The Case for Plain Clothing: My Simple Uniform

There’s a great scene in It Might Get Loud in which Jack White talks about his views on creativity.  He says: “Opportunity doesn’t do anything for creativity. Yeah, it makes things easier and you can get home sooner, but it doesn’t make you a more creative person.” He talks about how limitations make us more creative … and that really resonated with me.

The cycle of buying and neglecting clothing had become boring (and impractical). I had too many disparate choices. I wanted limitations. I wanted to create a uniform–something simple, super comfortable and understated.

The first place I looked for inspiration was husband Brenton’s well-organized closet. His clothing was formulaic — the same silhouettes for his button-downs, t-shirts, pants, etc. His wardrobe was endlessly mix-and-matchable. My wardrobe, on the other hand, was rife with contingencies. Certain things only paired with other specific items, and often none of it made any sense for practical needs like staying warm (or comfortable).

I decided I wanted to replicate this menswear approach in my womanswear closet: staple items that were endlessly mix-and-matchable. And then about a year ago, I first heard the idea of a capsule wardrobe.

Over the next few months, I donated or gave away or altered my clothes (having a sewing machine is the ultimate wardrobe creativity tool!). I whittled and whittled and whittled. Here’s what I learned through the process:

1. Easy layering can elevate an otherwise casual look

This has been a wonderful revelation because I love to look put-together, but I *hate* uncomfortable dressy clothing.

Dark jeans and a tailored tee with sneaks are the perfect basic outfit. Add a necklace and block-heel sandals for a slightly dressier option. Get dressy AF by donning a structured blush blazer. When it’s time to relax, I just swap out jeans for yoga pants, ditch the blazer and we’re ready to do some pre-bed stretching. 😉

This has been incredibly helpful for me, since I need a slightly dressier look for work. Although, to be honest, I’ve found myself wearing the first look (t-shirt, jeans + sneaks) to work because it’s so athleisure-chic.

Casual AFDressierDressier Blazer

2. A limited color palette works wonders

Blue, gray, black and occasionally blush. That’s pretty much all I own … and I’m so smitten with this color palette. It’s delightfully understated, calming and chic! I have no use for patterns, unless we’re talking about stripes. 😉 Limiting patterns has been a HUGE relief. I realized that I have to be in a certain mood for most patterns and there’s only room for frequent-flyers in my closet these days.

3. Shoe silhouettes matter, a lot!

You know something most men never do? Wear uncomfortable shoes. I’ve been avidly avoiding treacherous heels for years now. My heel heigh limit is around 2.5 inches. Anything above that height makes my ankles and my toes hurt … and there’s nothing cute or necessary about that.

I’ve been playing a lot closer attention to the silhouette of my shoes this year. I prefer neutral shoes that have a really clean outline and I’m a big fan of the block-heel look (comfy, too!). This summer, I’m wearing two main sandals. On casual days, park-visits, or walking the dogs, I choose between two sneaks (same style in different colors). And I wore two boots in similar silhouettes all last winter and that worked swimmingly! Simplicity is a beautiful thing.

Sandals

Sneaks

Boots

4. I only really need a few pieces of jewelry

For the past year, I’ve primarily worn this matte gold lava-stone necklace and hexagon studs. On days when I need a little extra pizazz, I’ll wear these matte gold leaf studs. I never thought I could wear the same jewelry every single day … but it’s surprisingly very satisfying when the pieces are this simple and pretty.

I do own a few other pieces, but these are my every day staples.

Jewelry.JPG

I haven’t gone as extreme as some folks (my wardrobe isn’t quite as small as 30-some items, and I haven’t tried Project 333), but I’ve radically pared down with a restricted color palette and predictable, chic silhouettes that can be endlessly layered.

I’ve been surprised with how this this shift has also allowed me to come to terms with my natural essence. I quit dyeing my hair last November, I put my blow-dryer in storage, and I broke up with nail polish (on my fingers) earlier this year. Seeking simplicity in my wardrobe has unshackled me from the need to alter my other attributes.

