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On Beauty and Self-Love, Regardless

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I was never the pretty girl.

I was the smart one. The quiet one. Sometimes cute, but never beautiful. In any group of girls my age, I mentally ranked my looks, and found them lacking. I stared into the mirror, fantasizing about having a different face. It would be slimmer, sharper, poutier; I would have dark hair, and it would be straight. I ate what the media fed me, critiquing my body in contradicting cycles. My hipbones were not as sharp as glass. My breasts were not large and perfectly round. My hair was not glossy and sleek. Even when I was incredibly thin, even when I straightened my hair, even when I allowed myself to gain weight and plenty of it went to my bust - it was not enough. I was not enough.

At my wedding rehearsal dinner, my mother-in-law told my father I had his nose. He said, “Poor girl.”

Who can say why I spun physical beauty into the apex of worthiness? My intelligence and creativity didn’t matter to me. I already owned them, I’d already gotten the credit. But beauty was different. Beauty was something you were given, not something you could earn or learn. Beauty was just out of reach. Beauty was virtue.

I know it sounds dramatic, a real first world problem, but after so many adults telling you how creative you are and how beautiful your sister is, after seeing so many images in the media of what beauty "is," you come to think of yourself as the ugly one.

And I settled for less of everything in my life because of it.

I learned, later, that beauty will not save you. Beauty will not shield you from abandonment, from hardship, from fighting with your own shadow. Beauty will not give you self worth. Beauty will not give you love. Beauty is just beauty.

I learned this because people began to tell me I was beautiful.

And at first, I felt victorious. I felt I had TRICKED people into thinking I was pretty, that the right colors and the right clothing styles had pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes, that I had performed the most amazing costume change imaginable. That I finally deserved to look for the man of my dreams and ask for what I wanted and show up in the world as a flesh and blood woman with ideas and desires of her own.

It took years for it to occur to me - really occur to me, on a core level - that the autumn lipsticks and half-circle skirts weren’t magic. They could not and did not transform me into a person I wasn’t before. I looked like this all along, but I stopped trying to look like someone else. Which catapulted me toward healing.

Loving yourself is a practice. There are days when I look at myself and think, damn girl. And then there are days when I make myself say nice things about myself in the mirror.

Practicing self-love is “about” a lot of things, from getting enough sleep to seeking out emotional support from others when needed. And for me, it also means refusing to wear clothes that encourage me to criticize my body. I don’t wear anything that makes me look like a distorted version of myself. I don’t squeeze myself into clothing that’s too small, or hide in clothing that’s shapeless. I don’t contour my face or go to any lengths to create the illusion that my bone structure is different than what it is. I don’t diet. I don’t wear makeup every day. I don’t buy things because I want to look like the model wearing it. I limit my time scrolling on Instagram and unfollow accounts that stir up feelings of inadequacy.

Frankly, I try not to think about whether I'm pretty or not. I endeavor to stay far away from that mental whirlpool. I wear clothes that fit comfortably and mirror the lines of my body, in colors that harmonize with my natural coloring. I love beautiful things, and I look for beautiful things that look like they belong with me. Anything that makes me feel less-than is not worth having.

I want to be very clear that I’m not writing this because I want you to comment and tell me that I’m pretty, because I really, really don't.

I'm writing this because I want you to know that you are not alone in the waves of Not-Enough. And the shore is closer than you think.

Then, Now

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A different kind of before and after: there are 14 months and about 35 pounds between these two photos.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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We're quick to congratulate weight loss and critique gain, but my lower weight was caused by stress, anxiety, an abusive relationship, and an increasing practice of self criticism.⁣⁣⁣
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My weight gain was caused by love.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
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Love for myself.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
Love for cooking and sharing meals as a form of connection.⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣
Love for the sensuality of the female form.⁣⁣⁣
A growing love and appreciation for *my* body.⁣⁣⁣⁣
Love for my children - they're always watching.
And love for and from a man who has always encouraged me to eat what I want when I'm hungry, whether it's a juicy salad or a sumptuous slice of cake.⁣⁣⁣
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On a more technical note, you can see here how my body accumulates and distributes fat in the same pattern regardless of size shifts. While weight changes sometimes cause me to make small adjustments to the styles I wear (belting at the waist vs not belting, for example), my image archetype has not changed.

How to Travel Cute and Light

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When I’m planning a trip, one of the first things that enters my mind is the question, “What am I going to wear?”

I travel fairly frequently for work and for pleasure. It’s important to me to stay true to my own personal style and feel good about what I’m wearing, while also packing lightly and appropriately for the events in question.

First, two obvious tips: Check the typical weather where you’re going, as well as the projected weather forecast during your trip. Also, google to see how the locals usually dress. I’m not that fussed about avoiding looking like a tourist on vacation - I am one, after all - but I do try to steer clear of committing a major fashion faux pas when visiting a foreign locale.

