Style is a Four Letter Word

The whole idea of fashion and style completely overwhelms me. I have this idea in my head of what I want my signature style to be (age-appropriate timeless with an east coast sensibility), but no idea how to execute it.

I had a very brief flirtation with preppy, but after a few failed trips to Lacoste, I decided that the whole yes-I-play-tennis-in-a-ninety-dollar-shirt scenario was just so not me. I am much too practical...and cheap. I yam what I yam.

I look through magazines to get ideas for looks (I almost said ensembles, which reminds me of the Cribs episode in which Mariah Carey refers to her terrible outfit changes as "ensembles"...right before she climbs into her ginormous tub while clad in a towel. Reeeeal classy, Mimi.), but find myself even more baffled and frustrated. What some people pass off as "fashion" I consider a hot, fussy mess, replete with terrible accessories and clashing patterns. No, no, no. Call me simple and anything but fashion-forward, but if it walks like a hot mess and talks like a hot mess, it's probably a hot mess. For example, I know SATC is supposed to be all about the style, but what’s with all the exposed black bra straps? Sorry SJP, but not a good look.

Now please don't think I consider myself the pinnacle of chicness. I know I am generally far from stylish, but I do think I at least play it safe when in doubt, which is not such a bad way to go. But I am committed to building a collection I am proud of and that reflects my sensibility. I mean, half the stuff I own I've had for many years and purchased back when I refused to spend any more than $20 on a shirt, and preferred solid knits to elegant silk prints. Which, given that I don’t follow the trends and throw everything away after a few seasons, gives me even more excuse to bite the bullet and start shopping/investing like the sophisticated young lady I am. (Yes, I yam that, too.)

I have some very stylish friends, and the effortlessness with which they pull off their looks drives me nuts. Since I'm insanely awkward when it comes to giving compliments or asking people for everyday advice, I try to slyly get info about where they shop and how they assemble their lovely wardrobes. Here is what I’ve gathered from my stealthy research:

-Generally, the Stylish Smart Shoppers buy whole outfits at a time, instead of purchasing random pieces and saying, "Eh, I'll just wear it with jeans and black shoes."
-They save up for really good, no-limit shopping trips a few times a year, versus the good ol' "I need a nice shirt and can spend $25...go!"*
-Ms. Stylish Smart buys something that looks and feels great, even if she has have zero idea to where she'll wear this item, whereas I regularly put back the most fabulous and flattering items ever to grace my body because I can’t foresee the dozens of events just around the corner, which will inevitably coincide with a total lack of cute clothes ANYWHERE.

So, in an effort to refrain from dressing like my 23-year-old self (she was a hot mess...and drank too much, if we're being honest), I've decided to start dedicating a small chunk of each paycheck to my Grown Up Nat Closet Fund. I will then hit up my favorite stores (Club Monaco, Banana Republic, J. Crew, etc.) and do some damage without so much as a hint of buyer's remorse. Well, maybe. Baby steps. I am still a Cottrell, after all.

The first item on the docket: the perfect pair of black pumps. I will find a pair that is timeless, well-made, and do not make me walk like I'm wearing a cilice.

* Author's Note: I don't advocate spending $150 on a shirt just because one thinks that's what a "nice shirt" costs. But I do believe, after many years of shopping from bins and then being surprised when the item falls apart, you get what you pay for. Forever 21, I'm look at you.


  1. The perfect pair of black pumps is truthfully one of the HARDEST and most important purchases you ever make. How something so simple and versatile can be so complicated...I will never understand. Go you AND your shopping fun(d)!!

  2. OMG, I love your SJP comment! I can't stand her bra peeking out. Drives me nuts.

    You and I shop the exact same way. How funny. Glad you were able to gather some shopping tips discretely. I'm totally stealing them! haha!