Simplicity Helped Define My Style

If you asked me six years ago to define my style, I would have rattled off a long list: vintage, eclectic, bright, and probably experimental.

What that really meant was this: I don’t know.

But now, although I don’t feel like I have one word to describe my style, it’s a lot easier for me to decide what works for me and what doesn’t. Part of it comes with time, but part of it is thanks to my efforts at simplifying.

How a simple closet made shopping easier

I haven’t purchased a lot of clothing since I got rid of most of my wardrobe, but it’s been a lot easier (and more fun!) to shop since then.

I’ve been able to rule impulse purchases out more quickly based on whether or not it will work with my existing wardrobe: sure, it’s a great skirt but I don’t have shirts to go with it. Also, I don’t usually wear skirts.

Living with a reduced wardrobe has helped me see more clearly what pieces are missing, too. I’ve noticed a lack of patterns in my wardrobe that bothers me (I love multicolored pieces), so I know to keep my eye out for patterned dresses and shirts.

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My whole closet. It used to be three times this large!

The blank slate

Simplifying my wardrobe created a blank slate for me, too. After my college wardrobe of weird “vintage” finds and my high school mashup of every shade of pink, I took a U-turn and only kept dark, basic pieces.

Which is great! But now I’m in a place where I feel like I can start adding in new pieces that really inspire me and that are way more intentional than any of my past purchases.

Even if you don’t identify as a minimalist, this can be a welcome exercise to remind yourself of what you really love and reset your mindset for future purchases.

It’s good to remove yourself from trends sometimes and just think about the pieces that make you feel good.

My style: present and future

So here we are. I made it past the pink wide-flare pants and the homemade dresses that fell apart while I was wearing them. I’m past the ill-fitting, uncomfortable, and sometimes stained “vintage” finds that I gravitated towards in college.

I’m sure you have had similar phases.

But now, I’m looking forward to adding pieces one at a time into my wardrobe (and typically with the one in/one out policy).

My new shopping guidelines are this: quality staples and joyful/versatile patterns. And more pink – I somehow got rid of most of my pink clothes.

But above all, I’m making a commitment to purchasing the majority of my clothing from ethically-made brands. The best part of that? Since there are fewer ethical brands available, my shopping will have to be well-researched and filled with intention.

So tell me about your wardrobe! What are your intentional style choices?

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Closet Tour: Activewear

I’ve written about my bags, my jewelry and my dresses in the past, but now it’s time to dive in to my approach to activewear.

First, before we begin: there were no pink running spandex when I was in high school, or anything colorful or patterned. So that’s the great tragedy of this post.

Moving on.

minimalist activewear

How I use activewear

I’m going to be candid: I don’t work out every day, but when I do…it’s not that intense. I tend towards cardio and yoga, so my approach might not work for you if you’re constantly doing high-intensity exercise.

That being said, I still think it’s easy to keep things fairly simple.

I re-wear stuff, depending on the level of activity. Especially since I don’t go to a gym where I’m close to a lot of other people. Is that gross? Well, it works for me!

I like to imagine that I’ll just rinse stuff out in the shower when I’m done exercising and hang it in the bathroom for the next day’s use, but I usually don’t get to that step. But I figure that would be a nice solution for someone who exercises frequently and wants to keep laundry to a minimum.

I also have quite a few things that have several purposes, although it doesn’t always serve my best interests: I use my shorts and t-shirts as loungewear and sometimes PJs. Though there’s a big problem with that – when I put on the shorts, I relate that to curling up in bed with some tea instead of hitting the pavement for a run.

Someday I’ll have more of a defined line between my activewear and loungewear, but for now here’s what I have.

A minimalist’s activewear

I keep a lot more shirts on hand than any other things since those are often the sweatiest. I also love leggings because they got me through years of fall and winter runs in Indiana, and still are great for chilly days (hah) here in Los Angeles.

Plus, you look like you know what you’re doing fitness-wise when you wear them.

