What is your personal style? I am constantly exploring what that question means to me — how to find inspiration, be different, be myself, stay frugal, be age- and shape-appropriate, decide if I care about age- or shape-appropriateness. Beyond the question of What do I wear today? is the joy in an aimless exploration of my own style potential. Here are some of my favorite books for that kind of daydreaming.
1. The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style: How to Wear Iconic Looks and Make Them Your Own
Though The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style is seven years old, I feel the styles are iconic enough to remain inspirational for many more years. When I first bought this, I labeled myself California Casual and Bohemian, but now I’m feeling a little Arty Slick and Posh Eclectic. Though it’s not important to find a mold and cram yourself into it, this guide is nice for identifying what style category you are drawn to and finding inspiration in its suggestions.
2. Women in Clothes
You might call Women in Clothes the intellectual companion to The Lucky Guide. There are few styled photos, no shopping guides, and none of that slick magazine feel. Instead, this book gives you the stories of how all types of women feel about their clothes. It reminds us how meaningful clothes are — beyond trends and price points.
3. Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns: A Guide to Customizing a Hand-Stitched Alabama Chanin Wardrobe
Hand sewing in the detail suggested by Alabama Studio is beyond the skill and interest of most people. Still, what I’ve found in Natalie Chanin’s techniques are an appreciation for quality and simplicity. Even if you have never sewn a stitch and have no plans to, you can browse this book and imagine a wardrobe full of interchangeable pieces in fine organic knits and soothing, natural colors. For me, these patterns are aspirational.
4. Parisian Chic: A Style Guide
There is a whole genre of guides to teach Americans how to be more French. I don’t know if it’s healthy to fetishize a foreign culture, but this much is true: books like Parisian Chic present a style with ease and a je ne sais quoi that is enviable.
5. The Lingerie Handbook
Want to build your wardrobe from the inside out? This is a great guide for finding the basics and the secret beauties that make you feel and look your best.
6. Stylish Dress Book: Wear with Freedom
Here’s another sewing book for style inspiration, even if you don’t sew. There are plenty of these translated Japanese pattern books that present an aesthetic I haven’t seen anywhere else. From ditsy florals to edgy black layers, Japanese sewists give a great perspective on looks that are relaxed, feminine, and quirky.
7. What People Wore When: A Complete Illustrated History of Costume from Ancient Times to the Nineteenth Century for Every Level of Society
Lest you forget fashion didn’t begin and end with the September issue of Vogue, here is a glimpse into what clothing has looked like through the centuries. Books like this are not just inspiration for theatrical costume designers or Halloween partygoers; see how pieces from different eras can work for you today.
8. The Intelligent Layman’s Book of Jewellery
Though this particular book is not widely available, any book on the history of jewelry is a good accompaniment to a book on the history of costume. Or visit an art museum and browse the ancient jewelry as if you were shopping for yourself. If grandma’s jewelry box is your cup of (chamomile) tea, look for inspiration in guides like this.
9. Print & Pattern: Geometric
For the daring person who likes to wear bold graphics or (gasp!) mix patterns, Print & Pattern is full of inspiration. Even for the not-so-daring, see how graphic designers combine colors in unexpected ways, and experiment with your solid pieces.
10. The New Bohemians: Cool & Collected Homes
Though not about fashion, this new home decor book will spark the Bohemian inside of you (if there is one). It explores the casual, eclectic, colorful style I’m drawn to in both clothes and spaces
Early 1980s, summer smells like pool water and cheese crackers from the vending machine at the city pool. And 7-Up in a can because at least one summer, it seemed like we had endless cases of 7-Up in the porch fridge. (I assume you are familiar with the porch fridge.)
I don't know who took me to the pool (Mom? Grammaw?); I don't know if I wore a seatbelt in the backseat; I don't know if anyone ever put sunscreen on me.
But I know what the combination of pool water, cheese crackers, and 7-Up smells like -- a sense memory 35 years old.
Early 1990s, summer smells like pool water, cigarette smoke, and NO-AD tanning lotion in Stacey's backyard. After the sun set, it smelled like plumeria lotion on hot tanned skin and B.C. Moore's parking lot. I never got close enough to a boy to smell Drakkar Noir.
Stacey's mom is gone since last year, and no one smokes cigarettes anymore. I feel so deeply hurt for my oldest friend to have lost her mother and so disoriented to be in…
Nearly ten years ago, a doctor told me diabetes would kill me, it was just a matter of how soon. I couldn't see the benefit of his ugly, callous prediction. I couldn't see the benefit of being locked into a medical relationship with someone who saw me as a hopeless expiration date. I decided even with long waits and insurance hurdles, it would always be worth it to find doctors who are supportive and try to understand me as a person.
Today, I broke up with
I'm not convinced he's not a good doctor, but he's not a good fit for me. He has been seeing me for two months to help me prepare for another baby, but I don't think he knows anything about me. Our appointments last less than 5 minutes, he gives me vaguely shaming advice to lose weight, "start" exercising, stop being diabetic. He has never asked me whether I exercise, what I eat, what I do to control my diabetes. He has made assumptions about my lifestyle based on my appearance, …
I wrote this essay (originally published by Mom Babble) in 2015. I was just reading it today and reliving some of that enthusiasm for activity! And remember when I was running, pushing Mamie in that stroller every day? Well I figure I have one more year at home with Lizzie, and I'm ready to recapture some moments on the road and at the gym with her. <3 p="">
I'm Healthier Because of My Daughter(s)
Mamie laughs at the leaves falling on her stroller, complains when I tease them out of her mouth. This is our third walk around the neighborhood today, shooting for a goal of three miles. This toddler is my shield, a salve to soothe the awkwardness I would feel if I were out here alone.
I am no stranger to attempts at personal wellness. I have notebooks full of food logs, exercise logs, and blood sugar logs, stretching back a decade. I never imagined a baby’s motivating influence would trump every trick I had tried before. From the second she sparked into existence, my…