Clothes, and wearing them.

There have been a lot of new things to navigate since getting married. One of them is this: I am no longer alone when I choose what to wear in the morning.

Getting dressed has always been an ordeal for me. In college, my personal style transformed approximately 5,000 times, which mostly just left me utterly confused when it came time to get dressed. I’d put on clothes that had felt absolutely right the day before and like nothing about them.Things I’d liked for years lay unworn at the bottom of my drawers. By senior year, I basically naturally fell into a capsule wardrobe, but not because I had actually done the work of weeding out the clothes I didn’t need. Instead, I just had to reach for the same things over and over again to feel the most like myself. It was like my style sort of clicked into place and the bright shining stars in my wardrobe rose above the riffraff and I knew exactly what to do. Now my most favorite pieces are mostly thrifted gems from throughout the dark days of the college style changes (I’m talking about you, beautiful patent leather loafers from that salvation army in Fort Wayne, IN!) and some well-timed investment additions. Still, most days it doesn’t feel easy, even though my closet has been becoming even more capsule-y and homogenous (aka, denim and stripes all day every day, in varying neutral tones). It’s a crazy cycle, you guys, and every time I think I’ve found my uniform, the old restlessness comes out again, or I put it on in the morning and by 2 pm I’m racing to the dresser to put on something, anything else.

It used to be a solitary thing, this closet turmoil, the curating and culling of my wardrobe. But now, it all, all of it, the wrestling, the trying on 6 different tops and throwing them all on the bed in disgust, the sighing, the whining, the pacing, the rummaging, it all happens in proximity to another person, a person I like a lot, a person that thinks I’m beautiful all the time. It should be empowering, you know? To hear him say that he doesn’t care what I wear, that he likes all of my clothes, that I always look good, that my style is fantastic. That should be all I need to feel good in my clothes. But, it’s not. I have a new shame in my restlessness, my closet angst, that has been surprising to me. It’s like, the jig is up. I can no longer pretend that it’s effortless, that I just threw something on, no big whoop. It is a big whoop and Isaiah’s there for all of it. This new sense of being seen in this area of my life has forced me to look at my unrest, my weird clothing shame, and try to actually deal with it. To maybe figure out something new so that I don’t find myself in tears ten minutes before we have to leave in front of my confused husband. It doesn’t have to be that way, right?

But it’s not always bad. In the onset of deep fall I feel on the right track. And for as many times I feel frustrated with my clothes, I have a lot of days that I feel beautiful in what I wear. There are quite a few pieces in my wardrobe right now that I like ALL THE TIME, that feel appropriately adult and Chicago, that make me feel not invisible. I have a manageable and reasonable list of pieces that I’m on the lookout for. Most days I don’t find myself racing to change in the middle of the day. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of old clothes, I’ve hidden less-loved clothing under the bed to see if I miss it, I’m inching my way to wardrobe peace. It also helps that I LOVE dressing for fall. Being reunited with my sweaters and coats was like seeing dear, dear friends again. So, I’m doing okay.

But it’s never over. The more I wander the internet, especially in this season of blogging, the more I grow weary of the wardrobe perfection that is presented on almost every blog, every online shopping website, instagram, Facebook, everywhere. Clothes are a complicated currency, and it makes me sad to see how little people talk about the less pretty parts of getting dressed. In pursuit of fleeting wardrobe ease,  I’ve looked at all the style blogs, I’ve read all the capsule-building tips, I’ve shopped till I dropped, and, in turn, I continue to sometimes look at my closet in despair. No matter how easy people make it look, it is not easy. Rather than yearn for the fake perfection of fancy lifestyle blogs, I’d rather remember that no person, and especially no woman, has a completely effortless and peaceful relationship with clothing. It’s hard. It’s actually very for real hard. And it’s okay to feel bad about it. It’s okay to feel good about it. And most of all, it is very, very okay to care about it. It is good to let clothes matter, It’s okay to care deeply about what you wear. We wear clothes every day and people see us in clothes every single time they see us. They’re the overcoats of our souls. Life is too short to wear clothes we don’t like.

