Your Style Story & Top 6 Tips 👗

During quarantine, clothing and style have been a struggle for many of us – with everyone from TV anchors to corporate C-suiters opting either to not wear pants at all or something comfy that isn’t visible on video. As more people are vaccinated, we’re all anxious to get out of the house – and our sweatpants – to be more social. For perhaps the first time in 18 months, we’re wondering what to wear for our re-entrance into society.

The first question is: Why does style matter?

It seems frivolous and like a waste of time to pour through clothes on a shopping rack, online, or even in our own closets. It takes time to curate an outfit to wear, along with shoes, jewelry and other accessories.

Since the pandemic’s start, leggings and stretchy, more forgiving pants have been the pants du jour. Part of the reason for this has been the so-called ‘Quarantine 15’ (or 20, 30lbs) weight gain and part of it has been a desire for comfort during an uncertain and unsettling time. For the first time in perhaps our entire lives, many of us did not need to present ourselves publicly below the waist. Who cares if we wear pajama pants or ‘atheleisure’?

It’s a question to ask yourself: what does style matter to me?

Seeing, feeling, thinking, believing – these are the stages of how we change our style on the outside and our self-image on the inside.” – Stacy London

Our style story

In high school, we remember hearing about how some of our classmates would wake up an extra hour early to either curl or straighten their hair and put on a full face of make-up. It sounded ridiculous to us as waking up before dawn was already early enough and 4:45am sounded downright painful. Plus, homework and sleep took priority over getting dolled up to go to school. Jeans, t-shirts, and some nice tops were all mixed and matched to create a school ‘uniform’ of sorts, but we never really thought much about style – unless we were preparing for a date or a dance. Clothing was mainly functional, met the guidelines of the school, and kept us at a more comfortable temperature. Frankly, we believed that being ‘in fashion’ or ‘stylish’ was something for girly-girls who had too much time (and money) on their hands, and weren’t interested in reading to expand their knowledge or playing sports. In short, our belief was that focus on clothes, purses, and shoes was for the vain and vapid. Not us.

The belief didn’t change much during college. Luckily, we didn’t buy into the trend of wearing pajama pants, crop tops, or yoga pants with sequined words on the rear. It was interesting to see how ‘comfortably’ these students behaved in class when they dressed this way and we wondered how a just-rolled-out-of-bed look might detract from a professor’s positive recommendation. Did we dress well during this time? Somewhat. Again, the main wardrobe consisted of jeans, t-shirts, and sweaters but we did have fun with finding bright red pants and pairing them with a striped top, leopard skin pink pants, trying out different bold colors and geometric shapes. That is what one’s 20s are really all about – exploration, creativity, and diverse experiences…and our closet mirrored this. We had outfits for our moods (rebellious, blissful romantic, free-spirited) and for environments ranging from dance clubs and concerts to corporate America. Around this time we also started working with a spa and, when things weren’t busy, the stylists and beauty experts would cajole us into letting them do some color-typing that would indicate if one was a ‘True Summer’ or ‘Bright Winter.’ ...it was an experience akin to Andy’s in The Devil Wears Prada movie. We took it with a grain of salt and mostly stuck with the tried-and-true colors and clothes we had.

A problem realized was overwhelm – an abundance of clothes we collected through different ages, times in life, moods, etc. We didn’t learn about constraint until the mid 2010’s. It was our good luck to have had a couple style-minded friends who relished going through our closet, having us try on clothes, and then giving feedback about fit, hemlines, and colors that didn’t compliment our skin tone (e.g. tomato red). That third-party assessment helped us with the vocabulary to articulate why a certain piece didn’t get much use, even though it looked great on a mannequin.

With our ongoing journey of minimalism as maximalism, we’re not interested in only having and wearing 20 pieces, but relishing a curated wardrobe where everything fits well, looks great, and allows quicker and clearer decisions when it comes to getting ready for the day. To this end, we see having a clear style and curated clothing as a way of promoting efficiency as well as confidence.

What is your style story? How do you think and feel about it in general and when it comes to your personal style now?

Style is somewhat intuitive and somewhat scientific. When you find a great piece that fits you perfectly and has a color that lights up your face, you know what we mean. Most of us are unaware of why we pull the same outfits out over and over again, while leaving behind the green sweater or gray dress. Having a third party observe and point out the poor fit or how the color doesn’t compliment your skin tone can help you weed out the pieces that don’t do you justice.

