The All Day Outfit Already In Your Closet: Part I

Casey of Dressed to Code holds out a lemon cupcake from Jenny Cookies Bake Shop.
Are cupcakes the latest accessory?

An Outfit for All

Growing up, the concept of day-to-night was one that never really resonated with me. Where I was raised in Southern California, the hot days and cool nights meant that cycling through three different outfits a day wasn’t unusual. Of course, as someone who works in tech and rarely gets dresses-and-heels dolled up, it still feels mostly irrelevant. However, with Seattle’s long summer days, the idea of one outfit to take me from work to other activities now has merit. As the sun currently sets around 9 pm, this concept is less about day-to-night and more about an all-day look. While nothing work-appropriate is going to take me to the gym, there are plenty of options versatile enough for a variety of activities.

After wearing this look to work one day, I felt very comfortable in my own skin. The sneakers add that critical third neutral but keep me comfortable during my commute and standing at my desk. Even better, my boss wore a variation on the formula the next day. Overnight, it became one of those looks I threw on as soon as it came out of the laundry, and I began thinking about how I could tweak it.

As a nod to this concept of the all-day outfit, I’m posting more than one version this look, along with a few personal notes!

Dressed to Code - The All Day Outfit - Work
Looking back, this outfit is a natural progression from many of my intentional wardrobe choices.

The Outfit Formula

As time goes on, I’ve been expressing a little more of the style you see on the blog at the office. That doesn’t mean complicated or fancy, but I’ve been branching out from the standard jeans and tee shirts. As part of this, I’ve been paying close attention to the clothing choices of women around me at work.  The styles range from jeans and sweatshirts to photographer-worthy street fashion.

One of the outfits I started consistently noticing and appreciating has a few different iterations, but there’s an easy formula:

1. black dress or jumpsuit
2. denim jacket or chambray shirt
3. shoes in a third neutral color

The most common version I see is a knee length black dress with a denim jacket and brown booties or sandals. It’s a great, classic look, and an easy Monday no-brainer.

My wardrobe wishlist already has strong influence from this three-neutral scheme, specifically black-blue-brown. That said, I didn’t own a jean jacket at the time and wasn’t about to wear my heeled sandals to work. (I have since purchased a denim jacket and immediately wore it almost every day for a week, but that’s a story for another post.) One of the great things about moving toward an intentional wardrobe is having cohesive pieces that easily lend themselves to new combinations in the same aesthetic.

Dressed to Code - The All Day Outfit - Work
Swap out the dress, throw on a jacket — this outfit is only the beginning.

Part I: An Outfit that Works

First up is my original pairing for my causal office. For this variation, I layered my dark wash chambray shirt over an old favorite dress and tossed on my white Stan Smiths. You likely have everything you need to pull this off already tucked away in your closet. I’ve also worn this look to work with a black maxi dress swapped in. Unless we’re in a particularly chilly meeting room, I keep the sleeves rolled up, and I like how the turned-up cuffs lighted up the outfit. Not shown in these photos is my badge, which I wore on a royal blue lanyard with this look.

Wearing a badge is certainly a new complication to consider when choosing outfits in the morning. I have two ways to wear mine. The first is a lanyard I wear around my neck, and the second is a combination clip and carabiner badge holder that I can hook on a belt loop or clip on a waistband (similar).

Dark Wash Denim Shirt

This denim shirt (Banana Republic, Riley Fit 2P, Summer 2016) was one I picked up on sale because it checked off all my boxes. The petite fit is comfortable, the material is stretchy, the sleeves roll up well, and the dark wash keeps it a little less casual. Initially, I struggled somewhat to pair it with my dark-wash wardrobe, but once I threw it on over black pants, dresses, and skirts, this no-iron option became a weekly staple. As an added bonus, denim with denim has come back in favor, so I do occasionally just wear it with jeans.

High Neck Black Sheath

I don’t remember why I originally bought this dress (Loft, 00P, ~2009), but I’ve ended up wearing it for two different momentous photographed occasions, first as part of a rare family photo shoot and again for my college graduation photos (shot by Michelle Chan).

If you’re wondering how the same dress could possibly fit for so long, I was wearing a scoliosis back brace when I initially bought it. Yes, that kind of brace — a bulky, stiff thing from my armpits to my hips. The thick material of this dress hid the brace completely, and looking at the family photos, you wouldn’t have a clue. Side note: If you or someone you love is getting a brace, please reach out to me for support, encouragement, and clothing tips. I have high school classmates who saw me daily and still don’t have a clue I wore one.