So we all just have to figure it out. One long-winded Goodwill search or gritted-teeth Anthropologie splurge or closet purge, rummage, and plunder at a time.


This blog post was sort of induced by a book I’m reading right now, Women in Clothes, created by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton.

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This book provides a wonderfully fresh and honest look at clothes and the act of wearing, choosing, and owning them through the thoughts and experiences of tons of real women. It’s like a collective memoir, complied through the help of a very thorough survey created by the three authors of the book. They basically just asked a ton of women a ton of questions about clothes, and the women answered beautifully. These women talk about their favorite clothes, they talk about their least favorite clothes, their mothers, their hair, their shoes, their bras, their friends, everything.

I’ve always been fascinated by the clothes that people choose. When I people-watch (a frequent pastime, especially since moving to the city), the first thing I wonder at is their clothes. Why are you wearing that today? Is it your favorite? Are you comfortable? Do you like how you look today? Are you trying to feel invisible, because you’re not. Reading this book is like hearing the thoughts and stories of all the people I watch on the street and at the library, passing by. And it is also a chance to look at myself, to ask myself the same questions I wonder about other people. Why am I wearing what I’m wearing? What do I love to wear? How do I choose my clothing? Do I like how I look today? Do I like how I looked yesterday?

I’m not finished with the book yet. I intend to work my way through it over the next few weeks. It is a book to take in slowly, I think, to pick up and put down. It’s long, like a tome sort of, with beautiful design and just the right amount of pictures. I got the book from the library, but you can buy it here.


MY FAVORITE PIECES:

Since it is so easy for me to default to feeling negative about my wardrobe sometimes, I want to celebrate the things I love to wear, the clothes I’m proud to put on, the things that I stand a little taller and stronger in. These are the clothes I reach for over and over again. I love them. They’ve done me well.

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THRIFTED CASHMERE PULLOVER

This sweater was literally the Goodwill find of a lifetime. I touched that cashmere on the rack and I couldn’t believe it. The most beautiful Eileen Fischer cashmere sweater in perfect condition and a current cut. I couldn’t believe my luck. This is by far my favorite sweater for fall. I love you, soft, soft sweater.


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THRIFTED BLUE SWING TANK

This tank top makes me feel so beautiful when I wear it. I wore it all summer, and now I’ve been carrying it over to fall, topping it with cardigans, popping it over leggings. It’s a beautiful cut, and the stitching is special. One of my favorite things. I love you, blue swing tank.


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THRIFTED STRIPED TEE

This is literally vintage JC Penney. I picked it up at the thrift store despite the relatively frumpy cut it had at first because of how wonderfully thick the fabric was. The shirt used to have about seven more inches of fabric at the bottom, making it very bunchy and dumpy.  When I got home, I cropped it way off and found myself with the perfect striped top. I wear this, like, at least four times a week. It always works. I love you, striped tee.


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LEVIS COTTON BLOUSE

This one was a beautiful and worthwhile splurge. I bought it full price, which is something I almost never do, but it was just beautiful and lovely and something I knew I’d wear for years. I’m so glad I bought it, because it has already done me very well. It’s timeless and lovely and fits me like a glove, and I can wear it with jeans or slacks and always feel put together. Don’t you love the detailing? I love you, pretty blouse.


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BLACK TEE

I don’t own enough black, I think. This is one of my only black tops, and I feel strong and beautiful every time I wear it. I found it at Buffalo Exchange in Wicker Park, a kick-butt second-hand shop. It fit me just perfectly, and is a different silhouette than I usually look for in tees. It’s done me well. Black makes me feel mysterious. I love you, mysterious black tee.


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JCREW BLUE JEANS

These are magic jeans. There is no other way to explain them. I look great in them and they are comfortable and they are the perfect color and they make me just a little bit cooler than I usually am because the knee is ripped, and I never thought I’d own a pair of jeans this magic and ON SALE, no less. I’m thankful for the day I found these jeans on the JCrew sale rack. Good day. Good jeans. I wear these almost every day. I love you, magic jeans.


