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stories from my closet: dressing for joy

One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon as a kid was to play dress-up.

Knee deep in a heap of my mother and grandmother’s treasures from bygone eras, I was fascinated. So many textures to explore! And uh, how do you wear this thing? The layers of tulle and glossy satins swallowed up both my frame and attention span. I was captivated by the sparkle of dangly earrings and the fact that there were *pink* pointed-toe heels⁠— just because! I wondered why and where these pieces were worn, and fantasized about the idea of one day getting to wear such fancy and fun outfits.

Now and again, I time travel back to that place, to that little girl full of wonder, curious and content in her own world. It’s a safe haven, a testing ground, a space to call my own. I reconnected with her as I played dress up, but in my real adult closet⁠— where there are many dangly earrings and colored heels. This is me sharing some new remixes of old favorites.

A Tale of Three Cities
When I saw this ruffled white blouse, my heart sang and my eyes popped out of my head a little bit. I was in Savannah, Georgia with dear friends Sam and Iman, bopping from antique market to consignment shop on the hunt for vintage, what the city is known for. And then, there it was⁠— THE top of my dreams. By Jessica McClinktok for Gunne Sax, this blouse was most likely made in the 80’s and you best believe I’ll still be wearing it when I’m 80. The combo of satin, floral lace and swiss dot mesh is satisfying, but it’s the tiered ruffles swooping front to back that did me in. From the waist up, I feel like I’m ready to sit atop a little wedding cake.

These jeans are another fun thrift find, this time from the PNW Emerald City⁠- my current home. Very fitting that the brand is called Seattle Blues. The light wash is perfect for summer and the high rise is just right. Finding well-fit jeans is a feat that must be noted!

The last stop on this city tour is where I’m from, the Big Apple (but Long Island, respectively). I love a statement shoe and these have all of my favorite features: ankle wrap ties, an interesting color and texture (dark green velvet), and a thicker heel for more walkability. And boy, did I really test that last one. After I bought them on a whim at one of the Fifth Ave Zara’s, I decided to try them out on my commute downtown. For that mile long walk plus a subway ride, I was very much living my Carrie Bradshaw moment (Season 5, with the bobbed hair) and promptly removed them when I got in the door⁠— feet screaming but feeling accomplished. Oh the joys of a young career woman, fearless in fashion. I think Carrie would have taken a cab.

The Set Surprise
This cobalt blue hue always feels fresh to me when I put it on. It might look like a dress, but it’s actually a matching top and skirt set that was reunited! I was fishing through a sea of tops in a Goodwill for design project materials when I stumbled across the first piece. The little arrow print was unique. I thought it might look good with high-rise black or white jeans… too good to be cut up for a class. Iman, queen of amazing thrift finds, called out from across the store⁠— “there’s a matching skirt!!!” and we bore witness to a fashion miracle.

I love contrasting feminine skirts and dresses with crisp white sneakers. It makes me feel like I am ready for anything. These Supergas are worth their time to break in, but I echo Kathy’s sentiment that the platforms feel like you’ve got two chunky erasers under your feet. I had a different white pair I wore out a few summers back in NYC so it was time for the upgrade.

The little Doonie and Bourke Nina bag was a gift from a different Kathy, my Aunt Cathi… way back in middle school if you can believe it! Its classic satchel shape has stood the test of time. Against the slightly darker blue of the top and skirt, it feels more nonchalant. Like, oh hey! I almost match, but I don’t. Playful ~

LWD: Little Wrap Dress
This sweet dress has carried me through many seasons. Dare I say this is something that has survived high school? That might explain the just-long-enough hemline I usually layer tights under. I still can’t figure out if they are blueberries or bubbles, but I love the quirky print.

Adding the leather jacket (80’s Express, another gift from my aunt) gave it a little more edge and maybe some greaser girl vibes with the cat-eye sunnies. I leaned into that further with some fun lace ankle socks from ASOS. Note to self: I should wear this combo more often. The statement sock is very underrated.

High-contrast details catch my eye, like these studded loafers by Kenneth Cole. But what’s really the cherry, or blueberry, on top is the little gold cross necklace my grandma used to wear everyday, like I do now 🙂

Meet Me in Miami
You know when you have two pieces you really enjoy wearing but it never occurs to you to put them together? That’s this look. The soft tailoring of the blazer adds some structure to the flowy dress. It reads Miami business casual brunch and I’m not mad about it.

The blazer is Club Monaco. I first wore it to New York Men’s Fashion Week representing Cotton Inc. More recently, I’ve dressed it down with shorts or jeans. The crisp white really pops here against the blue and green floral paisleys.

I’ve packed this maxi on every beach trip since I found it at a little boutique somewhere in Asheville, North Carolina. The 70’s style print always brightens my day when I slip it on. Since I’ve worn it as a swimsuit coverup, it has a light scent of sunscreen no matter how many times I wash it. I think it knows where it belongs.

Like the gold cross, the family jewelry I have means the most to me. This sapphire ring was a gift from my grandparents to my aunt, to me. I recently got it resized and am excited to be able to wear it now!

Something Sketchy
And finally, this look features two items I don’t wear enough and one I’ve gotten my cost per wear’s worth. Can you guess which is which? The jeans are by Rocky Mountain from the late 80’s. They’ve got a comfy, relaxed fit with a nice high-rise waist. The pleats on the front give it a retro look that is hard to find.

This top I made is a fun one from the archives. I designed the “We the People” print by getting my drawings screen printed onto yards of cotton. I haven’t been able to style the finished product in a way that felt right to me, until I brought these Jeffrey Campbell boots into the mix. This is my version of the very essential Seattle rain boots that I’ve managed to wear from fall to spring, to the office and nights out. Pairing the zesty orange with the milky lemon hue made it unexpected. I’ll definitely be taking this one out again.

A visit to the ‘dress-up box’ is a nice way to spend an afternoon again, just because.

I think we can get a little lost on the road to wherever we think we’re going and forget the life-giving energy that a space with no rules, no demands, only play brings. Trying a little of this with a bit of that had me rediscovering why I loved these pieces in the first place. That’s not only the beauty, but the functionality of styling- a job I didn’t know existed, or would eventually have. It felt refreshing to take time to go back to that space, just for me.

I think we all need that again, the reconnection with joy, with sweet memories and with the self. Sure it’s about the look, fashion is visual. But the real power of clothes is not found in the labels or the style alone but in their ability to carry us forward into the mundane and the magical. It’s not only the way they hold our bodies but how they contain the stories of what we did, felt and saw. It’s a little deeper than the threads for me but that is of course, where it starts.

Alexandra is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in fashion design. Her senior thesis collection of hand-sewn garments was chosen to be showcased at the SCAD Fashion Show in 2018. As a trend forecaster, stylist, writer and artist, she enjoys many vantage points from which to understand and contribute to the industry. With an intrinsic desire to pursue the purpose and meaning behind design and beyond, she is guided by this phrase: Think with dimension, Create with invention, Live with intention.

all photos also by Alexandra.

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

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