Plain and simple never felt so gratifying.

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Wake up, baby. Wakeup!: A Spotify Playlist

For me, waking up is no easy feat. It’s an every-morning struggle between time and perception, between intention and action, between drowsiness and any wisps of wakefulness. For a split-second when I’m jolted awake by my alarm, I truly believe that I’m going to stay awake and that my body will spring to life. And day after day, I immediately fall back to sleep for another 30 minutes.

I’ve been like this my whole life. Sleep washes over me with an incredible force and it doesn’t give up easily when morning comes. In high school, I forged so many late notes that I got called to the principal’s office. They told me doctor’s-only notes from there on out. But I didn’t wake up earlier! Instead, I found ways to shave off minutes here and there during my morning routine and commute.

And here I am, about to be 30 and I’m still struggling to wake up. So my current quest is to find a balance between letting myself enjoy all the sleep it clearly wants, while waking up early enough to have some me-time and not stressing about getting to work.

I wrote recently about my current quick, low-maintenance hair routine, which has gifted me so much more time in the morning! I can’t imagine why I wouldn’t do this forever.

Last night, I realized I need an energizing, dance-worthy playlist to wake up to. So I made one. It features Solange, Neon Indian, NxWorries & Hot Chip, and it’s like audio caffeine. These particular songs just make me want to mooooove.

If you’ve got any tips for how to make mornings easier, I’m all ears. 🙂

  

Listen to Wake up, baby. Wake up!

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Or listen here:

 

  

 

Original artwork consists of Photoshopped photos by Jaclyn LaBrie.

Why I’m obsessed with podcasts + Show recommendations

Real human connection isn’t easy to come by. It takes time to cut through the bullshit and get to the juicy stuff: What’s making you happy right now? Sad? What did that feel like? What are you afraid of? Unlike many other mediums, podcasts can offer a window into this wonderful world of human experience. There’s something about only listening; it prevents certain physical judgment to make room for some real human emotions like curiosity, empathy and humor. Sounds have a profound impact on our imaginations, transporting us through sound cues like traffic, birds chirping or the slight wobble in someone’s voice. When I listen to podcasts, strangers become so dear to me. In a world that worships beauty, podcasts glorify authenticity, intelligence, and vulnerability.

When I first discovered audio storytelling in college, I couldn’t get enough. I bought a little handheld recorder and took it with me everywhere. I recorded the sound of the train in Amsterdam, a busker in Dublin, the ramblings of a self-proclaimed millionaire in London. I wanted to capture all this humanness!

Luckily, there are many amazing podcasters creating insightful, compelling and emotionally rewarding audio shows — and my podcast subscriptions are constantly taking up too much storage on my phone. So after years and years of devotion to this medium, I’m going to make my first-ever faves list. And let me tell you, it ain’t easy to choose. 🙂

1. REPLY ALL

My all-time favorite podcast. A new episode of Reply All is like a precious little audio gift. I get a rush of delight when I hear the theme song (it’s soooo good). The show covers fascinating, quirky, and even educational stories about the internet and subsequent online culture. It’s hosted by two friends that feel like my friends. Start anywhere. They’re pretty much all good. A couple of my most loved episodes: #56 Zardulu | #44 Shine On You Crazy Goldman

2. INVISBILIA

A podcast about the invisible forces that control human behavior. It’s by the producers of Radiolab, a heavy-hitter in the podcast world. I gobble up new episodes of this show; there never seem to be enough of them. I am always wanting more. On a recent episode, I learned that dreams can actually be a form of emotional therapy. How cool is that?!

3. MILLENNIAL

Considering I’ve only been listening to this podcast for two weeks, it’s a pretty big deal that this podcast is even on this list. In just two weeks, I’ve listened to 30 episodes. Millennial describes itself as a “coming of age” podcast. It’s about those juicy questions in life and it’s honest, vulnerable and well produced. If you’re at any kind of crossroads in your life (which most of us are at any given time), you’ll probably find this show comforting and relatable.

