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

It’s All There in Black and White Striped

Simple, minimalist, classic, striped, black, white, denim, striped, wool hat, chelsea boots, outfit, idea, inspiration, looks, red, lipstick, lip, lips, bomber, satin, jacket, apple watch, Casey, Dressed to Code.
I’ve crossed short sleeve striped shirt off my intentional wardrobe wishlist with this 100% cotton score.
This classic, minimalist look on Casey of Dressed to code pairs a satin bomber jacket from Abercrombie, black wool Morley hat from Moorea Seal, Madewell whisper cotton crewneck tee in hardy stripe, and 8" skinny jeans for the best outfit inspiration.
There’s something about a black and white striped shirt and a red lip for that classic French outfit inspiration.
This classic, minimalist look on Casey of Dressed to code pairs a satin bomber jacket from Abercrombie, black wool Morley hat from Moorea Seal, Madewell whisper cotton crewneck tee in hardy stripe, 8" skinny jeans, and black leather chelsea boots for the best outfit inspiration.
This look is mostly Madewell, with the exception of the Abercrombie bomber and Moorea Seal hat.
This classic, minimalist look on Casey of Dressed to code pairs a satin bomber jacket from Abercrombie, black wool Morley hat from Moorea Seal, Madewell whisper cotton crewneck tee in hardy stripe, 8" skinny jeans, and black leather chelsea boots for the best outfit inspiration.
Because it’s getting cold in Seattle, I zip my jackets all the way up more often than not.
This classic, minimalist look on Casey of Dressed to code pairs a satin bomber jacket from Abercrombie, black wool Morley hat from Moorea Seal, Madewell whisper cotton crewneck tee in hardy stripe, 8" skinny jeans, and black leather chelsea boots for the best outfit inspiration.
Additionally, I wear a belt with my jeans, a black leather hand-me-down from my mother. Thanks, Mom.
This classic, minimalist look on Casey of Dressed to code pairs a satin bomber jacket from Abercrombie, black wool Morley hat from Moorea Seal, Madewell whisper cotton crewneck tee in hardy stripe, 8" skinny jeans, and black leather chelsea boots for the best outfit inspiration.
Altogether, I’m please with how my intentional wardrobe is allowing me to create more outfits I love.

Intentional Wardrobe Update

This striped cotton tee is another item I can happily check off my intentional wardrobe wishlist. The further I get into the list, the easier it becomes to throw together memorable outfits. As much as I expected shopping carefully and strategically to produce a more cohesive closet, I underestimated the impact of sitting down and thinking through how I want to visually represent myself  long term. If your shopping history has been anything like mine, you have traditionally assembled your closet a few items at a time, maybe with more thought given to a particular outfit for a special occasion. While I’ve never been one for drawers of unworn clothes, the overall amalgamation left me with that nothing-to-wear feeling more times than I’d like to admit. Now, I find myself in that position less and less, usually when I should throw in a load of laundry. Long story short, I’m very happy with how this experiment is going.

If you’re looking to get started on an intentional wardrobe of your own, start here.

Striped Cotton Tee

Of my Black Friday/Thanksgiving sales purchases, this Madewell whisper cotton crewneck tee in hardy stripe was the first to arrive. For reference, I’m wearing a size XXS. Even as I’ve admired striped shirts from afar, finding one that wasn’t too-tight or transparent in the white stripes took time. Fundamentally, this shirt is the same style as my grey t-shirt, with the curved hem and luxurious cotton feel. (Although it wasn’t on the wishlist, I couldn’t resist ordering a whisper cotton crewneck tee in ‘cabernet’ for under $15.)

Unfortunately, the second item to arrive wasn’t the cozy-cool sweatshirt I was hoping it would be. (No fuzzy lining!) For that reason and the fact that it was really cropped, you won’t see me rocking this mockneck sweatshirt anytime soon. Oh well. You win some, you lose some, and you thank goodness for free returns!

What was your best Black Friday find? Let me know in the comments!

“Be many things, but most of all, be yourself.”

-Casey

 

 

Start Building an Intentional Wardrobe

 

Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater with Madewell 8" Skinny Jeans in Quincy wash, Hunter Original Refined rain boots in black, Forever 21 tank, and Fossil Georgia leather watch.
The three primary pieces you see here are all on my wardrobe checklist: drapey black cardigan, dark skinny jeans, and black rain boots.

