surprisingly, I took *everything* very, very, oh so very seriously in high school). I felt sure that I was going to define myself through my wardrobe, and that I could pick just one look and really commit to it all the way. Otherwise, how would I know who I was? But I could never decide what that should be. It used to give me such grief. Uh, I was a little intense about things back then. I slowly figured out that, as much as I wish I did, I just don’t work that way. It turns out I am a total maximalist in the closet. I need about a million different options in the morning when I’m getting dressed, because every day I like to be someone different. Picking out clothes for the day is the ultimate game of dress up. I finally learned to stop taking it so seriously, and to just have some fun.
That said, there are a few pieces in my closet that I gravitate to over and over and over. And here they are!
At my very heart and soul, I am a jeans and a tee shirt girl. I’m also real short-like, so I rarely wear flats. These shoes are zippy, huh! They’re from Forever 21. (Shhh, my WHOLE CLOSET is Forever 21.)
Something I’ve learned about myself: If you were to hold me at gunpoint and tell me I could only wear one kind of shirt for the rest of my life, I would choose the baseball tee. Because baseball tees are freaking sexy, is why.
Jeans: J.Crew Matchstick Crop
Shoes: Forever 21
I’m on a mission to bring back the overalls. Won’t you join me?
Wanna know why overalls are rad? Millions of pockets.
Top: Forever 21
Hat: Forever 21
Head scarf: Missoni for Target
Okay but if you held me at gunpoint and told me I could pick two kinds of shirts, the second kind would be stripy kind.
Also I have four pleated skirts of various colors.
This blush one is my favorite.
Shoes: Forever 21
Hat: Forever 21
This dress was the single most exciting purchase of my life.
As a seasoned Forever 21 shopper, this was the most I’ve ever spent on a dress, and I’ll never do it again either, I swear it. My goal is to get the cost per wear down to about four bucks, so I’ve been practically living in it.
Luckily it happens to be the perfect dress, so I haven’t minded.
Hat: Forever 21
I don’t get a whole lot of excuses to dress up, unless you count going to church on Sundays.
I like my fancier things to be just this side of almost-too-casual-to-work.
I also believe strongly there is nothing that can’t be made better with denim.
Shoes: Forever 21
Watch: Michael Kors
Bracelets: Madewell, Forever 21
Natalie, I kiss your face. Thank you so much for all your hard work putting this post together. And thanks again to Rebecca too.
Maybe I can’t figure out how to make a pair of overalls look this good, but I’m finally going to buy a damn maxi skirt. I can hear your evil laugh from here.
So this is (almost) everything I packed in my carry-on for the press trip I took to Oahu. There was also a photo of me in a bikini that I took with my cell phone the hotel bathroom mirror. As you might imagine, it was a little… much. So this is everything I packed for four days in Hawaii except the photo of me in a blue bikini with ruffles. If you’ve already seen me naked, I will totally send that to you. Otherwise, use your imagination.
For trips to warm places, I try to pack mostly one-pieces (dresses, rompers) because they pack smaller and you don’t have to waste any time worrying about whether you’re packing stuff that matches everything else.
I wore this dress to travel, with a yellow slip underneath so my skin doesn’t show through the perforations. It’s poly, so you can pretty much roll it into a ball and it doesn’t wrinkle, and it also unzips all the way down the front, so you can layer it over things in interesting ways.
Here’s a full shot of the dress, which I also wore on our tour of the Turtle Bay Resort where we were staying. I look so happy here because the dress cost six bucks. I’m genetically unable to shut up about that.
I wore this to the luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center, the dress is Urban Outfitters, and the sweater is thrifted. I’ve since shrunk the dress to half its original size, so look for it as a shirt in future posts.
This romper is by a San Francisco designer whose brand I forget, of course. (She’s in the Mission, tiny shop on one of the numbered side streets between Valencia and Dolores. Anyone?) Anyway, it’s an oddly functional piece of clothing. I can belt it, wear it with tights and a long sleeve shirt, add something with a collar to switch it up. It’s become a bit of a uniform, but ultimately it’s a romper. For romping.
There, that’s better.
This is me in a ruffly dress from H&M, wielding a machete. Machetes are apparently still a thing in Hawaii.
