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

Thinking Thankful Thoughts After Thanksgiving

Casey of Dressed to Code pairs a swingy black t-shirt dress with blush leather lace-up heeled sandals, a gold and green pendent necklace, and a silver Apple watch.
It was warm and sunny in Southern California for Thanksgiving with family and friends, perfect for pulling out these two pieces.

When you think about it, the combination of Thanksgiving and the following (now overlapping) shopping days is more than a little contradictory. We spend a day thinking about everything we are thankful for and then participate in rampant acts of consumerism. I say we because I also took advantage of the sales to pick up some things I’ve had my eye on. (Spoiler alert: I think all the things I ordered are black tops. Oh, well.)

In the spirit of extending the critical period of thankfulness, I’m going to talk a little about Thanksgiving as everyone else has moved onto Christmas trees.

I’m thankful for things that work out.

We ended up booking last-minute flights to Southern California to join my family for Thanksgiving day. Long story short, our original flight was overbooked. However, if you saw my Instagram post, you also know that we ended up being upgraded to first class. Thanks, Delta! I can now say that I have successfully eaten soup while experiencing turbulence.

I’m thankful for family and friends.

Miraculously, we managed to pull off surprising my dad! Let’s just say that there were several seconds of stunned staring after he opened the door, followed by hugs all around.

On the big day, the house filled up with people, some of whom have been fixtures at the annual event for as long as I can remember. The kids gleefully frolicked in buckets of Legos, and the adults had a good-natured competition between two similar side dishes. I certainly wasn’t complaining about duplicates of sweet potatoes and stuffing, some of my favorites.

Casey of Dressed to Code pairs a swingy black t-shirt dress with blush leather lace-up heeled sandals, a gold and green pendent necklace, and a silver Apple watch.
I ate a lot of pie, but you’d never know with this great dress.

The weather was warm and sunny, so this comfortable, swingy Socialite dress from Nordstrom  was great for the eating marathon. My mom made me a special dairy-free version of her apple pie, which was fantastic. (I think I ate at least 50% of that pie by myself. No regrets.) I was also happy to have an occasion to pull out these Hinge ‘Drea’ sandals again.

I’m thankful for safe travels.

There are so many things I could list specifically, but most of all, I’m glad for this trip. I’m glad to have traveled safely, seen people (and pets) I care about, and had the means to do so. It’s so important to realize every day what privileges we have in this world. I have people who love me and a roof over my head, for starters.

I’m thankful for my homes.

My childhood home will always be home to me, but I’m also grateful for my new home here in Seattle. I have a warm and welcoming place with a person I love, and I’m excited to start new traditions together.

Casey of Dressed to Code pairs a swingy black t-shirt dress with a gold and green pendent necklace, and a silver Apple watch for a casual warm-weather Thanksgiving outfit.
This necklace is a costume piece from my great-grandmother, so it was a way to incorporate a little bit of family into my outfit.

Moving forward in the holiday season, I’m aiming to continue the spirit of Thanksgiving. I want to stop and appreciate what I have and who I love. After all, thankfulness, togetherness, and joyfulness comprise the essence of holiday magic.

What are you thankful for every day?

“It’s not enough to love if you don’t also appreciate.”

-Casey

How to Balance Black Leather

Banana Republic top, Abercrombie faux leather mini skirt, and Hinge Drea peep toe leather sandals from Nordstrom.
This black on black leather look could have gone biker chick rather than casual chic, but it’s all about balance.

As my birthday approaches each year, I start to reflect on my life thus far and the year to come. This year, even as I chase my goals, I need to simultaneously slow down and enjoy being in my early twenties. It’s so easy to keep worrying about the next steps and forget to enjoy the now. So when I spotted this faux leather mini on the sale rack at Abercrombie (and it fit at the natural waist with an A-line shape), I figured now was the time to rock a piece like this!

I know that when you hear Abercrombie, you probably think of brightly-colored, branded t-shirts. They still have some of those shirts, but they also have some great pieces, like this satin bomber in black or burgundy. They have also introduced petite and tall sizes online! I’ve actually found enough worth looking at lately to add the store back into my online rotation. If you want to avoid shipping costs, you can pick up online orders in store (and immediately make a return if it doesn’t work out).

Skirt

This fully lined, faux leather mini includes a functional full-length zipper up the front. (That could be helpful if you’re currently rocking a bootie of the medical variety). A tab snaps on either side of the zipper, so I’m not worried about accidental unzipping. I was a little worried about the length, so I put a small pair of shorts on underneath. The waist also comes down to a slight point on either side, which is an interesting touch.