This post could also be titled “Start Building a Wardrobe Instead of Hoarding a Bunch of Things in Your Closet.” With new styles coming out every season, it’s easy to get caught up in trends and start buying pieces. However, unless you have a pretty big bank account, buying individual pieces or outfits gets expensive fast. Instead, by shopping intentionally, you’ll find that the same budget will get you further.

After making my own wardrobe checklist, I’ve recently been focusing my search on sweaters for Seattle’s chilly days. As a petite, I find that “oversized” sweaters are often far too big on my body with comparatively tight arms. Unfortunately, I tried on far too many sweaters that were too thin, draped oddly, etc.. Finally, I stumbled upon this color-blocked drape-front cardigan at Eddie Bauer. I’m wearing an XS in the “Women’s Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater,” which is available in two other color combinations, including a rich merlot red called deep garnet. (It’s currently 25% off too!)

This style is more forgiving than other sweater shapes. Most importantly, I found that the sleeves were fitted without being too tight, and the grey color helps minimize the volume of fabric in the front. The fabric is substantial without being itchy, and the merino wool gives it some breathability. It’s also machine washable (yes!).

Black and grey/gray Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater rear/back view.
While a piece with as much fabric as this draped sweater won’t be the most slimming thing in the world, I like that the color block changes just below my natural waist, adding a little more definition.
Black and grey/gray Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater with delicate, minimalist silver dot necklace from Silver Cup Studios on Etsy.
I see myself snuggling up in this sweater as things get chillier and tossing it on over my other wardrobe essentials.

I paired my black and grey acquisition with minimal silver jewelry, including my silver dot necklace from Etsy. As you can see below, I’m also wearing my black and silver (see a trend here?) Fossil Georgia watch, which nested nicely under the fitted but not too tight sleeves. I also have the sleeves cuffed slightly where there is a difference in texture, but someone with longer arms could leave them uncuffed.

Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater with Madewell 8" Skinny Jeans in Quincy wash, Hunter Original Refined rain boots in black, Forever 21 tank, and Fossil Georgia leather watch.
This petite-friendly cardigan is going to take me into fall by adding a warm layer to my existing base layers.

Now, here’s how I’m building my intentional wardrobe and how you can too!

0. Put down the card.

With online shopping, snatching up new clothing now takes under thirty seconds. The first step is to stop buying individual pieces and focus on creating a cohesive wardrobe of items that work together.

I know I’m guilty of making “desperation purchases” (seizing the first thing you find when under a deadline), but these items rarely make it into my regular rotation. Instead, they often spend a lot of time in the back of my bottom drawer. That’s a waste of money! Right now, I’m pledging to myself to stop doing that. You should join me.

1. Figure out what you like.

Congratulations! If you’re here, you’re probably already reading blogs and following bloggers. I follow plenty of bloggers who have amazing style that just doesn’t line up with my own.  That’s okay. Focus on the bloggers who have style you could actually see yourself wearing. Classic looks are always in style, and you can modernize the basics with a trend here or there, such as adding a bell-sleeved sweater for this fall.

Also take into account what shapes you feel comfortable wearing — don’t bother adding pencil skirts if you’d never wear them. There are plenty of pieces I love on someone else that I wouldn’t on myself.

Pin your favorite outfits and figure out what the common elements are. Is there a common theme or color scheme? For example, I find myself drawn to outfits which consist primarily or entirely of neutrals: black, white, tan, grey, and denim blues. Check out my inspiration board here.

2. Make a list.

Of course, you’ll always have some pieces which don’t strictly fit into your new wardrobe scheme. That’s totally fine. I’m certainly not going to give up my burgundy skirt because it’s not in the neutral palette! You can also omit special occasion clothing (unless you get fancy on a regular basis) and workout gear (unless you’re going for an athleisure look). Remember to include work appropriate apparel if you need weekday outfits that meet a certain look or criteria.

That said, make a list of the core of your intentional wardrobe. I love blue ball point pens and lined paper for getting the creative juices flowing, but I then transferred the list over to a spreadsheet to move things around and organize a little more.

a. Figure out how much you’d like.

How many items and what should be on your list is really up to you. Jesica of Classic in Gray just did a great post on this. Think about how frequently you want to recycle the same looks and how often you do laundry. Those in hot and humid climates probably won’t get away with multiple wears of base layers the way someone in a cool climate might.

b. Figure out what your staples are.

Maybe you’ll happily rock the same great booties all season long. Maybe you’re happy wearing the same tops but like to mix it up with your bottoms. Personally, I’m happy with a few great bottoms that I mix up with a greater variety of tops. Bottoms can be reworn more frequently and are often more expensive, so this is a win-win in the laundry and budget departments.