Here’s the full dress with one of the vintage cardigans I brought. I used that sweater constantly, by the way. It was warm, but the breeze at night was a little chilly and there was some rain while we were there.
To save space, I try to pack jammies that can double as clothes if I need them. This is an Old Navy tank, and a pair of workout shorts from American Apparel. Can you imagine how bad the aforementioned bikini shot has to be if I’m willing to post this? Exactly.
Beach coverup! I wore this Urban Outfitters romper over my swimsuit when we headed down for surf lessons at Turtle Bay.
I got the sunglasses at a flea market. They’re made for shooting, and they feel heavenly because of those little side shades. Our trip lead, Mike, said they make me look like a 70-year-old man. I told him to get off my lawn.
American Apparel high-waisted side zip shorts and a random transparent shirt I’ve had forever. This shirt is an awesome suit coverup, so I wore it kayaking because I knew it would fit under the life jacket.
(Aside! Holy crap, have you ever seen a sea turtle? These sea kayaks had glass bottoms, so you could see them swimming around, and I didn’t expect to be so affected by them. One looked right up at me, and it was like I could feel my heart beating in my mouth. Please put “see a sea turtle” on your Life List.)
This is my American Apparel bikini top, which I bought for a trip to Jamaica. The bottom is super high-waisted, which is convenient if you have stretch marks from baby havin’.
You can also cover stretch marks with a lightweight scuba skin, which is excellent for snorkeling. And sexy times.
Right now, my closet looks like the wardrobe rack at an amateur theater company — bright, bedazzled, schizophrenic. As an avid thrift and vintage shopper, my dresser drawers overfloweth. Still, I seem to wear the same ten things again and again.
The clothes I buy on a whim always get the most play, and that got me wondering about other women’s wardrobe standbys. So I asked some stylish girlfriends about their basics.
Susan Wagner from The Working Closet
“My go-to item this summer has been the khaki City Mini from J. Crew.”
“It has an elastic “paperbag” waist that is perfect with a tank or tee and a skinny belt and a great A-line shape that makes my legs look thin (score!). I just bought the winter version, which is wool rather than cotton/linen, in bright dahlia, because it’s the perfect skirt and will go with everything I own and require no thought at all when I get dressed in the morning.”
Joanna Goddard from A Cup of Jo
“I’m obsessed with Emersonmade’s skinny jeans. They’re ridiculously flattering; honestly, they make me feel so sexy and shapely when I wear them.
“They’re super dark because they’re dyed with indigo. I wear them all the time, with T-shirts or blouses or sweaters.”
Katie Spence from Your New Favorite
“It is so very hot in Austin that mostly I wear skirts and dresses to keep things breezy. My favorite skirt this summer has been a chambray skirt that I got at Land’s End, but which is currently sold out.”
“However there is one on sale at Madewell that is almost identical. Lately I’ve been obsessed with natural fabrics, like cotton chambray and linen.”
Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day!
“These Gap slim crop pants in black. I can wear them with ballet flats or heels.”
“People dress up more here in Paris than in the US so these are my version of casual everyday pants.”
Rebecca Woolf from Girls’ Gone Child
Had to think about this because I don’t fit into any of my “usual” go tos (Ed note: Rebecca is currently 32 weeks pregnant with twins!), but last Fall it was this little corduroy half-jacket my friend Dani got for me at a thrift store:
“My ‘go-to outfit’ is the dress + cardigan + booty + sock combo:”
Melissa Cotton from Poppy Cotton
“These are the most perfectly iconic ballet flats I have ever come across, and I have bought so many over the years looking for the perfect look and fit.”
“They are truly transformative to both my legs/feet and my outfit, quietly underscoring my entire fashion identity — classic and pulled together with a nod to the mid-century.”
Margaret Stewart from Fountly
“I have a dress I got this summer from Anthropologie that has proven to be the most versatile article of clothing I’ve ever owned. Seriously. I took it on a month long trip and wore it morning, noon, and (literally) night. Was great for sightseeing, casual or fancy meals, and (genius!) also an incredibly comfy nightgown.”
“Normally I shy from things without a waist; it’s my best feature! But in hot weather, it’s too binding to have a fitted anything! This thing was so damned comfy.”
Gabrielle Blair from Design Mom
“A scarf from J.Crew. It’s silk, but feels more like cotton, which I like.”
