January 4, 2017

Reflections on a New Year: 2017

From the sounds of it, 2016 was a rough year for everybody. It might be easier to remember the good in it had our country not just elected a bonafide megalomaniac, and it may simply be part of aging past the mid-twenties, but there's definitely something this January that's shining markedly dimmer than usual.

As I sit here scanning my somewhat littered living room, I feel a twinge of shame at how disorderly I've let my surroundings become this season. It's inevitable that with even a subtle alteration in daily routine -- weird weather, a new job, a house guest -- good habits can quickly fall by the wayside, and in the past few months, I've experienced all three. The amount of times I've grumbled at my boyfriend to clear his ever-multiplying mugs from the coffee table is blatantly undercut today by last night's half-finished glass of wine abandoned in the same place by yours truly.

If I let my brainwaves creep into the next room, I twitch at the pile of clothes hanging over our extra chair, which sits temptingly close to my closet. I grimace at my carry-on bag and its orphan Christmas gift contents, still seeking a proper home. My lungs constrict at the contents of my in-process winter capsule, which have exceeded the bounds of their hanger allotment and now peer up at me from every imaginable surface -- a chorus of fibers awaiting proclamation of their seasonal roles.

It's no great wonder that when our minds and bodies become stressed, distracted, or otherwise overburdened, our physical surroundings mirror those same qualities. This phenomenon is akin to the asshole who suddenly and inexplicably clips you out of their life also happening to have impeccably groomed nails. (See Urban Dictionary; "jerk nails.") Even the soul who strives to maintain only the "useful and beautiful" in their homes (William Morris), can be thrown for a loop when faced with a truckload of not-very-useful, not-very-beautiful life circumstances. With every adorable kitten comes an odoriferous, plastic litter box, so they say.*

The approach of the new year gave me a lot to think about, however, and I'm finding that no matter much energy I put into controlling my surroundings -- maintaining capsule wardrobes, striving to buy only what I truly need -- nothing sticks unless my state of mind is being similarly curated. In the past week, I have had to get rully rully real with my own mental fitness. It would be inaccurate of me to call myself depressed -- I do not pretend to understand the havock that depression, real depression, can wreak on one's state of mind. And while I may cope with a certain amount of general anxiety, I don't assume I fully understand that state of mind either. Nevertheless, I know I have a lot of personal mental hangups to work through, among them negativity, guilt, abandonment & trust issues, playing the victim, and a basic lack of confidence in making my own decisions.

So I've decided to make something of this realization and, as an exchange for focusing on my mental processes, give myself a break in those other realms of order. While I'm sure I am capable of maintaining a minimal closet, I've accepted that I may need a broader range of styles to experiment with until I solidify that smushy sense of self. While I still want to strive for owning only what I need, I accept that having certain items in my life provides a sense of security while I build up that intrinsic trust in myself and others.

If you think I've got it backwards, let me tell you a story.... When I was 10 years old, I still slept with my blanket. You know, the one you get as a baby that gets dragged through every possible bacterium amidst your youthful frolicks, then comes straight into bed with you. Once I turned 11, I started worrying I was too old to sleep with a blanket anymore. I told myself that girls with bras didn't need security blankets. That this was the first step on the path to eventually snuggling with boys instead. So I decided to put my blanket in the drawer of my dresser, so it would remain close, but where my friends couldn't see it. For two years, the blanket went back and forth between the drawer and my bed. I took it out when I needed an extra cushion under my head. Like the night the boy I liked handed me a note that said he only liked me as a friend and, as a matter of fact, had a crush on the girl who sat next to me in art class instead. Or the day I cried in the middle of ballet because I couldn't remember to go left instead of right on the adagio combination and somehow everyone else could. Or perhaps the week I got a fever and just wanted something cool against my cheek. Eventually the blanket found a more permanent home in the drawer. Then one day I sealed it up in a plastic bag, and that was it: I didn't sleep with a blanket anymore.

This is all to say I've considered the inverse scenario, where I discard the security stuff first. I've certainly side-eyed my coloring books and reflected on how it's easier to escape into that meditative, solitary activity than to face the fact that I'm avoiding asking a certain acquaintance to coffee for fear I won't actually have anything interesting to offer them as a friend. One could argue we would all benefit from owning nothing (or letting nothing own us.) Like a school uniform, this would reduce us to our inherent personalities and humors, and nothing more. It may be a chicken and egg scenario: Which comes first, the person or what defines them?  

