A Haute Mess: Finding your style guru.

It’s time for me to follow the fashion advice I’ve been dutifully doling out during this blog series. And it’s good advice! I’ve done a majority of the grunt work involved in spearheading the makeover I so desperately need. I’ve taken inventory of my clothes and I’ve asked my friends what they think of my current style. Most importantly, I’ve thought about the image I want to project to the world and am now in the process of identifying which style gurus can help bring me in line with said image.

Jennifer AnistonIn my last blog post I emphasized the importance of finding a style statement. I’ve discovered that my own statement is effortless elegance. To put it simply, I want to look good and I don’t want to have to put in a lot of work to do so. The life of a corseted and contoured Instagram baddie isn’t for me. So what is? Well, let’s take a look at my new style gurus, shall we?

Jennifer Aniston: I bet y’all didn’t expect to find a white chick here! I absolutely adore the simple silhouettes a classic beauty like Aniston depends on. It seems as though the actress spends 75 percent of her life in t-shirts and jeans and the other 25 percent in a sleek sheath. And that is the exact fashion goal I have for myself. Aniston’s wardrobe is one made up of dependable classics—white button down shirt, black tank, etc.—that make any and every woman look wonderful.

Renee Elise GoldsberryRenee Elise Goldsberry: I’ve been sweating this woman’s style for a good decade now, so please don’t assume I’m a Hamilton groupie! I love the fact that Goldsberry is able to achieve a look that is so blatantly hyperfeminine with such ease—especially in a society that strives to bar black women from achieving the label of feminine in the first place. You won’t find caked-on makeup or frilly dresses with an exorbitant amount of ruffles. While Goldsberry does enjoy patterns far more than Aniston, the lines are still clean and simple. Goldsberry is very much a natural and elegant beauty.

Toni BraxtonToni Braxton: There have been many many times when Miss Toni arrived on the scene looking like a fashion nightmare in an outfit that was far too tight or too short. I still love her though. One, because I am also guilty of owning a few XS shirts that I should have bought in an M or maybe even an L. Two, because no matter what she is wearing, Toni Braxton always looks dainty. That has been her one true constant through drastically changing styles and weight fluctuations. I’d chalk it up to Toni’s diminutive height, but I’m also absurdly short and haven’t managed to achieve the same. I’ll keep watching the siren to see if I can learn her secret.

Kerry WashingtonKerry Washington: If Toni Braxton always looks dainty, Kerry Washington always looks classy. The woman could walk into a black-tie event in ripped jeans and still be the best dressed person in the room. She has a much wider style range than I could ever hope to achieve, easily swinging from sultry to sweet at a moment’s notice. Never in my life have I been sultry, but her prim and fresh-faced looks speak to me a great deal.

So I have my style gurus! The next step is to take an honest look at my closet and my beauty routine and see if their styles mesh with my own. I know what you’re thinking. Can you possibly ape the style of a woman with a budget so far beyond your own? 

Stay tuned.

A Haute Mess: Style and substance.

When the world is falling apart you might as well look your best. After all, you never know when a television crew will want a “man on the street” opinion about our ensuing apocalypse. You never know if the love of your life will be waiting around the corner, or at a protest, or tying up the line at Target. So be ready. And if you aren’t ready? Fake it until you make it. To reiterate, always look your best. And please note the emphasis on the word your.

Who am I? Trends come and go, but style is personal. And it is personal because it is tied into your personality. If you feel that you are in a fashion rut the first order of business is to grab a pen, a sheet of paper, and few friends and family members. Why? Because you’re going to need some information on your favorite subject. You.

Ask those closest to you how they would describe you. Make sure to set aside comments about your appearance. Instead zero in on what is said about your temperament and body language. The answers here are key. Are you considered brusque and demanding? Shy and prim? Bawdy and sensual? Consider if the adjectives listed by your loved ones match those you’d give to yourself.

What image am I projecting to the world? Remember all those comments about your appearance that I told you to set aside? Go and get them. You’ll need to mull over those observations in order to gauge whether the way you look is in conflict with the way you act. And should that be the case, it likely explains the style rut that you are in or the inability to feel comfortable in your own skin.

However, please remember that we don’t have full control over the images we project. Issues regarding race, weight, gender, and wealth do have an impact on how the world sees us. That is why it is so important to receive feedback from loved ones rather than fashion magazines or style gurus. You must hear from those who know you and can accurately ascertain the story you are telling with your clothes rather than listen to a stranger who would use bigotry to evaluate your story via your weight or the color of your skin or the shape of your body.

What image do I want to project to the world? This is the fun part. My darlings, it is time for you to create a mood board. Now you can hit up the fashion magazines and style gurus. Open up Pinterest (or Tumblr, or a scrapbook) and start saving images of styles you’d love to take as your own. We are purely in the realm of fantasy here so don’t limit yourself. Yes, go on and throw a photo of Beyoncé in there. And while you’re pulling images together give yourself a style statement as well. What is the look you’re going for? I told a friend that my fashion goal for 2017 was Afro-futuristic Clair Huxtable. Find your own style statement and make sure the images you select reflect it.

Is the image I wish to project who I am? It’s time for a reality check after all that fantasizing. If everyone you know has described you as shy and retiring and your mood board is chock full of half-naked photos of Instagram baddies you’re going to have a problem. That’s not who you are. Make a note that you’d like to emphasize your sensuality and go back to the drawing board with the comments of your loved ones in mind. Start pruning. Eliminate looks you’d never feel comfortable wearing. Add those that bridge the gap between the person you are and who you’d like to be.

Yes, that’s a lot of homework I’ve just given you all! But the end result, mastering that “glo up challenge,” is worth all that hard work in the end.

