Style- what an interesting word. Society would have you believe that you either have style, or you don’t. We’re quick to claim expertise in this area and to judge other’s fashion accordingly.
Like most things in our culture, I disagree. I believe that everyone (yes everyone, even your denim clad, new balance wearing dad) has a true, authentic style
Since posting about my 20 item winter, capsule wardrobe I have received many messages saying something like, “This is so inspiring! I don’t know how I will ever get here.”
First, let me acknowledge that it has taken me three years to get to this point. Three years of capsules, life change, mistakes, and growth to land here. When I see that so many people would like to be at this point, I can only pass along what I have experienced in these past three years in the hopes that you will not have to repeat my mistakes. I also have tips for how you can repeat my successes.
Small changes, over time, create big change.
Take time to define your true, authentic style.Nothing will protect you from emotional purchases, fast fashion, trends and marketing better than defining your true style. I hear from many readers that they do not know what their true style is, nor do they know how to find it.
I would argue that you do not need to develop or create your style, you simply need to uncover (or rediscover) it. There is a core being within you that knows what you want, the tricky thing is listening to her. It’s hard to hear your inner voice and self over the noise of the world. Over the ads and marketing, the opinions of other people, the pressures of the world to conform and fit in.
Set aside all of that for the time being. Sit with yourself in a quiet, private place and ask yourself this question: who am I when all else falls away? Without the expectations of others or the world around me (even the people I love most) what do I love?
For me, this brought up who I looked up to as a little girl. Not who was popular or who the world told me to look like, but who I have always loved and wanted to be. For me it’s Emily Dickinson, Audrey Hepburn, and Ms. Honey from Matilda. This question is less about the clothing that you love and more about what you are naturally drawn to.
I don’t want to dress like Emily Dickinson, I’m drawn to her simplicity. Her love of white, simple cotton fabrics, nature and home. I don’t want to dress like Ms. Honey as much as I am drawn to her strength, kindness, and her beautiful stone cottage surrounded by wild flowers.
Who and what are you drawn to? What people, feelings and essences make you fill up with joy? What do they represent for you?
Now that you have your inspiration and know what you are naturally drawn to, gather it in one place. My personal favorite is Pinterest. Create a board of the things that inspire you. People, quotes, places- pull it all together. Try not to question what you’re drawn to – trust your gut.
The brainstorming quietly on your own before this step is essential. We can appreciate something’s beauty without it aligning with our own authentic core style. Click here for my “Style” Pinterest board if you want to see how what I’m drawn to looks when put down and brought together. Don’t like Pinterest? Just search images, people and quotes you love and gather them in a folder.
After you have your virtual vision board, see what emerges as you explore and collect what you’re drawn to. What patterns can you see? What fabrics, colors and images resonate with you and your core? For me, it’s classic blues and grays, feminine mixed with masculine, simple and chic. Try not to judge yourself as you uncover this core being and style, we limit ourselves by thinking we “could never pull something off” or that an item “isn’t age appropriate” or we think others will judge us.
As the lovely Rachel Hollis once said, “Other people’s opinion of you is none of your business.”
The final step? Gather all of your clothing and touch each item (yes Konmari style) and see if it aligns with your core being- with the inner self that has come through in your planning. This goes beyond joy sparking. An item can be beautiful and bring us joy, without it aligning with how we would like to dress. There are so many pieces I see that are beautiful in their own right that do not match my style.
As you sort, hang the items on their own, on a clothing display or in your closet. Hang them somewhere you can see your style emerge. It will become clear when an item is an obvious “no” as you go through more and more clothing. I kept a “maybe” pile and stored those items away for a month. If I could recall or yearned for them during the next 21 days I planned to keep them- at the end of this process I donated all of them.
I ended up with less than twenty items for this winter. You may end up with forty, or thirty seven, or 100. The number is not what’s important. It’s about the items being cohesive, seasonally appropriate and matching the core style you have already identified. If you are craving a number? I always find that less is more. The simpler, the better.
I strongly recommend not buying any new items as you go through this process. More items cloud our vision and ideal self. We all own so much already, try living with less and see how it feels. If there is an item you truly know you need, search for a Buy Me Once item and have very clear guidelines on what you need. For example, I bought one pair of vegan, brown chelsea boots from Matt & Nat and I wear them at least 4 days out of the week. They also fit multiple seasons and reasons. I knew exactly what I was looking for before I shopped for them.