But after a quarter of a century with your own mind, you start to know yourself. And I know me (even if I don't know it), and that's how I know that purging garbage bags of belongings or adopting another woman's style or cutting sugar out of my life entirely or making a declaration to say only "nice things" is merely a temporary fix. It will not ultimately get me anywhere but into a foreign shell of personality, like accidentally grabbing someone else's jacket from coat check. So I submit this: with the stuff, come the questions. Out of these questions, come the challenges. From the challenges, comes the person.

So, in summary, this year I'm striving to clarify. To engage quickly, but react slowly. To love passionately, but dispute deliberately. To forgive generously, but forget on my own terms. To focus less on analyzing my stuff, and more on investigating myself.

What does this mean for the blog? It means you'll still get the final installment of my capsule wardrobe series (winter), because I don't like to leave projects unfinished, but it also means I have no idea what turns my wardrobe structure may take beyond that. It means I'm still going to reflect on ways to be good to our planet and resist fast fashion. It means I forgot to put up a Christmas playlist this year, and I'm sorry to anyone who actually cares, but I'm starting to forgive my own inconsistencies. It means Inspirsession will continue to be an undefined, mutable space across which I continue to carve out and polish my identity, and one I hope will encourage you to share in the same process.

Thank you, dear readers, for keeping me writing. Happy New Year to all! Here's hoping 2017 makes a lot more sense than her predecessor.

*No one actually says this ever.

January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!

Happy 2017, everyone!

While on holiday at my parent's house, I took some time to reevaluate my style for the year ahead. Of course this lead to sorting through all my sentimental pieces... Hopefully some of these items will make their way back into my everyday wardrobe, but for now they have a semi-permanent home in my childhood bedroom. It was fun to style them again -- remembering a few of my old personalities and creating new ones on the way!

Outfit details:

(1) vintage silk slip (my grandmother's) + Express jeans (my brother's) + Converse All-Star high tops (circa 2004)

(2) Mandarin silk jacket (thrifted) + nude leotard + wool skirt + suede pumps (both my grandmother's)

(3) vintage dress (borrowed from a dear friend)

(4) formal dress (brand unknown, worn to an 8th grade dance)

(5) Old Navy overalls + Express crop top + a long-lost scrunchie

November 4, 2016

Fall Capsule 2016 - Lookbook Video

November greetings, everyone! Today I'm excited to share the third installment of my capsule wardrobe lookbook video series.

While I had tons of fun filming this, I'd admittedly been procrastinating on it due to some recent changes in my wardrobe structure. As described in my last post, I recently took on a second job as a restaurant hostess in addition to nannying. This has given me a greater sense of balance in my day-to-day life while I work toward acting projects, but it meant compiling a whole new set of work outfits!

Lucky for me, the nicer, chicer elements of my weekend wardrobe (i.e. fitted blazers, tailored pants, and pencil skirts) fit that niche perfectly. I pulled these elements into a new, additional work capsule wardrobe, filled in one or two missing elements with some consignment store finds, and voila!: I am now the proud owner of not just two, but three capsule wardrobes.

I know. Sounds a little crazy. But I promise you, it works!

If you'd like to see the contents of these work wardrobes alongside my weekend stuff in future lookbooks, let me know in the comments! As I see it, my weekend wear continues to be the most honest, personality-based portion of my closet, so that's why I've given it focus thus far.

Now, onto this capsule...

Oh what a joy it was to rediscover my sweaters, boots, and jackets -- most of which had been stashed away since last spring, hiding from New York's oppressive humidity. For the fall season I wanted to focus on incorporating my most unique pieces and better honor my favorite part of fashion: mixing the unexpected. Of course this meant a good deal of creative layering (it's fall, so duh) and obsessively* running through previously unexplored item combinations. In prepping outfits, I found myself toeing that maddening line between "I could totally be in a Vogue magazine right now" and "A thrift store just vomited all over me."

October marked a full year of purchasing only secondhand or otherwise eco-conscious items, and I'm proud to report I've persisted another month now without the pressure to buy anything new. (One exception is a pair of tights that were on their last leg, so to speak. After a year of research, I'm still on the hunt for eco-conscious hosiery and supportive bras. Got any leads?)

