I’ve been pinning swimsuits again, so there’s more to see in Swimsuits for Shy Girls and Swimsuits for Bold Girls. By the way, that perfect ruffly bikini above is one kazillion dollars, which is not preventing me from wanting it.
Susan Wagner of The Working Closet always looks like she just showered. It took me years to figure her out, because her exterior is so calm, but her brain is like a hamster on a wheel.
I’ll see her at a conference in some sensible American sport ensemble with a glass of wine resting in her hand. She waves me over, “I haven’t talked to you forever!” And I come-to three hours later with a notebook full of Beautiful Mind scribbles and six new business plans.
Susan likes to get stuff done, son. I’ve never known her to have fewer than four jobs, and I’m pretty sure she’s optimized that way. She is busy, but she is tidy.
Remember last week when Natalie said she always wished she could be a person with a minimalist uniform? Susan is that woman. She’ll come to your house, throw out everything in your closet, and somehow make you feel like you have more to wear afterward:
I’m a style blogger, not a fashion blogger — my preoccupation isn’t with what’s on the runway but what’s in your closet. Or, in this case, in my closet. And honestly, there are fewer things in my closet than you might expect.
Although there are a lot of striped tees.
This is a little ridiculous. (And there are actually more — a couple were in the laundry. I need an intervention.)
Despite my ridiculous collection of striped shirts, I spend a lot of time preaching the gospel of the Carefully Edited Wardrobe, which goes like this:
Less is more, and having fewer things creates more options.
Every successful style makeover starts with a closet clean-out and ends with a small collection of perfect pieces. Repetition is the key to personal style, and accessories are an easy way to upgrade even the most basic outfit.
Tee on me: StyleMint
Tees from left: J. Crew, Lands’ End, Forever21, Lands’ End, GAP, Forever21
Shorts: Old Navy
Necklace: J. Crew
This is my uniform.
I work at home, so my everyday look is pretty casual. Among other things, I’m an editor for a pet website, which is hilarious because the only pet my family owns is a Betta Fish, and it’s kind of a miracle that we haven’t killed him. Yet.
Because I work from home, I spend a lot of my day staring at a screen, but I’m also a full-time mom, and a partner in a boutique social media consulting firm (Engage OKC). That means a normal work day can include editing copy, meeting with clients, and hauling kids to karate and baseball. My go-to look is a T-shirt — usually striped, of course — and a skirt, which is appropriate for everything from lunch out to an hour of kickboxing.
Watching kickboxing, of course. No one kickboxes in a skirt. At least not around here.
I wear a lot of belts; I truly believe that a belt can change your life. Or at least your look. A belt creates a waist and gives your shape some definition; it’s also an easy way to change up a look. I wear a belt with just about everything, including cocktail dresses. I buy them a little long so I can wear them either at my waist or around my hips, depending on my outfit and my mood. I just loop the extra length through the belt and voila!
Tee: J. Crew
Bracelets: Stella & Dot
Sandals: Jack Rogers
I live in Oklahoma, where the average summer temperature is something akin to the surface of the sun. That means that my main style goal from March to October is not to be hot. If you want the truth about my summer wardrobe, it consists largely of running clothes and swimwear, neither of which will be making an appearance here. You’re welcome.
I spent years not wearing shorts because … well, just because. I had a bit of a mid-life crisis a couple of years ago, where I pined for all the things I would never get to do (like live in Paris or work for Vogue). But that got boring, so I decided to do something constructive instead. I started running (Couch to 5K FTW!) and in the last year I’ve run four half marathons.
I also started thinking about how silly it was to waste time being sweaty and uncomfortable solely because my legs didn’t look like Heidi Klum’s. This summer I’m obsessed with shorts, although fortunately for my wallet the ones I’m really in love with all come from Old Navy and cost less than $25. Score!
I totally believe in dressing shorts up, although I do not believe in “dressy shorts.” I wear my shorts with pretty tops and blingy necklaces and even a blazer. I do not, however, wear shorts with heels. I have my limits, y’all. And you should, too.