Nothing will make you impervious to “fashion” marketers more than knowing who you are and what you truly need and want. As consumers, we have so much power to change the world just by what we buy. And ultimately? You are not a “consumer” you are a human being.
This life is short and weird and hard and crazy, don’t spend it worrying that you’ve worn the same top too often. Don’t not stomp around in combat boots because you think you have to wear flats or heels. I spent years not getting a haircut I was desperate for because I was convinced without long hair I wouldn’t be seen as beautiful.
Partners, friends, parents, kids, coworkers, strangers on the street – at the end of the day, their opinion has nothing to do with you. What matters is how you feel in the quiet, when all else falls away- when your heart is at rest and talking to you.
“Kiss your own fingertips
and hug your own curves.
You are made of waves and honey
and spicy peppers when it is necessary.
You are a goddess,
I hope you haven’t forgotten.”
Leave any questions you have below and I will get back to you. And for those wondering, “What about work clothes?” That’s next.
“I am out with lanterns, looking for myself.” Emily Dickinson
This past year I did something I am not proud to admit- I bought numerous items from fast fashion brands like Target, TJ Maxx, and Old Navy only to turn around and donate them a few weeks later.
I was feeling unsure about body changes after becoming a mama, a bold new hairstyle, unearthing child hood traumas, and leaving an unfulfilling job for a new, more challenging one. Often when we don’t feel quite ourselves, when we’re feeling low or unsure, that’s when we’re most susceptible to marketing, trends, and consumerism. There is an entire collective of brands and companies hoping you won’t feel good enough so they can convince you that what you’re missing is the thing they are selling.
When we’re at our best, confident and fulfilled, we don’t seek external happiness- we’ve already got it.
During 2018 I took a journey of self discovery and healing- I came out stronger, wiser and happier as a result. At the tail end of this year and this journey, a good friend recommended the book A Life Less Throwawayby Tara Button. I downloaded the audio book (because I’m a working mama and this is my current preferred way to digest new information) and I devoured it.
The book explores how our culture has lost the art of buying items for life. The world is trying to convince us to spend our way to happiness- instead we’re more cluttered, unfulfilled and stressed than ever and so is our planet. Tara Button founded a company called BuyMeOnce and through her book teaches how we can champion long lasting, sustainable products while simultaneously healing our hearts and lives.
A Life Less Throwaway is the most life changing book I’ve read since The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (the book that jump started my minimalism and helped me heal after losing my dad in 2015). If you read one book this year, let it be A Life Less Throwaway.
In one portion of this book the author explores wardrobes and finding your true style. If you have a defined style, totally authentic to who you are, it will be impossible for brands to sell you something you don’t want. When you know yourself and your lifestyle well you know what belongs in your life, and what doesn’t.
I’ve had some version of a capsule wardrobe for nearly four years now but I’d never taken the time to define my authentic, timeless style. I’ll admit that I’ve spent 2018 getting to know myself so this was very much the right time to rediscover who I am at my core and how I want my clothing to reflect this. The universe sent this message of buying for life at just the right time.
I started with a Pinterest board. I deleted all of my previous “style” posts and boards and began fresh, blank, and new. I have always gravitated toward Audrey Hepburn and Parisian style. I was the first person in my high school to ever wear skinny jeans (humble brag) and I’ve wanted a short, Parisian pixie cut for as long as I can remember. As a little girl I loved Madeline, Matilda and Emily Dickinson (who was thought to only wear white)- I aspired to be classic and natural.
Throughout my youth the world told me to be different from who I truly wanted to be. It told me to have long hair and to look sexy. To wear Hollister and makeup and to be “desirable”. The world was wrong, is wrong. I know that now. It took me 27 years to come back to who I have always been. To rediscover the little girl that loved Audrey and Matilda and Emily.
Here you will see the style that I felt in my bones. An outward representation of who I am on the inside. After defining this for myself, I followed the KonMari method and took all of my clothing items out and put them in a pile. I touched each one and asked if it sparked joy, if it fit my true, authentic self I felt joy- if not I thanked it for teaching me something and let it go.
There were a few items over the next few weeks that I found didn’t quite fit so I let them go too. When all was said and done I was left with a less than twenty item winter capsule with about ten items in storage- and I’ve never felt more alive or more sure. Gone is the decision fatigue or the uncomfortable nature of wearing clothes that felt like a costume. In my current wardrobe, I have left what suits me, no one else- just me and my life.
