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:

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Butterflies & Zombies: Story of Coronavirus

butterfliesandzombiescoronavirus

A lot can change in a little over a week. For us, we marveled at how quickly news about the coronavirus shrouds and alters both excitement over buying a house and planning a fall wedding. Such is life, and we all must adapt….and even metamorphose a bit. Speaking of which, let’s review the butterfly lifecycle and see how it relates to us with this current public health crisis. As you may remember from second grade, the egg becomes larva (a caterpillar) and then its pupa stage operating in a cocoon. Finally the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis state, dries its wings and flies.

Sometimes things need to get worse before they get better. Like a scab or a detox-reaction, things can appear ugly and hopeless during transition but then metamorphize into something more vibrant and beautiful. The scab of society is such that, despite Eleanor Roosevelt reminding us that, “with freedom comes responsibility,” we haven’t been responsible to or for each other in awhile. It has been within the past couple of years that the only ‘epidemic’ the government seemed to be reporting on was the ‘loneliness epidemic’ (1), and it’s not just been a problem for the elderly; an article on Forbes.com last year mentioned how lonely millennials have been (2). We can change this now, despite ‘social distancing’ and re-connect with our loved ones and our communities.

For those of you who’ve seen zombie movies, you know that there are two threats – not just one – to overcome. The first and immediate threat is the virus or catastrophic event that turns the people into zombies. The second and possibly bigger threat is the zombies themselves, the people who inspire and perpetuate fear and distrust through their selfish actions.

We will see the best and worst parts of our communities; the best thing we can do is look out for ourselves and other people. Some people are hoarding and taking advantage. This is part of the reason why there were rations for sugar, bread, meat, milk, and flour during the World Wars, to help people share food fairly. When human ‘zombies’ fail to regulate themselves and their fears, sometimes outside regulations help.

This is the best time to slow down, self-regulate, and prevent harm from spreading throughout the community.  One thing we can do during social distancing is to love people from afar – calls, texts, sending groceries, and supporting our local businesses by buying gift cards or ordering carry-out.

Remember the butterfly stages? What we didn’t mention before is that things get really gross and discombobulated during the pupa phase. The chrysalis acts as a container and protects the butterfly-to-be as the body digests itself from the inside out and becomes a soupy substance. From these parts, new cells for the butterfly’s wings, organs, and antennae form. How creepy and yet marvelous a process this is!

How can we turn this challenging time to our advantage? By thinking of this as our ‘chrysalis’ time – a period where things are creepy, gross, and scary – but also full of exactly what we need to transform ourselves and our lives. This is an excellent time for:

  • Reflection – unplugging from ‘group-think’ and the typical consumerist tendencies to over-buy and play into the hands of fear. Self-reflection during this time can help you listen to that which is habitually drowned-out: your inner guidance. Just because others are buying tons of stuff, like Black Friday, you can opt-out. Be conscious and live mindfully.
  • Minimalism and decluttering. Minimalism helps self-regulation and temptation to follow the whims of others. If you haven’t learned some of the philosophies and principles, this may be worth looking into. Decluttering – if it’s been on your mind for awhile and you just haven’t had the time, now is a wonderful opportunity. For the hoarders out there, just remember that a lot what you’ve purchased may need to be discarded eventually through food expiration/waste, lack of space in the home, or sheer ability to individually utilize 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer. If you have extra toothpaste, canned or other goods, consider donating and helping others.
  • House cleaning and projects. The lightbulb that needs to be replaced. The wood that needs to be sealed. The niggling list of to-dos can be dealt with during this time of self-quarantine.
  • Checking in with family and friends more. Calling or video chatting with your parents and siblings, even if you can’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, or birthdays in-person together. Speaking of birthdays, if you have a friend who has a birthday during this time, offer to have food from a favorite restaurant delivered to them (you’d be helping a small business too!) and to yourself; then have lunch together, via video-conference.
  • Mental health. Keep your hands clean and your head clean. How many people say, “I need to meditate more” but never do? Lots. So start with 5 minutes or use an app (Headspace is quite popular). How else can we improve mental health during this time? We can still go outside and walk in nature. Listen to music, positive podcasts. Your mental diet matters just as much as your physical diet, though the food you eat will also impact your mood and cognition. If you have fur babies, give them extra cuddles and both of you will feel better. Consider a ratio of 1:2 for your mental ‘food’ intake. For every 10 minutes of reading terrible news stories, meditate for 20. Read an inspiring novel; watch baby bunny or funny animal video compilations.
  • Sleep. All of the sleep-deprived ‘zombies’ out there, this is for you. If you are working from home, that’s an automatic 1-2 hour time savings from driving in traffic five times per week. You’ve just gained 5-10 hours a week that you can put towards sleeping more. Score!  If you’re still going to the office or aren’t currently able to work, routine is still important to keep up and sleep is foundational to good health. Prioritize this as much as possible.
  • Netflix or new hobby? There is room for both. Have a Pinterest board of recipes to explore? Pick one or two and have an adventure. As a friend pointed out, a lot of the Standard American Diet (read: S.A.D.) is what is missing from the shelves but the ethnic foods were still amply stocked. Experiment with some miso, mirin, nori in a Japanese stirfry or asafoetida in your Indian or Mexican cuisine. Have a shelf full of books? Pull one out and read for an evening. Want to make your own lip balm and bodycare? Learn about herbs, personal finance, computer programming?  Thank the internet gods for still working and get going on your chosen syllabus. Netflix has its place – it can be great to get swept into a silly, romantic comedy series where all the conflicts are neatly tied up at the end. Or you could watching documentaries about tragic events in the past (e.g. the Holocaust, Titanic, etc) and thank your lucky stars that you never had to endure those events; it can put help put things into perspective.
  • Skill-building. Always wanted to learn to cook or can? There’s a cookbook, Pinterest Pin or app for it. If you’ve been laid off, there are things you can do to bolster your resume. Learn graphic design, take an online course, practice time management as you look for jobs (and for those of you working from home). Learn another language. One of our medical patient’s goals is to be able to converse in French by the time this coronavirus has started to fade into public memory – it’s a positive goal she has to better herself and use this time well.
  • Take care of your health now. There’s something you know you could be doing that you haven’t done yet. Whether that’s sleep, meditation, learning how to cook (or cook healthier), taking walks or working out at home, stopping smoking, or actually practicing managing your stress, choose one thing and work from there. Remember, though coronavirus is an acute disease which can kill, we still have the big three ‘killer’ chronic diseases to continue to contend with: heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. They may not seem as dramatic as Covid-19 right now, but we can take steps to address them, while improving our immune systems, during this time.