Figure out what your staple items should be (hint: you’ve probably already got some of them in your closet) and build out from there. Pinterest is a great place to find lists that will help you determine what kinds of pieces work well together.  I like this “50 Classics for Your Closet” list for ideas, even if it’s not item-for-item my style.

c. Don’t forget underwear, outerwear, and accessories.

A great jacket can really define your wardrobe in cooler temps, so remember to add gear appropriate to your geography to your list. Similarly, undergarments are the foundation of a wardrobe. Therefore, add items like tanks, bras, and bralettes to your list, keeping in mind what would pair with your intended tops and dresses.

3. Check off what you already have.

If you don’t own any of the items on your wardrobe wishlist, that’s a red flag that your plan may not be realistic about what you’re comfortable wearing. You probably own multiple of your staple items, so that’s part of your focused wardrobe already available to you! You may also want to evaluate these items to determine whether they are in good condition and fit well or need to be replaced (holes happen, unfortunately).

4. Shop strategically and be patient.

If you don’t already have a monthly or similarly regular budget, make one first! Once you have an idea of what you can spend, think about your target price range per type of item. I’m willing to spend a little more per item for better quality. That said, I still have a price at which I’ll balk and walk away. I also tend to stick things in my bag or on my wishlist and wait until they go on sale. The great thing about being intentional is that you can better figure out where to splurge and where to save.

As a petite woman who doesn’t buy many overly trendy items, the items in my cart don’t usually sell out before going on sale. I also sign up for the lists for my favorite stores, so I can jump on sales when they happen. Also pay attention to your items after you buy them. I’ve gotten as much as $40 back after asking for a price adjustment on a big purchase that went even more on sale after I bought it.

5. Keep reevaluating.

You may never have everything crossed off your list, but it’s important to periodically reevaluate all the goals in your life, including this one.

 

What’s on your intentional wardrobe wishlist? What’s that one item on which your closet depends? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Best of luck, lovelies!

-Casey

(Net)Work It with these Networking Tips

Go networking casual with this Nordstrom BP piped blazer with Banana Republic black shell, Madewell skinny jeans, and Ralph Lauren black and gold leather belt.
Black and denim is my default aesthetic for a reason. Here, I mixed it up with a blazer for a conference-casual look.

For a day-long women in tech conference, I opted for a classic look: a black blazer with dark jeans. In my experience, people at tech events will wear everything from jeans and a tee to full business professional attire. I like to stick to a middle ground, wearing some of my professional pieces while showing a little more personality. For networking, you need comfort and confidence, and I share some tips for getting yourself there at the end of this post.

Blazer

This blazer is a high quality find from Nordstrom’s B.P. brand. Although it’s a few years old, a classic look is always relevant. I love the addition of the white piping to add a little interest. The front pockets, although smaller, are real, and are well-suited for quickly stashing my phone or having business cards handy.

The cropped fit means that this blazer is also an excellent option to add a little definition (and warmth) to wear a summery dress in the slightly cooler days. I also like how a white shirt can make the piping pop, but for a professional event, I opted for a higher neckline and don’t have one in white yet.

Top

This black top from Banana Republic serves as a professional base layer in this outfit, but it’s an all-around staple piece, so you’ll see me wearing it again! Here, I have it tucked in (so as not to hang out below the blazer), but it also looks great untucked. I’d link to it, but it was a purchase from fall 2014, and I never found it online. If I did, I’d buy a few more in all the staple colors. I’ll let you know if I find anything similar.

Perfect for a casual networking environment, this Nordstrom BP piped blazer hangs well over a Banana Republic black shell, Madewell skinny jeans, and Ralph Lauren black and gold leather belt.
As you can see, this blazer has a cropped fit, which makes it better paired with higher waisted bottoms or a dress. This top also has great movement to it, and I would buy it in many more colors if I could.

Jeans

You’ve seen these Madewell 8″ skinny jeans in Quincy wash before, as they are my current default pair. While I had previously rolled the cuff, this time I tucked the cuff on the inside to keep the dark line (okay, so slightly broken by my very fair skin in these photos).

Boots

Depending on the size and format of your conference, you may be standing on your feet all day or even walking miles around the location. These INC International Concepts boots look classic from the front, with smooth black leather, and a short stacked heel. I like the 1.5″ height as an everyday shoe.  Not shown: the metallic gold band above the stacked heel, which adds something special to an otherwise unobtrusive pair of shoes. See it here.

