walking the walk: my style history

How can you describe the transformative magic of knowing your style? The journey I am taking style coaching clients through is one I have done for myself. Instead of trying to persuade you through vague descriptions of how happy you’ll be after you work with me, I figured: why not show you?

It’s been a while since I took a critical look at my wardrobe and my style, and my style has definitely evolved. I’m going to put myself through the same curriculum I’m developing for my clients, and show you each step of the way.

In this blog series, I’ll take myself through the same 6-month coaching process. Each month I’ll share a post with my progress, my process, and yes, plenty of photos. Here’s the plan:

August: Closet Goals, Outfit Log & Review
September: Assessment
October: Define
November: Refine
December: Iterate

View the whole series.

August: Closet Goals, Outfit Log Review

Just like I do with my clients, the first thing is to think about your goals. Why am I working on my wardrobe? What do I want to learn? What am I happy with?

Most importantly, we also do a 2+ week outfit log, recording what we wear (almost) every day. Our style is affected daily by the weather, our health, our moods, and longer-term by our bodies and body image, our culture, lifestyle, budget, and personality. We think one thing, but do another: this is a big reason our style and self-image don't truly match up. So before we can define ourself and our style, we have to understand it. To understand it, we can't rely on what we think it is, but instead, like scientists, we begin with data. Unlike scientists, we can't and won't rely solely on data, but the hard proof of what we wear every day gives us a solid foundation for moving forward.

I haven't been super detailed with my digital outfit logging, but I'm taking a photo every single day. In August, I'll post my outfit log (even the ones that don't end up on Instagram!) and we'll see what we can learn.

But before I dive into my current style and style goals, I want to kick it off by telling you a little bit about how I got here now.

My style history

I’ve talked about my style journey on the blog before, focusing on why I started investing in my style and how that led me to blogging. But what was my style? How has it changed?

My first ever style definition, written in the fall of 2016, over a year into this journey, was:

elevated sunbelt city casual
my 2016-2017 initial style definition notes

I love this page, because in the bottom right you can see me circling around the words that would ultimately come out as "elevated sunbelt city casual" — crossing out the ones that didn't work, circling "sunbelt" and "elevated", and finally drawing a box around the three words that felt the most right.

My style at the time was focused on being effortless, pared back (versus dramatic), comfortable and non-wrinkly in the sunbelt city heat, basic but interesting via fit, shoes, or accessories, with neutrals-as-colors. I listed my key stylistic elements and garments:

  • a perfectly draped, neutral color tee, that doesn’t wrinkle or show sweat, elevated with a detail
  • perfectly fitting jeans
  • an elevated romper (e.g. buttons, not stretchy/loose)
  • a classic leather jacket
  • a simple but interesting shoe
  • a cropped pant in the right length that can be dressed up or down
  • a structured dress up/down short
  • a soft scarf that can double as a blanket, in a color or print
  • a silk tee in a color or print

I wrote that I wanted my style to say that I was a person who “always looks effortlessly put together. I’m relaxed and I never look overdone or fussy. I can go from biking to comfortably working at my desk to happy hour without needing to change and look good doing it all.” (No pressure!)

(For contrast, here’s what I felt like my style was actually saying at the beginning of this journey: “I’m a lazy developer who just rolled out of bed and put on a t-shirt, but at least it was silk and not a work or free swag tee. I am managing to not look sweaty in 100 degree weather.”)

making a capsule wardrobe list in 2016, the "IT'S HOT" edition

Have I mentioned it's hot in Texas? I biked to work, and I hated looking and feeling sweaty and wrinkled. I did go from biking to desk to happy hour, frequently. I liked (and like, still) simple, basic pieces that are elevated by the perfect fit, a beautiful drape, a particular interesting detail. I still use an interesting shoe to make a basic combo feel like an outfit.

2016-2017 era crappy outfit selfies.

It's obvious to me now, looking at these 2016-2017 outfit selfies, that my style was all over the place. Here's trousers and a hat; there's a miniskirt and graphic tee. Here's a super sexy v-neck blouse, shorts, and knee boots (????), a printed silk romper, and a dress + cardigan + scarf + boots combo that I remember being proud of but that feels so off to me now.

Even if I wasn't executing my style statement very well, it was the first time I had been able to articulate, in great detail, just what made my style mine.

my very first 10x10 challenge!

2018: round two

I wouldn’t revisit that style statement in detail until the fall of 2018. In the interim, lots of aspects of my style changed. Here’s some fun tidbits from my 2017 outfit logs and style notes:

July 2017 was the first instance of wishing for “high rise, wide hipped, above-the-ankle crops w/ pleats, super menswear-y vibes” after repeated notes that “I have yet to figure out how to do loose/structured/non-skinny PANTS.” (In fact, my very first 2016 iteration of style definition included the emphatic “NOT loose or wide leg pants” note.) I wouldn't wear anything resembling a non-skinny-jean pant until Spring 2017, after which I rapidly tumbled into TROUSERS.

February 2017 saw the arrival of what has become a pretty defining formula for me: a defined-waist, fitted high-rise bottom and more volume on top.

In the same document, I’d write “I keep saying “athleisure” but I don’t actually feel OK with workout clothes at work,” and then later, “effortless sporty sexy!” as a guiding principle. I often wrote about outfits as “kicky, fun, cheerful,” three words that I would never use now.

In fall of 2018, I did a personal style wardrobe group with some coworkers. We started with the exact same exercise I start my style coaching clients with: outfit logging and a review. To get somewhere new, we have to understand where we are now.

As a group we reviewed outfit logs and our inspiration boards. The notes below are my notes from the group's brainstorm on my style. One of the women in the group was the one that coined "lunch wine," which I adore, and pointed out that I often wore structured, masculine shoes to balance an womanly shape. Having someone else's eyes on your style is so valuable!

my 2018 edit, with flamingo notepaper

My style statement started to look a little bit different. I kept the idea of elevated, but dropped the word. I dropped “casual” in favor of focusing on “understated” and chose "polished" and "clean." I can see the lineage—but it feels a lot more grown-up.

The primary phrase that stuck with me about my style was more a mood: “lunch wine.” I loved when my outfits were conjuring this mood of having a laid-back lunch, a glass of wine, chilling on a perfectly sunny and breezy day, on a patio somewhere. But it’s lunch: you’re mid-stride, you’re off for more errands, back to work, you’re coming or going, but effortlessly. Maybe you biked to your lunch wine. I was honing in on a style that felt “simple but slightly dressy,” outfits with “textural variety” that I could “wear with sneakers or heels.” Can you drink lunch wine in workout leggings but a silk tee? Or a cute dress, but chunky sneakers. Or trousers and a tank, a slouchily elegant version of jeans-and-a-tee.

(I'll talk about Key, Statement, and Basic pieces in the future, but if you've read Curated Closet you already know about this great exercise!)

The 2019 Edit

That brings me to today! It’s been a year since I did my last deep assessment, and of course my style has continued to evolve.

I’m excited to go back to some of these fundamental questions about myself and my style, and share them with you in real time!

Check back in August for the 2019 update and outfit log! What do you want to know about the process in an upcoming blog?