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

Overalls: Not the Uniform Anymore

Casey of Dressed to Code pairs light denim overalls with black and silver accessories: a wool hat, statement silver disc earrings, and a black and silver Apple watch.
Amp up a casual outfit with three accessories.

Getting Dressed

When was the last time you got dressed without taking someone else into account? If you’re anything like me, you think about the weather, what’s clean, the occasion, and… societal expectations. I’d like to say that I dress for myself and only myself, but that’s just not true. In a visual world, we use our clothing and style choices to convey who not only who we are but who we want to be.

Fitting In

In case you’re new to Dressed to Code, I’m a software developer. As such, I work at a technology company with other people who also code for a living (Shocking stuff, right?). However, you’re probably already aware that women are significantly underrepresented in STEM fields, and that the tech industry has a reputation for hoodies, jeans, and sneakers.

Long story short, I’ve been wearing the uniform: jeans every day and sneakers many days. My Madewell Whisper Cotton Tees and Patagonia Better Sweater make frequent appearances. Is it physically comfortable? Absolutely. Is it emotionally comfortable? Here’s the reflective part of this post: I’m wearing these things to blend in. I’m wearing these items because it’s easier to go along with the unofficial uniform. It feels safer to mimic what other are wearing. It has also been raining almost nonstop for the last month.

Pair a classic pair of overalls with black accessories to keep things from straying too far into your childhood.
Seattle has been extra gloomy this year, so even a brief moment of sunshine is worth smiling about.

Standing Out

After hours, I spend plenty of time scrolling Instagram and scrolling the new arrivals at Madewell. Enter these overalls. Blogger Natalie Borton styled them six chic ways. Julia Engel of Gal Meets Glam praised them as “Finally… overalls that I don’t hate.” I saw them in store and figured I try them on, get them out of my head, and never think of them again. It didn’t help. Surprisingly, I actually liked them on. They were comfortable but cute. Somehow, these overalls fell outside my norm but right into my wheelhouse.

I’ve bought pieces for special occasions or circumstances before, but I’m pretty sure this pair of overalls is the first article of clothing I’ve bought “for the weekend.” (Maybe that’s another step on the path to adulthood.)

I might be wearing the tech uniform to fit in, but I bought these overalls for me, as a little act of rebellion against the uniform. I styled them with the hat that always makes me feel more put together, and fun earrings that would be minimalist statement earrings if such a thing existed. Oh, and sneakers.

This overall, t-shirt, and sneakers combination is perfect for running errands or to brunch.
This overall, t-shirt, and sneakers combination is perfect for running errands or to brunch.
Whether you're cleaning the house or just dancing around it, these overalls feature pockets and buttery soft denim.
Whether you’re cleaning the house or just dancing around it, these overalls feature pockets and buttery soft denim.

Links:

Overalls – Madewell Skinny Overalls: Dropped Hem Edition (S)

Tee – Madewell Radio Tee (XS)

Sneakers – Nike Free Rn (7)

Hat – Morley Hat from Moorea Seal (Adjustable)

Earrings – Old, from Target

Watch – Apple Watch, 32 mm with Black Classic Buckle Leather Band

Notes:

1. I wear a size 26 in Madewell denim, and I sized up to a small for a more comfortable fit in the overalls. 2. I had them hemmed with a traditional denim hem (for free as a Madewell insider) because I wasn’t a fan of that particular dropped hem. 3. It’s been cool and rainy here in Seattle, so I swapped the hat for a black scarf and threw on my North Face Thermoball to run errands.

 

Be conscious of not only who you are but who you are becoming.

-Casey

Toasting the New Year with a Drink of Water

Casey of Dressed to Code wears a black Women's North Face Stretch Thermoball down alternative jacket with black Madewell 10" high-rise denim and kodiak caramel leather insulated boots.
I’m looking forward to the new year, but I’m also looking back at what I’ll continue from years past.

It’s easy to see why people love the start of the new year so much. January 1 is the day we collectively start over and vow to do things differently, to make this year better than the last. It’s the time of resolutions and renewal. That said, I can’t remember the last time that a significant change I made started with a New Year’s resolution. Change doesn’t have to start with the beginning of the year, the month, or the week. Change starts whenever you’re ready and willing to do the work. Therefore, this post, primarily covering my drink habits, is the first in a mini-series covering some of the changes I plan to continue into the new year.