Consider your travel days. Don’t wear shoes that are difficult to get on/off or uncomfortable to walk in. Pack layers, because planes often go from steaming to freezing. Bring lip balm and hand lotion on the plane to combat the dry air, and make sure your carry-on is comfortable to actually carry instead of leaving you sweating through the airport.

Think about the vibe you want to project. This will depend on YOU, as well as where you’re going and what you’re going there for. A business trip calls for a different mood than a beach vacation with your sweetheart, but there should always be elements of your outfit that make it yours alone. Your calling card could be a pair of statement earrings, outfits composed of artfully layered colors, a signature hairstyle, some combination of the above or something else entirely!

Pack as simply and lightly as possible. So many of us are tempted to bring two outfit changes for every single day, but they’ll just take up space in your luggage and confuse you when you try to get dressed every morning.

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I’m a big fan of dresses for travel, because there’s no mixing or matching to mess with - they’re one piece and done! Of course, if it’s cold you will want to pair them with tights. I love fleece-lined tights for winter and often find them warmer than wearing pants; in really cold weather, I double them. On my last trip to Europe, which took place in the autumn, I brought a few of my favorite Toad & Co dresses, a couple pairs of tights, a cardigan, and a pashmina. All I had to do was rotate the combinations. On warmer days, I wore just the dress. On colder days, I wore the tights and the cardigan and the pashmina. It made getting dressed a breeze compared to my pants-and-a-top days, and I was a lot comfier.

Think about undergarments, too: bring practical bras that play well with all of your clothes. Don’t pack the red chiffon top that needs a special strapless bra you’ll only wear once.

If you’re traveling for work, don’t forget to pack some leisure clothes. You may find yourself with unexpected time to explore the city or meet up with a friend, and you don’t want to be stuck in business wear because you were were too singleminded while packing.

Work with a unified color palette. Packing a travel capsule is exponentially easier when you shop to your season or simply have a core group of colors that you wear. Pre-PCA, packing was a huge struggle for me. My tops went with a limited number of bottoms, I couldn’t mix and match layering pieces, I couldn’t improvise outfits once I reached my destination; it was a nightmare.

Bring a lightweight but roomy bag. Small bags are light and easy, but they can also be limiting. I like to have room in my bag for a scarf or cardigan, and I also love being able to stash smaller purchases (or pastries for later!) in my bag instead of carrying them around the city in plain sight and limiting my mobility. I went to Goodwill before my trip to Colombia and picked up a knit bag with a wide shoulder strap. It was absolutely perfect for my needs and garnered compliments while I was there. A chic little backpack could be a great choice.

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Accessories quickly spice up simple outfits while taking up very little space in your luggage. A cute pair of sunnies, colorful earrings, a few bracelets, a scarf in your hair - they all go a long way toward elevating your look. For those reasons, accessories are also my favorite thing to shop for while traveling.

Bring a great lipstick for an instant upgrade to your look. Lipstick is its own magic accessory.

Condense your toiletries. Even if you’re checking a bag, full-size toiletries are bulky and heavy, and not worth bringing in most cases. I decant my hair products into smaller plastic bottles and use contact lens cases for most of my skincare, which is a huge space saver. Pare down cosmetics to the essentials.

Don’t slack on your skincare routine. Wash your face every night and wear sunscreen! Travel can wreak havoc on your skin even with the most dialed-in routine, so don’t encourage breakouts or a blazing sunburn just because you got lazy. If you do break out, I swear by these hydrocolloid patches for reducing pimples overnight.

Pack comfortable, weather-appropriate shoes. I wore a cute-enough pair of sneakers 80% of the time we were in Colombia, and I was totally happy with that, even though they weren’t necessarily the finishing touch I’d pick for an outfit at home. We did a ton of walking, and I was happy my feet were happy. In Puerto Rico I wore a pair of Havaianas Luna sandals nonstop (looove them), and in Europe I lived in my Cobb Hill booties, which are forever my go-to for stylish winter walking shoes. Depending on the length of your trip, it’s a good idea to bring 2-3 different pairs of shoes so that you can rotate them out if you start to experience any discomfort. But once again, make sure they go with everything. It’s a huge pain when you can only wear certain shoes with certain outfits - you want an entire buffet of shoe/outfit options!

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Stick with what’s tried and true. Your vacation isn’t the time to test unfamiliar hair products or skincare, break in brand new sandals (trust me on this one), or experiment with a whole new look. If you need to, spend a few weeks before your trip “practicing.” If you bought new shoes, wear them around the house for a while each day to make sure they aren’t going to rub your heels raw. If you need an easy hairstyle for the beach, YouTube some hair braiding tutorials. Don’t pack a bunch of clothes you’ve never worn before; chances are they may not wear the way you expected them to.

At the end of the day, remember that you’re there to savor the experience of another place, not to look good. For whatever reason my hair behaved terribly in Colombia, falling flat and feeling gunky more days than not. I wasn’t happy about it, but I just washed my hair more frequently and didn’t let it disturb my mood. Accept that some days you might be wearing a basic tank top and shorts because it’s ridiculously hot or you’re going exploring in the rainforest, or maybe because how you look on vacation isn’t a priority of yours whatsoever, and that’s totally fine too.