Side note: As in a typical shoe-buying experience, I saw these in Macy’s, liked the look, and tried on a pair. I walked around the (carpeted) shoe department, did a little dance, and decided to buy them. However, when I wore them out, I discovered that they were loud. The heels made the classic high-heel noise on any sort of hard surface, but it was magnified to the point where I became self-conscious wearing them. Thankfully, when I had the heels resoled, they became much quieter. They still make that classic heel clack walking down the street but at a much more reasonable volume. Lesson learned: take a three second spin on a harder floor material before checking out!

Accessories

I finished off the look with my classic pearl studs (read my recommendation for a dupe) to complement the white piping. This black leather belt with gold buckle coordinated with the gold heel on the boots. (When belt shopping, remember that your “waist” size according to your pants doesn’t directly correlate to how long you’ll want your belt to be. My belts vary several inches between those I wear at my true waist and those I wear in my lower to mid rise pants.)

Additionally, I usually wear a watch (or a Fitbit) to these events, but I forgot this time. I can’t tell you how many times I glanced down at a bare wrist!

Networking doesn't have to blow you off course with this Nordstrom BP piped blazer with Banana Republic black shell, Madewell skinny jeans, and Ralph Lauren black and gold leather belt.
It’s easy to feel a little frazzled at networking events, especially when you enter a huge room full of people. If step 1 is a great outfit, step 2 is a game plan.

Networking

One of the reasons I began blogging was that I believe the right clothing can help you feel a little more comfortable in your own skin. However, there does come a point when you need a little more help than a great outfit can provide. Networking events are certainly one of those cases for me.

At conferences, I am regularly reminded that I can be introverted when faced with large numbers of unfamiliar faces. This is different from shyness, as it mostly manifests in how exhaustion. After hours (or even days) of meeting new people, I feel drained and need some alone time.

One of the biggest things I do to combat this people-fatigue is to hit the networking first, while I’m still fresh. If the schedule allows, I’ll make my rounds before going to the talks. In my experience, it’s better to feel drained while sitting and listening to a talk than when trying to make intelligent conversation with an important connection or potential employer! That said, conferences are usually very loud, so if you zone out for a moment (it happens!), asking someone to repeat themselves is perfectly normal.

I also recommend taking a moment for a deep breath before entering the room. Remind yourself that you’ve got this. Shake hands, introduce yourself, and make eye contact.

If you’re currently talking and notice someone nearby attempting to enter your little circle, try this easy trick. First, reintroduce yourself (and everyone else if you’re sure you remember their names). Then, briefly recap the conversation. This can be a welcoming way to bring in other people and give off a more confident vibe. (On the flip side, we’ve all been there, outside a conversation, waiting for the right moment to jump in!) It only takes a few seconds, but can make you look good, make someone else feel more comfortable, and briefly take the pressure off you. A win-win-win! Try it out: “Hi, I’m Casey, and this is Laura and Alex. We were just talking about how great the keynote was this morning. What did you think about her conclusion?”

Do you also get exhausted after being “on” at these types of events? What are your best tips for networking events? Share your stories and tips in the comments!

You’re amazing. They just don’t know it yet.

-Casey

DIY Distressed Denim

Banana Republic black wool sweater with delicate silver necklace, Fitbit Charge HR, distressed Levi's jeans, and black leather INC boots (booties).
With delicate silver jewelry, a mid-weight sweater, and these black leather booties, these newly-distressed jeans fit right into my fall look.

Distressed denim is back in a big way, with rips, slits, and scuffs adding visual interest to skinny jeans. I’m normally one for dark denim, but after seeing so many cute posts from other bloggers, I wanted a distressed pair of my own! Unfortunately, the extra attention that goes into aging that denim often comes at a price. My bank account took a hit recently with pricey standardized tests, so I decided to opt for a little DIY.

If you don’t have an extra pair lying around, this is a great time to hit up those thrift stores. Quality denim is durable enough to still be great second-hand, and for the distressed look, a little pre-wear only helps. I dug into the back of my bottom drawer (where things go on their way out), and found this pair!

My canvas is a pair of Levi’s Curve ID low-rise skinny jeans in demi curve, size 25. (Side note: my all-time favorite jeans were another pair of Levi’s Curve ID skinnies in an extra low rise and 99% cotton. They did amazing things for the rear before tragically ripping in the crotch after many years. Levi’s, if you’re reading this, bring them back!) This pair was a little stretchy for my taste because I prefer a thicker, higher-cotton feel, but I appreciated the dark denim look.