Health and Fitness

A new year’s post wouldn’t be complete without some mention of being active and eating right/better/healthier/etc. About a year ago, I was forced into making some dietary changes. It hasn’t been fun, and it certainly hasn’t been easy. Nonetheless, it has been worth it to lessen or eliminate some of the uncomfortable (or even painful) symptoms I was experiencing. As part of this change, I avoid certain foods, eat others in moderation, and maintain a minimum level of activity. To continue feeling better, I plan to continue doing all of these things into the new year.

Please note that I made these changes in consultation with my doctor, a licensed and experienced medical professional.

Gazing out on the lake from Mercer Island, Seattle, Washington.
Our 2nd annual Christmas Day bike ride was much colder than the first, but it was great to get back on the bike.

What I Drink and What I Don’t

Now, in my completely amateur opinion, I’ll quickly share what I believe to be an easy place to start if you’re looking to cut back on sugar or empty calories: what you drink. The habits I’m outlining here have developed over the years for a variety of reasons, but they work for me. Even better, I save a lot of money.

I drink water.

The vast majority of the time, I drink water. I know, we’ve all heard “drink more water,” but it really is incredibly beneficial in a variety of ways. Personally, I’ll drink a lot more water if it’s already in front of me (like at a restaurant) or easily accessible.We have become better at refilling our water glasses at least once during dinner, which has made a difference.

Unless you’re in a poisoned water situation like Flint, Michigan, skip the pre-bottled stuff (it’s expensive and terrible for the planet) and fill up on good old tap water. If you don’t like the taste, install a filter or use a filtered pitcher. Bring a bottle to take with you or keep in the car when you’re out and about; I love my hydroflask water bottle for keeping water cold on hot days. What changes could you inact to make drinking more water easier?

Plus, restaurants and other food establishments in the United States are often required to provide drinking water for free or a minimal “cup fee.” This savings adds up over time, leaving you more for more meals out or your savings account.

I don’t drink coffee.

I know this one isn’t going to be feasible for everyone, but I don’t drink coffee. Yes, I now live in Seattle. Before you try to tell me what I’m missing, I’ve never been interested; too much caffeine gives me a headache; and I save that money for other things. If you feel terrible when you cut back on the coffee (or soda), it’s likely because caffeine is a legitimate physical addiction and you’re undergoing withdrawal. If you do decide to cast off caffeine in the new year, know that the secret to waking up well isn’t coffee — it’s getting enough sleep.

I do drink tea.

Instead, I usually drink tea when I want something warm. Black tea (no cream, no sugar) is generally my first choice. Right now, I’m primarily drinking decaffeinated English Breakfast from Twinings which I bought in a 100 pack from Amazon (an excellent decision).

I sometimes drink fruit juice.

Sometimes I get a craving for fruit juice, especially a nice glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. If I do drink fruit juice, I try to make sure that what I’m drinking comes from an actual fruit and isn’t fruit flavored sugar water. You should also know that a naturally occurring chemical in grapefruits can interfere with certain medications. Check everything you’re taking for interactions before you choose that particular citrus. (Side note: unless you are severely dehydrated from the flu or serious exercise in the hot sun, your electrolytes are probably fine. Skip the sports drinks.)

I very rarely drink soda.

If I do drink soda, it’s on rare occasion and probably at a fancy event. I’ll order a non-alcoholic mixed drink when the occasion calls for it. (Side note: Trader Joe’s pomegranate limeade + tonic water is an easy mocktail.) Maybe once every two years I’ll get the hankering for a Coke and drink half a can. Soda has never been a big fixture in my diet, and that’s something I’m not going to change.

I sometimes drink hot chocolate.

Of course, if you’ve seen my Instagram feed, you know that I also love a good hot chocolate. For those dietary reasons I mentioned, I avoid hot chocolates made with dairy or soy milks and order almond or coconut milk if available. If not, I order tea. I don’t stock it at home, so hot chocolate is a treat usually reserved for cozy coffeehouse meetings with friends.