Building a travel capsule is the perfect application for my PIA + 2 coaching sessions package. You’ll find out which styles work best for your body (and where to find them), take a deep dive into your style goals, and work one-on-one with me to ensure that you look fabulous on your trip. If you’re trying to build a capsule wardrobe for regular life, I can help with that, too!

Elevating Jeans and a Tee

Pretty boring, right?

Pretty boring, right?

I love a pencil skirt as much as the next personal stylist, but I’ll be honest: I field so many more questions about how to wear t-shirts and jeans. They’re casual, comfy, and with a little bit of tweaking, they can look every bit as stylish as that pencil skirt.

Your perfect jeans, perfect tee, and perfect accessories will all be informed by your personal image archetype, so there’s no one-size-fits-all, but I do have some tips for you:

As far as I’m concerned, any relatively basic top can qualify as the “tee” in this equation. For one woman this might be a solid-colored silk tank, for another it might be a graphic tee with the neckline cut out. It might be a striped knit boatneck with 3/4-length sleeves.

If you want to wear a literal t-shirt, ask yourself if the basic boxy cotton version is your best. If not, how can it be improved for your body shape? Do you need more curve to the waist? More flow? Should the hemline be curved, straight, or asymmetrical? How long should your t-shirt be?

Your neckline can easily turn a forgettable top into a statement piece. Is a closed-in neckline best for you, or an open one? A rounded neckline, or an angular one? Are there any eye-catching design details along the neckline such as lace, mesh, crochet, cutouts, embroidery, or grommets? I’m a big fan of neckline detailing because it frames the face and provides an opportunity for pleasing harmony with your facial features.

Do you know if skinny jeans are the best choice for you? What about flared, cropped, or trouser styles?

Jewelry and accessories are paramount for adding visual interest. A pair of earrings the color of your eyes, a funky purse, a sparkly statement necklace, a scarf in your hair, or a unique pair of shoes take two seconds to put on, and the impact lasts all day.

If you want to add an additional layer, a colorful jacket, cardigan, or scarf on top of a more basic tee can add dimension.

This outfit has the same base formula, but jazzing up the colors and accessories quickly takes it from boring to eye-catching

This outfit has the same base formula, but jazzing up the colors and accessories quickly takes it from boring to eye-catching

You don’t need to wear a full face of makeup everyday (no matter what you’re wearing), but taking five minutes to do your brows, swipe on some mascara, and put on a great lipstick makes a big difference. This is where knowing your season really comes in handy, because the right lipstick will light up your whole face, even if it’s a My Lips But Better. Your skin will look better in the right colors, too!

Spend some time perfecting simple hairstyles beyond the ponytail, and work with your natural hair texture, not against it. If your hair is straight, let it be straight! If your hair is curly, let it be curly! Get a cut that suits your hair’s behavior and your face shape, and your morning routine will be so much easier.

Lastly, learning to coordinate - rather than match - the different colors, textures, and shapes of your outfit will go a long way, keeping your look safely removed from “it’s laundry day” territory.

If you don’t know where to start, I want to help you! Click here for more information about a personal color analysis, personal image analysis, or coaching packages.

I Hate All My Clothes

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Believe it or not, “I hate all my clothes” sometimes feels like the soundtrack to my closet.

So when you tell me you hate all your clothes, I know you don’t REALLY hate all your clothes.

In fact, I know you probably have some great pieces in your closet, but you don’t know how to style them. 

I know you’re wearing the same 20% of your closet day after day, and chances are, that 20% is starting to wear out from being worn and washed so many times.

I know you’re not having much fun getting dressed, and you might even dread it…especially when you’re getting ready for a big event like an interview or a vacation.

I know you’re always shopping, but you feel like you have nothing to wear.

And I know that your wardrobe lacks a clear and unique vision.

“I hate all my clothes” is my personal refrain when I’ve lost sight of my wardrobe goals, my purchases have drifted off course (or I’m avoiding shopping altogether!), and I’m cycling through the same week’s worth of outfits, hoping for a divine intervention.

It happens to the best of us.

So if you hate all your clothes, you shop without a strategy, and your style doesn’t represent the woman you are, I can help.

Your irresistible personal style is just waiting to bloom.

The Secret Classroom

When I talk to women about beauty and style, one motif surfaces again and again:

“I feel like I missed a class all the other girls attended."

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The first time a woman said this to me, I didn’t know how to respond. I was that girl too, and I thought I’d struggled uniquely.

I remember sitting behind a classmate in middle school, looking at her perfectly messy bun and wondering who taught her how to do that. My messy buns looked like I was renting to birds.

Who taught the other girls how to apply their mascara and lipgloss just so? How to shape their brows? To take care of their skin?

Who taught them to pair accessories with their outfits? How to put together an actual outfit in the first place? Or what constituted a good fit?

