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Interviews with My Favorite Fashionistas

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Through the decades I have become clearer about my strengths – those areas where I excel and am sometimes a role model for others. Unfortunately, fashion is not one of them :-). While I think I put pieces together to look nice enough, I struggle with things like accessorizing, matching unconventional prints, or choosing daring pieces to add to my wardrobe. I have resolved to do my best, but continue to want to step out of my comfort zone when it comes to fashion so I consulted with my three favorite fashionistas. In the post you’ll be introduced to each of them, learn why I selected them for this post and hear their perspectives on the following statements/questions: describe your fashion style; who are your fashion inspirations; how do you shop and coordinate pieces; and what tips would you offer women wanting to be more daring when it comes to fashion and coordinating? I learned a lot and hope you do too!

I met Denny while attending college. She has always been one of my fashion icons. One thing that sets Denny apart is her ensemble is always coordinated from head to toe – literally. She changes her hair style a few times a year, experiments with colors, is not afraid to shake up the color of her make-up, and adds unique accessories to finish it all off. One of the unique things I appreciate about Denny is that like me, she is a curvy woman and constantly reminds me that fashions knows NO limits. Here are her responses:

My fashion sense is a mix of vintage and eclectic.  I’m obsessed with previous fashion eras and one-of-a-kind pieces. My fashion inspirations are Tracey Ellis Ross, Solange Knowles, Lauryn Hill, Grace Jones, Bianca Jagger, Alexis Colby, and Crystal Carrington – my favorite characters on DYNASTY – LOL! [I shop] anywhere that I go; I sift through racks and grab the pieces that jump out at me.  I seldom go for wardrobe staples.  Once I get my go to, I coordinate around it based on color and texture, usually going for the color that is least obvious.

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Her words of advice for people like me: I meet a lot of people that say “That looks great on you.  I couldn’t do it though”.  You won’t know if it’s for you until you try it.  I say go for what you like.  You’d be surprised how amazing it would make you look AND feel.  You can always add a piece that makes you feel comfy to that outfit.  It’s like bringing a friend to a party that’s not really your scene, but you promised you would attend and ending up having a ball.

Mik was a part of a crew that I called my brown version of SATC! We met during a time when I’d relocated across the country away from all of my family and friends. Mik was rocking a pixie cut before I knew what the hairstyle was and before it caught on in mainstream circles. Two things stood out to me about Mik: her ability to put any room to shame with even a $5 ensemble and her taste in shoes. A former co-owner of a shoe boutique and true entrepreneur at heart, Mik inspires me to step away from thoughts that I have to invest oodles of money in clothes to feel good about what I’m wearing. She replied in the following words:

I am a combination of bohemian chic and classic wear with a touch of vintage. I like structured pieces paired with clothing that is flowy and comfortable. I tend to mix bold/trendy with classic staple pieces. I don’t necessarily have certain individuals as fashion inspirations, [but] I do enjoy seeing what Solange is wearingJ! I [also] have favorite brands that I like to recreate depending on which look I am going for. For Boho/whimsical: Free People; Classic: Chanel, Tahari; Funky: Betsey Johnson; and Edgy: Diesel. When I’m shopping I start with a statement piece (asymmetrical top, bright color, dope shoes, bag) and I will build from there. I don’t like busy prints or “matchy-matchy”. Only one item will tend to “stand out” at a time. The rest will act as a backdrop. I am an avid thrift store shopper who refuses to pay top dollar or ANY article of clothing.

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And her advice for those like me :-): Make sure whatever fashion risk you’re considering represents you. Nothing is worse than seeing a woman uncomfortable in her clothes, i.e. tugging at garments, not being able to walk correctly in a shoe, appearing tense or self-conscious. I say get a few fashion magazines and see what catches your eye. Start small. Try a pop of color, mixing a print or two, or simply adding accessories can change an outfit dramatically [like] a ring, necklace, bag, or sunglasses.

