Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Lovely Lookbook: Boots

Happy New Year!  For this month's installment of The Lovely Lookbook hosted by Caitlin and Sarah, we are styling boots.  Very appropro.  I have been reaching for my boots daily this month what with the cold weather and all.  Even though the temperatures in Arkansas aren't below freezing, it's still pretty cold and boots are the footwear of choice.

Photo credit: Caitlin Skidmore

After Christmas, my family and I took a little road trip to Dallas. We did this last year and we're thinking about making it an annual thing.  I was able to meet up with Caitlin for breakfast in historical downtown McKinney at a quaint little restaurant called, "Snug on the Square."

I am so thankful for this woman right here.  She's not just a style blogger, she's a good listener and she truly wants to help women feel gorgeous no matter their shape or size.  If you haven't already signed up for her email style series, Hello Gorgeous, you really need to.  I'm looking forward to seeing the great things God does through her and her blog this year.

What about you?  Do you have a favorite pair of boots to keep you warm this winter?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

My Winter Go-To Look

December is here with all it's hustling and bustling.  Is it just me or are stores putting out Christmas decorations earlier and earlier each year?  I wanted to link up my go-to winter look with The Lovely Lookbook hosted by Caitlin and Sarah, but I was sick this week and never got around to it.  Oh well.  Now that I'm feeling better, here's my take:

Jeans: Plato's Closet/Black long sleeve tee: Old Navy/Ankle boots: Old Navy/Hat: Roxy via PacSun/ Leopard scarf: Walmart/Black poncho: Charlotte Russe really old, like 10 years old. 

So ye-ah, growing up in Hawaii...we never had winter.  The coldest it would get was maybe 75 on a dreary day. I never knew what winter really was until I moved to Arkansas.  And even then, we don't really have snowy winters like those of you who live in the northern parts of the country.  Yeesh, I cannot even imagine.

I have to admit, when I moved here I did not know how to dress for winter at all.  I dressed entirely for warmth, not for style.  I remember one of my first winters here, walking across the school parking lot in my sister's snowboarding jacket from her college days at the University of Virginia, wearing a beanie I bought on clearance, long underwear under my frumpy pants and sweater, and frumpy shoes with thick sweater socks.  I walked past one of the native Arkansan teachers who always dressed super cute in her tailored wool coat, stylish skirt with tights and boots.  "How can she stand the cold?" I asked myself.  What I failed to realize was that I was not going to be walking around in the cold all day.  Duh!  It's all about layers!  Cute layers, too!  I really should have paid more attention to that one Cosby Show episode when Dr. Huxtable dresses little Rudy in all her layers.

It was really only last year that I started putting more effort into my winter outfits. Pinterest and style blogs have really helped me up my game when it comes to dressing for winter.  Other than layers, here are a few of my favorite winter pieces:

1.  Boots - When I moved here I only had one pair of tall brown boots that I bought on clearance in California.  Now I own several pairs in black, taupe, and cognac.

2.  Fleece-lined tights - Audrey from Putting Me Together mentioned these and I was sold.  The ones in the ladies section were a little too long for my 5'0" frame, so I tried the girls size and they fit perfect!

3.  Stylish coat - There have been a plethora of blog posts on winter coats.  I realized I already owned a pretty nice black wool coat (it was a gift) and I just need to utilize it more.  I also picked up a camel wool coat with a hood in the same brand from Plato's Closet.  I need to wear these and save my sister's old snowboarding jacket for playing in the snow!

4.  Scarves - These are all the rage so I have acquired quite a collection of these.  From neutrals to colors to patterns, you name it. 

5.  Hats - A lady from my church crochets and takes special orders.  She made me one last year and this year I'm ordering two more. 

6.  Gloves/mittens - No brainer.  This year, I had to buy some that were touch screen compatible though.

What are your favorite winter pieces?  What is winter like in your neck of the woods?

Linking up with The Pleated Poppy for What I Wore!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lessons Learned

Here I am, the day after Black Friday, thinking back to two years ago when I had begun my year-long break up with shopping.  That means it was only one year ago that I reunited with shopping.  I remember it vividly.  It was on that day one year ago that I wrote this email to Caitlin, the one who inspired me to take on the challenge.  So what has it been like, allowing myself to freely venture into stores and spend money on clothes, shoes and accessories again?  As I've shared here before, there were many lessons I learned during my year of no shopping.  Here are just a few of them that come to my mind today.

