A Style for Every City

LOCATION: AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS

Traveling throughout Europe for a few months I became aware that certain cities have a style aesthetic. Of course there are tourists, but if you pay attention you can spot the locals and start to see a trend.

In Paris the style is drapey, slouchy. It’s fashionable, they’re not drowning in their pieces, there’s a cool cut or hem or fabric happening. But everything nonchalantly says “Oh this? I just threw this on”.

I’ve heard this from multiple Parisian friends or ex-pats. French women rarely paint their nails, jewelry is minimal, clothing is mostly black. Beauty, should be effortlessly chic. Trying too hard is tacky. Parisian women put forth effort in looking like they just rolled out of bed. [wink]

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Amsterdam style is black leather jackets, dresses and tennis shoes. It’s a feminine/sporty blend in a city of women bicycling to work, dinner and dates.

With weather that always tends to be a bit overcast and chilly, so you want that jacket on hand, yet since you’re riding a bike hitting at the waist is practical. Lots of black, white, gray — similar to the fresh spacious modern design of shops and home decor you find throughout the Netherlands.

 

In America, we embrace color, pattern, accessories and generally more diversity in our style. Most shop windows whether at a mall in the midwest or a trendy neighborhood in a big city show all of the above.

Of course some Americans prefer more neutral or simplistic style, but no one thinks twice if you show up in something bright, busy or bold.
 

One of the questions readers posed about travel: how to dress to fit in where you’re going.

On the one hand, I’m a fan of being you. (Muslim countries or places like cathedrals with modest standards of course being respected.) On the other hand, I think it can be fun to let yourself be shifted and shaped by a new culture.

When in Paris, I found myself seeing my closet with that ease, embracing messy hair, leaving my accessories at home. 

Meanwhile in Amsterdam, I maintained my belief that I’m just not a black leather jacket kind of girl.

However, I sought out more neutral color combinations and that feminine/sporty blend — an athletic tank with a 50’s skirt, edgier booties, a bold stripe in an easy slouchy style.

[ tank dress: thrifted, paris // skirt: vintage, brooklyn // sweater: urban outfitters // boots: dsw // necklace: boutique, brooklyn // hat: street vendor, paris // photographer: xenia udalove

There’s nothing inherently refined about blending in.

Standing out can be confident. Your unique style can inspire someone else in their own country.

Yet I love the fresh inspiration of new places, styles, and ideas.

It’s that combination — your unique style blended with the people, places, experiences that only you have encountered altogether — that creates a style just for you.

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Pink Outside The Box

LOCATION: PARIS, FRANCE

I used to hate pink.

I’ve always been feminine, but sure to distance myself from that girlie girl aesthetic -- Charlotte in Sex and The City, boutiques with “keep calm and buy more shoes” mottos next to tiara decor.

My feelings about pink were a story I had created.

Which is valid. We all create stories. And sometimes we should listen to them. Your friend could think that floral dress looks amazing, but if it reminds you of your grandmother’s curtains …

You can either choose to stand strong in one way — “No matter how chic, it’s always going to make me feel dated, it’s a no.”

Or you can choose to stand strong in another way — “I guess I used to see floral as grandma, but now that I think about it I keep earmarking floral dresses in magazines, noticing it on other women at work, so maybe my desire have changed.”

A couple years ago, I started craving pink. Color palettes in every combination of blush, peach, coral, tangerine, watermelon, raspberry, red had me swooning. [I feel happy just writing that sentence.]

I’d grown up. Perhaps I became more confident in my maturity, in my ability to put together chic outfits that had nary a hint of princess or prissy Upper East Side.

I realized I love the way the color looks against my blue eyes, my brown hair. And especially the pairing of multiple hues together — the freshness of color blocking, of two hues combined in tops and bottoms or stripes or accessory pairings.

Question your stories.

You’re not the same woman you were six years ago or six months ago.