“It’s a warm pink and it has an almost florescent pink printed pattern. I picked it up on clearance last summer and I’ve worn it way too many days over the last year.”
(You can still find a couple of these babies on eBay, happy bidding.)
Interesting, right? Thanks, ladies!
Ok, team, now you. What’s your favorite item of clothing? If you have a link, all the better.
This is my extraordinarily efficient friend Liz Stanley of Say Yes to Hoboken. In addition to being a total party animal, Liz is one of those people who can complete a cross stitch sampler, repaint the living room, and start a successful small business before she meets you for brunch.
She also has my favorite smile ever.
Liz and I share a penchant for cruise director chic. Her khakis are American Eagle, and the gold striped tank is J.Crew from eBay. As you can see here, her house is just as well curated as her closet.
Liz’s pink ribbon necklace is also J.Crew and her blue blazer is from a thrift store. She says, “Shrunken blazers look hot with almost any outfit, but check the little boys section of your local thrift store for a cheap/vintage alternative to that $150 one you’ve been eying from J.Crew. I always find some great ones to add to my closet there.”
Her pink/gold heels were consignment, and they’re such a flattering neutral. The shine gives them a little more depth than a straightforward nude, and the pink is warmer too. Plus I love how a T-strap shoe always reduces blisters. I wonder if these were originally tango shoes.
Liz has baby-fine hair, so messy updos are a quick option for her. Everyday Princess Leia.
I told Liz I would crop the firewood out of the shot, but then the photo looked less awesome without it. Sorry, Liz. Now everyone will know you use your fireplace. Probably for something illicit.
Liz says, “Once you slip into a pair of high-waisted stretchy jeans like these, you’ll curse whoever came up with the idea of a low rise. There’s a reason our moms wore them in the ’70s, they’re incredibly comfortable. Plus, thanks to J. Lo’s butt, we can all embrace the full size of our behinds in high-waisted jeans.”
The scarf is from Target. If you always wonder how people make cool headbands from scarves, Liz recently posted a tutorial on her favorite turban ties. Go read it.
Her long-chain necklace is the Color Study Locket by Verabel on Etsy.
Bag by Fabric and Handle, excellent for toting your macrame project. Her sandals are Bernardo.
Here’s Liz with a pillow she probably whipped up in the ten minutes before she had a dozen guests over for dinner. Liz, I will pay you to be my wife. Tights by American Apparel, brown boots are Diesel from a consignment store, and the gray dress is H&M.
Liz and I were talking about what makes someone’s style stand out, and her theory is layering. She says, “With a kind of boring dress like this gray one I like to add unexpected pieces like an oxford shirt underneath and bright tights. I’m a big fan of oxfords as an under layer. Just be sure to roll up the sleeves and unbutton the top to prevent looking too stiff and formal.” Shirt is H&M, belt is from a thrift store
This sweet J Crew headband would get lost in my hair, but I love it paired with a chignon or a casual ponytail. Well played, Stanley.
Liz got this ombre silk skirt from a consignment store. She says, ““Elastic waist skirts aren’t always the most flattering on their own. Add a belt to cinch your waist and hide the extra bulk around the hip they’re giving you with a shrunken blazer.”
I’ve noticed over the years that a lot of Liz’s neutral-colored layering pieces feature an understated print like this tiny polka dot blouse from Urban Outfitters. It adds interest, but the overall effect is still classic. The blazer and brown belt are thrifted.
These boots are made for typin’ (by Zara).
Gah! I so covet this dress. She found it at a thrift store in Utah, and orignially it was sleeveless, backless, and nearly floor length, “I’m not a great sewer but I worked my fingers to the bone to refashion this outdated dress into something more my style.” You can see the whole process right here.
Here she’s styled the dress for day and evening.
Liz throws on a cardigan from Express, a the thin belt is H&M for a creative business look.
Also, there’s a removable back panel so Liz can still wear the dress to church.
For evening, she dresses up her shoes. Liz made these sequin shoe clips herself, but you can buy them readymade from Ban.do.
Here’s what the heels look like naked. (My Google search traffic on this post just skyrocketed.)
Add a vintage clutch, and you’re all set for some serious partying. That donkey tail isn’t gonna pin itself.
