Today's Everyday Fashion: Mixing Fun Fluff and Deep Thoughts

Inspiration:  ASOS

Inspiration: ASOS


Most days when I come here to blog, I prefer to keep it light. I'm all about fun "fashion fluff!" After 7 years and a couple thousand blog posts though, I really started to crave going deeper, and having a more meaningful conversation. Which lead to writing a book, as well as some more in-depth posts lately: why work attire really matters, wear what you wantfair trade vs. fast fashion, and an open letter to the woman wearing the $10,000 purse on Instagram. I've been loving your responses and hearing your stories! So I wanted to ask: with what regularity would you like to see these types of posts? And are there any issues or topics you would like to tackle? What scenarios or dilemmas hold you back most from enjoying getting dressed? (You can email me at <j at> if you prefer to talk privately!) I don't think I'll ever stop doing fluff - in fact, the thesis of my book is that we should feel totally okay with fluff, there's no need to explain ourselves or justify our actions - but I'd like to do some deeper posts, as well. Would love to hear your thoughts.

About today's look: can I get an amen and hallelujah for a fair trade outfit (top + skirt) that is actually fun and colorful?!! I've worn the top before, and the skirt is part of ASOS' Made In Kenya collection, which apparently has been a thing for awhile but I recently stumbled upon it. This is exactly what I was talking about in my fair trade post, in wanting to see more variety, color, and affordability from fair trade brands. I would wear this outfit for an event, or switch to a ruffle sleeve blouse to make it work appropriate!  

Top: Everlane c/o, price varies (fair trade)
Skirt: ASOS, $38 (fair trade)
Shoes: Saks Off Fifth, $60 (similarsimilarsimilar)
Necklace: boutique c/o, old (similar, similar, similar)
Purse: My Stella & Dot
Earrings: Kate Spade outlet, $15 (same)
Approx. dates: Necklace is 5 years ago. Shoes are 3 years ago. Purse is 2 years ago. Top is 1 year ago. Skirt is new.

Midi skirts on a budget

Nordstrom  /  Asos  /  Asos  /  Amazon
Modcloth  /  Nordstrom  /  Asos  /  Amazon
Modcloth  /  Nordstrom  /  Modcloth  /  Modcloth

An Open Letter To The Woman Wearing The $10,000 Purse on Instagram

I can’t believe I’m writing you this letter; I’m not usually this forthcoming. But there are some very important things I want to speak to your heart today, although it’s probably not what you are expecting.

An Open Letter To The Woman Wearing The $10,000 Purse on Instagram

Fifteen years ago this letter would’ve taken a very different tone. I was raised to be frugal, to waste nothing and to want not, to prioritize those in need before myself. Your $10,000 purse would’ve seemed superfluous to me, and I would’ve immediately written you off as shallow. When I was young I thought I knew it all, but time and experience have been a valiant instructor and what once seemed like a black and white case now seems ever-so-gray, with vast oceans in between. When I look at you now, I see:

My dear friend Amanda who inherited her grandmother’s Louis Vuitton purse. She misses her nana, and doesn’t want the purse go to waste, so she carried it to church the other day. And there were glances and whispers passed between members of her congregation who were no doubt experiencing some of those same feelings I described above.

A popular blogger whose success has made her millions, but whose guilt prevents her from dressing how she really wants. She purchased several thousand dollars of designer goods from a friend’s store recently, apologizing that she couldn’t post to social media, because it would upset her readers. “When I post anything over $200, people attack me,” she told my friend.

A successful businesswoman named Harriett who grew up poor and whose hard work earned her a salary she never dreamed of. And after decades of all work and no play, and millions donated to charity, she finally splurged on the one special gift she always wanted for herself: a designer purse.

An Open Letter To The Woman Wearing The $10,000 Purse on Instagram

I see these people when I see you, and I recognize:

I don’t know your heart. Unless your heart has magically morphed itself into the leather and metal object that swings from your arm, I can only see your purse. And so… it’s just not for me to judge.

I don't know your circumstances. What if your purse was a gift, or the result of diligent work? What if you donated a million to charity and only took $10,000 for yourself? How do I know under what pretenses or for what purpose you purchased it, or with what spirit you carry it? And so… it’s just not for me to judge.

There's already so much pressure. The world is full of hard edges and a maze of demands when it comes to a woman’s appearance. One extreme tries to entice us to sell our soul to obtain that $10,000 purse (or the plastic surgery, or the new outfit), but the other extreme is just as bad (shaming and cajoling you for buying it), and I prefer not to participate in either. What I’ve learned over the years is that one extreme doesn’t heal the other. You’ll never fix what you want to fix by repeating the same mistake. And there's so much healthy gray area to explore in between. And so… it’s just not for me to judge.

There’s another person I see in that photo that I haven’t mentioned yet, though: me.

An Open Letter To The Woman Wearing The $10,000 Purse on Instagram

I didn't have the money to buy your purse then, so looking back I wonder how much my feelings were about not being able to have it? I've chosen a road less traveled with the financial blessings of my adulthood; I just don't covet or buy designer things even though I can afford them now. Would I have made the same decisions then, though? I can't say for sure. Under different circumstances, maybe I would have or will someday purchase the same purse you did. And so... it's just not for me to judge.