My mother was faultlessly groomed, but she taught me little about beauty or style. Maybe I didn’t ask, maybe she thought I wasn’t interested. But in my heart of hearts I was always looking for answers. I fumbled along, a bookish, imaginative child who became a teenager and desperately wanted to know how to define myself as a woman.

I didn’t know how to style my hair, how to dress my body, or how to choose and apply makeup. I looked to what other girls were doing for answers, but their hair wasn’t my hair, their bodies weren’t my body, their coloring wasn’t my coloring. This would be so much easier, I thought, if I just looked like someone else.

That belief led me, and so many women, down another twisted path, where you are afraid to even attempt to dress more stylishly, or try a new lipstick color, or style your hair differently, because if you don’t try, you can’t fail…or so the thinking goes.

And that’s how, all these years later, you’re a generally confident woman. You have a career, you have kids, you’re intelligent, and you feel worthy, and you’ve read those quotes about how comparison is the thief of joy, and how flowers in a garden don’t compete, they just bloom, and yet here you are, still afraid to wear red lipstick to the grocery store, because what if someone looks at you and thinks,

“Who does she think she is?”

I don’t want that fear for you. I didn’t want it for myself, and I don’t want it for my daughter either.

I want you to have the tools and the confidence to put on that lipstick, to rock that skirt, to flaunt that hairstyle, and know that all of them are absolutely perfect for you.

Which Woman Are You?

 
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You’re packing for a trip, and you’re pretty excited. You get out your suitcase and open your closet. You’ll be gone for a week, so you need 7 outfits.

After taking a mental inventory of what you’ll be doing on your trip and the kind of outfits you need to pack, you look in your closet. You pluck a few pieces from the rack and set them on your bed, but you just don’t feel good about them. Sometimes the blue shirt doesn’t fit right. The black dress is boring. You love that purple top but you have nothing to pair it with.

You start trying things on, and finally you choose two outfits that you feel pretty good in. One side of your bed is covered with your discarded inside-out clothes. You pack your remaining outfits: they’re serviceable, but not exciting. You start thinking you should have gone shopping before your trip. You add a couple extra outfits just in case the original ones don’t work out.

You zip up your suitcase. It’s been three hours, and you feel discouraged.

ALTERNATIVELY -

You’re packing for a trip, and you’re pretty excited. You get out your suitcase and open your closet. You’ll be gone for a week, so you need 7 outfits.

After taking a mental inventory of what you’ll be doing on your trip and the kind of outfits you need to pack, you look in your closet. You pluck a few pieces from the rack and set them on your bed. You don’t need to try them on because you wore them recently and you know they make you feel good.

You lay out each outfit separately to make sure you have all 7. Because your closet is harmoniously colorful, you take note that you can mix and match your tops and bottoms in a number of different combinations. You add a lightweight cardigan to the pile, just in case. It’ll go with at least four of the outfits you chose.

You zip up your suitcase. It’s been 45 minutes, and you feel relaxed.

If you saw yourself in Woman #1, it doesn’t have to be this way! I’ve been there too, and it’s no fun. You can schedule a free exploration call with me here - I may be able to help.

Louisville PCA

 
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These are my favorite moments in a personal color analysis. We've compared the drapes, we've applied the makeup, and then time slows. We page through the luxury drapes, studying their magic. In this photo, we were contemplating wedding bouquets.

The woman looks in the mirror, and she sees herself looking back.

Personal color analysis is a true love and passion of mine. For the month of February only - for the first time in quite some time - I will be welcoming personal color analysis clients into my home studio again.

I have also opened my February calendar for personal image analysis (with appointments conducted virtually).

I can't wait to meet you.

 

How to Dress an Apple Shape

 
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First, I’d like to say that I will never suggest you try to “camouflage” any part of your body with wardrobe trickery. Balance IS an important component to assembling an outfit, but when I see the term “balance out” in regards to dressing your shape, it’s usually referring to some kind of attempt to trick the viewer into thinking you don’t actually have those wider hips or wider shoulders or larger bust or whatever physical feature has been deemed undesirable. (I could go on a whole rant here about how many of those “dress for your body shape” infographics hold up the not-that-common “hourglass” shape as the epitome of female beauty and imply that every other shape needs correction via garments).

There is NOTHING WRONG with the way you look. There is nothing wrong with your bone structure. There is nothing wrong with where and how you carry weight. 

I’d also like to note that the presence of curves and/or fleshiness does not necessarily mean you are a romantic-influenced archetype. Any archetype can be curvy or fleshy. On the flip side, not every woman with a romantic-influenced archetype is extremely curvy. 

Here are just some of my go-to techniques for dressing an apple shape*:

1. Get a bra fitting. Support comes from the band, not the straps. If you’ve found your bra size by measuring your underbust and adding inches, you are not getting your bust support from the band. Cup size is also proportional to band size: DD means nothing without the accompanying band measurement, so a woman wearing a 30DD will be much smaller-chested than a woman wearing a 38DD. Letters do not stop at DD! I’ve had clients shocked to find they are really an H or even a K cup, but they are much more comfortable in the new bras than they were in the old. If you can, get fitted at a local bra boutique or even a Nordstrom; they’ll be able to advise not only on a good fit but on styles that fit your breast shape and your preferred level of coverage. Having a comfortable and supportive bra will make ALL of your clothing look better.