A Haute Mess: Battling body image.

I spent thirty seconds wondering if a garter snake was loose in my bathroom this morning and was amused to find out that the hissing noise was actually the sound of my thighs rubbing together in my “new” yoga pants.

There’s a point to this odd story. I purchased three pair of Russell athletic pants at a closeout sale for $5.00 dollars each over a year ago. (Yes, I am the bargain queen.) They’d been sitting in my closet, neatly folded and unworn, for months. Until yesterday. The last pair of threadbare Hanes sweatpants I own—my daily uniform—have paint all over them and I can no longer wear them out of the house. (I actually did wear them to go pick up more paint at Home Depot, but I’ve developed a healthy sense of shame since then.) And so, I had to do something I hadn’t done in a long time.

I had to wear the clothes in my closet.My "shame" drawer

You see, I normally wear clothes from what is essentially a “shame drawer” filled with cheap clothes I regret purchasing and shapeless items I bought in the hopes that they would render me invisible. The contents are as follows

  • 4 blouses likely made of a highly flammable synthetic material
  • 2 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of paint-covered sweatpants
  • 2 thermal Henley tops
  • 3 t-shirts

I hate everything in the drawer. It is truly the hell to my closet’s heaven. So why does it exist? When I dig deep to answer that question I am horrified by the answer. I don’t deserve nice things. It’s the only explanation I have for why I pass by a closet filled with clothes carefully curated for a stylish woman only to pull on a pair of old sweatpants every day. It’s the only explanation I have for why I consistently buy clothes for a woman who isn’t me. Because I’ll let you in on a little secret. When I bought those yoga pants months ago? They didn’t fit. And when I finally wore them yesterday? I felt anxious for about a good twenty minutes. I felt like a fraud—and probably would have sobbed like a cornered criminal had one of the trophy wives occasionally dotting the landscape commented on my outfit.

So what should you take away from this fairly strange story about my fashion fumbles?

You deserve nice things. Please be aware that I am not cosigning you buying that dress that you know damn well is beyond your budget. What I want to impress upon you is that no matter your size, shade, height, body shape, or income level, you have a good body. And that good body should have stylish and comfortable clothes that fit.

Every day is an event. Look, you’re alive, fam. You’re breathing. That good body got you out of bed this morning. Celebrate it. Every single day. Those jeans that make your butt look incredible? Why have you only worn them twice in the past twelve months? Why should you only feel like a million dollars on date night when you can feel that way standing in line at the grocery store? Life is hard, b. Squeeze every moment of joy out of it you can.

Fashion should never be a punishment. The absolute worst advice I ever heard was a man tell a woman who was unhappy with her weight that she should throw out all of her clothes and buy new clothes in a size six in order to motivate herself to lose weight. Listen, your weight is going to fluctuate. Do not throw out your “fat” clothes! Do not throw out your “skinny” clothes! Keep all the clothes you love and wear them when they fit. There’s only one Oprah. The rest of us can’t afford the financial burden of buying new wardrobes every time we gain or lose ten pounds. And we can’t afford the emotional burden of looking at a closet full of beautiful clothes that don’t fit us. It is damaging to one’s self-esteem. And that damage remains even if the weight is lost. If you can’t rifle through your wardrobe and find three outfits that fit, look good on you, and make you feel good right now? Go shopping.

Wait, I don’t mean right now! After all, we’re about organization and proper planning in 2017. Every mission needs a mission statement. Next up we’ll talk about whether the man or woman you want to be is the one that’s hanging in your closet. And what to do about it if he or she isn’t.

A haute mess of a wardrobe.

ClosetOn December 31 I cleaned out my bedroom closet and made a list of what I needed to complete a basic wardrobe. It wasn’t a difficult task since I am already frighteningly organized. I ordered a few items and the rest I’ll find over the next couple of months at consignment shops. My relatives frequently remark that it’s odd that I have a closet full of clothes and yet wear the same thing every day. And it is. When I worked in an office I wore a turtleneck every single day—the same exact style and brand, five different colors. The situation has gotten worse as turtlenecks and slacks have been replaced by t-shirts and sweatpants. However, this ends now. Or roughly two weeks from now giving shipping timeframes.

In the past I used fashion (or a lack thereof) as a punishment for my weight. This is an absurd and harmful stance to take and if you have the notion in your head that you don’t deserve nice things because of an arbitrary number please seek counseling and the location of your nearest Macy’s immediately.

I am kidding about the Macy’s unless they are having a really good sale.

The fact of the matter is that when I’m anxious I eat and when I’m sad I hike. And I have hiked myself to the point where my anxiety uniforms—Hanes sweatpants and long-sleeved t-shirts—do not fit. I need to wear clothes that (1) fit and (2) do not look threadbare and worn. Dress better to feel better. That motto applies to all.

ClosetThankfully, I have a nearly complete wardrobe hanging in my closet from the first go-round of my “sad hikes” period. And said wardrobe is the reason for this post and the occasional fashion posts that will follow over the course of the year. Building an entire wardrobe from scratch is a ridiculously expensive undertaking—for everyone but me. See, I am the bargain whisperer.

After the cut I make a list of what I believe constitutes a basic wardrobe. (Granted, this list has been tailored to my own personal needs and tastes.) In later posts we’ll discuss what I’ve spent (certainly not much) and where to get the best deals. I’m no fashionista—I have a full-length leopard-print robe that’d look just right on Peggy Bundy—but I can tell you where to go to get what’s best for you and make sure you don’t overspend once you get there.

Let’s take a look at the list! Continue reading A haute mess of a wardrobe.