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stories from my closet: bringing back a little bling

Spring is finally upon us, and perhaps more than any other year prior, I’m feeling a bit of anxiety surrounding the departure from hibernation.

Many of us have hardly worn pants, let alone have thought about what to wear with those pants, in months, maybe even in a year or more. As we return to our physical places of business, venture out in search of new opportunities, or just leave the house for brunch (can you imagine??) it’s now necessary to consider what to wear and what to carry, beyond those two or three moderately clean shirts kept on standby for Zoom meetings.

As I’ve slowly returned to more intentional dressing, I realized that no section of my wardrobe has seen more neglect during the pandemic than my collection of accessories. Which is particularly saddening, as I’ve probably invested more love and effort into my assortment of shoes, handbags, and jewelry than anything else I wear. So, I decided to approach these outfits using accessories as a foundation, ensuring that they finally get a little time in the sun.

I bought this amazing Kara bag after months of pouring over images of handbags with massive chains, and I knew it had to become part of my collection. Personally, I love a smaller bag; large handbags always become a chaotic catch-all, despite my best intentions to keep them neat. This one perfectly fits my phone, wallet, lip color, and keys, and really stands out against a dark-hued canvas. It almost feels like a piece of statement jewelry in the way it easily elevates an outfit.

The coveralls are a super comfy, but still durable, iteration by Cloth and Stone. A one-piece outfit is a really simple transition from the athleisure that has dominated my dressing habits of late. Despite the minimal elements involved, it looks pulled together and hey, practically no thought process required.

The ankle boots are the Aslen Mid Boot by Rag and Bone. I love the micro-croc texture, and they are light enough to wear in any season (to be fair, I’m a big proponent of boots as a year-round wardrobe staple though).

This outfit was born out of a singular desire to wear these Pertini boots again. I got an absolute mad deal on these years ago, and they’ve really endured. As you may have noticed, I have a love of shiny hardware, and these beautifully made shoes definitely tick that box. I let the metallic details on the boots inform my other accessory choices, adding a platinum leather Alexander McQueen clutch and bangles by LowLuv.

The short-sleeved blouse is a staple Madewell item that they thankfully have new versions of practically every spring and summer. The black jeans are a pair of Levi’s I scooped up at Buffalo Exchange; this funky consignment chain is a great place to find pre-loved denim with some character. This outfit actually has me excited to do so hands-on thrifting again!

If there is one fashion item I will never be without, it is a leather biker jacket. This one by Need Supply Co. (rest in peace) is the third one I’ve had in my lifetime, and arguably my favorite. I love the soft textured leather and the dark metallic hardware. It wears easily over a tee or a sweater in cooler temps. I was really excited to contrast the grain of the jacket with the super sleek patent leather of this Medea Longstrap mini bag.

I became familiar with Medea while working for Need Supply Co., and quickly found that all their pieces are absolutely beautiful little jewels. I love a luxe bag, and there are lots of exciting smaller brands entering this space, with much friendlier price-points than the dominant blue chip brands.

With all these black leather selections, I decided to go with a classic and casual rock n’ roll inspired outfit. The tee is a stretchy classic offering from Paco Rabanne, and the jeans once again are Levi’s. I rounded out the rocker-esque look with a belt from Frye. This ensemble is probably the closest version of my pre-pandemic self, so it really felt good getting these pieces together.

As I built these outfits, I realized there is a real joy to sort of shopping your own wardrobe, recalling the origins of the pieces you’ve held on to, and seeing a little bit of yourself in each of them. For this outfit, I started with this beautiful statement necklace from the now defunct LowLuv by Erin Wasson. I remember I bought this piece while I was working for a retailer that was really insistent on customer-facing employees wearing statement necklaces. It was a category they were pushing, but I just didn’t like the loud colors and brassy metallics of costume jewelry. I found this solid sterling silver piece online and it just sort of clicked with my entire wardrobe.

I paired it with some favorite pieces from Frye, a narrow western belt to compliment the aesthetic of the necklace, and a classic top handle black leather bag. You really can’t beat Frye when it comes to quality leather items that hold up year over year.

The distressed denim jacket, white button down, and black cigarette pants are all from Madewell. I will happily admit to being a low-level Madewell junkie. Their pieces are well-made, there’s always a sale going on, they suck you in with a points system, and you can justify all your purchases since so much of their stuff is office friendly (as we are expected to head back there, apparently).

Truly planning out all these outfits felt novel, despite the fact that it was a pretty routine practice for me pre-pandemic. I’ve absolutely been one of those people that has lamented the rise of comfort over style while hypocritically building a sweatpants cache that would rival an American Apparel fitting room. So this was a good reminder of why I love styling and outfit building; fashion can really make you feel something, beyond warm and fuzzy comfortability. I felt measurably more confident in a fully executed outfit. Heck, I might even go so far as to say I felt as if I had accomplished something, and I hadn’t even left the house yet.

Like all relationships, the one with our clothes is going to change over time. And not just because we gain or lose weight, but because clothing fulfills different needs as circumstances call for it. I never thought I’d own this many crewneck sweatshirts post college, but hey, they’ve gotten me through the darkest trenches of working from home. So, I can say without a doubt that I still love fashion. It still has that ability to make me feel like I’ve got this, pandemic or no.

Caroline Michaud is an artist and stylist living in Boston, MA. All styling and photos in this piece were also by Caroline.

all opinions are our own; no free products or compensation were received from manufacturers for these mentions.

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