Banana Republic top, Abercrombie faux leather mini skirt, and Hinge Drea peep toe leather sandals from Nordstrom.
It’s texture rather than color that really makes this look.

Top

I told you that this staple piece would be making a reappearance! In addition to sitting well under a blazer, this Banana Republic favorite looks great on its own. As I mentioned previously, I never found it online, but if you find a similar piece, let me know! (I’ll buy three more.) I like the simple, flowy top to counteract the leather skirt and add balance. With the black top and bottom, the overall outfit has a sleekness to it while relying on texture for visual interest. The soft nature of the top counteracts the potential harshness of the bottom and keeps the look firmly in my aesthetic.

Sandals

If you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning or following me on Instagram, you’ll recognize these Hinge Drea Peep-toe Leather Sandals from Nordstrom. This outfit would have also worked well with black sandals, but I love the leg-lengthening effect of the nude sandal. See a close-up here. As it gets cooler, I’ll swap out these sandals for tights and my black INC booties.

Banana Republic top, Abercrombie faux leather mini skirt, Fossil Georgia leather watch, and Danforth pewter squirrel necklace.
Black and silver (and pewter) accessories tie in nicely together and with the silver snaps on the skirt.

Accessories

I paired this outfit with my black leather, silver hardware Coach purse, which I believe is an earlier iteration of the Dinky bag. This year’s version reimagines the interior slightly with a coin-purse-style pocket, and has more pronounced topstitching in a contrasting color. A well-cared for Coach purse will last for years (my other Coach purse is approaching 40!), so buying a preowned classic is a great option.

I’m also wearing my black and silver Fossil Georgia watch for a little wrist sparkle. (A few years ago, I rarely wore anything on my wrists. Now my Fitbit tan line is pronounced enough that I almost never go without something.) As I have mentioned before, I love the large, readable face of this watch paired with the small band.

Little touches like a charming necklace add a personal element to an outfit and even serve as a conversation starter. The distinctive squirrel I’m wearing here (on an 18″ chain) is from Danforth Pewter, made in Vermont. The squirrel cast shown here is still available in a pin. You won’t find any more charms because but I bought out all their remaining stock after they discontinued production. They made great little gifts!

There are a number of other shapes of charms to choose from, and they have a warm, handcrafted quality in your hands. The best way to pick out your charm is by going through the big wooden chest with all the little drawers in store, but online shopping works as well if you aren’t planning a trip to Vermont anytime soon. (I adore this little tree frog!) I paired this necklace with simple brushed silver studs.

Where nail polish is so much less expensive than paying for a manicure, I don’t feel too guilty about picking up a new color every other trip to Target. This medium berry tone is a Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear polish in 189 – Mauve Over. The color on my screen is pretty true to the color on my nails, which makes a perfect transitional color between the fresh brights of summer and the deep tones of fall.

Banana Republic top, Abercrombie faux leather mini skirt, and Hinge Drea peep toe leather sandals from Nordstrom.
This black leather purse with shiny silver details pairs equally well with my everyday aesthetic and special occasions, with plenty of room for the essentials and more.

#onthecusp

I ended up immediately wearing this outfit for an On the Cusp event at Neiman Marcus Bellevue. Five Seattle area bloggers had pulled pieces for the fall season, including Pumps and Plaid, AikA’s Love Closet, Story of My Dress, and xxKarlieRae. While most of their gorgeous pulls won’t be joining my closet anytime soon ($$$$), it was fun to look. I had a wonderful evening meeting other bloggers and thinking about how I could incorporate some of the elements.

IRO Han Jersey-Knit Motorcycle Jacket in Pink Grey from Neiman Marcus
IRO Han Jersey-Knit Motorcycle Jacket in Pink Grey, available at Neiman Marcus

One of my unexpectedly favorite pieces was this IRO Han Jersey-Knit Motorcycle Jacket in Pink Grey pulled by Megan of  Sort of Style and paired with a crisp white shirt. This subdued, neutral pink is popular with many of the bloggers I follow, and the texture was buttery soft. While I’m not going to convert to a light-colored closet anytime soon, this pin-worthy jacket had me giving this color further consideration. If you love the light-leather moto look, this BLANKNYC Faux Leather Moto Jacket in might do this trick!

 

What are your stop-and-smell-the-roses moments? This week, mine was remembering I’ll only be in my early twenties once and rocking a (faux) leather skirt. Share yours in the comments below!

Be even more amazing than you ever thought you’d be.

-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

Beginning with the Basics

Begin with the basics with this petite-friendly Madewell radio tee in black with cuffed Quincy wash 8" skinny jeans and Hinge Drea peep toe lace up leather sandals in blush.
Elevate your everyday jeans and tee look with great fabrics, flattering fit, and simple accessories.