What I have:

  • 1 pair running shoes
  • 2 tank tops
  • 5 t-shirts
  • 1 long sleeve
  • 5 sports bras
  • 3 leggings
  • 1 pair yoga pants
  • 4 soffe shorts

The shorts have puffy paint on them from high school (the oldest pair is eleven years old). My cross country coach called me “Floyd” because I liked pink so much, although at the time I had never heard a single Pink Floyd song. That’s why they all say Floyd.

The thing about workout clothes

Here’s something I love about this type of clothing – while the trendy stuff is really cute, at the end of the day it’s all about function. Does it provide your body the protection it needs while you are exercising?

I’m going to hazard a guess here and say that the average piece of activewear item that I own is seven years old. Some I got last year, and some (like those shorts and that yellow long sleeve shirt) are over ten years old.

Most are from when I was a cross country runner 8-12 years ago. Ugh, don’t remind me.

They still function like new! So when you are in the market for workout clothes, do some research and find quality items that will collect your sweat through thick and thin for the next decade.

The only thing I am sure to change out regularly are my running shoes – every year or two if I’m not running frequently, and every six months or so if I’m really on top of my running game.

What are your workout must-haves?

Closet Tour: Bags

We all have stuff. And many of us have stuff to store that stuff in. But what about the stuff we have to carry our stuff?

Bags. They let us get out and experience the world with whatever we need to do it. While they can help us go and do, having too many (of anything) can become a hindrance

Three years ago, I would have been horrified if I let the internet see what owned me I owned. But I’ve come a long way! So today I’m sharing what I own that helps me get from A to B.

Purses (and why do we have so many?)

I always had a couple dozen purses so that I could always match what I was wearing – and they were all cheap. My most expensive purse was from H&M and clocked in at about $24.

Not that you have to own expensive bags and purses. I’m just saying that when the nicest purse you own is an H&M impulse buy, it’s a pretty good look into how disposable and unintentional your collection is.

Purses are a super-functional opportunity to make a statement about yourself, and they can be cheap. Hence the purse trap: you don’t realize how many you’ve accrued until you start taking them out of the closet.

So a few years ago I sorted through all my junky purses and left myself with a single, red cross-body purse. It was so small that my phone, keys and wallet made it look overstuffed. But it was my purse, the purse, and I stuck with it all day, every day.

My husband started noticing it’s raggedness and encouraged me to treat myself to something that was a little bigger and that made me happy. He encouraged me multiple times. (I think it might have been more ragged than I remember!)

My one purse

My next purse needed to meet three qualifications: quality construction, larger than the last one, and beautiful.

I didn’t worry too much about it matching anything because, honestly, I don’t care. I just want it to do it’s job and make me happy while it’s doing it (meaning it had to be colorful). And that’s when I found my Sakroots convertible purse/backpack:

My super bright new purse

My super bright new purse

It can be worn as a backpack too!

It can be worn as a backpack too!

So there you have it: my one purse that actually fits everything I need to fit into it. Now what about non-daily bags?

Travel and work bags

The rest are a little less fun, but highly functional:

  • Laptop Bag: This baby was a brand new shopgoodwill.com find that suits my remote work perfectly. It makes me feel professional in public, and it just makes me happy overall – come on, just look at that yellow.
  • Backpack: This, my high school backpack, used to be what I carried my laptop around in. It has too many pockets for casual cafe-working, so I tended to stuff it with things I didn’t need to bring. Now, I use it as my personal item on planes. 10+ years and still going strong!
  • Suitcase: There’s nothing for scale in the image below, but this lil’ guy is small enough to fit in an overhead compartment. Alongside my backpack, I don’t need any more luggage space when traveling. Note: I’ve never traveled extensively abroad, so I don’t know if I’d need more space for that or not.
  • Overnight bag: My PINK bag is super multipurpose: no zippers makes it great for carrying yarn, it’s washable so it’s toted rabbit supplies and of course, it’s my favorite color. This straightforward bag has served me for several years and I think it will continue on for many more to come.