Style is for YOU. Sure, it reflects to other people aspects of you – such as your personality, maybe that you value designer purses or shoes – and it may attract people to you. But this isn’t about the male gaze or anyone else’s. It’s about how you move about in the world and how you think and feel about yourself. Think about the last time you were dressed up. How did you feel in that outfit that day? Perhaps you felt a strong sense of confidence; how did you show up in your work activities and your interactions with others? More importantly, how did you interact with yourself? Did you wink at yourself in the mirror or have nicer thoughts about your body?

Style can be Fun and Functional. Choose pieces that reflect a bit of your personality – bring in a little bit of glam, French romantic, or maybe choose dramatic geometric shapes in you clothes or jewelry. Part of functionality is sizing. To be comfortable, you may need a larger size or a one that can be tailored to fit your shoulders or waist. Figuring out your style can be fun as well – whether you consult with a beauty or style expert or do your own research through online quizzes or YouTube. One that we like and have done recently is called Kibbe (here’s a video with the ‘test’). In many ways it confirmed what we already knew, but also gave more ideas and inspiration as we go through the closet.

Our style is ultimately a reflection of how we think and how we feel about ourselves. Walking around in a bathrobe for hours on end could result from wanting to extend a nice, spa-like shower experience or it could be a symptom of depression and Eeyore-like “why bother?” thinking. Same with our stretchy pants. What’s behind what you’re wearing? What are you thinking and feeling about yourself right now in this outfit?

Top 6 Tips to Elevate your Style Story

1. Spring -clean your closet. This is a great time to go through your items and release what you don’t like or no longer fits and really curate your favorite clothing items. You’ll feel more confident, comfortable and more clarity as you clear out your space and you’ll have less stress and overwhelm about what to wear.

2. Find 10 of your absolute favorite pieces, place them in a section of your wardrobe.

3. Identify 10 items you know you can let go, don’t do you justice or make you feel guilty.

4. Recruit your 3rd party observer and assessor. Whether it’s a family member, friend, or style expert, another person’s perspective can help give insight about the fit of your clothing or the colors that look best on you.

5. Learn more about your style with the methods discussed above, including Kibbe.

6. Aim to dress just 10% better. We’re all coming out of quarantine together and permanent retirement of our sweatpants or dressing to the 9s is likely too much of a change, too quickly. Instead, focus on the 10% improvement – whether it’s wearing a nicer top, putting on a piece of jewelry or two, or adding a red lip to your outfit.

Hopefully you’ll reflect on your style story and where you want to go, clean out your closet, and discover or refine your personal style in order to feel confident and comfortable going into the coming months.

3 Ways to Regain Life Balance ⚖️

If you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, pressed for time, and stressed, join the club! Only a minority of people report feeling peaceful, equanimous, and blissed out these days. The good news is that you can take a step in that direction and reap a bunch of benefits. Here’s how:

1. Identify what’s important to you, your mindset, and what throws you off balance. Once you identify your values and your non-negotiables, you can simplify and cast off the unimportant to-dos. Maybe rainbow-organizing your pantry and linen closets are a “nice to have” but family time is more of a priority right now. In terms of mindset – have you noticed how some people seem relaxed and carefree as they go about their duties while others seem rattled with the same amount of work? Leading a calmer and more peaceful life often has to do with our personal experiences, belief systems, and coping mechanisms…all of which influence our mindset and our thoughts. By changing those, we can change our behaviors and results.

Consider what throws you off-balance. Is it a last-minute request to participate in your child’s extracurricular activity? The pressure you put on yourself every year to balance not just work but with making each holiday or birthday ‘perfect’ for your family? Or does getting inadequate sleep cause you to feel easily rattled the rest of the day? There is a well-established link between our emotional state and our physical one. By adopting a more peaceful mindset, we can avoid chronic diseases and live longer.

2. Know the signs of an imbalanced life and burnout. Symptoms include headache, sleep disorders, anxiety, tense and stiff muscles, and digestive woes. The stress we’re under can contribute to poor immune function, focus and memory. It can also be detrimental to fertility and sex drive and even accelerate the aging process. Noticing these symptoms early in your life can help prevent you form sliding into burnout or into chronic disease states.