Hi! I’m Casey. For my first post here on Dressed to Code, I figured I’d be true to myself and show you my go-to look: jeans and a t-shirt! At 5’3″ tall (on a good day), even this staple look can be difficult to put together without looking too youthful. The key to success is to build on quality, well-fitting basics. I’ll admit I don’t wear heels on a daily basis, but these blush leather lace-ups are my current shoe crush.

Jeans

After my well-loved, favorite jeans wore out and ripped (in a not-fixable area), I went hunting for a similar, heavyweight denim in a flattering cut. For me, that meant finding a pair that would fit my hips without being too large at the waist. Jeans are probably one of the most ubiquitous basics and the basis for many classic looks.

Fast forward a couple dozen pairs of jeans, and I found a great pair that fit at Madewell. These 8″ skinny jeans (on sale!) are one of their staple fits, and I love the darkness of the Quincy wash. I’m wearing a size 25 in the regular length, cuffed. The high-quality denim has a substantial feel to it, and doesn’t stretch out throughout the day. You can bet on seeing more of these in future posts.

 

The back of the basics with this view of Madewell radio tee, Quncy wash 8" skinny jeans, and Hinge Drea blush leather sandals.
These dark wash jeans are flattering from all angles.

I loved the new pair so much that I went online and snagged a pair in the Lakeshore wash (now only $50!). I ended up getting the Lakeshore pair hemmed and tapered through Madewell, which I’ll cover in a later post.

T-shirt

While in store at Madewell, I also found a new favorite in the pima cotton radio tee (now on sale for $14 in 3 colors). Tees are other critical basics. However, I often find shirts to be simultaneously too long and wide in the body and too tight in the arms and across the chest. (I call it the too-tight-tent!) This ultra soft tee didn’t have any of those problems.  I wear an XS, which means there’s even another smaller size for you to try. This might be a cropped fit on a taller person, but I like that the hem hits me just below the top of those 8″ skinny jeans without the excessive width of many cropped styles. The resulting fit is a close-to-the-body but not-too-tight tee in a flattering length.

The Madewell radio tee, Fossil Georgia watch, and Madewell 8" skinny jeans are all quality basics.
With a t-shirt that fits this well and feels this good, you might feel like you’re getting away with something.

Sandals

I saw these Hinge ‘Drea’ peep toe leather sandals online and knew I wanted to try them on. As someone who usually saves heels for special occasions, I was happy to find a pair of comfortable casual heels! Although they also come in black, I loved the nearly-nude look of the blush leather on my fair skin. Because of the lace-up style, the leather adjusts to your foot like a second skin. I tried on multiple sizes and purchased my usual sandal size (5.5). I’ll be wearing these with summery dressed as much as I can before cool weather sets in, and then pairing them with jeans and sweaters to get even more use out of them.

The very first time I wore these sandals, I ended up walking over a mile through the city on one of the hottest days in Seattle all summer. When I got home, my feet were a little sweaty (sorry if that’s TMI) but content, thanks to the quality leather and attractive cutouts. Because the laces allow you to get a custom fit, my feet hadn’t slid around, and I had zero blisters. I had a little bit of that muscle soreness from being in heels all day, but I could have walked even farther. Win!

Love the basics with these Madewell 8" skinny jeans in Quincy wash, cuffed and paired with Hinge Drea peep toe lace up leather sandals in blush.
These Hinge Drea peep toe leather sandals manage to be attractive and comfortable, no breaking in needed.

Watch

This black and silver Fossil Georgia Watch (also marked down) balances a slender leather band and large face. The black leather with shiny silver accents fits perfectly into my aesthetic, and it manages to give the bold look of a large face watch without being overwhelming on a small wrist. The large face and notched dial also means it’s easy to read with a subtle glance.

Madewell radio tee in black with Fossil Georgia watch in black leather with silver hardware are basics for your closet.
Can you tell how excited I am about this watch? I could also be excited that it was almost time for lunch.

Earrings

My pearl studs are my favorite earrings and were a present from my grandmother years ago. If you’re looking for a classic pair of pearls with a smaller price tag, these Charter Club imitation pearl earrings are a good choice.

The Madewell radio tee in black pairs well with classic pearl studs for a great version of the basics.
These classic pearl studs are subtle enough for everyday wear and refined enough for special occasions.

Whether you read this post or just scrolled through the photos, welcome to Dressed to Code and thanks for reading! Make sure to follow me on Instagram or your other favorite social media to keep up with new posts. You can also learn more about me or my goals for the blog. If you have your own favorite fit tee, leave a comment below!

May your closet be prepared for whatever you get dressed to do!

– Casey