Mighty Closet: Anna Beth Chao

I met Miss Anna Beth Chao at a Mighty Meet-up in New York a few years ago. She came over and said, “I’ve been trying to get ahold of you.” I blinked. “I am friends with Evany Thomas.” (Evany is one of my core people-filters. If you tell me you’re her friend, it means you will soon be my friend — do not pass go, do not collect $200.) So I hugged Anna Beth’s face, and we started vacationing together.

Much as Evany is my people filter, Anna Beth has become a mental wardrobe filter. When I want to look like I just threw something on, even though I spent nine hours getting ready, I do a mental check on whether Chao would approve. Her approval is hard-won, my friends. Anna Beth called me almost every night when I was in the depths of my divorce misery, and soothed me with her utter lack of bullshit. If I’m doing something stupid, or wearing something stupid, I can hear her voice in my head saying, “Uh-uh. Neeeeeeew-ah.” (Apparently, “neeeew-ah” is Louisana for “no.”)

In addition to being my fashion superhero, Anna Beth is an online force. She was one of the early writers at Television Without Pity, and started blogging way back in 2000. She recently quit her jobby job to pursue her passion as an interior decorator, which makes me feel all teary and proud. She’s hosting a series of nationwide design camps, which are mostly sold out (unless you’re willing to travel to Austin, in which case you’ll want to fast-forward to the end of this post).

For now, here’s Anna Beth’s take on how you should be dressing. Listen up.

As a decorator/writer/photographer/design camp director, I work at home, so my work attire is pretty casual. I do try to put on actual clothes every day, even though flip-flops don’t really count as shoes (but seriously, you’ll have to pry my beloved Rainbow sandals from my cold, dead body). This outfit is called “Blogger Cliche,” and I’m sure you’ll recognize the pieces: striped top, jean shorts, minimal makeup, side ponytail (one can’t wear a topknot EVERY day!).

I need to invest in a pair of nerd glasses to complete the picture, don’t you think? I’ll take recommendations in the comments. (I bought my last pair of glasses, which I use exclusively for driving at night, at the Arlington, Texas Super Target in 2001. It is TIME.)

Sometimes a girl just needs to take a break from work to sit jauntily on a client’s pouf and read a book. (The book pictured is One Man’s Garden, by Henry Mitchell, which I do, in fact, read every year. If you want to feel like you could be the kind of person who grows roses, watches dragonflies, and owns several water features, I highly recommend it.)

Much like Nancy Botwin, I drink iced coffee all the live-long day. (I haven’t quite mastered the Mary Louise Parker sexy-casual straw-sip, but you know I practice it often.)

(Here’s my recipe for iced coffee.)

I live in Louisiana. In Louisiana, we love our personalized items, so I had some custom styrofoam cups made for our house. They make my iced coffees feel important.

[Ed note-to-self: Cultivate more friends who consider go-cups a crucial accessory.]

Summer is for wearing too many friendship bracelets, an emergency ponytail holder, and your husband’s Timex.

This locket is one of my most treasured possessions, which is why it’s attached with two soldered jump rings. It belonged to someone I love very much, and I inherited it when she died. I wear it a lot.
Photo by Madeleine Chao, high school senior, to whom I gave birth.

I’m known for my headless pictures, but the real credit for these belongs to Lori Andrews, who takes legitimately beautiful photographs and is my inspiration on sixteen different levels. For me, it’s just an easy way to show y’all outfits without having to wash my face.

Tiny braids are good for summer, and help to showcase one’s ombre hair color.
Photo by Madeleine Chao, Class of 2013, who will soon go to college and then I will cry.

Top: T by Alexander Wang
Jean shorts: Madewell
Flops: Rainbow Sandals
Bracelets: Madewell, Forever 21, Timex, homemade
Necklace: Inherited, vintage
Styrofoam cups: The Paper Market, Monroe, LA

Here is an outfit I would wear if I were leaving the house to have a lunch meeting or buy groceries. I never thought I would be a shorts person, but then I became a runner and runners wear a lot of shorts. I don’t know; it’s a thing.

I’ll just hang here for one more minute waiting for you to notice my monogrammed dish towel. I told you we liked personalization down here.

Pictured with me is Hank, our sweet/dumb/adorable two-year-old dog who is part Rottweiler, which makes him think he is scary. He is not scary, especially when he is sporting his orange Crewcuts bandanna. Give it up, Hank: You are wearing a neck accessory for children.


There are many reasons I wanted to buy the house we live in, but one of them was the corrugated steel garage doors, designed by an architect friend of the previous owners. They are a pain in the ass to open, but they sure do look good.

Close-up: Bracelet

Close-up: Necklace

This photo is just a bonus for those of you who have read this far.