3. Add + subtract. We’re going to let our inner nerd out a bit as we reveal how much we loved stoichiometry and balancing equations in high school. Without complex chemistry and math, just imagine playing with weights on a scale – add another stressor to one side and notice how the beam shifts, especially if there aren’t enough restorative activities in the other scale pan. Here are some ideas to find your own balanced equation:

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Minimalism vs. Essentialism for 2021

What do you think when you hear the word “minimalism”? A way of life only for hipsters traveling the world with their laptops and backpacks? People living in tiny homes? It may surprise you to learn that, for one to be a minimalist, it doesn’t require you to be a cool-hat-wearing twenty-something, own less than 200 items or make YouTube videos about minimizing your closet.

Perhaps you can relate. If your twenties were all about trying new hobbies, identities, styles and outfits, there’s a good chance that you’ve accumulated *things* to go along with those. What happens in your 30s and 40s? If you’ve chosen a mate, had kids, have a steady job, and have settled into who and where you are right now, there is a good chance you’re surrounded by annoying or aspirational reminders of who you once were. Ten years ago you may have been dating a rock climber and, at the time, you needed the gear. Same goes for things you once loved but don’t anymore – rollerblading, embroidery patterns, cookbooks with laborious recipes, the guitar sitting in the corner – and make you feel guilty. That size 2 little black dress looked great on you during your dancing days, but now that you’ve gained 20 lbs, it hangs around waiting for you to be able to wear it again. One day.

Part of the problem which our possessions is that we have become inured to their presence. We don’t *see* the rollerblades we’ve passed in the garage over a thousand times. It’s like we have blinders on and so, in a way, minimalism is about bringing awareness back to what we own and why. It also encourages us not to delay and procrastinate in making decisions for some designated time ‘in the future.’

The average household is said to have over 300,000 items; does that seem accurate to you? Do you feel it is a bit excessive? Maybe it’s time to put your house on a diet.

While we’ve stopped short of counting everything we own, over the past 6 years or so, we’ve counted and cataloged our way through purges of household items (with questions such as: “do two people in a household really need 45 glasses/cups/mugs?”). For this year, one of our goals was to remove 2020 items from our household – roughly 168 items each month. Every single item was written down to help keep track and to see if we actually regretted removing it from the household.

Surprise! Most of it is not missed at all – not our third spatula, the ill-fitting shirt, knick-knacks, expired supplements or makeup. The beauty is that each room is easier to keep tidy and clean. The clothes in the closet have space to breathe and don’t fall on top of the person looking to get dressed.

Minimalism and essentialism are both related to intentional living. Where they differ is operating in the physical versus mental realms of life improvement.

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Spring Cleaning: Konmari Method

It’s difficult to label recent Midwestern weather as “spring” but so it is. Time to switch out the flannel sheets and warm, comfy throws for t-shirts and flip-flops. This is also the perfect opportunity for a bit of spring cleaning. We’ve chosen to utilize the Marie Kondo, also known as Konmari, method to see how using the metric of ‘sparking joy’ helps to decide what stay and what goes. As per her recommendation, we started with creating a pile of all clothing:

clothes pile obw

It’s always a bit shocking to see the sheer volume of one’s garments…and this is the second round since last year!

 

Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, describes how she helps her clients sort through categories of household items. If an item brings joy, they keep it; if not, it is removed from the residence. She says the focus is not so much on decluttering as much as it is creating a curated closet and home environment wherein everything there brings a sense of lightness and peace. It’s a simple but transformative idea. For those who’ve struggled, wanting to use pure data (i.e. “how many pairs of jeans does the average person have?”), in their decluttering attempts, this is a different style and it just may work for you too.

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Notice the employment of two techniques – Marie Kondo’s and the forward-facing hanger technique to see which clothes are not worn during the next 6 months.

Keeping items “just because” or out of guilt hampers your ability to enjoy your possessions. The gifts, family heirlooms, the pants you spent way too much money on (but still have the store tag)….consider letting them go if they aren’t bringing a smile to your face.

The main points in Kondo’s book are:

1. Declutter and then organize (no need to buy more “smart storage” strategies)
2. Tidying is meant to be a one-and-done marathon – go through everything in your house once and then maintain (you’re not meant to be tidying for the rest of your life)
3. The question to ask as you encounter each object: “does this spark joy?”
4. Tidy by category, not location (i.e. go through all the clothes in your house at once, not waiting to get to the downstairs hall closet to remove unwanted coats, etc)
5. Store your items in an appealing way (she has a method of folding designed for this)

As for order of categories to tidy, Kondo suggests starting with clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany), and sentimental items. The reason for this is clothes have relatively low sentimental value and you can exercise your decision-making muscle before getting to the harder categories. See what it can do for you!