And last, but certainly not least is Yeezy! I met Yeezy in graduate school and realized immediately that it is impossible to miss this fashionista. An avid runner and vegan, Yeezy’s style is complimented perfectly by her calm and caring spirit, infectious smile, and some sort of accessory that gives each outfit a pop. Yeezy wears chunky accessories, has a daring clutch to match, and often finishes out her ensembles with some mixed pattern. The irony is that most of my experiences with Yeezy were in the classroom – so she brings her A-game no matter where she goes. I love it! Here is what she had to say:

I would describe my style as feminine (I love playing with tulle, ruffles, lace, and bows), creative, and versatile. I’ve been told that my style is also a little retro. I have a few style crushes and Yara Shahidi and Michelle Obama top the list. For someone who is into fashion, I also feel like getting dressed is its own creative process. I am inspired by different things, whether it’s scrolling through Instagram and discovering a new designer or blogger, or traveling and exploring other cultures. I draw inspiration from different places and ideas and make it my own. In the past, I have been a creature of habit. If I found a store that I really liked, I would continue to shop there over and over again…for everything – LOL. More recently, I have enjoyed discovering new designers and brands. With the internet and social media, it is easier than ever to find unique pieces from all over the world so I have also been shopping online more for the past few years. I prefer to not wear what everyone else is wearing so thrifting is also a cool way to find one of kind pieces. When it comes to deciding what to buy, I try to be intentional. I purchase things that I love, that I am drawn to, and that I will want to wear over and over again. I can also imagine different ways I can style it, which doesn’t mean it must be something completely plain, but that you can style it in different ways – maybe it’s layering it over another shirt, wearing it casually and then dressing it up, etc. Coordination is key. For me, coordinating pieces starts with the overall look I am trying to create and then I go from there.

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Her fashionista words of wisdom: Have fun and try something new! Naturally, my style has evolved over time and there are plenty of times when I have looked at pictures from the past and have thought “What am I wearing?” LOL. At the time, I owned it though. So, do not be afraid to move out of your comfort zone when it comes to trying out new looks and whatever you wear, wear it with confidence.

You can follow Denny on her Facebook page and Yeezy on her blog: Style in Full Bloom.

The Start of a New Book

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I’ve been writing about new beginnings and new chapters for a while now :-). I often post these pieces around the New Year, my birthday, or times of major transitions – I’ve had a few of these since starting this blog. But this season of my life is what I calling an entirely new book.

I relocated a little over three weeks ago and have spent the bulk of my days getting resettled, finding my way around my new city, and creating my new home. All the typical emotions of starting a new venture accompanied my move: fear, excitement, anxiety, and uncertainty. But I am pleased to report that my time here has been incredibly fulfilling. People are nice – I didn’t realize how much I missed that. More often than not, everyone takes an extra moment to add a personal touch to customer care and share a bit about themselves. The scenery is beautiful. This is my first time living so close to the beach and I love it. In an effort to not take my proximity for granted, I am trying to commit to a minimum of extended weekly visits just to sit and enjoy – so far I’ve exceeded my goal :-). My neighborhood is peaceful. I’ve enjoyed getting out on the nature trail for long bike rides – the trail is accessible so no need to drive somewhere with my bike … just to bike. I have been forced to slow down. Things move A LOT slower here. It took me a while to realize that many people are moving at a different pace. At first it was annoying and I am sure these moments will arise again, but in the meantime I have decided to embrace it. I drive a little slower, I move into my days at a different pace, and am I working on releasing expectations around how quickly others respond to requests :-). I am grateful. I recognize that everything about me being here is amazing and exciting – a blessing of all sorts. I am grateful for this opportunity and look forward to sharing more as I transition to my new appointment this fall. In the meantime, here are a few of a couple of my favorite pictures from the beach <3.

How My Friends Taught Me to Be Flaky as F*(! … and I LOVE It!