Lesson #1: Less is more.
One of the reasons why I felt so discontent with my closet was because I had so many ill-fitting, poor quality pieces in my closet.  I didn't want to get rid of them, but at the same time, I never wanted to wear them.  I purged my closet and kept the pieces that fit well and were made well.  I still clean out my closet at times to make sure I'm not holding on to things I don't wear.  A good rule I try to follow is to donate one piece for every new piece.

Lesson #2:  Choose quality over quantity.
During my year of no shopping, I actually did some shopping with gift cards/gift money from special occasions, but because I was limited, I became picky.  No more impulse buying.  Pre-break-up I would just grab a bunch of stuff and not try them on.  The result was a closet full of clothing I never wore.  In order to find pieces that fit me well, I started to shop in the women's petites section instead of the junior's department.  If I'm looking for a well-made timeless piece, I look for quality brands, even if it means spending a little more.

Lesson #3:  Lifestyle defines personal style.  
Pinterest is great for finding style inspiration, however, one day in the middle of winter, I recreated an outfit I had pinned, but soon realized that I was freezing cold. Also, my outfit was made of pieces that were not conducive to my duties as a momma of two little ones.  Another time I recreated a work outfit I had seen, but when I got to my classroom, my shoes hurt my feet and I felt hindered and unproductive the whole day.  It was then that I started deliberately thinking about my personal style.   One word came to my mind: comfy.  At the same time, I didn't want to sacrifice style for comfort.  I became @howcomfy on Instagram and I started the hashtag #comfymommastyle and #comfyteacherstyle to document the outfits that worked for me.  I've met several sweet moms and teachers who really encourage me in my style endeavors.    

Lesson #4: Look for remixable pieces.
This is the fun part.  Instead of buying outfits that could only be worn one way or for one occasion, I purchased pieces that I could mix and match.  Style bloggers like Audrey from Putting Me Together and Caitlin from Greater Than Rubies, have taught me a lot in this area.  I started buying pieces that I could wear for different occasions.  I've also participated in Caitlin's remix challenges where you choose twenty pieces to remix exclusively for thirty days.  I've learned how to shop my closet, and it has helped me to be a better steward of what I own and to be content with what God has given me. 

Lesson #5: Trust God.  
I am amazed at how much God has blessed me through this entire "style journey."  Never in my life have I felt so content and provided for.  There have been times throughout these past two years when someone would just give me clothes or I'd get a gift card from a student.  Another cool thing that has happened during my style journey has been the clearance sales at the Plato's Closet and Clothes Mentor stores here.  Because they are consignment stores, I have been able to purchase name brand pieces (some still with tags) for only $1!  I'm not necessarily saying "trust God and He'll give you clothes" although He does say in Matthew chapter 6: "Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or "What shall we wear?'...For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."  What I'm saying is when you trust God with every aspect of your life, He is always faithful.

Sometimes I get really self-conscious about my participation on social networks with regards to "style."  I worry about people judging the things I post and write, thus allowing the enemy to rob me of any kind of joy or peace.  At the same time, I've learned so many things that have strengthened my relationship with God and has helped me minister to others. 

As this holiday season marks another year of my style revelation, I've been reflecting on some of my experiences, and I know that God can use our experiences to point us to Him.  I'm trusting Him to use me in whatever way He wants to use me.  Starting today, I want to share more of my experiences through this blog.  I hope you'll stick around and join me once in awhile.    

P.S.  Linking up with The Modern Austen for Sunday Best!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Lovely Lookbook: Fall Colors Edition

It's fall, y'all!  Living in the south has really affected my vocabulary, among other things.  I now own quite a collection of big pieces of jewelry, and I have recipes for several casseroles memorized.  Growing up in Hawaii where it's 80 degrees year round, I never had that anticipation for fall.  Now I look forward to the cooler weather where I can bust out the jeans, boots, and layers.  Ah yes, the layers.

This past Saturday, our family of four joined Poppy and Grammie How and Mr. How's sister and her family of five for our annual How Family visit to the pumpkin patch: a very sincere pumpkin patch if I may say so myself.  It was the perfect day to wear fall colors for the October edition of The Lovely Lookbook hosted by Caitlin and Sarah of Greater Than Rubies and Tucker Up, respectfully.

We've been coming to this pumpkin patch for the past four years now, but sometimes getting dressed for an outing like this can be sorta tricky.  One year it was incredibly cold.  Another year it was really hot. Last year, it had rained the day before, so it was muddy.  Also, I can't ever decide if I should dress up so as to look cute in family pictures, or if I should dress down because of all the dirt I accumulate on my clothes from the hay ride, the hay bale maze, sunflower maze, petting zoo, corn kernel pit, and the pumpkin patch itself. 