I first met Erin last year at ALT, remember? Then Erin came to the Summit this year sporting a fresh pixie cut, and charmed everyone with her over-the-top sweetness. The girl is such a positive force that all of us agreed that we wanted to keep her in our pockets for on-call ego boosts — Pocket Loechner.
In addition to being a dear, she is a powerhouse. Her site, Design for Mankind, was featured in the London Times as one of the top 50 design blogs in the world, and right now she and her husband are renovating their cabin and documenting the process for HGTV.com. She does not sleep.
I love Erin’s sense of humor when it comes to fashion, so I told her we needed to do a Mighty Closet next time she was in town. She offered to take some photos herself and pass them along instead. Genius. So here she is, Pocket Loechner, coming to you live from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Take it away, my sweet.
(Photos by Casie Towsley.)
Outfit One: Running Errands
This is an example of what I’d wear out and about, either to the grocery store, post office, or a coffee run. I used to reserve these types of activities for yoga pants and a hoodie, but I recently pixied myself and you’re not allowed to wear pixies and sweatpants. Unless, of course, you don’t mind being called ‘Sir’ in the cereal aisle. Hypothetically.
Pinstriped Oxford Shirt (Men’s): Banana Republic, Circa 2001
Navy Grandpa Cardigan: Heritage1981 I love the leather elbow patches!
Boyfriend Jeans: Levi, Circa 2004 The trick with wearing boyfriend jeans is to really buy men’s jeans. I’m totally not kidding here.
Boots: Antique, they were my grandmother’s!
Handbag: Vintage, thrifted
Frog Cocktail Ring: Vintage, thrifted
Outfit Two: Birthday Party
Maggie asked for a cocktail party look, but we don’t have cocktail parties in these parts. So this is an outfit I’d wear if I were throwing myself a party.
Dress: Forever 21
Silver Sputnik Cocktail Ring: Antique, thrifted
Hairpiece: Tieks shoes come with this little ribbon around the box. I got a pair at the Mighty Summit, and thought the ribbon would make a cute headband.
Outfit Three: Working At A Local Cafe
Striped Sweater: F21
Confetti Skirt: Modcloth
Purple Tights: WeLoveColors.com
Navy Patent Wedges: Vera Wang, 2008
Gold Necklace: LemonadeHandmade This was a gift from the Mighty Summit.
Cocktail Ring: Vintage, Alameda Flea Market
Outfit Four: Lunch With Grandma
I don’t have any friends in Fort Wayne yet, so my most frequent lunch companion is my husband’s 90-something-year-old grandmother, who is fantastic and a total treat to hang with. Seriously. Anyway, this is what I’d wear to lunch with her, because she loves quirky boots and mixed patterns, and I enjoy surprising her with my latest combos. (Don’t tell anyone, but she just might be in direct relation with Iris Apfel. Never can tell!)
Striped Navy Boatneck: Land’s End Canvas
Striped Cardigan: F21
Herringbone Skirt: Tucker for Target Collection
Tights: Urban Outfitters, 2005ish
Boots: Anthropologie, Fall 2007
Brooch: Brooklyn Rehab, Gift
Cocktail Ring: Vintage, thrifted
Outfit Five: Out On The Town
This is an outfit I’d wear for an evening dinner with my sweet, sweet husband. You’re allowed to wear fake fur wherever you want in Indiana, so I take full advantage.
Dress: Tucker for Target (sold out online, but check your local store)
Faux Fur Vest: Vintage, thrifted
Cocktail Ring: Vintage, thrifted
Cicada Earrings: Erica Weiner Jewelry
1. I always wear a cocktail ring on my right index finger. It’s a staple of mine, and you’ll rarely see me without one.
2. I invest in jewelry, shoes, and little else. If an item has a pattern of any kind, I never pay full price, as patterns (with the exception of Breton stripes) are much easier to date than solids.
3. Colored tights are another staple, and I store these next to my cocktail rings. Snags ensue, but I consider colored tights and cocktail rings to be the President and Vice President of my wardrobe, so they can’t very well sit amongst the minions, can they?
Oh, Erin. How many times am I going to have to ask you to send me your grandmother’s boots before you bend to my will? Thanks for all your hard work putting this together. If I can’t have you in my pocket, having you in Mighty Closet is the next best thing.