A croissant, latte, and hot chocolate from Storyville Coffee add a little something special to a meeting between friends.
The hot chocolate is mine. The latte isn’t.

I don’t drink alcohol.

Disclaimer: If this part of the post sounds defensive or overly aggressive, know that complete strangers have voiced very strong opinions on this personal decision of mine over the years, ranging from inappropriate to uncomfortable and even threatening. 

This is for several reasons, including those dietary restrictions I mentioned above. Several of my many reasons for not imbibing are deeply personal and not up for debate. No, avoiding alcohol doesn’t make me a prude or a buzzkill or anything like that. It also doesn’t tell you anything about my religious or political views. Yes, I have tried it, and no, there isn’t any drink out there that will change my mind.

For one thing, it seems that I smell alcohol much more strongly than other people. I’ve had plenty of “but you can’t even taste the alcohol” drinks shoved in my face, and they all reeked of booze to me. (In the spirit of full disclosure, there was a mixed-drink exception, but I’m 99.9% sure that person had actually been discretely cut off by their friends.)

I want to emphasize that I believe alcoholic beverages, in moderation, can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Many of my friends drink alcohol, and I spend time with them when they do. (Built in DD!) I become concerned, however, when people promote alcohol (and a lot of it) as an essential part of having fun. That’s an incredibly dangerous and disturbingly prevalent notion. If you can’t remember the last time you had a good time without consuming alcohol, please consider seeking help.

Some Myths About People Who Don’t Drink Alcohol

Weirdly enough, not drinking alcohol seems to make some people very uncomfortable. Let’s talk about some of the reasons I hear:

  1. Judgement. If you do something unwise or dangerous under the influence of a substance, I’m going to judge you for it. If you do something unwise or dangerous not under the influence, I’m going to judge you for it as well. Your actions factor into others’ assessment of your character. Having a drink or two isn’t going to change my assessment of you. Getting violent, belligerent, or behind the wheel while impaired will.
  2. Fun. Yes, you can have fun without being tipsy or drunk. In fact, you should have non-alcoholic fun on a regular basis. It’s fun, and you won’t have that bar tab at the end of the night.
  3. Social lubricant. This is the one that probably makes the least amount of sense to me. Some people use alcohol to help them relax in social situations. Fine. Somehow, this has been twisted around to imply that people who don’t drink alcohol are somehow less socially adept. While there’s bound to be some overlap between the two groups, this one’s just not true. Maybe it’s really because your sober friend can clue you in as to whether you’re actually funnier while drinking or just think you are.

Being A Better Host/Friend/Member of Society

What can you do to be more conscious of people who do not partake (whether that means ever or just on a given night)?

  1. If they decline alcoholic beverages, don’t question it. Offer the non-alcoholic options. Better yet, offer all the beverages up front.
  2. Have non-alcoholic options. This is just good practice for everyone. (If you’re serving cocktails, include interesting multi-ingredient non-alcoholic drinks.)
  3. Don’t ask them why. There are a million completely legitimate reasons, all of which are none of your business unless they choose to share. Some examples include:
    • They don’t feel like it.
    • They need to drive home. Alcohol tolerance varies wildly and is not a competition. Some people are uncomfortable or not safe driving after even a single drink.
    • They’re taking medication. Many medications are incompatible or unwise to take with alcohol, including antibiotics. Do you really want to be the person who puts someone on the spot over a UTI?
    • They have a personal or family history of alcoholism. Addiction is serious business and very personal.
    • They’re trying to save money.
  4. Reconsider alcohol-themed events. If you make the entire point of the party “champagne” or “beer pong,” you’re making someone feel unwelcome or uninterested. At a minimum, try to provide alternatives and include them prominently in the invitation, like hosting a wine and chocolate tasting event (sign me up!).

Words to Avoid: “Detox” and “Chemical-free”

It seems appropriate here to caution against “quick fix” diets or “detox” products. As any legitimate medical professional will tell you, your body has its own methods of removing “toxins” from your body; their names are liver and kidney. If you want to help them out, drink more water and less alcohol. A juice “cleanse” probably won’t kill you, but that healthy feeling people report afterward is more the result of cutting back on foods heavy in fats and processed sugars. If you want to change what you eat, skip the (potentially dangerous) magic pills and simply focus on foods that are better for you. If you’re still not feeling better, consult your doctor. You may, like me, have food-related or other health issues that require treatment.