So there you have it – a peek into what bags I consider essential. What would you like to see next: shoes, dresses, tops?

And what are your toting essentials?

Downsizing: Dress Edition

In light of the recent weeks’ announcements, I’ve been on another (even more intense) downsizing mission. I was getting rid of a few dresses the other day and decided to snap some pictures to show you what I have in my closet, and how I go about deciding to get rid of something.

I had a lovely influx of clothing from my friend Madeline at an informal clothing swap, but soon realized that I needed to get rid of some dresses to make way for any incoming ones. (Luckily, she and some of my friends took some lingering random craft supplies off my hands as well).

I didn’t downsize much – just from 12 dresses to 9, but I figure since I’ll be living in Los Angeles soon, I’ll want to have a nice handful of dresses that I love to wear in weather that I’m about to totally love. While I don’t have an exact count, based on my previously packed closets, I’m going to guess that I used to own over two dozen dresses. I wore dresses less then than I do now, so there was really no need for that many. Let’s take a look at where I’m at now.

The Dresses

Dresses Round 1

Starting from the top left and moving through the rows like I’m reading a book:

The Little Black Dress: Oh this dress is so lovely. I wanted one badly, found my size at Express, and took to EBay to see if there were any available. The photo doesn’t even do this beauty justice – I snagged it for $15 and wear it for most formal events I attend (which, let’s be honest, are few and far between).

The Rabbit Dress: My go-to dress for anything fun, ever. I love the little rabbit print on it, and feel so much myself when I’m wearing it. Funky, fun, and a little bit ridiculous. This one’s a keeper.

The Stripe Dress: Like my little black casual dress, I could wear this dress every day. It’s slouchy, sleeved, and it has pockets. I’ve considered buying a bunch of fabric and recreating this Kohl’s find hundredfold and, wearing nothing else but replicas of it.

The Casual Black Dress: Okay, so I do have two black dresses. But this one is like wearing a giant, stylish t-shirt that you can dress up or dress down. I’ve been waiting for them to go on sale at H&M (because a price tag of $12.95 is too much, right?) because I’d wear nothing but this dress or the stripe dress if I could. Only one outfit like a cartoon character = awesome.

The Patriotic Dress: I try not to think too hard about this dress being red, white and blue. With the patterns and the black, though, it really can be used for more than just a Fourth of July picnic. Also, it’s one of those mullet dresses that’s longer in the back and shorter in the front. By all accounts, I shouldn’t even like this dress, but I do. The way it fits, the modest sleeves and the perfectly positioned waist, and the funkiness of the pattern really get me. I’m keeping this because it reminds me to be a bit daring with what I wear.

The Jumper: Is there an age limit for these things? Regardless, This one fits like a dream and the floral pattern is so sweet. No one ever knows that it’s not a dress, so I love the sneaky factor too. Keeping it until someone says that I really shouldn’t be wearing it….and even then, I’ll probably keep wearing it.

The Other Patriotic and Stripe Dress: I just got this from my friend Madeline, but I looked and saw that I have other dresses that cover the bases that this one does. Since it’s entirely see-through and I don’t own a proper slip, this one’s going.

The Bridesmaid’s Dress: It’s pink, lacy, delicate and I wore it for my best friend’s wedding a few months ago. Another one that can be dressed up or down to fit the occasion. So is it beautiful? Yes. Useful? Yes. Does it mean something to me? Yep. It stays.

The Sassy Black Dress: This one is a bit less formal than the other little black dress I have, but would be so perfect for a New Year’s-type party. It’s a little big on me, though, and I already have black dresses that serve the same purpose as this one. Sending it away!

The Vintage Dress: My mom found this at an antique store and it fits me so perfectly. Since this feels very one-of-a-kind, I want to keep it for a while longer. Could be an Etsy product someday, but for now it’s my favorite summertime getup. And again, pockets.