Stan Smith Sneakers

If you saw my original post on these sneakers (Adidas, US 6), you know that I resisted buying them for a long time. That said, they’re now the ones I reach for first during the week. Thankfully, they also stay fairly clean and wipe down easily. Because my current pair of jeans is still staining my legs and clothing, the inside of the tongue is now navy. Oops. Additionally, I like the pop of green on the back, which adds just a touch of color my mostly-neutral outfits. Best of all, these sneakers look crisp and white while keeping my feet happy.

Casey of Dressed to Code holding a lemon cupcake from Jenny Cookies Bake Shop.
Nothing says celebration quite like a cupcake, and the blueberry on top coordinated well with the shirt.

One Year Update

This time last year, I was a recent graduate who had just moved to Seattle full-time. Torn between job hunting and taking some breathing room, I soon needed something else to do. This blog began out of a need for something to focus on that felt productive when other aspects of my life didn’t. What I didn’t expect was the warm welcome from the Seattle blogging community, the incredible people I’d meet, and a shift in the way I see myself.

A year later, I am an employed software development engineer, one of several adult-sized steps toward adulthood I’ve taken in the past year. There have been ups and downs, but I’m gaining a clearer picture of my life, my loves, and my let-it-gos.

So, as part one of this celebratory mini-series, I’m toasting (with a cupcake) to professional growth, a significant life change, and hanging in there!

The cupcake is lemon from Jenny Cookies in Lake Stevens, WA. In my informal taste-test, one of the three testers rated this cupcake their top pick.

When your goals seem far away, look back to see how far you’ve already come.
-Casey

Summer Staples: Stripes, Shorts, and Sneakers!

Casey leans against a concrete wall in a boxy, structured, black and white, cropped top with classic high waist jean shorts, and bright white Stan Smith sneakers with green accents.
I can’t tell you if I was dancing or jumping an invisible rope in this shot.

In my last post, I talked about falling out of love with my closet. As promised, this story has a happy ending, or at least a happy next chapter. In the last few weeks, I’ve been focused on exercise and enjoying the gorgeous Seattle summer days. As a result, I’m feeling a lot more satisfied with many aspects of my life, including my body and work-life balance. While I still have some things I’m looking to add to my wardrobe, my empty closet syndrome has mostly dissipated. In time for summer, I found a few key staples — stripes, shorts, sneakers!

Casey's fine hair is swept back into a small bun and her hands rest on the back of her neck as her head tips back.
Stripes and small buns make for easy summer style.

Stripes

While I don’t usually go for boxy cropped tops, the thick yet cool fabric of this striped Madewell top makes it a little more special. The boat neck is also rather wide, so I sized down for a narrower, less bra-strap-revealing neckline. The setlist boxy tee in murphy stripe comes in two colors, and I’m wearing a size XXS.

 

Casey walks by in a boxy, structured, black and white, cropped top with classic high waist jean shorts, and bright white Stan Smith sneakers with green accents.
Summertime, and the styling is easy: stripes, jean shorts, and crisp white sneakers.

Shorts

I don’t see a need to sell you on jean shorts for summer. That said, I actually only grabbed these to try on with another top, but then they fit so well. Even better, I remembered that the last pair of jean shorts in my closet didn’t exactly fit any more. Needless to say, they came home with me! I went for a classic look with the J. Crew High-Rise Denim shorts in Brixton wash (size 25) but if you’re looking for a little more, this paint-splattered pair is pretty fun.

Hands on hips and a shoulder-wide stance show off the proportions of a striped, cropped top and high waist jean shorts with glaringly white sneakers.
This pairing of boxy crop top and high waist shorts isn’t my usual style, but it’s a fun one to mix it up.

Sneakers

In the spirit of full disclosure, I held off on buying these sneakers for quite some time for the exact reason that my mom had Stan Smiths the entire time I was growing up. Sometimes green, sometimes navy, these iconic shoes, Birkenstocks, and high-waisted mom jeans are high on the list of things my mom always wore that are now considered stylish.

That said, when these Adidas Stan Smith Sneakers went on sale at Nordstrom, I decided to go for it. I’ve worn them almost every day since. With my mostly-neutral wardrobe, the green is a fun pop of color, and they lighten up work looks, even when I’m still dressing for a cool office.

 

There you have it, a simple formula for easy summer style! What’s your summer style formula? Join the conversation here.

Stay hydrated and sunscreened this summer; nothing ruins an outfit like a headache or a sunburn!

– Casey

Nothing to wear? It’s not about your closet.

Casey of Dressed to Code is pulling her hair back from her face with both hands. She is gazing down and wearing a ribbed black boatneck t-shirt and dark denim skinny jeans.
Even within the bounds of black and denim, there is so much to play with in terms of shape and texture.