My current winter wardrobe consists of: 4 long sleeve shirts, 2 sweaters, 1 t-shirt, 1 jean jacket, 1 winter coat, 2 pairs of blue jeans, 1 high waisted black pant, 1 cropped black jean with rips, 1 pair of “BuyMeOnce” boots, 1 pair of loafers, 1 pair of sneakers, 1 purse, 1 pair of Pixel eyewear, 1 necklace and 3 pairs of earrings.
Outside this capsule I have ten warmer weather items stored, a five item “professional” wardrobe for conferences, hiking boots, a ten item lounge capsule for relaxing and sleeping, one rain coat, and one warm coat for hiking and camping. That’s it, the only wearable items I own in this world- and I’ve never been happier.
In the future, as some of my current items wear out, I hope to replace them with similar style items that will last a lifetime- using the BuyMeOnce website as a guide.
If you’ve always wanted to start a capsule, find your style, or if you’re simply tired of consumerism and what it is doing to our world (and if you’re reading this blog I imagine you are) consider sitting down and rediscovering you.
“The world doesn’t have to like what you do. You have to like what you do.” Tara Button
I have been neglecting this blog. I have been neglecting myself. In Miles’ first year of life my main focus was him and rightfully so. I sacrificed sleep, my body, my heart, my life to keep him alive. It was the best, most important work I have ever done.
Now that Miles is a year old, transitioning from sweet, bouncing baby to a screaming, silly, wild toddler- I am finding myself again. If you have a baby under the age of one I am thinking of you. Sending you light and love in this season of raising your little one. This post may not resonate with you right now. In this season of life with your babe- give yourself so much grace. Forgive yourself everything and love yourself well. Now is a time to lean into convenience and easy buttons. Now is a time to be so very gentle with yourself.
If you are beyond age one, if you are looking to care for your heart and your mind and to nourish your soul- read on sister.
As soon as the sun set on Christmas day, presents opened and family loved well, I had my eyes on 2019. Ready for newness. Ready to thank and close this past year and plan for the next. One of my favorite content creators, Muchelle B., has a wonderful video series to help you plan and prep for the new year. (Find the video series here.) I have distilled her content into a format that was inspiring and meaningful for me below.
First, my wins of 2018. What went well? What needs to be celebrated? We kept a human alive for a whole year, we found the most perfect family to care for baby while we work, we bought a house, we celebrated one year of marriage, we hiked, we rescued two new pets (Moose & Marie), I worked for and transitioned to a new job, I did some very helpful therapy, I worked through traumas and toward personal growth, I read some beautiful books, and we decluttered and reordered our home to better fit our 2019 goals.
What are your wins from 2018? (If you need help making your list look back at social media, journals, or your camera roll on your phone for highlights.)
Next, life lessons of 2018. With all the wins of 2018 there were also some lows and losses. And from them I’ve learned so much: I am loved, unconditionally. I am in control of my life, my emotions and what I make happen. I am bright and beautiful and capable no matter what my subconscious tries to tell me. I am a badass.
What did 2018 teach you? Make a list on paper or on your notes app, after you’ve made your list thank 2018 for its highs and lows, for its wins and losses. No year is all good or all bad, thank you 2018.
Now that 2018 is a wrap I am looking for 2019 focusing on the three questions: what, why, and how? What do I want to achieve? Why do I want to achieve it? How will I do it?
We may think we know what we hope and plan to do in the coming year but if we don’t take the time to create it and write it down our chance of success is not high. The power of writing down your goals is real, just ask Rachel Hollis. As you do this make sure you keep your eyes on your own page. It doesn’t matter what your goals and dreams look like next to someone else’s- that’s not your life. It doesn’t matter if your dreams are big and bold and crazy and real, don’t limit yourself, don’t compare yourself.
If you need some inspiration for the coming year try making a vision board. To save on paper waste and reduce clutter I make my vision board on Pinterest, click here to see mine so far.
It can also help to have a word (or words) for the year. My 2019 word is adventure. Some of my supporting words are: freedom, nature, outdoors, camping, hiking, open air, simplify, French, simplicity, Paris, Parisian and magnificent. In 2019 I want to be free, healthy, strong, Parisian, at peace and full of energy. The actions I take will align with these words and ideas.