2. Avoid strong waist definition if you don't have a defined waist. You’ve probably already noticed that trying to emphasize the waist via a belt or tucking at the waist just draws attention to the lack of one. Still, you want to avoid adding excess volume, or letting fabric get too far away from the body. Stay away from very boxy/wide tops, such as square-cut shirts or trapeze shapes. Instead look for tops which are more fitted through the shoulders and bust, with a moderate amount of flow beyond that point.

3. Look for thicker knit fabrics vs super thin clingy ones. These fabrics provide comfort and freedom of movement without emphasizing every contour of your body. Sometimes these are advertised simply as “jersey,” which doesn’t help you when shopping online (vs in-store, where you can feel the fabric in hand.) Ponte knit and scuba fabrics are great. Side ruching, princess seaming, and soft draping can help provide a little natural shaping without that ultra-cinched look. Many women with an apple shape prefer patterned tops, or tops with a more open/detailed neckline. 

4. Wear higher-waisted pants and skirts. Lower-waisted styles will often cut into the fleshiest part of a woman’s hip or midsection, which creates a “muffin top” and is just frankly uncomfortable. Higher-waisted styles will also provide some smoothing under tops. Aim for the spot that naturally feels the most comfortable to you and cuts you off the least when sitting/moving around. For some women that will be more of a mid-rise, for other women it will be difficult to find a rise that’s high enough. The best cut of your pants through the legs will depend on your archetype.

5. Let your tops lay over the waistband of your pants/skirts, instead of tucking them in. tucking tops into your pants/skirts. Your ideal shirt length will then depend on the rise of your bottom pieces and the type of shirt you’re wearing (a tunic vs a tee, for example). Slightly flared crop tops are trendy right now and they can often look really chic worn over a skirt or high-waisted jeans.

If you've read this far and you don't know what kind of silhouette strategy, shapes, or design details are best for you - or how to pull them all together into a coherent personal style - I'd love to chat with you. You can schedule a free exploration call with me here.

*I use this term because it’s the term women with this shape usually use when they approach me for help.

 

Do you set style goals?

 
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I’m a planner. I love calendars and checklists - “let’s play it by ear” is my worst nightmare. I’m organized to a fault, because I know that without a specific game plan, I won’t get anything done. Instead I’ll set a grand goal, do absolutely nothing toward accomplishing it, and then sit around wondering why my dreams aren’t coming true.

Within a few months of learning my season and my archetype, my wardrobe not only excited me, but it was full of my most flattering shapes, colors, and accessories. Intuition carried me a long way, and I made the process look easy…but I’d planned it all out, down to the last detail. I did not just wander into the mall and emerge with a fully-formed personal style. I had a clear aesthetic goal in mind and took specific actions to help me reach it.

Let me be clear: PCA and PIA are TOOLS. They are not magic spells which will relieve you of doing the work on your own wardrobe.

You absolutely have to get out there, try things on, come up with whole new questions, and figure out what you like. You have to think critically about your clothes, your lifestyle, your shopping habits, and what you want your style to say about you.

Knowing you’re a Bright Winter who should be wearing tops with waist definition is great, but that knowledge alone won’t build your wardrobe for you.

Every day I help women set wardrobe goals and break those goals down into actionable steps. If you need some help getting started, you can schedule a free exploration call with me here.

Skincare: Before and After

 
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Today’s before and after highlights the importance of a great skincare routine.

In the first photo, I’m actually wearing MORE makeup, including concealer on breakouts and a powder foundation. In the second photo, I’m not wearing any foundation whatsoever, though I put a little concealer under my eyes to cancel out blueness. I’ve obviously improved my makeup skills and styled my hair (and gotten happier!) but I’m wearing Dark Autumn cosmetic shades in both pictures.⁣

I’ve always had oily, acne-prone skin. I remember my struggle with blackheads beginning around age 12, and to this day I can wake up without any blackheads and magically have five by noon. For years I tried to combat my skin issues by using apricot scrubs, charcoal soaps, and harsh alcohol-based toners. I rarely moisturized because I was afraid I’d break out, and I only used sunscreen on my face if I was going to the pool. The result? I was 25 in the first photo with dull, extremely sun-damaged skin, and my face always looked flushed. ⁣

A couple of years ago I began researching skincare and I learned that my skin was likely dehydrated, causing it to feel dry and tight even though it was overproducing oil. At first, I bought soooo many products without properly researching them and actually made my acne issues worse. I backed away from skincare for about a year after that, just doing a basic cleanser and moisturizer. I also struggled mightily with hormonal cystic acne during this time, and visited a dermatologist. She put me on a topical acne medication called Aczone, which I adored because it never dried out my skin, and an oral medication called Spironolactone, neither of which I am using at the time of this writing.