We’ve all been there. You open your closet and there’s nothing to wear. Okay, so not literally. There are a million reasons why you might feel that way, and in my experience, they’re accurately summed up by this quote:


“When a woman says, ‘I have nothing to wear!’, what she really means is, ‘There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today.”

— Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman


 I’ve been in a nothing-to-wear funk for a couple weeks, which means that I have to be careful to not do two things. First, I ban myself from cleaning out my closet. In this kind of mood, nothing in my closet seems satisfactory, and I’m frequently tempted to empty my closet and whisk it all off to Goodwill. Not good. Second, I (mostly) ban myself from shopping for new pieces. In this kind of mood, I’m more likely to shop desperately, in the mindset that if I find that magic piece or two, my current feelings about my wardrobe will completely turn around. (Spoiler alert: It never works that way.) Together, that means that when the mood strikes, the wardrobe stays fixed. No additions. No subtractions.

Casey of Dressed to Code is smiling off to her right. In addition to a ribbed black boatneck t-shirt and dark denim skinny jeans, she is wearing blush leather lace-up sandals.
Just a girl standing in front of a closet, asking herself to love it.

The truth is, when I’m frustrated with my closet, it’s almost never about my closet. There isn’t a magical piece to pull everything together because it isn’t about the clothes. At all.

Three months into my new job, I’m starting to feel like I can tread water. However, I’ve been spending a lot of time at work, and not enough time on the rest of my life. It’s not the closet that I’ve been discontent with so much as my current work-life (un)balance — and the weather. This Seattle winter has been rough. To combat it, I started by focusing ten minutes a day on getting back to a healthier state. Ten little minutes a day: doable. In ten minutes, it’s amazing what you can do: writing in a journal, reading, setting up plans with friends, writing letters, etc. The list goes on. A realistic goal is often better than a big one. You can always upgrade your goal later, and the better you feel, the more energy you’ll have to do some of these things.

Casey of Dressed to Code has her back to the camera with her right arm extended upward to a peace sign. A black t-shirt is tucked into snug jeans with a black leather belt.
Find peace with your life. Then turn to your closet.

Black and Denim: A Closet Classic

Additionally, I asked myself to focus on what I like about my wardrobe. Clearly, there was a reason I bought these things in the first place. Eventually, I came back around to appreciating the theme that dominates my wardrobe: black and denim.

Black

This Madewell Musical Tee is a little snugger than my other black tees, and the boatneck neckline really shows off those collarbones. Altogether, it’s a little bit sexier than my other black tees.

Denim

If you read my review-recall post, you know that I’ve had terrible luck with Madewell denim after initially loving it. That said, having one presentable pair of jeans that might rip at any moment was anxiety-inducing, and after some truly awful attempts, bought another pair as a stopgap. These are the 9″ High Rise Skinny Jean in Larkspur Wash and still tint my legs (and sometimes hands) blue. They are, nonetheless, very comfortable.

Sandals

There’s something about working in such a male-dominated industry hat has me craving heels like never before. Thankfully, these Hinge stacked-heel beauties are comfortable!

Casey of Dressed to Code is perpendicular to the camera with her right sandal crossed over the left. Her right arm is at her waist, and she is wearing a ribbed black boatneck t-shirt and dark denim skinny jeans.
Yes, it’s that Madewell monogram again.

This post does have a happy ending! The sun is shining (hallelujah!), I have some fun activities planned this weekend with the wonderful people in my life. With things picking up, I also scored some truly exciting wardrobe additions, but that’s a story for another post!

(Spoilers on Twitter if you’re interested!)

Let me know what you’re doing to fix or maintain your life balance in the comments below!

Fight for your balance, friends.

-Casey

Recommendation Recall: Kodiak Boots and Madewell Denim

Dressed to Code in Moorea Seal Morley adjustable black wool hat with petite-friendly North Face Women's Stretch Thermoball jacket in matte black (TNF black), Madewell whisper cotton tee in black and white hardy stripe, Madewell 8" skinny jeans in quincy wash dark denim, and Kodiak Acadia waterproof insulated boots in caramel leather.
Two of the items in this photo have let me down in a big way.

I’ve been debating whether or not to write this post, but I believe that it’s important to admit when your opinions have changed. So here it is, the post on which items haven’t retained my initial enthusiasm. That isn’t to say that these items might not be a good fit for someone else or that we didn’t have some good times together. Nonetheless, in the spirit of informed purchasing, here are my recommendation recalls.

The Bad News

Ammended Recommendation: Kodiak Arcadia Boots

First post here.