Top: J. Crew
Shorts: Urban Outfitters
Shoes: Forever 21
Bracelet: Tonya Aguiniga
Necklace: Nervous System

This is an outfit I would wear to the beach. It is actually an outfit I did wear to the beach, as you can see. Maggie introduced me to the romper on our beach trip last year, and I cannot think of a piece of clothing better suited to the beach than a romper. It feels like pajamas; it’s strapless so you don’t get tan lines; and it is basically the sassiest thing you can wear. I like sassy things.

I also like all kinds of headwear, because it fulfills both of my ultimate fashion needs: a) feeling French, and b) feeling like Jackie Kennedy. This is a scarf I found at Target before our beach trip. It’s too little to double and tie in the back (tutorial here), so I have done a cute French/Jackie bow in the front.

Looking down at your feet in an outfit photo is also a blogger cliche, but let me tell you this, y’all: it makes your thighs look real skinny.

I solemnly swear that I was not drunk when this photograph happened.

(Sometimes I lie.)

Romper: Forever 21
Flops: Rainbow Sandals
Scarf: Target

I told you I had become a shorts person. Emphasis on “short.”

"Oh, hey. I’m just standing here alone in my dining room with my Danish chairs and some bourbon. Want to come over?"

Close-up: Necklace

Close-up: Shoes

Top: Forever 21
Shorts: Shopbop
Shoes: Tsubo
Necklace: Kate Spade

Do you like how I pretended I was attending a gathering by myself, in my own dining room? I do. This is what I would wear to night out/bar scenario. Comfortable, yet stylish, yet good for 80-degree nights.

I think Maggie tells Mighty Closeters to include a cocktail outfit because she is conducting a survey on how many of us will pick the little black dress. Well, the joke’s on you, Margaret, because I am wearing a little black…SHIRT!


I told you before that I love headwear, and this turban is no exception. I found it at an estate sale here in Monroe, mixed in with enormous stacks of pristine fifties items (most with the tags still on!). I sent Maggie a box of random things I picked up and she put me in her will. It was pretty cool.

“Hey, girl. Do you want to see what’s under my turban?”
(Hair. The answer is HAIR.)

Headless cocktail outfit photo. I just take a lot of risks for y’all, setting up my tripod in the middle of the street like this. In this photo, you can also see that, while my stature is quite small, my shoulders are that of an NBA basketball star. Seriously: we’ve measured. HULK SMASH.

Top: Emerson Fry
Skirt: J. Crew Shoes: Kate Spade
Watch: Cartier, vintage
Necklace: Pearls, vintage
Turban: Estate sale, vintage

As much as I’d like to be French and/or Jackie, I am also from the South, and a big leather belt and work boots must be included in my real-life uniform. I don’t know how it happened (possibly laziness?), but my signature item is a white t-shirt, so here are a couple of outfits featuring said white tee.

With jeans.

Top: Emerson Fry
Jeans: Madewell
Boots: J Shoes
Belt: Abercrombie & Fitch
Necklace: Kate Spade
Watch: Cartier, vintage

With a skirt.

Top: Mark and Estel
Skirt: Anthropologie
Sandals: Chie Mihara
Necklace: Vintage
Bracelet: Kate Spade
Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

With colorful pants.

Top: Emerson Fry
Pants: J. Crew
Sandals: J. Crew
Belt: Abercrombie & Fitch
Necklace: J. Crew
Scarf: Target

With pajamas.

Top: James Perse
Shorts: Target
Slip flops: Walmart

I hope you have enjoyed this look into my closet as much as I have enjoyed making it. If you need advice on scarves, rompers, personalized go-cups, kicking, jumping, throwing a solo party, large shoulders, white tees, or slipper flops, let me know. Bye.

Yes please, Chao. When you come to town, I’m just going to hand you my credit card and weep in silent relief while you dress me. Also, you can redecorate my apartment while you’re here.

If you’re also interested in Anna Beth’s house as much as her clothes, sit in on one of her design bootcamps. Again, most of them are sold out, but if you’re willing to get your bum to Austin, Mighty Girl readers get a 30% discount there (Whut.):

Dewit Design Camp, Austin
Code: MIGHTY30

Pretty nice, don’t you think? Me too.

46 thoughts on “Mighty Closet: Anna Beth Chao

  1. This was funny and quite enjoyable. I think Anna Beth’s style is the most like my own (when I don’t have to get dressed for my job, which is outside of my house).

    Mighty Closet is definitely my favorite feature. Glad to see it again!


  2. Yay for another Mighty Closet! Anna Beth is a doll– and lady, if you’re looking for glasses, you need to get thee some Warby Parkers. I have two pairs, their customer service is BANANAS and they have an awesome at-home try on deal that rocks (and is a great photo op).