When I started exploring skincare again, I did significantly more research and acquired a dream team of products that work for me, including several chemical exfoliants (I don’t use all of them every day- I space them out to avoid overexfoliation), a cosmetically elegant SPF50 (which I wear rain or shine, even if I’m just getting in the car to drive to the library), a low-Ph cleanser, and lightweight hydrators. My skin is no longer particularly oily, though it’s still acne-prone and needs some babying.⁣

You can spend a little on skincare or you can spend a lot, and I recommend thinking about your skin goals before buying a single thing. Are you looking to combat acne? Fade sun damage? Plump wrinkles? Hydrate? Brighten? Honestly, I’m looking to do all of the above, but at the beginning of my journey my main goals were to fade sun damage and combat acne, so I searched for products that did just that. Google obsessively, read reviews on Reddit and blogs, search COSDNA to see how the ingredients stack up. I search every potential product on COSDNA to make sure the ingredients are low on the comedogenic scale. ⁣

I used to buy tons of makeup, always hoping for that magic glow, but now I realize that glow comes from the skin. I still wear and enjoy makeup, I still think it's important to wear seasonally appropriate shades for maximum harmony, but I concentrate my beauty spending on skincare. My skin looks (and feels!) bouncy and hydrated and luminous, and I plan to take care of it for a long time to come.

By popular request I've put together a catalog (with commentary) featuring my skincare dream team. These are affiliate links and I receive a small kickback if you purchase through my link from some (but not all) of these sites. I have only listed products I personally use and love . I fiddle around with my routine on the regular, so I will do my best to keep this current.

 

Dressing my changing size and shape

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After gaining a significant amount of weight in the past 8 months - easily the most dramatic weight shift I’ve undergone aside from pregnancy - I was forced back to the drawing board with my closet.

Practically speaking, I outgrew a tremendous number of things at once, including all of my pants, all of my bras and underwear, and the majority of my skirts and dresses. I lost plenty of basics, and sadly can no longer fit into some of my very favorite statement pieces...including a cocktail dress I was saving for a “special occasion” and never wore. Learn from my mistake: wear your special stuff!

Constructing outfits with such a limited wardrobe was tricky. I wasn’t comfortable replacing everything right away lest I continued to gain weight (which I did, and am still doing), so I wore the same couple dresses all summer long. I was desperately bored. When autumn arrived and my weight gain slowed, I relied on my thrifting skills for some much-needed closet infusions.

My physical archetype and corresponding dressing strategies haven’t changed, but my shape has become an exaggerated version of itself. I’m now much more pear-shaped, which I adore, but I was surprised to find that many of my old outfit formulas no longer resonate with me. For example:

  • Belts used to be the perfect finishing touch for blouse and skirt combos, but now that my waist is wider and my hip shelf is even higher, I hardly wear them.

  • Give me all the bodycon silhouettes! I have so much hip and thigh volume that I don’t necessarily need to add more with a flared skirt, even though I still like them. Clingier shapes play up my curves more than they did XX lbs ago, so I’m having a lot of fun with them.

  • I’ve found myself drifting toward a more simple sensuality in detailing, rather than the more calculated aesthetic I once strove for. Light draping, relaxed florals, and simple jewelry are the sweet spot for me right now.

My style is still my style, and recognizable as such, but there’s been a very real shift in how I dress and what appeals to me.

I love my body’s new fullness and curves, and most importantly I cherish the happiness that spurred my weight gain in the first place. If embracing that happiness means making changes to the way I dress, that’s okay with me. And while living with a leaner wardrobe as I seek out quality replacements for outgrown pieces is sometimes dull, I’m ultimately fine with it, because at the end of the day, I know that personal style is an ongoing project. What worked for you five years or fifty pounds ago might not work for you now, and that’s okay.

Weight loss or gain is one of the primary reasons women seek my help with their wardrobes. If you’re not sure how to dress your new shape or you just want some help fine-tuning your look, I hope you’ll send me a message.

An unexpected testimonial

Scrolling through my newsfeed the other day, I was so touched to see this testimonial from my incredible client Katherine. I'm sharing it with all of you because she touches on one of the most important facets of my work: teaching you to be your own stylist.

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"This is the greatest holiday dress in the history of dresses and Cate Linden is the greatest stylist in the history of stylists.

Yes, I have a stylist. Leading up to my 40th birthday, I decided to systematically annihilate all of my insecurities. For four decades, I perceived myself to be bad at getting dressed. I want to spend the next forty years feeling confident in my clothes.

Cate didn’t pick this out. She taught me how to pick this out for myself. She works patiently, with logic *and* poetry. Hiring her was one of the kindest and wisest things I’ve ever done for myself.

Now someone throw a party so I can show up wearing the Milky Way, OK?”

Katherine is curating a wardrobe that's polished, celestial, and exciting - a wardrobe that brings her joy. It's my privilege to guide her through the process.