I purchased these boots at REI after realizing I was completely unprepared for a slushy winter day in Seattle. These insulated boots seemed to be just the thing, and I was drawn to the gorgeous coppery color. Clearly I wasn’t alone; I’ve noticed many REI employees sporting them as well. Why am I recalling my recommendation? They scuff horribly.

As one particularly annoying salesman explained to me, all leather shoes scuff (insert eyeroll here), but these Kodiak Arcadia boots age exponentially faster than any leather shoes I’ve ever owned. Within a day, I’d tripped over my own feet, introducing a long, pale gash down the side. Within a month, the boots look as though they’d been industrially aged for a vintage look. It might have been fine if that was my thing; spoiler: it’s not. Even shining the boots only improved the look temporarily.

Therefore, I’m amending my recommendation. The boots have kept my feet comfortable, warm, and dry. They have not kept their exterior style. If you’re looking for a vintage exterior look, these might actually be a good choice.

Rear view of Madewell radio tee, Quncy wash 8" skinny jeans, and Hinge Drea blush leather sandals.
These jeans may be comfortable, but they won’t last much longer.

Recalled Recommendation: Madewell Denim

First post here.

This one is especially painful. My relationship with Madewell denim goes back to my very first recommendation on Dressed to Code and extends to three different pairs of jeans (overalls so far not excluded). The first pair to go were my 8″ skinny jeans in Lakeshore wash. At the time, I thought there was nothing quite putting on your pants for work and realizing they’d worn through in the rear — with no idea when that happened. I was wrong. A few weeks later, my black 10″ skinny jeans (purchased several months after the Lakeshore pair) split down the inner thigh. Even better, it was Monday morning as I was en route to a special trip for work. Awesome.

After the first pair, I figured it was a fluke. After the second pair died in a different, yet spectacularly embarrassing way, I checked my third pair. The fabric in the seat is discolored and thinned; time’s ticking before it also wears through. Now, I get that all items wear out. That said, the oldest pair was about six months old. I don’t know about you, but I expect my jeans, of all items, to last longer than that. As an example, my beloved demi-curve Levis wore out after five years.

Now, before any denim experts start in, I don’t over-wash my jeans or put them in the dryer. I addition to losing ground on my intentional wardrobe, I’m now desperately seeking at least one replacement pair, preferably 99% cotton or higher. I’ve ordered a few pairs and have my fingers crossed for a winner or two. Otherwise, I’ll be out of pants in about a month. Yikes.

To be fair, Madewell’s customer service has been excellent, offering to refund my full purchase price both times. However, I’d rather have jeans I don’t need to replace every few months. I believe the wear might be mitigated if Madewell decided to offer a fit cut more generously through the hips, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Black and grey/gray Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater rear/back view.
Thankfully, this Eddie Bauer has been a pleasant surprise.

The Good News

To leave you on a more positive note, I’d like to also note items which have pleasantly surprised me, items which have exceeded my expectations.

Strong Recommendation: Eddie Bauer Flightplan Cardigan Sweater

I wear this sweater at least once a week. It’s chilly in my office, so this sweater keeps me warm but not too warm when layered over a cotton tee and jeans. Remember, my workplace is rather casual. The fabric has held up well and (knock on wood) hasn’t gotten fuzzy.

Which items have been your greatest disappointments or unexpected favorites? Have a denim recommendation of your own? Let me know in the comments below.

 

It’s better to be right eventually than wrong forever.

-Casey

LBD + Cape! (Rent the Runway)

Casey of Dressed to Code wears a smug expression and a one-shoulder, black dress with a cape billowing out behind her. Bold red lipstick and drop earrings add a touch of color and sparkle to this all-black look, which includes pumps, a small satin clutch, and an Apple watch.
My rented dress had a cape. You could say I was feeling pretty smug.

The Backstory

First things first, while this is not a sponsored post, I have included my referral code. That said, this experience was completely inspired by a sponsored collaboration between Julianna of Blush and Camo and Rent the Runway… influencers at work!

You’ve probably been where I was. I had an event coming up. I had a dress I could have worn, but I didn’t feel great about the option. With the event just a few days away, I was scrolling down my Instagram feed and saw Julianna in a Rent the Runway number. I’d heard of RTR before and even looked before, but I hadn’t previously needed a cocktail dress. (Additionally, I’ve also gone up a few sizes since I first looked into the concept, so I’ve actually entered their size ranges.)

It still wasn’t more than vague window shopping until I saw the dress: “Black Drama Cape Shift Dress” by Jill Jill Stuart

Yes, it has a cape. That said, it’s still a LBD conservative enough for my occasion. I know some people think black is boring, but I tend to feel more comfortable and confident in black clothing. Plus, CAPE.