Furthermore, anyone who touts a “chemical-free” product has no idea what they’re talking about. Period. This is a fallacy (especially rampant in health and beauty products) easily countered with basic science literacy. Water is a chemical. That isn’t to say that there aren’t chemicals which you should legitimately avoid putting in or on your body; there definitely are harmful chemicals out there. However, if someone tries to sell you a “chemical-free” product, they obviously don’t know what they’re talking about.

 

What drinks do you consider worth the money? What’s your favorite mocktail recipe? What would you like to see in this series? Let me know!

We cannot change that which we do not recognize.

-Casey

 

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: Il Corvo

All black everything with 10" high-rise skinny jeans in carbondale wash from Madewell and black leather chelsea boots finish out a black pea coat and t-shirt for a head-to-toe look.
Level achieved: all black.

All Black Everything

Can you believe that it has taken me this long to check black denim off my intentional wardrobe wishlist? I can’t. I wore this all-black look for lunch at Il Corvo in Pioneer Square with Julia of Style and Cheek (go check out her blog!).

I’d been eyeing these Madewell 10″ high rise jeans for a while and finally bought them when 25% off. I wear a size 25 in both of my other pairs of Madewell denim, but the stretchier nature of this material meant that the size 25 pulled and bunched in an unflattering manner. The 26 was a smoother and more comfortable fit. I wear the regular length jeans, which hits just a little long. Therefore, I’d consider having this pair hemmed and tapered like my Lakeshore wash pair. This particular black denim is called “carbondale wash.”

All black everything with 10" high-rise skinny jeans in carbondale wash from Madewell and black leather chelsea boots finish out a black pea coat and t-shirt for a head-to-toe look.
To accessorize, I would probably add my black gloves and beanie to keep me warm.

High-waist jeans seem to go in and out of style. However, I bought this pair because they look virtually the same under an untucked shirt and give me more flexibility with shirts of different lengths. In this outfit, I tucked in a old black Merona t-shirt from Target, which I love for its petite-friendly length. The waist was just high and tight enough that I could add a black and silver belt (vintage Mom) that is too short for my usual pants. I finished off the look with my Madewell chelsea boots and old Forever 21 pea coat. (I fell in love with this possible replacement at Nordstrom before I saw the price. Nope!)

I’m excited to try other all-black looks with different layers and textures, including my black satin bomber.

Pappardelle alla bolognese, focaccia bread, and kale salad for a lunch at Il Corvo in Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood.
Julia and I each ordered a main and a side.

Il Corvo

This pasta place had been on my list since I had first heard of it. However, with a lunch-only schedule, Il Corvo wasn’t an option for Friday date night or weekends, when I usually eat out. I finally had the opportunity to visit this rising star with Julia of Style and Cheek.

Experience

Like the reviews say, expect to wait. Thankfully, we got there as the line was just out the door, but it quickly grew longer behind us. Once the line moved up enough that we graduated to waiting inside, the smell was incredible. The place is very small; with tables against either wall, there is just enough room for a queue up the middle. The menu rotates with three options daily, but I was pretty thrilled to see the classic pappardelle alla bolognese as one of the day’s options.

Once we made it to the front, we ordered and immediately received our appetizers. I went for the generous portion of focaccia (probably serves 2-3 people), and Julia ordered the Kale salad. We then collected our own water and cutlery before selecting a table. I sat against the wall in what appeared to be a church pew. When our pasta was ready, the waiter called out my name and brought it over to our table.

Pappardelle alla bolognese for a lunch at Il Corvo in Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood.
Pappardelle alla bolognese from Il Corvo.

Food

The bolognese sauce was very smooth in texture; think of a very fine pulled pork. It also had some heat to it, leaving my mouth warm in a way that had nothing to do with the temperature of the food. The focaccia was thick and fluffy with good flavor and olive oil for dipping. I ate all of it, but I was pretty hungry to start.