How I Built a Kickass Wardrobe at Thrift Stores

I rarely buy my clothing new anymore, and I’ve never been so excited by my closet.

Switching to thrift stores wasn’t a momentous or even a very conscious decision for me; I was just finding so much amazing stuff that I lost the motivation to look elsewhere. A couple of weeks ago I found a beautiful Elie Tahari cocktail dress with mermaid gathers. It fits me like a glove, and I wore it to a nice dinner with my boyfriend. It was $5!

Thrift stores are carnivals of color and style, a sampling of brands both mainstream and fringe - and that makes them great for surprises. I wasn’t particularly looking for a cocktail dress, and wouldn’t have hunted for one, but stumbling into one yielded a welcome addition to my wardrobe.

I still buy pieces new from time to time, but I buy them very judiciously. Great style has little to do with where you shop or what you spend, and while I don’t mind investing in a high quality piece (with a perfect fit and spectacular design details), I usually wait and see if thrifting will yield a better option.

Here are seven ways I’ve built a remarkable wardrobe at thrift stores:

  1. I shop strategically. I keep an updated list of specific pieces I need in my wardrobe, and I prioritize them when browsing and buying. I totally buy fabulous things that aren’t on my priority list, but I try not to lose sight of what I actually need - and that list is especially helpful when I’m short on shopping time.

  2. I make snap judgments. Not my season or anywhere close to it? Next. Design feature totally incompatible with my archetype? Next. Those two hangers are impossibly tangled together? Next. Don’t linger at the rack trying to make decisions, you’ll exhaust yourself before you even try anything on. When in hopeful doubt, I add the item to my basket.

  3. I take my time in the dressing room. I try everything on. Even if I’m 99% sure it’s perfect. Even if I have the same dress in the same size at home. And especially if I’m skeptical and/or hopeful. Some of my very favorite things are only mine because I took them into the dressing room with me on a whim. I check every item for a perfect fit - close isn’t good enough! Try-ons can also uncover any potential flaws that you may not have noticed on the hanger, like stains, snags, and wonky zippers.

  4. I use my imagination. I don’t have my entire wardrobe in the dressing room with me for try-ons, so I have to think creatively and envision outfits in my head. How will this blouse look with the skirts I have at home? Can it be tucked in or will it result in a bumpy tube of fabric around my hips? I do purchase things without a clear partner waiting at home, but I do so carefully; buying lots of pieces that require buying another piece is a slippery slope. The more pieces I can mix and match in my closet, the better.

  5. I don’t compromise. You aren’t saving money or making wise wardrobe choices if you bring home pieces that aren’t right for you, no matter how little you spend. This is a surefire way to dilute your closet and take you back where you started. If you know perfectly well you aren’t going to have that skirt altered, don’t buy it. If you’ll never be able to wear that dress without a magical strapless bra, don’t buy it. And do NOT buy that shirt you wholeheartedly know is wrong for you under the justification of “it’s so soft and it’s only $2” because you WILL wear it and you WON’T feel good in it. (Ask me how I know).

  6. I shop frequently. I personally feel less pressure to bring home a huge haul (and compromise on my ideals) if I never let my wardrobe bore me or get down to bare bones. I thrive on a steady infusion of new pieces paired with regular wardrobe cleanouts. Most thrift stores turn over their inventory quickly, so you can visit often and still avoid being confronted with things you’ve already passed over.

  7. I donate my unworn clothes. I have no time for wardrobe static, so if I’m not wearing it, I pay it forward. I’m so glad all those other women did!

If you’re reading this and thinking that you have no idea:

  • what kind of pieces you’re looking for in the first place

  • what constitutes a good fit (for you)

  • how to create a practical shopping strategy

  • and how to construct outfits, in your head and in real life

    Send me a message, I’d love to help!

Why I Don't Own Yoga Pants

A few months ago, I emerged from my bedroom on a Saturday morning wearing a pair of yoga pants and a sweater that was, shall we say, less than inspiring. I wasn't feeling it. Not the outfit, not the day. I was planning to wash my face, wrap my hair into a bun and tune out. Until my 6-year-old stopped dead in his snack-requesting tracks and said, 

"What are you wearing?"

What was I wearing? 

My son was very young when I forged my personal style, and he's used to seeing me a certain way: polished, confident, and usually sporting a dress and lipstick. Very little stands to differentiate between an outfit I'd wear to meet with a styling client, an outfit I'd wear to the grocery store, and an outfit I'd wear on a date. My wardrobe is compact, consistent, and comfortable.

My kids see me in pajamas, of course. They see me when I'm sick. They know that I am not always skillfully dressed. But my son picked up the vibe I was putting down that day: I flat out didn't care, and I was advertising my malaise with my outfit.