Cute and comfy was my goal, and I think I pulled it off. Because I've pared down my closet, it was very easy for me to get dressed that morning.  First, I knew I needed layers. It was a gorgeous sunny day with a nippy little breeze, so I chose denim jeggings and a white v-neck tee as my base. I then layered a blue gingham button-down shirt over that and then an olive puffer vest as a completer piece.  I chose cognac ankle boots, instead of tall ones, since it was only around 75 degrees.  If it got too warm, I knew I could just remove the vest or tie my gingham layer around my waist.  I also decided to wear blue because I imagined it would look best against the orange of the pumpkins, since blue and orange contrasting colors.  Voila!  

All afternoon I was comfy, and I felt cute and confident at the same time.  We took some nice family pictures, and I didn't worry about my outfit getting dirty!  High fives all around!

Linking up with The Pleated Poppy for What I Wore Wednesday, Get Your Pretty On for I Feel Pretty, and The Modern Austen for Sunday Best!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What I Wore: Tax-Free Shopping Weekend

We had a tax-free shopping weekend the first week in August when my sisters happened to be in town.  I hadn't seen them in two whole years!  I'm telling you, my sisters are my favorite people to go shopping with.  It's too bad we live so far away from each other!  They never hover impatiently.  We all just have a silent agreement to allow the others to browse independently.  At the same time, we don't get offended if one of us wants to check out a different store while another is still shopping.  Do you have your favorite shopping besties?  

I took them to a fun shopping area in Little Rock where some of my favorite stores are located.  The kids tagged along with us that Saturday, so we brought along some lollipops and our Nintendo DS's.  Yes, my youngest sister and I both own them. (Anyone else out there?  C'mon, I know some of you do...)  I knew I wanted to be comfortable that day so I wore some comfy gray jeans, a lightweight sleeveless mint top, and a pair of simple sandals; all items that could easily be removed and put back on when trying on clothes and shoes.  My trusty backpack purse would allow me to shop hands-free, and held all the shopping necessities: my wallet, a water bottle, and the treats and DS for the kiddos. 

Middle sister wanted some shorts and was able to find a great pair on sale at J.Crew.  Little sister wanted some tennis shoes but DSW didn't have anything she liked this time.  I went ahead and bought a pair of petite dark wash modern skinny jeans at Loft. I've realized recently how important it is to buy clothes that fit me well, so I like Loft for it's petite section.  All three of us bought necklaces and posted a challenge for our friends on Facebook and Instagram to see if they could match the necklace with the sister.  It was interesting to see what people guessed. 

When I go shopping, I like to look somewhat put together, but not go overboard. One of my friends from college and I would joke when we'd see girls all dolled up at the mall and whisper, "DTK," to each other.  "Dressed to Kill."  As a mom who doesn't have a lot of time to go shopping by herself, I need a simple outfit for those quick changes in the dressing room.  On the flip side, I have also gone clothing shopping in just a t-shirt, shorts and athletic shoes and even though it shouldn't be this way, the clerks in some stores just don't always give you quality service when dressed super casual.  (Imagine the scene from Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts tries to shop on Rodeo Drive for the first time.)

What do you like to wear when you go clothes/shoe shopping?
P.S.  Linking up with Tucker Up for What I Wore Wednesday!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Lovely Lookbook: Dress Edition

I haven't blogged in awhile and I have a good reason.  August is the busiest time of the year for me because it's back to school I go.  I'm a middle school teacher at a private school where I have the privilege of teaching 5th through 8th grade English.  Yeah. You English teachers out there know what I'm talking about.  Don't get me wrong, I really do love what I do, it's just that everything else in my life seems to end up on the back burner when I'm focused on the beginning of a new school year.  Throw in a husband who is an assistant principal, a first grader, and a pre-schooler, and you can imagine how cray-cray life has been these past couple weeks at the How's house.

Now that we are back into somewhat of a routine, I decided that I want to continue blogging here; documenting my style journey as it continues to evolve.  I have to admit that I've felt pretty good about my "comfy teacher style" outfits for work.  I've learned to remix pieces and utilize what I already own.  The best thing is I'm getting dressed in less than five minutes and I haven't felt frumpy yet.  It just goes to show that when you own pieces that you feel good about wearing, you can avoid that moment of standing in front of your closet saying, "I have nothing to wear!"