Perhaps there’s some pieces in your closet that need to go. You used to be a girl who wears pink. And now you haven’t in years, but not noticing, those items are still sitting there slowing down your morning outfit decisions.

top + skirt: thrifted, paris // belt: thrifted, london // shoes: sperry top sider // photography: federico guendel //  location: paris, france ]

And perhaps there’s more color, pattern, delight waiting for you if you’ll just pause when your brain thinks “I don’t wear yellow, I can’t do stripes, I’m not a dress girl” and ask yourself “Are you sure? Why?”

See if perhaps the more mature you, has the confidence or craving to make something old new again.

Tay says shake it off, I say shake it up. Your stories, your thoughts, your combinations. You can wear and love so much more than you believe you can right now.

Take it from the anti-pink girl draped in blush, peony and magenta, feeling marvelous on a picnic with Beau in the shadow of Notre Dame ...

P.S. Are you a fellow entrepreneur, small business owner? Or dreamt of being a freelancer, maker, working for yourself?

In not just your style but vocation it might be time to question your stories and embrace a new season of maturity. If that sounds like you check out my free workshop How to Get Paid to Be Creative.

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A Place Of Yes

LOCATION: SANTA MARGHERITA, ITALY

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You see the woman walking towards you, “I love what she’s wearing” you think, quickly trying to decipher what exactly it is that makes her look so chic.

This simple afternoon on the Italian Riviera ensemble has multiple style principles occurring -- fabric, neutral colors, the waistline, the neckline, the skin tone, the accessories.

In the flash that she’s passed, you’ve likely not catalogued them all, or maybe none in the visual overwhelm of loveliness.

These aren’t rules as in “don’t break them”, they’re principles as in “use these as your secret weapons if you so choose”.

If you don’t know them, you’re not necessarily doing anything wrong, you simply don’t have your full range of motion. My desire is for you to stretch out your arms to the full breadth of possibility when it comes to what you wear.

One example in this ensemble: Yellow.

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“Love it, can’t wear it” think most women. Myself included for years. But I believe you can wear almost anything you want, you just have to wear it in the right way.

 

Three ways to pull off any color:

1. Try different hues. Not all shades of yellow are created equal. Be you fair, olive or dark skinned, blonde or redheaded, some look more lovely or more like you’re slightly seasick.

2. Wear it away from your face. A skirt, shoes, purse.

3. Pair it with a color that flatters you, which is why I’m wearing a beautiful turquoise necklace.

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top: thrifted, longod // skirt: vintage, brooklyn // necklace: street vendor, italy // shoes: dsw // photographer: erin + gabri // location: santa margherita, italy ]

Now yellow is not the secret to happiness or chicness. It’s simply today’s encouragement that you can wear more than you think, you simply need to understand the principles at play, and learn some secrets from your personal stylist.

Life’s too short to not wear all the colors in the rainbow, if they make you happy.

Stick with me and I’ll teach you when it comes to your style, in the words of Obama, “Yes we can”.

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Listen To Your Desires

LOCATION: SANTA MARGHERITA, ITALY

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I kept noticing floral pants. Which when trying to create a works-with-anything wardrobe while traveling, were totally impractical. [Aside: This was on my four month sabbatical during which I packed almost no clothing to shop along the way.]

Yet after a few weeks of shopping I found myself gingerly fingering yet another pair on the hanger and said “Listen to your desires”.

I was repeatedly drawn to this item for a reason — likely the floral prints that feel like spring/summer, the bright colors amidst a neutrals travel wardrobe I was starting to tire of, the fun kicky-ness of patterned pants that exude the confidence of an American girl on holiday. So I tried them on and they fit like a glove.

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At first glance they weren’t the most versatile choice I could have made on the road.

But as I mentally rifled through the tops in my suitcase, I realized they went with everything — white tank, beige sweater, denim shirt, black sweater. Though the pants weren’t versatile, all my neutral tops were. Ditto to my shoes — nude sandals, tan boat shoes, beige heels — and I could see these pants being worn day or night.

What I thought at first was impractical, actually expanded my wardrobe. The pants were one of the more fashion forward pieces in my suitcase and thus I could pull them out for an elevated tourist look while still wearing comfortable loafers, or an easy polished drink even though I had pinned back pool hair and no makeup on for an evening.

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The thing about a more bold item, is it makes everything else easier — hair, makeup, accessories — with these pants I didn’t have to try hard at all and yet never felt schleppy.