  3. I did very much enjoy that look into her closet. My favorite thing about drinking out of my giant reusable McAlister’s cup is practicing the Nancy Botwin sultry sip.


  4. You have the Kate Spade shoes in pink, too!! You didn’t tell me that when I hurried off to copy you by buying the nude variety, AB Chao.


  5. Mighty Closet + AB Chao? Oh my, Maggie you have struck gold! Although, I have to say that I feel like Anna Beth approves of your glorious style. How could she not?

    Thanks for continuing to inspire!


  6. just have to tell you how much i positively adore this feature. real ladies, awesome clothes, and *color! what could be better. thanks for this!



  7. Yay Mighty Closet! These are always amazing posts.

    I love how Anna Beth’s style is so simple and yet so, so incredibly chic. Perfect accessories. Plus, who thinks to wear a turban and then does it so perfectly?


  8. Those pink Kate Spades have got me DROOLING. I have been Googling for the last 20 minutes to see where I might get me some. Looks like they might be from a few years back? They are DIVINE!


  9. If nothing else, Anna Beth has made me realize I’ve got to start running again. And, AB? Your thighs need no posing tricks. They are perfect.


  10. AB is one of my favorite people to just sit and watch be…herself. She should have a stamp on her forehead that says “Even Better in Real Life.”

    Perfectly put. -M



    Instead I just printed out every picture and glued it to my ceiling. Hope that’s not weird.

    Nah. As long as it’s cool that I have photos of you taped up next to my vanity, and every morning I gaze longingly into the mirror and stroke my face. -M


  12. I agree with everyone else…how does she have a high school senior.
    The Life List posts and Mighty Closet are my two favorite things, so I am psyched to have gotten them both in the past week or so!


  13. Oh my goodness. Anna Beth, our girls are the same age, and I’d bet a nickel we are, too. I hate this summer, as it is the last summer before The Summer. And then I will cry. We should schedule a good cry. Come to Nashville.


  14. um, what’s with all the skimpy outfits? half of these look like clothes you’d wear to bed, not outside.

    Actually, I consider Anna Beth a modest dresser. She’s in Louisiana, where it is hot. Shorts and tank tops are totally appropriate. -M


  15. Thank you all so much for the sweet comments and recommendations! I love you all, come over, bring wine, I’ll show you my bathroom, CAROLE.

    I can’t remember who asked, but my dining room table is a custom item that cost, like, dollars. Email me for details.


  16. I think I actually did a happy dance when I saw the return of the Mighty Closet. Hands down, my favorite feature – although in a close race with the Packing Light series too. I SO LOVE these!

    Great wardrobe! And am I weird that I couldn’t stop staring at your legs? Wicked good.


  17. Dang! I wish I knew Evany Whosis so she could introduce me to Maggie (who herself comes very highly recommended from another blog I read) so Maggie could introduce me to ABC. Too much fun. I may also be inspired to get up off my yoga mat to run so I can have legs like that. Nah!


  18. Dang! I already knew I wanted Anna Beth to redecorate my entire house, but now I want her to makeover my closet as well…Love her sassy style! All signed up for the Chicago camp, which isn’t until DECEMBER!!! *sigh*


  19. Hooray for Mighty Closet! I love seeing what other people wear! Side note, those cups are beyond awesome and I am going to purchase loads of them for myself! (with my name obviously)


  20. I LOVE Mighty Closet and AB’s aesthetic is refreshing but the STYROFOAM! I almost wish it were at the end because STYROFOAM…YES! Kate Spade Shoes…Hey I have that necklace… STYROFOAM #ZOMGOCEANPATCHASBIGASTEXASWHATABOUTHECHILDRENGETYOURSELFAREUSABLECUP


  21. the white tee shots are my fav. I have a white tee obsession – I fight it but the tendency persists. Thank you Ms.Chao for bringing acceptance to my obsession. Also a great source for all kinds of spectacled awesomeness is glasses.com – they also offer an amazing in home service and I got the most amazing pair of horn rims on the planet from them recently! all done from the comfort of my desk chair.


  22. I love Anna Beth and I love Mighty Closet, but I’m with Mareshia – does she really throw those styrofoam cups away all the time? I’m sure AB could find some monogramed reusable cups, and knowing her, they’d be completely fantastic.


  23. I also love everything about this post. (except the styrofoam. Come on! ) I can’t believe she’s got a high school senior.


  24. Ahhhh! AB is my internet crush. She makes me want to restart running w the kiddo. And wear shorts. And trade London for Louisiana. and possibly ask her to come round, shout DEWIT at me and karate chop my sofa pillows.
    Awesome closet, Maggie!


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