Of the 22 items featured here, about 60% were acquired secondhand (some recently and some not.) The others are new purchases from the days before I started this project, but the majority of this category is at least 3 years old. I've been doing seasonal check-ins to evaluate my closet's eco-score, and it's exciting to see the percentage of conscious choices on the rise! That said, I'm still working to keep my overall numbers down. The city's extensive variety of thrifting options is a constant temptation for this girl!

Like many of you, fall is my favorite season, and I'm greatly looking forward to riding that holiday wave (all the way home to the west coast!) with this collection. Then it's on to the final and most challenging installment: WINTER.

*P.S. - When I say obsessive, I'm not kidding -- I developed a kind of master spreadsheet which details each potential layering option per piece. I couldn't help but think I'd reached new levels of neuroticism, but it's actually been a useful tool on those days when I'm rushing out the door.

October 21, 2016

How To Build A Work-Friendly Capsule Wardrobe

One of the most common questions surrounding capsule wardrobes is how to construct one that accommodates both your worklife and your everyday / "off" life. Many of us deal with dress codes, uniforms, or other presentational guidelines at work -- and sometimes our personal style just doesn't suit our chosen career path! Whether you work in construction or corporate law, however, there are many ways to design a work-friendly capsule wardrobe without sacrificing your personal style.

Host Wardrobe (F2016)

In my four years since college, I've held five separate jobs alongside my chosen acting career (which, costumes aside, requires its own wardrobe suited to the constant movement and on-your-feet nature of rehearsals.) These five day jobs each called for a markedly different style of dress than what I was used to wearing around campus.

When I worked in real estate, I needed office-appropriate clothes that would also permit movement through apartment tours and meetings with contractors in sawdust-covered renovation sites. My telecommuting jobs -- writing, website management, and bookkeeping -- allowed me to work from home. Still, I've never been the type of person who can do their best while wearing pajamas, and occasional in-person conferences with my employers required presentable daywear regardless. At present, nannying requires a similar wardrobe.

Up until a few weeks ago, I had my capsule system down to a T. One set of clothes included my weekend and audition wear. A second, much smaller collection functioned as my nanny wardrobe. Since adopting a second job as a restaurant hostess, however, I've had to readjust my style -- essentially making room for the kind of chic items that always peppered my New York dreams, but which ultimately proved impractical alongside aggressive and all-too-affectionate jam hands.

I wondered: How could I stylishly reconcile these three very-different arenas of my life?

Enter the three-part capsule wardrobe.

The idea is not radical, if you understand capsule basics: Rather than building one all-encompassing wardrobe with lots of mix-and-match options, I chose to separate my clothes into three activity-based categories and build from there:

1 - weekend activities (friend dates, errands, city-wandering, shopping)
2 - nanny & personal assistant work
3 - auditions & restaurant work

To estimate roughly how many items I would need, I applied the kind of "laundry bottleneck" analysis described by Into-Mind (link.)

Completing these tandem processes quickly revealed existing "holes" in my closet. For one thing, I had too many shoes, only one of which proved properly suited to my new job. Most of my cold-weather gear was worn-out from last season, and I somehow had more lightweight outerwear than I knew what to do with. After dragging everything onto my bed, sorting by color, mixing and matching, and going through a few rounds of "how many oversized sweaters do I need, really?" I finally settled on something that resembled three funtional wardrobes, with a list of just five or so missing elements to thrift.

It's been a couple weeks since finalizing my three capsules, and I couldn't be happier with how they've turned out. I can't wait to get dressed on my days off (a delight which ensures this lazy housecat ventures beyond her living room on Saturday afternoons...) and my work clothes are now simple and streamlined, leaving more time for focused hair styling and second breakfasting.

Nanny Capsule (F2016)

For those of you interested, I've created a step-by-step breakdown of the process, below. I'd love to hear how it goes for you if and when you try it!