Today I'm linking up with Caitlin and Sarah's first edition of a style challenge they've entitled "The Lovely Lookbook."  Both of these young ladies blog about style in a way that I can get on board with.  They're all about shopping your closet and making clothes work for your body type.  Check out their blogs and you'll see what I mean. 
This month, The Lovely Lookbook is featuring dresses, so I thought I'd participate in show and tell time.  Here's my steal of a deal: a black and white striped fit and flare dress by Peter Som for Kohl's.  

Original price: $68
Clearance price: $20, minus $10 off coupon in the mail
I paid: $10 plus tax
Eek!  I cannot even begin to express my excitement when I found this dress!  I'm 5'0" and recently figured out that after having two children, I can't shop the juniors department anymore.  Fortunately, many stores that I love carry petite sizing.  The day I purchased this dress I wasn't looking for a dress at all.  I browsed the petite section and nothing really caught my eye, so in hesitation I picked through the regular clearance stuff.  This dress instantly came into view.  I was like: My size? Check!  Modest neckline? Check!  Modest length? Check! Hides my baby belly and scoliosis curvature? Check!  Remixable for every season? Check!  Remixable for different occasions?  Check!  Timeless color and pattern? Check!
I wore this to work on Thursday when we have to wear a skirt or dress for chapel.  I paired it with gold flats and a neutral statement necklace (both purchased on clearance). I chose simple gold earrings, and even wore a gold clip in my hair. 

I felt comfy, cute, and stylish all day.  It was about 90 degrees so I chose not to layer a cardigan or jacket.  I felt like the necklace and the gold shoes were enough to pull the outfit together.  You better believe I'll be wearing this dress again for other seasons and occasions.  Because it's neutral, I can definitely add some color with accessories and completer pieces.  It would also be fun to do some pattern mixing!  

Do you have a dress that you absolutely love?  How do you style dresses for different seasons and occasions?
P.S. Linking up with The Pleated Poppy What I Wore Wednesday!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Summer Remix Challenge Recap

I'll be the first to say that I could have done a little better with this month's summer remix challenge.  Wellllll, maybe I could have done a lot better.  I will give myself some credit for 1) linking up each week - even if I was a few days late, and 2) creating over 30 outfits with my 20 pieces - even if I just swapped completer pieces with basic outfits.  I mean, no need to reinvent the wheel, right?

When I decided to do this challenge,  I had a lot of good intentions.  I even started a blog to document my outfits and have something to link back to.  I wanted to do a good job by posting daily outfit photos on Instagram.  I also wanted to create a uniform layout of a weekly collage of outfits for each week's link up.  Although not all of that took place, I did my best with what time and resources were available to me, because the bottom line is, life happens.  Because I'm a teacher, I get to spend my summer at home with my kids, and that means I need mom-friendly outfits.  Looking back on this challenge, I found that I gravitated towards my t-shirts and my pants and shorts.  Those pieces are just so much more practical when you're bending over tying shoelaces, picking up crying children, and cleaning up all kinds of messes.  I threw in a few dresses for church and special occasions and I guess I could've worn them more, but most days it was a comfy momma outfit for chores and running around with the kids.  I also found that I didn't wear my tanks as much as I thought I would.   

What I love about Caitlin and her blog, Greater Than Rubies, is that she helps women (like myself) to realize that life is more than just a "to do list."  Her weekly "Remix Rewear Restyle" link up is a challenge to do just that: remix pieces we already have in our closets, rewear pieces to get more use out of them, and restyle pieces to create other fun looks!  Because of Caitlin and other style bloggers who have similar goals, I have learned to be content with what I do have.  I don't have to spend a ton of money and I don't have to own a lot of clothes to look put together.  The style tips I've learned have helped me to be comfortable with what I'm wearing, which then helps to motivate me to do the things I need to do, and also frees me up to do the things I want to do.
Before I end with a few more outfit photos to wrap up this challenge, I want to say thank you to Caitlin for being such a great friend (IRL!) and accountability partner these past few years.  I just can't put into words how you've encouraged and inspired me in so many ways.  Your posts and articles are about so much more than "style."  You truly are a woman after God's own heart!

Outfit 1:  white jeans + white tee + olive cargo vest + leopard slides
Occasion: A day at the zoo with the kiddos!

Outfit 2:  navy tee + coral cords + denim flats (added denim jacket)
Occasion: chores at home, then dinner and bookstore with the fam

Outfit 3: olive tee + denim shorts + cognac flats
Occasion:  shopping with my daughter and then family time

Now stick a fork in me; I'm done.

P.S.  Linking up with Greater Than Rubies, The Pleated Poppy, Tucker Up, Get Your Pretty On, and The Modern Austen!