4. STONER

I am so glad this show exists. Each episode is a fast-moving, interesting conversation about creativity and yes, marijuana. The host, Aaron Lammer, is a fun and inquisitive interviewer and it’s refreshing to hear intelligent, accomplished people talk about weed in such an honest way. Start anywhere. They’re all good! The most recent episode (Episode 14: Dope Girls Zine) featured two badass women from Georgia who started a zine for women who enjoy weed. I totally ordered an issue this week and I can’t wait to receive it!

5. HEAVYWEIGHT

Jonathan Goldstein — in his literary, self-deprecating, charming way — time travels through someone’s memory (sometimes his own) during each episode to find resolution or understanding. Can you make amends with the past, or at least understand it better? Jonathan’s vulnerability and storytelling prowess makes this show both entertaining and heartwarming. Just listen to the whole first season beginning to end. It’s great.

6. DEAR SUGAR

True story: when my partner and I have an intense disagreement, I’ll sometimes go for a walk (feeling frustrated and angry), pop my earbuds in, listen to the latest from Dear Sugar … and by the time I’m back to the house, I’m ready to be accepting and loving and apologetic. That’s just the effect that listening to Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed has on me! They are accepting, empathetic and honest and they admit to their own mistakes. In an age where people are curating a flawless impression of their daily lives, it’s amazingly helpful to hear about the challenges and uncertainties through listener letters. Scroll through the episodes and listen to a title that appeals to you. There are tons of juicy ones!

Honorable mentions: 

….And basically anything from Gimlet!

 

How writing helps me know myself & appreciate life

I love the gentle whoosh-whoosh of the traffic outside mingling with my playlist of ambient tunes. We’ve designed our spare bedroom to be a creative space: Brenton does his music thing, I do my writing thing. Not so long ago, I wasn’t making any time for this necessary enterprise and it weighed on me.

I realized that my life was gliding by and I wasn’t getting to document my thoughts about any of it. Pictures are great. Social media updates about posts from this time last year or five years ago — those can be great too (sometimes not, though). But I’m less concerned with what things looked like and more interested in what they felt like.

Back in college, I read this book called What It Felt Like: Living in the American Century. The format of this book was genius! Here’s the deal: in an attempt to capture what it felt like to be alive in the last century, Henry Allen captures vivid snapshots of everyday life in ten chapters — one for each decade. Intrigued? Now read this description: Each of these ten chapters is a virtual time capsule written with keen intelligence, feeling, and an uncanny sense of the essential experiences of the era: the unexpected, idiosyncratic sights, sounds, occasions, and events that defined not just the time but the way we remember it.

I love this approach to writing so much. And that’s why it feels important for me to write on a regular basis. Anyone could take a picture of the objective reality. My hair is a certain length, my face looks a certain way, and certainly other clues in a photo taken at this moment would jog memories. However, I’m most interested in knowing myself, gaining insights about what I want in life and what delights and what doesn’t.

My hiatus from writing stemmed from a lack of time (or so it seemed), energy and access. I’ve become so picky with how I write. The paper has to have a certain tooth to it (yes, that’s a thing) and my pen has to be a Pilot G-2 Ultra Fine Point 0.38 mm. Thick paper, skinny pen. I spent months looking for the perfect journal when I finished with my last. I even started and abandoned a few promising journals. (And the whole “hello, this is a new journal. let’s do this…” is so obligatory and clunky. It can take a few pages to gain momentum!)

However, I decided recently that I’m not making any more excuses. If I am going to be the person I want to be, I need to find practical ways to incorporate my most cherished pastimes into my life. Amazing what you can discover when you’re giving yourself tough love. A quick google search resulted in the discovery of JRNL. A beautiful, private online journal that I can access from my desktop or mobile device. No paper tooth need apply.

And guess what! If I do want to preserve these thoughts in a physical book one day, JRNL offers a journal book-binding service so you can plunk these musings down on your coffee table forevermore. ✴