I know what being judged feels like. And I discovered that no matter how responsible you are with clothes, no matter how budget-friendly, how much more $ you donate to charity, how much you stick to your values, you’ll still receive backlash. I've received hundreds of comments over the years: clothes horse, addicted to shopping, vain, narcissistic, not abiding by your faith. No clothing budget will ever be small enough, no purse cheap enough. There is no end to the rabbit hole. And so… it’s just not for me to judge.

I felt guilty about clothes for years, so maybe you feel a little guilty about your purse, too? If so, I want to reach out and hug you and tell you not to listen to the noise. I want to shout YOU DO YOU, girl. I know that guilt. And I know grace is the answer, because most of us are already guilting ourselves to some extent. And so… it’s just not for me to judge.

An Open Letter To The Woman Wearing The $10,000 Purse on Instagram

In closing, I want to propose a partnership among women. To stop the guilt and the shame about fashion altogether - from ourselves and from others, whether you’re wearing a $10,000 purse or a $10 purse. You can’t judge a book by its cover, and you certainly can’t judge a girl by her purse.

Fashion is serious business in many ways. Dress codes, social cues, nonverbal communication, the environment, finances, the workplace and body image are all so important. But at the end of the day, fashion is also meant to be marvelously fun. So my hope for all women, myself included, is to find a place of confidence and self-assurance that allows personal style to be authentically our own, unaffected by those around us, and ultimately, a source of great joy, with no strings attached. The world is your fashion oyster. And I hope you enjoy every last ounce of it.

[[ This post is adapted from an excerpt in my book. Head to Amazon for more. ]]

An Open Letter To The Woman Wearing The $10,000 Purse on Instagram

Today's Everyday Fashion: Is This Dress Too Austin Powers?


I am the absolute worst at making decisions. This dress has been sitting in my closet for two weeks, and I can't decide if I like it!! Typically, if you're on the fence about something, then I'd say it's a "no." But it's the "maybes" that haunt me. Half the time, they wind up being my favorite thing in my closet! And the other half, I deeply regret it. The maybes are the WORST!! And this dress is a definite maybe. I keep trying it on with different accessories, asking my husband to weigh in, and finally thought photos would solve it, but NOPE. (Highly recommend having a friend snap a phone pic if you're unsure though, photos help a lot.) So now I'm asking your input: is this dress boho chic, or Austin Powers? How would you style it?

ps. Thanks for all the recommendations on dress pants last week! I've been doing some digging, and hit the jackpot of fun colors and shapes, see below. They are BOGO 50% off right now so I ordered four pairs - one, two, five and one!

Dress: H&M, $40 (keeping?)
Shoes: Dolce Vita, $50 (samesimilar)
Purse: Stella & Dot, old (similarsimilar)
Necklace: My Stella & Dot
Earrings: My Stella & Dot
Sunglasses: Charlotte Russe, $4 (similarsimilar)
Approx. dates: Purse is 5 years ago. Shoes are 3 years ago. Sunglasses and necklace are 1 year ago. Earrings are recent. Dress is new (keeping?).

Colorful dress pants on a budget

One  /  Two  /  Three  /  Four  /  Five  /  Six
One  /  Two  /  Three  /  Four  /  Five  /  Six

Today's Everyday Fashion: Why Work Attire Really Matters

Red sweater, windowpane pants, stripe heels
Red sweater, windowpane pants, white coat
Red sweater, windowpane pants, white coat
Red sweater, windowpane pants, stripe heels
Inspiration:  Gilt

Inspiration: Gilt


The work theme continues this week, with an outfit certainly not intended for wallflowers! Which begs the question: when have we gone too far? When are we raising too many eyebrows? I'm not talking about differing opinions about what's in style this season, I mean when is wearing a bold outfit an actual threat to your job? Because beyond practicality and our own sartorial preferences, there is an additional layer of politics to consider when it comes to work attire. Research shows that women who wear makeup make higher salaries, for example. And I would argue that our clothes play a similar role. (And that wearing "too much" makeup in some cases could have the opposite result!) In general I don't like generalizations (see what I did there) but consider two scenarios:

A job that values innovation, creativity and the individuality likely values strong style statements. 
A job that values adherence to rules and teamwork likely frowns upon strong style statements.

A job could value strong style statements because it shows you care about the details. You're thoughtful, creative, you go the extra mile, and you're confident enough to pull it off. A different job could see that same style statement as a distraction though. A waste of time on frivolous things and quite frankly... how did the clown escape the circus in those pants? :-) There is no wrong side, because every office is different. But what is our response? We can identify and be aware of which traits our employer values, and then decide (this part is important!) if and when we want to play along. I would argue that what we wear at work is unequivocally important, but it's also up to us what exactly we want to do about it. Perhaps you want to push the limits and make a case for thinking outside the box at your job, or perhaps it makes more sense to stay conservative for the longterm health of your career. How does fashion play out in your office or industry? Do you feel like personal style is embraced?

Coat: Zara, $89 (similarsimilar)
Sweater: J.Crew Factory, $29 (plussimilarsimilar)
Ribbon pin: Nordstrom, $29 (similarsimilarsimilar)
Pants: J.Crew Factory, $24 (similar, similar, similar, plus)
Shoes: Payless, $20 (similar below)
Purse: Marc Jacobs/Saks Off 5th, $288 (similarsimilarsimilar)
Earrings: Kate Spade outlet, $15 (same)
Approx. dates: Pants, shoes and purse are 3 years ago. Sweater, coat are 1 year ago. Ribbon pin is recent. 

Stripe shoes on a budget