In an effort to gather all my writing in one place, I’ve been posting articles that originally appeared elsewhere. This piece was originally published by the The Morning News in 2003. Thanks to Rosecrans Baldwin, for the edits.
A girlfriend of mine just went through a particularly hard year — divorce, career upheaval, the possibility of leaving her beloved bungalow. We were talking about New Year’s resolutions, and she said she was going easy on herself. Her only resolution was to accessorize better. Screw the gym — this is a goal I can get behind.
Designers draw from the past, and so should you. The oft-repeated rule is that styles are recycled every twenty years or so. Wearing something that was once all the rage but has since fallen out of style will make you seem fashionable without risking disasters.
This is my list of standbys from decades past. I skipped the ‘90s because I still don’t have enough emotional distance to recommend that you bust out your shrugs. Forgive me.
Why do we wear shoes that make our feet bleed, but refuse to carry an umbrella that won’t tuck into our purse? Half the convenience, ten times the appeal, the full-size umbrella with a wooden hook handle is too charming to abandon. How forlorn to browse in a bookstore, sip a latte, or buy a paper on a rainy afternoon without one.
Aren’t fans sweet? They’re light, compact, and they drop right into your purse. If you live somewhere hot, or you like to go out dancing, it’s such a comfort to have a portable cooling system with you, and so much more attractive than fanning your sweaty neck with a magazine. If you live in a big city, head to the nearest Chinatown and pick one up for a buck or two. I’m a sucker for cherry blossoms.
Without a decent pair of gloves, what do you suppose you’ll use to slap your offenders? Maybe white cotton gloves are a little too precious (and OCD indicative) for afternoon shopping trips nowadays, but dress gloves are so suave with an evening gown. I’m also in favor of colorful, soft, leather gloves for the winter. Try deep green with your black coat or a soft blue to offset chocolate. Leather gloves give such a satisfying thwack when defending one’s honor.
You can wear them slutty, classy, or somewhere in between. Where else can you get that kind of versatility for ten bucks? Back-seam stockings lend ba-boom to the most mundane dress or shapeless skirt. Black is a classic choice. Please straighten your seam, or you’ll look as though you’ve just had a tryst in the broom closet.
Cigarette smoking is a nasty habit. Don’t cigarette cases make it ever so much more attractive? Press the precise, silver button, and pop! A tidy row of cigarette soldiers waits to defend you against the evening chill. Offer one to a friend; give him a light with your shiny flip-top lighter. (Plink! Tiny flame. Plink! Pocket-ready.) And for god’s sake, get yourself a drink. Why do you think they call it a cocktail dress?
Brooches are nostalgic, and rarely the first choice when you’re digging through your jewelry box. They’re just grandma enough to qualify as quirky, and a very simple outfit is elevated with the right pin.
A kittenish sidelong glance is nothing without them. Buy a pack of individual lashes and some lash glue at the drugstore. Put a couple of lashes on the outside corner of each eye, and maybe one in the middle to even things out. Paint on some black liquid liner and give yourself a slow wink in the mirror. If you don’t want to have sex with your own reflection, you’re doing it wrong.
The more interest you take in your wardrobe, the more you’ll realize that caring too much about what people think can be the kiss of death. When everyone is wearing their sleek little black watchmen’s caps, nothing says ‘piss off’ like a ‘70s-style pom-pom ski cap in Lifesaver colors. Orange and green stripes, or navy blue and white topped with a cherry-red pom—this is clothing that bobs when you walk! Right on.
Crocheted Beer Can Hats
Perhaps you’ve seen one of these at a thrift store. You cut beer cans into squares or ovals and then crochet them into a hat. Eh? Eh? I’m kidding. Take it off.
You had to give up your side ponytail, but don’t let go of the bow. Try it at your waistline, on your shoes, or tie a long scarf into a headband with a bow at the top.
Every time you leave the house, consider wearing, or carrying, one unique thing that makes you a happy kid. If you have an unusual accessory, you can throw on a black turtleneck and a ho-hum pair of jeans and still seem hip. The unexpected diverts attention from the mundane, and stocking up on wacky vintage brooches is a lot cheaper than buying an electric-green Cashmere coat. Also, electric green isn’t your color.