Most importantly, they make me happy. They’re fun, confident, chic. Above all I believe in dressing joyfully.

Don’t give into every whim — blowing through your budget or ending up with a closet full of things you never wear. Don’t buy clothes for fancy Saturday nights when 90% of your life is lived on cozy Tuesday afternoons.

However, when something keeps catching your eye in magazines, shop windows, Instagram posts, on other women — listen to your desires.

Maybe you never thought you’d be a woman in floral pants, but after the fifth time finding your fingers reaching for them on the rack, just take ‘em in the dressing room for a spin.

I took these ones on a spin around Europe and I’m so glad I did.

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[ top: & other stories // pants + shoes: boutique, italy // hat: street vendor, paris // necklace: boutique, brooklyn // photographer: erin + gabri // location: santa margherita, italy ]

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P.S. Want more freedom and clarity in what you wear?

Don’t miss my video masterclass 3 Steps to Simplified Style live for a limited time!

More joy and less overwhelm in shopping and getting dressed?

P.P.S. Once I got home I remembered these weren’t my first of floral pants, as I went double floral in this shoot in Brooklyn. And here's the above pants in action in Portofino, Monaco, and Paris.

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Travel In Style

Location: Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS

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Mom taught me to dress nicely for airplanes. She recalled the days when it was a treat to fly, like going to a nice restaurant.

These days airport style is apparently a thing with endless articles of celebs on travel day. Though they rarely look to me like they’ve thought about sinking into tight spaces for long stretches.

So whether you’re with Mom or the gossip columnists, here’s my secrets for traveling in style, both chic and comfortable, without forsaking either:

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#1: Black and white. The Chanel color palette is always chic, and you can get away with that make-up-free messy-bun when you rolled out at 4am. It’s the travel base of my 2-Part Fashion Cocktail [more on that in an upcoming class]: the better you dress, the less you have to primp.

#2: Chic cozy pants. These are one of my favorite categories in my closet, period. The key is finding soft fabrics, a little roomy, with some structure to them so they look a bit more like slacks than sweats. Test them out in the dressing room by sitting, crossing your legs, make sure they’re comfy to take a plane nap.

#3: The classy layer. Pack the zip-up or sweatshirt and chose a soft piece with structure or draping as an on/off option for the hot/cold plane moments and different climates when you land. A relaxed boyfriend blazer, cropped cardigan, chunky sweater are clutch.

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#4: The profesh carry-on. My carry-on is my everyday laptop bag [actually a diaper bag, shh]. What’s important is that it looks nice, is functional with space for my computer, books and various pockets, and most importantly it’s comfortable dispersing the weight with it’s backpack straps as you walk and stand about all day and around town when you arrive.

#5: The sweet spot shoe. They are not tennis shoes, nor are they heels. You’ve got to take them on and off quickly for security. If you don’t like being barefoot at the airport, you’d like them to be worn with socks. So with all that, some version of loafers or low boots are my go-to.

Then put on sunglasses to cover your tired eyes on the way to the airport, makeup on in the car or when through security, and headphones on to get some joy with music, podcasts or audiobooks to make this an elegantly excellent travel day wherever you’re headed. [wink]

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[ blouse + pants: nordstrom // cardigan: forever 21 // boots: dsw // backpack: lily jade // photographer: xenia udalove // location: amsterdam, netherlands ]

Final note: Look at all that goes into a travel day ensemble!

Not to overwhelm you, but to acknowledge why style can feel overwhelming. There’s a lot to consider! It’s not rocket science, but there are reasons and elements to why you don’t feel chic or comfortable or [fill in the blank].

Once you crack the code to understand the principles, they become muscle memory and creating outfits you love and feel great in, becomes a snap.

As detailed as this simple look might sound, I basically wore this same outfit for every travel day during my four month sabbatica [ahem, lunging selfies]. Once I know what works, I just wear it and go.

Want more ease not just on travel day but everyday? Watch my 3 Steps to Simplified Style masterclass here for free for a limited time.

The foundations of fashion may be complex, but an educated style makes your life feel so much more effortless.

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