Remember, we will all be called to account for our behavior during this time. Would you like to be able to, truthfully, say you one of the zombie hoarders or one of the brave helpers

Actions speak louder than words so put into play one or more of these suggestions mentioned above and you will emerge from this cocoon-time having a clean, uncluttered, updated abode with routines in place for the future. You’ll open the front door and be ready to embrace opportunities in your business or obtain a new job with your impressive resume. Crawl out of your chryalis not as an unfit coach potato, but a creature who is stronger and fitter, competent and skilled, a confident, vibrantly healthy and attractive better-you butterfly. Now is the time. Choose wisely….

 

…..we so badly wanted to put a gif from the Indiana Jones’ movie Temple of Doom but resisted :D.

Works Cited

(1) Health Resources & Services Administration. The “Loneliness Epidemic.” https://www.hrsa.gov/enews/past-issues/2019/january-17/loneliness-epidemic

(2) Neil Howe. “Millennials and the Loneliness Epidemic.” 3 May 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/neilhowe/2019/05/03/millennials-and-the-loneliness-epidemic/#430350127676

Minimalism as Maximalism

minimalism

In our city and throughout the nation, people are showing an increased interest in minimalism as way of downsizing from the McMansions while addressing debt, stress and overwhelm, and feeling of isolation.

The Minimalists movie, which came out about a week ago, is a documentary about minimalism as a way of focusing on the important aspects of life. Early in the film, we learn of two friends, Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, and their discovery that climbing the corporate ladder, having a 6-figure income and lots of stuff wasn’t fulfilling them. Joshua had some heart-breaking transitions in his life (divorce and the death of his mother in the same month), but Ryan saw that he still seemed to have a greater sense of peace and calm in life. So Ryan took Joshua out to lunch and asked why. Minimalism. Through the conversation, Joshua explained the concept and Ryan became radically inspired. How do I do this and quickly, he asked. They came up with the idea of a packing party. Ryan drastically reduced his possessions and they both went on to create The Minimalists blog and to share the message of living a more meaningful life.

Minimalism is slightly counter-culture to the consumerist society we live in. It causes us to examine and challenge the beliefs we hold to be true – some inculcated early in life by marketing; and it is all based on fear. How could you possibly attract the love of your life with that breakout on your nose? Use our face wash or concealer. We’ve defined success and it’s driving in this car, the commercial will say. Who cares if you go into debt for any of your acquisitions? Everyone else has debt too, so take comfort that you are still part of the in-group. Besides, here is a bank with low-interest rates so you can ‘save’ enough money to take your family on a fabulous vacation. All of these messages sell us on the idea that we are not enough, but that we can spend our money on things that will makes us better, happier, successful people. And we’ve had a strong history of falling for it.

In our view, minimalism causes all of us to critically think about our lives – the choices, job, items, and relationships – and to remove the layers that stand between us and maximizing the freedom and joy in our lives. This could take the form of removing physical items from the environment – clearing out clothes, old shoes, picture frames, or miscellany – and it can also take the form of reducing the activities or social ties we have which don’t bring a sense of growth or joy. By doing this, we create SPACE. Space not for more stuff, but for the dreams bubbling beneath the surface of depression or malaise. Space for new people who inspire and share similar values to come into our lives. We provide space for ourselves to relax for an afternoon reading Truman Capote by the pool.

One does not need to pare down to 175 items or renounce all pleasures in life that require gear or tools. To start exploring minimalism as an idea that may benefit you, start with this inquiry:

“What is one item or activity you could minimize today that will help maximize growth or joy?”tweet this