Recipe for Inspiration: Dress for Success

kate spade new york
My very favorite, grown up shoes.

My Grandma Dorothy was a snazzy dresser. I can’t remember her ever leaving the house without a perfectly put together outfit, and never a hair out of place. Her fastidious nature when it came to clothing extended even to me—I remember spending one particularly hot summer afternoon polishing a pair of white Salt Water Taffy sandals until they sparkled.

“You will not go to church looking just any old way,” she’d say to me in her lilting, Mississippi drawl.

On one trip towards the end of her life, she was in a particularly frail state. We thought we’d dress her comfortably for the flight, but she insisted on a smart outfit, and even a lashing of lipstick.

“You can’t go to the airport looking just any old way,” she murmured to us. (I can only imagine what she’d say if she saw how people dressed for the airport now).

Dressing well at that point may have seemed silly to us, but I remember just how much she perked up with just a little change in wardrobe.

Now, as I transition into the next stage of my career, I realize just how important her words were. You absolutely cannot go to work looking just any old way—because people will treat you as well as you present yourself. And it’s not to say that you don’t need substance behind a glossy, shiny veneer, but looking good and feeling confident in what you’re wearing (UGGs are the most comfortable shoes know to man, but their comfort in no way offsets the fact that when I wear them with my winter coat, I look like I’m auditioning for a role in a movie about a half Sasquatch/half human woman’s life in the big city) translates into an easy confidence to those around you.

Over the past few years, I’ve developed a kind of uniform and routine that helps me always bring my clothing a-game with surprisingly minimal effort on my part.

  • Preparation Is Key: I lay out my clothes for the next day before I go to bed. It sounds silly, but it’s a habit I’ve had since I was a little girl (my mom made me do this, and as a child, I thought she was insane, but now I realize there was a method to her madness). It’s one less thing I have to do when I get up in the morning, and on the rare occasion that I don’t remember to lay out my clothes, I’m always rushed for time the next morning because I can’t find that one sock, or that one pair of tights
  • Get a Uniform: I have found that the most flattering and easiest way for me to look put together is a combination of a cardigan, knee-length dress, and opaque black tights. It’s a pretty basic outfit, three pieces, really—but when put together, I look put together, even if it only took me 15 minutes to get ready. And not everyone likes dresses, but find that one key outfit that you look and feel great in, and then replicate it many times
  • Invest, Invest, Invest: I am a lover of fast fashion, but can also appreciate the value of a good pair of pricey shoes. I figure that my shoes endure the most wear and tear of anything I’ll put on in any given day, so those are the things that I should spend the most money on. For instance, I will frequently pair Tory Burch flats with a dress from Target or Old Navy. And by frequently, I mean, every day.
  • Foundation Garments Are Your Friend: You’ve either seen Mad Men or stills from Mad Men. And those figures are, yes, the figures of Hollywood starlets, but they’re also created and accented by quality foundation garments. I went to Nordstrom last year to get properly fitted for a bra, and learned that I had been wearing a bra that was THREE CUP SIZES too small for God knows how many years. The difference a properly fitting bra makes in your posture and the way your clothes fit is extraordinary and worth every penny.

Recipe For Inspiration: Get Healthy

flywheel seattle, shoes, fitness
Hideous shoes at Flywheel

Like basically every other woman in the United States, I have battled my weight for most of my life. There were two marvelous years in high school where my body, freshly released from a casing of baby fat, was actually something I was proud of. I worked out/took dance/tumbling classes once or twice a day, five days a week, and also, because I had the metabolism of a 14, 15, 16-year-old, chased those workouts with Otis Spunkmeyer cookies and Cheetos.

A serious battle with depression my junior year of high school left me with an extra 50 pounds, 50 pounds that I still haven’t shifted (in its entirety) in the past 13 years. I have tried diets, spent lots of money on gym memberships, attempted to re-introduce my body to dance via Zumba– but nothing stuck. About two years ago, after seeing a few horrifying pictures of myself from vacation, I decided to go on a diet, joined a gym, and after about 3 months, I’d lost 12 pounds. The first 12 pounds seemed magical enough for me to quit dieting all together, and so I decided just to self-regulate–I’d eat what I wanted and diet when the scale got too close to the danger zone.

Unfortunately, this plan did not account for a multitude of life changes in the ensuing years, and so I gained most of that weight back–a full six pounds of which I packed on between Thanksgiving and Christmas OF THIS YEAR (In the words of my spirit animal, Dr. Mindy Lahiri: “Guys, over the holidays, I had like five hams and a goose. I am a wolf in a children’s story.”)

I love to cook, I love to eat, and the idea of denying myself the simple pleasures afforded me by a job well-done in the kitchen seemed too much. But I also come from a family with a history of high blood pressure and heart problems, and I know that keeping fit and healthy will help me along toward a long and happy life.

Spurred on by everyone else’s favorite reason to make major life changes, the brand new year, I decided to take stock of my diet and increasingly sedentary lifestyle. With the help of the My Fitness Pal app, I recorded the calorie count for what I eat on a normal day. And it was SHOCKING. Grazing in the office, unregulated happy hour, and a Coke here and there really and truly add up. I mean, I knew I wasn’t eating well, but I didn’t realize just how poorly I was eating until the thousands of calories were staring me in the face.

So, I made a pledge to cook five nights a week, to replace my beloved Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s with an ounce of dark chocolate (I have a sweet tooth!), to stop drinking Coke (sniff, sniff), to eat a real breakfast, pack a healthy lunch/snacks for work. I enrolled in Flywheel classes. I am currently following Bon Appetit’s Food Lover’s Cleanse. I have realistic expectations: I do not think I will ever get back to the size I was at 14–I mean, I am not 14 anymore. But I want to teach myself how to make healthier food choices and reintegrate fitness into my life (also one of my 30 Before 30 goals is to lose 30 pounds).

As adults, we quickly fall into routines that we think are unchangeable–habits that may not be great, but seem to just be. But I realized that if I approached my job the way I approach my health, with a lack of motivation rooted in the thought that “this is how it has to be,” I wouldn’t have a job. To be healthy and happy with my body, I have to put in effort and I have to make changes.

My scale hasn’t moved much, and truthfully, I’m trying to ignore it lest it give me too much or too little encouragement, but I feel a little bit better, there’s a little bit more spring in my step. And most importantly, I don’t feel like I’m punishing myself with these changes–I feel like I’m improving my life and taking a more measured approach to the things I choose to put into this one body I was given for my limited time only trip around the sun.

How do you keep motivated to make healthy choices?