The Bright Dress: Again, another dress that I absolutely love (see a pattern here? Through all of my downsizing, I’m getting into the territory of really owning only things I feel strongly about) I’ve worn this for interviews, dinner dates, weddings and even just as casual officewear. Heels and something shiny make it fancy, sandals and a belt (I think I have three belts?) make it casual.

The Dress That Looks Good But Makes Me Feel Like I’m Eight: I love pink more than the average Jane, but this dress and I have had our issues. I like how it fits and looks, but there’s that ruched elastic around the waist that reminds me of outfits I had as a child. Verdict? Get rid of it!

What’s Left

Dresses Round 2

So here’s what’s left. I’ve been considering adding a Versalette to the mix, which would probably eliminate at least one or two of these dresses, but for now I’m happy with my closet.

Whether you have 2, 10 or 25 dresses, there are three important things to remember when downsizing or adding to your closet:

  1. Does it serve a unique purpose? Make sure it’s not redundant. I’ve been working on my “fear of wearing the same thing twice” and it’s actually nice to have fewer options that you know you look awesome in. No more last-minute shopping trips.
  2. Does it bring you joy? Does it make you feel like you can climb mountains? Then go for it, as long as it meets at least one of the other two criteria.
  3. Is it versatile? While this isn’t always a necessary trait, I find that it’s much easier to get by with a flexible wardrobe. There’s also nothing better than combining old clothes into an outfit that people think is new.

What is your favorite dress or piece of clothing?

Dressing Like a Million Bucks (When You Don’t Have It)

I’ve grown much less attached to the idea of variety in my wardrobe – these days, comfort and functionality are the name of the game. However, there are special occasions where the basic t-shirt and jeans combo is absolutely not appropriate. Cue serious frustration.

Because anything even remotely appropriate for interviews, banquets, and formal meetings gets pricey fast. A simple suit can cost upwards of $200 without anyone blinking an eye. No, thank you.

So if you’re willing to take a chance on a slightly different technique for scoring a few great pieces for your fancy affairs, take my advice – don’t buy retail. In many cases, it’s best to even shy away from the clearance rack. My advice? Ebay.

First, find out the exact size and style of clothing you’re interested in. For me, I wanted a complete suit and a little black dress from Express, which was easy to scope out. I tried on a few styles and found the perfect cut, and then bee-lined out of the store (okay, fine, I checked the clearance rack first – guilty).

Express Outfit

My blazer and little black dress wins from Ebay

I was able to search around on Ebay for the style I had in mind and after doing a bit of research on the seller, the listing, and the items, I started bidding away. I ended up with 2 blazers,  2 pairs of pants, and even my first awesome LBD for roughly $70. (I’m guessing it would have all cost me somewhere around $450 had I purchased them in-store).

If you’ve got an interview or formal event coming up and don’t want to scavenge through thrift store racks to find a suitable outfit, definitely check out any live auctions or Buy It Now items on Ebay. Here’s some tips for success:

  • Buy early. Consider the length of time between when the auction ends and your event – will it arrive on time? It’s best to invest in a good go-to formal outfit well before it’s needed so that you don’t end up spending more than you need to.
  • Trust the seller. You can check out each seller’s history and ratings easily on Ebay. I usually stick with people who’ve clearly been selling for a while and have nearly perfect ratings, just to be sure.
  • Know the item – has it been altered or are there imperfections that are just too glaring? It’s not uncommon to find items that are still new with tags (NWT) or new without tags (NWOT), so keep an eye out for that.
  • If the items are not new, get used to the idea of wearing used clothing. It’s definitely a change from wearing all-new items, but there’s no cooties a good wash or dry clean can’t get rid of. Know that the items may have some imperceptible flaws, but those cases are where you get the best deals!

As a final note, it’s a good idea to invest in more neutral essentials so that you can carry them over from interview to formal banquet to classy wedding. Multi-purposing is key with these clothes!