It started with a simple request to our readers: "I'm looking for people who've reevaluated how they dress following a major life event."
We talk about personal style a lot around here. The silhouettes that are trending across the internet, the daring women who make us internally shout, I want to be her, and the grand conversations about where the fashion industry as a whole is moving—they're all factors that affect what we wear when we face the world. But frankly, it's hard to forget that the operative word in personal style is "personal". This prompted my original question.
Even for someone like me who engages in conversations about fashion daily and finds joy in communicating through clothing, there can be days when I would much rather wear my sweatpants than step out in heels. There have even been years when I was convinced I had to dress a certain way for my body before ultimately deciding to listen to my gut over unsolicited advice. In retrospect, I think feeling a little lost in our sense of style can sometimes lead us to a happier place, which is why I find the stories ahead so inspiring.
Be it cross-continental relocation or the deepest of heartbreak, the below stories were shared by brave women. They're profound and, perhaps for a few, relatable. What's more is that they also simultaneously led these women on lost-then-found—or at least, currently seeking—journies to reclaim their personal style.
I worked three years in Antarctica, six months to a year each time. My longest job was working in the waste recycling department. Thanks to the Antarctic Treaty, we exist under a "pack-in/pack-out" mentality to leave as little a footprint on the continent as possible. So I'd drive around in heavy machinery, pick up garbage and recyclables around the station, and package them up to send off-continent. I loved it!
It's obviously cold and we would get really dirty, so my daily uniform was various layers of long underwear and Carhartt-insulated bibs, jackets, and hat. Outside of that, I only had one suitcase to live out of, so I would pack mostly muted utilitarian items. But I would still bring a couple special pieces with me, like a vintage fringed top or some patent leather boots.
"It left me feeling foggy about a lot of things, style included."
My last round in Antarctica, I spent an entire year there, which left me physically and emotionally drained and left me feeling foggy about a lot of things, style included. I never lost my zeal for getting dressed, but I couldn't quite find a comfortable groove or break out of the comfort of the jean/sweater/boot combo. I'd wear blacks, grays, tans, and creams, but not much color. I'd like to say I was rocking a more "classic" style, but it never felt just right.
Now that I'm in New York, I've become more adventurous about proportions, prints, and color. I feel like I'm sussing out what my style is again, and it's been both a fun and frustrating journey. Most of my clothing is vintage, and I love to modernize with other thrifted pieces or secondhand items from The RealReal. Pants, brogues, blazers, loafers—those are my bread and butter. I'm still evolving and figuring things out—which is truly a lifelong process anyhow.
The girl with great style: That is who I had always been until about two years ago. Turning 30 meant the onset of weight gain and a financial crisis that spiraled out of control. I had been avoiding my student loans too long—so long that the IRS laughed at my income tax and repossessed it. (I didn't even know that was possible—that's the level of irresponsible I had been… not even knowing what the outcome of ducking and dodging my student loans would be.)
In the middle of all this, of course, my style suffered. I didn't know how to dress for my new body type, and I didn't have the money to even figure it out. To top all the misery off, my grandmother died. I mention this because she was my saving grace. A designer and seamstress, she left me a closet full of clothes that all happened to be in my size. Classic Calvin Klein suits, Gucci bags… I realized there is power in hand-me-downs.
"I realized there is power in hand-me-downs."
I started going through my mom's closet and grabbing old dresses and jewelry she no longer wears. Whenever a friend would clear out their closet, I would be there, with no shame, to take the things that fit who I am.
I now shop for classic pieces that will last me for ages. I wear a lot of suits and feminine dresses, I'm always in gold jewelry and some sort of hat or scarf. Oh, and sale. "Sale" is my favorite word.
Being a blogger and stylist means that personal style is very important to me. I'm most comfortable wearing prints and colors—anything that will parallel my naturally vibrant personality.
[Ed note: She's wearing her grandmother's Liz Claiborne suit in this photo.]
I've always loved anything that sparkled, stood out, and was different. I worked in the fashion industry for years (some of my family owned a clothing manufacturing business), so I was always reading fashion magazines and running to 34th Street on my lunch breaks to buy the new trends. I guess I also always cared about what other people thought of me, so I dressed to impress as often as possible.
When my fiancé passed away in April 2015, I stopped caring about just about everything. I don't really remember buying anything new—I wore a lot of his flannel shirts and old tank tops I had owned for years. The thrill and excitement shopping once gave me disappeared in an instant.
It's a catch-22, but I lost about 20 pounds and dropped two to three sizes in the months that followed, so in the middle of picking up the pieces of my life, I was also secretly kind of in awe of the clothes I could get away with now. I specifically remember a neon orange bralette I wore to Governor's Ball that year (I would never wear that now). I also really stopped caring what other people thought (like if I was too old to be wearing items from Forever 21; I turned 32 that year).
"Life returned to a new normal."
Three years passed and life returned to a new normal. I worked from home for almost a year, so I didn't have to get dressed if I didn't want to. I wore a lot of yoga pants. When I started dating my current boyfriend, I learned that he was super into the athletic look, so I continued the yoga pant trend without much thought. I still couldn't find a need to dress to impress though; it made me exhausted to put too much energy or brain power into a creative ensemble.
When I started a new job in April 2017, I finally had a real reason to get dressed in the morning. And I'm not going to lie, it was/has been difficult until recently. I am the oldest person in my office (turning 35 in a few months), and it's been a challenge to figure out where I fit in on the fashion spectrum. It's also taken me a long time to feel comfortable in my own skin and accept where I am in my life—personally and professionally. I wanted to start dressing in a way that reflects who I am (a girl who deep down will always love some sparkle), but at the same time, be okay with the fact that I'm nearing my mid-30s without looking like I'm trying too hard. I definitely still think it's a work in progress, but I'm taking it one shimmery sweatshirt at a time.
When I found out I was pregnant with my oldest daughter six years ago, it was definitely a surprise, to say the least. I was in my early twenties coasting through life. When I found out I was going to be a mother, I knew my lifestyle had to change. In my mind, this meant I had to start dressing differently as well. I dressed in a way I thought would make feel more mature and also in a way that I wouldn't be judged so harshly by other, slightly older, mothers.
I would throw on a cardigan over top almost every outfit. To me, cardigans carry a sense of seriousness to them, therefore, I would be taken seriously. After a while, I had quite the collection. I also loaded up on 3/4-length-sleeve tops and dresses. I have quite the tattoo on my arm, and being a younger mother, I didn't want to be extra judged.
"I got rid of everything that didn't 'spark joy'."
After a while, I began to just feel lost. I couldn't keep up the charade. I stumbled upon Marie Kondo's various books and decided to KonMarie my closet. I got rid of everything that didn't "spark joy" and I haven't looked back since.
I would describe my style as eclectic minimalist. Lately, I've been wearing raw-hemmed jeans and lots of polka dots and stripes. My outfit is usually simple with a splash of quirkiness. I love adding in a slightly unexpected element whether it be a shoe or accessory to add a little flair.
The most rewarding aspect has been the confidence I was able to regain. I don't feel like I'm hiding or trying to be something that I'm not anymore. The only person I dress to impress now is myself.
If you feel like shopping, these pieces always put us in a good mood.
Available in sizes 4 to 12.
Available in sizes 36 to 41.
Available in sizes 0 to 12.
Available in sizes 2 to 12.
Available in sizes 2 to 14.
Available in sizes 14 to 28.
Available in sizes XS to XL.
Have a story of your own to share? We'd love to hear from you too.