I have already started walking around the house pretending I’m in Paris and saying to Chase, “how very French,” about my own actions, it makes us laugh but it also adds intention and mindfulness to my daily actions. I’ve swapped out many inexpensive household items for second hand, high quality, french inspired homewares that will last us a lifetime. We’ve let go of the TV in our main living room and created a beautiful, happy space free of technology. I’ve already noticed I’m thinking and moving more- leaning into adventure.
What is your word this year? What word or idea keeps coming to you and won’t leave you alone- feed what you are drawn to. The universe is calling.
My final tip for planning the year ahead is to create “start” and “stop” lists. What are the things you would like to stop doing? What would you like to start?
I would like to stop: making so much waste, spending money on items that won’t last a lifetime, buying things Miles doesn’t need, spending mindless time on TV and phone, spending money we don’t have, eating food that doesn’t nourish my body and mind.
I would like to start: buying for life, going on adventures with Miles, only watching TV in our family room, saving up money and paying off debts, eating more plants healthy fats and grains, packing snacks and lunches, drinking more tea than coffee.
What ever has happened this past year, be thankful for where it has brought you. Where you are now is where you’re meant to be.
“And suddenly you know…it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”
Don’t live the same year for 85 years and call it a life, each new moment is a chance to start again.
“You owe yourself the love that you so freely give to other people.”
I’ve spent a lot of my time here on earth re-learning what I was naturally gifted at birth- the knowledge that I am loved. My little one entered this world fully and unconditionally loved as well, we all did.
I watch Miles dance and laugh and scream and eat and talk without concern. Little ones do not care what others think of them, they know how incredible they are. It’s us, our world, that teaches them to be concerned.
We shush and we scold. We reward quiet, obedient behavior. We tell little ones they are “good” when they are quiet and small. We are ripped away from the inherent knowledge that we are loved unconditionally, and shaped by the world into something else. We are told we are not pretty enough, young enough- not good enough. The world, and often the way we are told to parent, shames us into shapes unrecognizable from the bouncing, joyful form we showed up in.
Ask any parent what they want their child to grow up to be and you’ll hear the opposite of quiet, obedient, and small. We want our babies to be resilient and strong. Wise and kind. Creative and successful.
Our long term goal of raising wild, passionate, intelligent creatures (and being wild, passionate, intelligent creatures) does not match the way we parent short term. Time outs and sticker charts do not create a generation of free thinkers.
Unconditional love and parenting is possible and I believe it starts with the self. If we do not love ourselves fully- if we cannot recognize the parts of ourselves we are working on- how can we parent unconditionally? After all, we know little ones learn through role modeling. It does not matter how many times you say something, little ones learn by watching you. Others learn about you by watching you.
If you stand in front of the mirror picking yourself apart and shaming your body, your little one will too. If you yell at your partner and solve conflicts with violence, your little one will too. If you gossip and shame others, your little one will too.
If you celebrate your body and women’s bodies everywhere, your little one will too. If you treat your partner like your best friend and work everyday to see the best in them, your little one will too.
I’ve been honored recently reading your messages and comments about what a wonderful mama I am, and while it is very kind, at the end of the day it does not matter. I don’t mean that you don’t matter or that I don’t appreciate your kindness. What I mean is that I already know. I know that I am an exceptional mama and an awesome wife. I know what I bring to the table at work. I know this because I know I am loved.
Unconditionally, I am loved. Not by any one else, but by myself.
I am not defined by the world around me, by the people that love me, or by the people that don’t love me. I am loved fully and completely and messily all on my own. I am not defined by past decisions or mistakes, I am defined by the next decision I make.
This superpower of loving myself means that my relationships with my baby, my husband my family, and my friends naturally improve and grow because I am no longer doubting myself. I do not rely on external validation to tell me what I already know- that I am loved. And so are you.
The more you love yourself, the less toxic nonsense you will tolerate. The more love you pour into yourself the more your cup will fill, and eventually, overflow and spill on to the people in your life.
You can be the love you never received.
You are not defined by your childhood, by your job title, or by your roles in life. You can examine these things to unpack your bad habits or the mean things your subconscious is telling you- but you are in control here. You can change your life and it all starts with reminding yourself that you are loved.
If you want to change your life, your country, your world- start with yourself.