Given my challenges with finding things that fit, I expected to be completely disappointed. However, as I scrolled through the comments, I saw two repeated themes: runs small, and runs short. If you’re a petite on the smaller end of the sizing scale, you know that these two “complaints” can be fantastic news for you. After looking for feedback from women around my size, I decided that there was a reasonable enough chance that the dress could fit to actually rent it.

Casey of Dressed to Code tucks hair behind her right ear, exposing Givenchy drop earrings which add a little more classic drama to an already caped LBD from Rent the Runway. This all-black look rounds out with classic pumps from Banana Republic, a small satin clutch, and an Apple watch.
The classic combination of a little black dress and a bold red lip works for almost any occasion.

The Process

I was pleasantly surprised by the contingency planning built into the Rent the Runway system. As unsure as I was that the dress I’d chosen would fit, I became increasingly confident that RTR would do their best to ensure that I had something to wear for the occasion.

Dress + Dates

The obvious first step is picking a dress and the dates of your rental. Note that the cost of a rental varies not only by the dress but by when and how long you want it. Rentals are offered in 4 or 8 day increments. I selected a 4 day rental from Thursday to Sunday for a Friday event.

Size + Backup Size

Rent the Runway allows you to receive two sizes for the cost of a single rental, and I selected sizes 2 and 4.

Backup Dress(es)

You then have the opportunity choose any number of more expensive styles for an “upgrade” in case something happens to your first choice. I selected this Black Palermo Dress by nha khanh, which lacked the drama (read: cape) of my first choice, but would have been suitable for the occasion. This Gizela Dress by Trina Turk would have been another opportunity for a caped LBD.

Checkout

Checking out was relatively uneventful, but my coupon code required a slightly higher dollar amount. Therefore, I added a pair of simple studs to my cart that got me to that higher dollar amount and dropped the overall price. (A waste on their part if you ask me, but this is one of those occasions where a little math saves you money!) Get my referral code for $30 off your first rental here.

Arrival

Rent the Runway guarantees that your dress will arrive by 8pm on the day you’d selected. My package notification system (not a RTR feature) alerted me that my package had arrived around 1pm. I was simultaneously excited and worried about wrinkles, so I asked my S.O. (who gets home earlier than I do) to pick it up and hang them up. I didn’t need to worry. The dresses arrived in individual plastic bags, fresh from the dry-cleaners and completely wrinkle-free. The pair shipped in a high-quality, zipped carrying case. A similarly nice box, tucked into a special pocket, held the earrings.

Moment of Truth

I’ll spare you my nerves and skip to the important part: it fit! I ended up going with the size 2, which was a tad tighter across the hips than I probably would have preferred. However, the size 4 would have revealed my bra at the arm holes. That’s another perk of this dress: I could wear a strapless bra with one shoulder strap on (which is significantly better than fully strapless). The tailoring was incredible, and the fabric was a beautiful weight. While the cape did pull slightly, the snug fit across the bust meant it wasn’t a problem. As I had hoped, the “short” length hit at a flattering height just above the knee.

Casey of Dressed to Code smiles in Givenchy drop earrings with a dramatic Jill Jill Stuart Black Drama Caped Shift Dress from Rent the Runway. This all-black look rounds out with classic black leather pumps from Banana Republic, a small satin clutch with silver hardware, and an Apple watch with black leather and silver band.
The fit wasn’t 100% perfect, but the black color and luxurious fabric were fairly forgiving.

The Cape

In case it wasn’t glaringly obvious, the cape makes this dress. It managed to be a playful element without getting in the way. Simultaneously, the black color kept the dress grounded and sophisticated. I wore my black Canta pumps from Banana Republic but could have also gone with a strappy black dress sandal. While some renters chose a statement necklace, I preferred long, dangling crystal earrings from Givenchy (old). I wore my silver apple watch with the black leather band (no surprise there), and carried a small black-and silver satin clutch (old). (My apologies for the lack of details shots — it was cold!)

Casey of Dressed to Code pairs Givenchy drop earrings with a dramatic Jill Jill Stuart Black Drama Caped Shift Dress from Rent the Runway. This all-black look rounds out with classic black leather pumps from Banana Republic, a small satin clutch with silver hardware, and an Apple watch with black leather and silver band.
This dress may have only been around for the weekend, but these accessories will be with me for many years.

Ready to Rent the Runway for yourself? Get my promo code here.

Would you rent clothing for special occasions? What about on a regular basis? Or would you rather save toward a purchase of your own? Let me know why in the comments below!

 

Dress like the best version of yourself.

– Casey