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VINTAGE DENIM JACKET

I bought this denim jacket at Ragstock in Wicker Park (a weird vintage wonderland), and I’ve been wearing it all fall. It feels like a good 55 degrees in the city jacket. I’ve never owned a good denim jacket before (how did I escape it as a child of the nineties??), and I never knew how truly versatile and cozy it can be to be braced against cold wind in a trusty denim jacket. A staple. I feel like I’ll wear it for years. I love you, denim jacket.


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ANTHROPOLOGIE SCARF

I’d been on a scarf hunt for weeks, having lost my favorite scarf of all time last season. It was a grey seed-stitched muff scarf and I wore it literally every day last winter. And lost it. And died a little in my heart. So, I needed a new scarf, and I looked and looked until i found this BEAUTY at Anthropologie. It was expensive, but I bought it, swearing to Isaiah that I’d wear it every day blustery day this winter. It’s warm, it’s special, it’s big enough to really wrap me up, and I’m proud of myself for buying something sort of bold and lovely. Look at that yellow! I never wear yellow! But winter needs more yellow and I do too. I love you, gorgeous pricey scarf.


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VINTAGE LEATHER BAG

Another treasure found at Buffalo Exchange in Wicker Park. I needed a bag that zipped and this one is old and worn, with scratches and splotches all over the leather. Someone else’s initials are monogrammed into the front latch. “KI”. Who is KI? I’ll never know? But I’m “AB” and I carry this bag now all over Chicago and it always feels right and it carries more than it looks like it would including the all essential umbrella and I love it. I love you, sweet splotchy leather bag.


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VINTAGE CLOGS

I’ve had clog-envy for a long time, and I’d gaze and gaze at $200 versions in various parts of the internet. It was beginning to get painful, especially as fall set in. I wanted wanted wanted clogs. And then i remembered Ebay. Sweet sweet Ebay. I found these vintage beauties (literal Swedish hippie clogs from the seventies) for $25 and I’ve never looked back. I wear these seriously everyday. At first they gave me blisters but then I wore them so much that they got soft and kind and now they are perfect. I love you, hippie clogs.


WISH LIST:

  1. The perfect navy sweater. I’ve been trying to thrift for this for ages but have always come up dry. Ideally, I’m looking for something with a fairly loose cut and just the right amount of crop. Maybe something like this? But don’t want to pay full price. I’ll just keep up the thrift hunt, I suppose.
  2. These gorgeous and soft looking shoes by Hobes. All their shoes are lovely, but this color is especially lovely. I feel like I might have trouble keeping them clean, but they’re beautiful. And so soft. Like ballet slippers but a little more polished.
  3. A new pair of comfortable ankle boots, appropriate for daily cold-weather Chicago walking. This need is a code level RED need. All of a sudden, all of my boots give me blisters, and for the amount of walking I do these days, that is not okay. Figuring it out. Any suggestions? I like these and these from Madewell, but I don’t know if they’d be comfy enough. These chelsea boots are beautiful but pricey from Frye. We’ll see.

FAVORITE SHOPS:

  1. Everlane. This shop has it all. Ethical production, great materials, beautiful timeless cuts, fairly reasonable prices for high quality clothes, plus great shoes and bags. I don’t own anything from Everlane yet, but the next time I’m looking to add a really nice investment to my wardrobe, I’ll look here first. My favorite things right now are this cardiganthis sweaterthis striped tee, and these shoes.
  2. Bridge and Burn. This shop has beautiful clothing for the part of me that wishes to live deep in the damp woods. Their outerwear is beautiful and very well made. They make small runs of their products in ethical factories, and the quality is noticeable. Great clothes. I’m especially into this shirtdress and this jacket.
  3. Madewell. Out of all the mall-ish stores, Madewell is my very favorite. Mine and everyone else’s. You know the feeling when you walk in a store and you want it to be your closet? I want Madewell to be my closet. Hands down. I don’t love everything they do, but definitely most things. Especially this turtleneck, this bag, and this coat.
  4. Taylor Stitch. Beautiful clothes, manufactured responsibly, and focusing on really well made oxford shirts and related styles. My picks are this gorgeous denim shirtdress and this black oxford.
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