Overall, I thought that the food was tasty and reasonably priced. The rotating menu should help make each visit a little special. I’d recommend it for two people with some time to kill chatting.

Focaccia bread for a lunch at Il Corvo in Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood.
Focaccia bread for lunch at Il Corvo.

I think a great pasta bolognese might be my choice if I had to eat one food for the rest of time. What would yours be?

 

There’s nothing quite like a good meal shared in great company. 

-Casey

Wrapping and Recycling Holiday DIY

Casey of Dressed to Code did some DIY to put together this paper grocery bag wrapping paper.
Reduce, reuse, and recycle with grocery paper bag wrapping paper.

After gift-buying, the usual step is gift-wrapping. Growing up, I loved wrapping presents and picking though our collection. That said, I now live in an apartment, and wrapping paper rolls are a pain to store. (Don’t get me wrong, we have quite a bit of storage for an apartment this size, but someone has a bicycle collection that takes up more than the usual amount of storage space.) If you are looking for paper, I’ve always swooned over the rolls at the Container Store, including this Birch Bark Recycled Gift Wrap.

My no-roll wrapping quest quickly skipped over newspapers (we don’t get any in print) and mail advertisements (not big enough for the larger items). Then it hit me, probably triggered by something on Pinterest at some point: paper grocery bags!

At some point, I had seen this wrapping inspiration from capsule blogger Lauren of Chic Ethique.

I usually remember my reusable bags, but even so, we have accumulated a small pile of paper bags. I selected the largest bags in the best condition, which left me with six. Will that be enough? Too much? We’ll find out!

Grocery paper bags make excellent recycled gift wrapping paper for holiday gifts.
With some care, even the bottoms of the grocery bags can be reused.

Prepping the Paper

I started by carefully removing the handles and painstakingly undoing the gluing and folding. This ended up being the most time-consuming part of the entire process. The better I dismantled the bags, the more nice, usable paper I would have left.

The back of a classic yellow wooden pencil makes an excellent mechanism for stamping dots onto reused grocery paper bags for DIY wrapping paper.
Your classic yellow pencil makes an excellent stamp for decorating your wrapping paper.

Dotting Away

For the decoration, I used some white craft paint that I had left over from another project. To make the dots, I picked a brand new eraser on an old-school pencil. By pouring a small amount of paint into a (clean) plastic take-out container, I was able to dip the eraser into the paint and dab a little off before dotting it onto the paper. After some practice, I found that each dip was good for stamping a handful of dots before needing to be refreshed. By working back and forth across the paper, the thicker initial dots were more scattered.

Casey of Dressed to Code did some DIY magic to put together this paper grocery bag wrapping paper for all your Christmas holiday needs.
Thick paper will require more tape than the usual lightweight wrap.

Wrapping It Up

Once the papers were fully dry, I wrapped up the gifts that I had already acquired. Because the paper bags are thicker and stiffer than traditional wrapping paper, I needed more tape than usual to keep things together. Additionally, the smaller presents would have benefited from a higher density of dots.

Casey of Dressed to Code did some DIY magic to put together this paper grocery bag wrapping paper for all your Christmas holiday needs.
This small package could have used more dots, but the finished product is still attractive.

The Results

Altogether, this was a fun, relatively easy project with satisfying results. I’ve saved some money and storage space. Best of all, I’ve reused something utilitarian in a beautiful way. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the sheet of grocery bag was enough for a surprisingly  large box. Win!

Casey of Dressed to Code did some DIY magic to put together this paper grocery bag wrapping paper for all your Christmas holiday needs.
The finished product looks even better on the larger package.

Holiday Cards

In other good news, I found holiday cards with my desired traits: not religious, not too frilly/glittery/abstract, and Seattle-specific. I had just about given up when I came down the escalator at Pacific Place and there they were, right at the front of the Paper Delights pop-up! You can find the snow globe cards here.

Warm wishes from Seattle holiday greeting cards from Paper Delights of Seattle.
Warm wishes from Seattle!

Warm wishes this holiday season! Can you believe that this awful year is almost over? Here’s hoping 2017 is a significant improvement.

“Keep in mind what you really value this holiday season!”

-Casey