Part One: Plan

1) Before opening your closet, take some time with a blank sheet of paper to calculate your personal laundry cycle's worth of outfits. For me, that meant about 10 outfits per week. Divide said outfits into activities. For example:

10 TOTAL outfits = 3 nanny days + 4 hostess days + 3 off days

2) Next, consider what each of these outfits might look like. What kind of clothes do you tend to wear to these activities? If you're stumped, sort through blogs, magazines, or Pinterest for inspiration. Or take a look at what your boss and coworkers are wearing. Again, here's an example from my own notes:

3 nanny outfits:
-wrap dress + boots + parka
-light-knit sweater + flare jeans + sneakers
-t-shirt + skinny jeans+ ankle boots + cardigan

4 hostess outfits:
-blazer + silk blouse + cropped trousers
-a-line dress + heeled booties + overcoat
-silk blouse + black jeans + ankle boots
-button-down + pencil skirt + work heels

3 off-day outfits:
-silk blouse + chunky sweater + skinny jeans + oxfords
-collared blouse + sweater + pencil skirt + heels + wool coat
-knit dress + knee boots + moto jacket

You now have a bare-bones idea of what you need on-hand for one laundry cycle of outfits. If your preferences lean in the minimalist direction, this might be a perfect amount clothes for you. For the sake of variety and/or laundry emergencies, though, most of us prefer to have a few more options. To err on the safe side, you might multiply your results by 2 -- or simply add a few extra days to your laundry cycle before plotting your outfits.

3) Now make a list of your items, as such:

1 dress 
1 sweater
1 t-shirt
2 jeans
1 parka
1 jacket
1 cardigan
1 sneaker
2 boots

Remember to consider which items make multiple appearances on your list, as well as the ones you might wear more than once. For instance, I might don a parka for two chilly days of nannying, but that doesn't mean I need two separate parkas!

Part Two: Compile

1) Here comes the hands-on part. Pull everything out of your closet and onto your bed. If you store clothes seasonally, pull out any in-season garments as well. Be sure to check your laundry -- you want to consider everything.

2) Sort your garments into piles by type (sweaters, pants, skirts, dresses, etc.) It's helpful to group each category by color as well, in order to locate duplicates or preexisting palettes.

3) Using the list you generated in Part One as a guide, begin building your capsule piece by piece. Remember to remain flexible! You may find that the cardigans and skirts you have on hand are in discordant colors, but an available dress fills the same niche. Of course, you can always draft a shopping list to fill in any missing pieces, but try to consider what you already own first.

4) Once you've fulfilled most of your listed items, look over any remainders on the bed. (You may have none, and that's great!) Ask yourself if you'd be comfortable parting with these leftovers. Maybe an item belongs in another season and should be moved into storage. Maybe another no longer suits your style and can be passed on to a friend or donated. Beware clinging to sentimental items; depending on your lifestyle and living situation, some of these may be appropriate to place in (deep) storage, but avoid turning your home into a museum of nostalgia. It's probably best not to let our memories chain themselves to belongings.

Off Wardrobe (F2016)

Feel free to share your experience and questions below! I'm thrilled to be of any assistance on your journey. :)

Happy capsuling!

October 13, 2016

Fall Playlist 2016

And the time has come for another playlist!

While my music tastes have always shifted with the seasons, I've really come to enjoy to the ritual of honing these seasonal playlists. Like a capsule wardrobe, it gives me time to reflect on each individual component (in this case, each song) -- time to both fall in love more deeply and to outgrow those which aren't destined to become lifelong favorites. On my summer playlist, for example, I eventually tired of Modest Mouse's "Dashboard," but I would happily listen to those Swiss Army Man selections on repeat for another three months. Here at the beginning, when everything is fresh and new, it's sort of fun to guess what will stick.

At the moment, as may be perfectly evident from the listing, I'm head over heels for *the bird and the bee* (yes, it's all lowercase. cute, right?) Not only did they dedicate their time to a Hall & Oates tribute album (necessary AND effective), but their at-times-ethereal, at-times-throaty vocals make for some very cool headphonage. I can't wait until it's appropriate to cue up their beautiful-weird take on "Carol of the Bells" (about 10 seconds after Thanksgiving dinner's over, right?)

Other standouts on this playlist come courtesy of my musically-inclined bestie, HH, who swapped playlists with me this summer and turned me on to the selections from Old Wave, Fran├žoise Hardy, and Charlift. Meanwhile, my obsession with God Help The Girl continues to inform everything from this playlist to my hairdo daydreams. It's almost time to donate again, you guys! I'm rockin' some serious horse hair these days. Neigh.

Happy autumn, everybody. It's friggin freezing over here, but I'll allow it. It's hard not to love this time of year.