Levi's demi curve curve ID jeans size 25
These Levi’s served as my canvas. The knees were already thinning, but I added some more character.

Lighter washes are typically recommended for distressing, but I figured it was better practice with what I already had (cost: $0). My mother would probably cringe at the idea of intentionally attacking a pair of jeans (her distressing and paint splatters are all 100% authentic), but this pair is already pretty thin in certain critical areas, so there aren’t too many wears left anyway.

Step 0: Know what you want

I decided to aim for a less-is-more look. I knew I could always add more distressing later if I wanted, but I wasn’t interested in a completely shredded look. Looking for inspiration online, I found these pairs from AG, Hudson Jeans, and PAIGE, all around $200. I liked the subtle knee tears and the upper thigh patch. I thought it looked odd that the distressing was restricted entirely to the front, so I decided to add a little wear to the back pocket as well. Those four elements became my todo list, and I decided to start with what I thought would be the easiest:

  1. Back pocket (right)
  2. Upper thigh (left)
  3. Knee (right)

Step 1: Get what you need

My online research suggested that you could use a number of different tools, but that sharper was better when it came to making the little slits. I opted for a box cutter as my cutting tool, and I also gathered sandpaper and tweezers. (Side note: if you don’t already have a pair of Tweezerman tweezers, do yourself a favor, and get a pair. They come in a variety of colors and also make great stocking stuffers!) It’s also important to put some material between the layers of fabric so that you don’t cut through to the back. I went for folded up paper grocery bags.

Two slits with some denim fibers removed reveal the white fibers within. Black Tweezerman tweezers rest at an angle just above the distressing.
Usually reserved for brows, these Tweezerman tweezers were perfect for this DIY because they have excellent grip, a sharp tip, and a comfortable handle.

Step 2: Make it happen

I tried the sandpaper on the edges of the pockets, but even after vigorous effort, all this produced was a soft, fuzzy effect.

The white patches are produced by making two parallel, horizontal slits with the box cutter. Make sure that you have some kind of thick buffer between the front and back of your pants. I used rolled up paper grocery bags. The bags were pretty sliced up in the end, so don’t try to use your hand or anything you like. (This should be obvious, but I’m saying it just in case.)

You want to do your best to align these cuts so as to break the fewest number of the white threads as possible. Making the cuts as close to the same length as possible will also make things easier later.

Two slits with some denim fibers removed reveal the white fibers within.
As you pull out the blue threads, you will reveal more white fibers.

Then, slowly pull out the blue vertical threads between the slits with the tweezers. For the first few, I found it helpful to look at the underside to better distinguish the blue from the white. Then it was a matter of working out from the middle until reaching the end of the cuts. You’ll notice that if you go any further, the threads won’t pull out as easily because they are still attached. This method will produce a rectangle.

Levi's jeans with DIY denim distressing
This little bit of distressing was one of my favorites and quick to do. Two short slits approximately 3/4″ apart create this elongated rectangular patch.

Up close, I love the elongated little rectangular accents. However, for the key features, the rectangles looked a little too crisp. For a more organic look, along the lines of the thigh distressing on the Hudson Jeans, I added slits of decreasing length above and below my original rectangle; pulling the threads between the new slits and the existing ones produced a staggered shape. Keeping the slits close together softens the gradation.

I won’t lie, this took longer than the 15 minutes promised in some of the tutorials I read. Be careful about pulling the blue threads without damaging (too many) white ones. I put on Netflix and good lighting and worked carefully. The results were immediately satisfying, and it would be fun to do this again.

In the end, I distressed the right knee, the upper left thigh, and the back right pocket. I also added three small elements: one to the outer right thigh, one outside the left calf, and one on the right thigh, just above the knee.

Banana Republic black merino wool sweater with DIY distressed Levi's denim jeans, INC black booties, and Fitbit Charge HR.
Per my black-and-denim uniform, I paired my newly distressed jeans with a black Banana Republic sweater, and stacked heel INC booties. You’ll also notice my near-constant accessory: a Fitbit Charge HR.

Step 3: Enjoy!

While the distressing didn’t fix the reasons I hadn’t been wearing these jeans in the first place, I now have more reason to wear these before they wear out. In short, I’ve added a pair of attractive distressed denim to my rotation without spending a dollar!

Want to recycle your denim? Bring a pair into Madewell, and they’ll give you $20 off a full-priced pair of jeans!

Have your own DIY distressed denim? Leave a pic below!

 

Reduce, reuse, recycle!

Casey