So I made breakfast. I took a shower. I scrunched gel into my curls. I did my makeup and I changed into a pair of patterned tights and a cotton dress. Ultimately, I was just as physically comfortable as I'd been in the yoga pants and ratty sweater, but I looked like a person who cared about her day. And for me, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you're struggling to dress to your highest potential on the good days, the bad days, and all the in-between days, I can help! I'd love to chat with you.

The Woman in the Photo

 
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The woman in the first photo? She was lost. And she was more than a little miserable.

I remember this day with remarkable clarity. My then-husband and I had taken our children to an outdoor festival, and I was wearing jeans, because although I actually owned a modest collection of both skirts and shorts, I hated them on myself and rarely wore them. Which was as good as not having them! So there I was, on a humid summer day, sweating in jeans that were not only hot but fit poorly. I spent half the day trying to discreetly tug them back over my hips. My shirts consisted almost exclusively of Target tanks, so I was wearing one of those too.

I’d purchased the handbag because it looked very chic online, but it was so bulky and square on me that every time I carried it I thought I must look like I was on my way to rob a bank. Plus, it was heavy. And while I was wearing makeup (because I never left home without it), I certainly can’t tell, even if I ignore the blown-out photo quality.

On that day I felt so grateful that I was able to hide myself behind my baby. Nothing about my outfit expressed even a glimmer of who I truly was. Not a single thing about it made my heart leap; in fact, the entire outfit made my heart sink. And to make matters that much worse, I felt intense guilt that my wardrobe woes were front and center in my mind on a day where I was supposed to be enjoying my family.

In the end, I held my lanterns high and found my way out of the maze. And if I’m ever having a bad day, my outfit has nothing to do with it.

My Blue Skirt and the Magic of Personal Image Analysis

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I bought this skirt three years ago. I'd found a wonderful etsy seller who sewed custom skirts. She had a couple different styles available, and you could use her in-stock fabric or send your own. I ordered some fabric samples, picked out a navy linen (probably Soft Autumn, but close enough for me) and shipped her the yardage. I gave her my waist measurement and my preferred hem length, and a couple weeks later my skirt arrived. It was a moderately expensive garment, and at the time I remember feeling very fancy and even overly self-indulgent having something custom made for me.

I have now worn this skirt so many times that it has cost me a quarter or less per wear. I've worn it in every season, in multiple states. I've worn it on playdates, on real dates, for professional photos, for PCAs. I've worn it with sweaters and with tanks, with belts and without. One day I snagged it on a nail and felt real panic. I had it darned.

I'd invested in wardrobe pieces before, to ill effect: a very tailored Mad Men-style dress that made me feel claustrophobic and left me tugging the skirt down all night, cashmere v-necks that looked elegant online and frumpy on me, pointy-toed flats that felt like a costume. These pieces depressed me when I looked at them; they were beautiful (and expensive!) but wrong for me, and I didn't know why. Like many women, I blamed my body. 

When I was draped as a Dark Autumn during my PCA training in March 2014, I had one autumn shirt in my wardrobe, and I'd spent the previous five years pregnant or nursing. I needed a new wardrobe badly. But when I wandered into the mall, I was still confused. I knew I needed rich autumn colors, but what about shapes? I knew what I liked, but buying what I liked had led me astray so many times that I knew it was not a reliable strategy.

Rachel Nachmias of Best Dressed was truly my guardian angel during this time. A fellow color analyst, she had fine-tuned an image archetype system based on your bone structure, your flesh type, and your individual essence. I was fascinated, and like I had with PCA before my training, I tried to figure out my archetype myself. This did not go so well. In fact, it went just like all of my shopping experiences before: I bought things and felt wrong in them.

Eventually I came to Rachel for help, and she explained to me, through a detailed analysis of my features, why I am a Yin Natural and no other type- much like your color analyst explains to you during a draping why you are a Dark Autumn and no other season. She indulged my many neurotic "Huh! Really? Well, what about this?" questions, gave it to me straight when I was trying to rationalize iffy purchases, and frankly turned my wardrobe completely around. When shopping during those first couple years, I held close the "autumn wood nymph" nickname she'd given me. It was an image that resonated with me, an image I could easily visualize, and an image I could build a workable- but not boring- wardrobe around.

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For the first time in my life I felt that I was well dressed, and without any agonizing effort. I bought things according to the guidelines for my archetype, and I felt good in them. I learned how to stay true to my own personal taste while choosing shapes that flattered my body. I did this on a budget, picking up pieces here and there, and I still maintain a smaller wardrobe. When I purchased my beloved blue skirt, I knew where and how it would sit on my waist. I knew it would be the proper length for my proportions. I knew the cut of the skirt would allow for the curve of my hips without distorting my shape. It was a purchase made in simple confidence, and that confidence has extended to each and every time I've worn it. 

Over my four years of providing Personal Color Analysis, I regretted that I could not personally help my clients with this other, crucial piece of the getting dressed puzzle. And so I am completely over-the-moon thrilled to announce that after an intensive training with Rachel, I am now offering Personal Image Analysis to my own clients.

This transformational service can now be scheduled via my calendar, with appointments beginning in May.