Tee: J. Crew
Shorts: Old Navy
Necklace, bracelet: J. Crew
Sandals: Jack Rogers
I’m a big believer in mixing high- and low-end pieces. I do most of my shopping at J. Crew, Old Navy and the GAP, with an occasional stop at Forever21 for cheap t-shirts. The J. Crew catalog — which they’ve just rebranded as their “style guide” — is my bible; I tear out photos and recreate those looks with pieces from other places. If I could, I would shop exclusively at J. Crew, but I have two kids who need things like food and clothes and running water, so that’s not really an option.
My shopping strategy is to choose specific investment pieces — ideally, things I can wear over and over and over — and then pair them with less pricey pieces. This spring, my investment was a denim shirt which I wear aaaaaallll the time, no joke. Totally worth the $98 I paid for it. (Also totally worth the investment, two blazers: one in wool flannel, one in chambray. They go with everything and dress up any outfit.)
Shirt: J. Crew
Dress: Old Navy
Earrings: Stella & Dot
Sandals: Jack Rogers
Did you think I was kidding about wearing things over and over? Hey look, it’s that same chambray shirt! Back again! I also own this skirt in four different colors — navy, pink, and khaki linen/cotton for summer, and purple wool for winter — and I wear it almost constantly, in one iteration or another. (Ed note: If you recognize the skirt, you might have seen Susan recommend it in Wardrobe Basics for Real Women a while back.) And hey, it’s that same belt from before! And the same shoes. Go figure.
(I have ugly feet, largely from the running, so no closeups of my sandals. Again, you’re welcome.)
I get dressed every single day, and I don’t mean that I change out of the yoga pants I slept in and into a different pair of yoga pants; I mean real clothes — a dress or a skirt and tee or some other not-my-pajamas kind of outfit. I wouldn’t say that I get dressed up, although I hear that from people quite a lot (as in, “Why are you so dressed up???”) but I do wear clothes that are not designed for exercise or sleeping for the parts of my day when I am not exercising or sleeping. It’s a simple thing, and it makes a big difference, both in the way I look and the way I feel.
Try it — #getdressed. It’s easier than you think.
Here I am, pretending that I’m in a J. Crew catalog. And by that I mean leaning over awkwardly, for absolutely no reason:
My biggest closet secret is that I hand-wash and line dry almost everything I own.
Jeans go in the washing machine, inside out, in cold water, but other than that, everything I wear gets a bath in the sink with some extra delicate detergent (or baby shampoo). I don’t really like to shop so I work extra hard to make the things I love last.
Shirt: J. Crew
Skirt: J. Crew
Shoes: Jack Rogers
Necklace: Stella & Dot
Clutch: Ellington Handbags
Speaking of things I love, is my go-to look for summer cocktails. The dress is cotton, which is nice when it’s 1,000 degrees outside, and it has pockets, so I can skip taking a bag (leaving both hands free for drinks and food and hugging). I wore this same outfit a few years back to interview Tim Gunn and he admired my shoes. Life = complete.
Please note my sash. One of my super powers is the ability to tie the perfect bow. Unfortunately, this means that if I run into you at a party and your sash isn’t tied right, I will be compelled to untie it and start over. Of course it also means that if I live next door to you and you’re trying to wrangle your toddler into her birthday dress and cannot get the bow right, I will come to your rescue.
Dress: J. Crew
Necklace: White House | Black Market
In general, I would describe my look as fairly classic and conservative. But every once in a while, I like to mix it up a little. And by “mix it up” I mean pile on multiple huge necklaces, shimmy into some skinny jeans, and add a pair of reallyreallytall platform sandals.
It’s good to keep people guessing.
I love this outfit because it’s basically just jeans and a tee, all fancied up. The blouse is silk but it’s washable silk, which is pretty much a gift from God. I wore a version of this outfit to the Versace party at Mom 2.0, but with red shorts instead of the jeans. Love.
Blouse: J. Crew
Jeans: Old Navy
Necklaces: (from top) White House | Black Market, Stella & Dot, Madewell
Bracelet: J. Crew
Sandals: Dr. Scholl’s Shoes
Lips: Butter London Lippy in Snog
So what’s the take-away here? Shop smart, don’t be afraid to repeat outfits, and when in doubt, pile on the necklaces. It’s that easy. I promise.
Thanks so much Susan, for the photos and the wisdom. I miss you and your little pink shoes, my dear. I pinch your ruddy cheeks.
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.