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flaky

I opened my first email account when I was a freshman in college and didn’t start texting until nearly a decade later. I grew up in a rural town so no one used RSVPs – you just stopped by, showed up, or gave your word. I share these things because I learned much of my etiquette around corresponding via email or text messages and the value of RSVPs: 1) much later in my life; and 2) mostly in the professional arena. This timing shaped how I view email, including the form in which I send emails. It shaped what, how and with whom I send text messages. And it absolutely shaped the value I placed on giving my word, verbally or via an RSVP. However, it didn’t take long for me to learn that the same value I placed on these things was not shared by others. I’ve received numerous emails with no greeting or salutation at all – simply a question or statement. I’ve had colleagues who I have a strictly professional relationship with text me late at night or on the weekends. And I’ve more than my share of experience with folks saying they will attend an event and showing up significantly later than the start time or not showing up at all. Naturally, this used to upset me and sometimes it still does, especially when someone’s RSVP requires me spending money to reserve a spot for them. But this last year has taught me get comfortable with being flaky as f*(!.

My new lease on life is in no way an excuse for me to disregard others’ time or my commitment to complete a task. Instead, it has forced me to separate business commitments from personal commitments. No, I can’t wake up and just randomly decide to take a week off from work. But I can decide that a social event I previously committed to attending no longer fits my schedule and respectfully inform the host of the change. On a very minute, but important level this change also allows me to ignore the need to reply to every personal email, text message, or phone call I receive – which is not a practice I exercise as freely in the professional arena. I have friends who reply to text messages weeks later or not at all; family and friends who never check email, much more take a moment to respond to them. The ironic thing is many of these very same people will obsessively text and/or call me if I do not respond to a message from them within what they consider to be a reasonable timeframe. BUT I’ve opted to stick with my new leaf and do as I need, when I need to – especially as I am working earnestly to balance all that comes with finishing graduate school. *Note to all: We are ALL busy juggling multiple things so your level of busyness is not an excuse to dismiss the commitments others have as well*

So thank you to all my flaky friends 🙂 – I’ve learned a lot from you. You’ve taught me that changing my mind, disconnecting from my phone, and engaging with the social world when desired is an act of radical self-care. Thank you!

The End …

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This week is the beginning of the end. It’s the end of my much-needed and long overdue vacation. It’s the end of one of my busiest semesters yet. It’s the end of my first semester of being back in the classroom. Yes, I still have to teach one final lecture next week. Yes, I have one last night of class next Monday, but this truly is the beginning of the end.

As I reflect on the semester and the year in general, I think about how often I wondered if I was going to make it …. through an assignment, through a class, through a life challenge. I think back to the butterflies in my stomach during my first, second, third – and every day thereafter 🙂 – in Epidemiology II and Biostatistics II. I think back to making difficult decisions to leave both leisure and professional development opportunities behind, while also having an unfortunate experience with an endeavor that I was elated to see come and (eventually) ecstatic to have end.

As I can say for more years of my life than not, this year, this semester and this season have all been very eventful. I have learned a lot about myself and endured much more than I ever imagined I could: two to three days a week of commuting two hours; four classes and 35-40 hours of work plus homework; traffic; poor nutrition; failing exercise regimen; re-evaluating goals and dreams. BUT I am still standing and can see the end of the semester. Thankfully, there is a wonderful beach vacation awaiting my arrival as I say thank you 2015 for an awesome year, thank you to my students for an unimaginable semester and thank you to my new favorite university for helping to mold me into being a little brighter, resourceful, focused and purposed. Here is to beginnings and endings …

At the Same D*&! Time

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NotAllAtOnce

It’s funny how words of wisdom seem to crawl out from out secret spaces as we move through adulthood. I often find myself thinking of things my mom, aunts, close friends and other family members shared with me while growing up. Those very words of wisdom that seemed so incomprehensible … until now.

About 10 years ago a former colleague told me that “you can have it all, just not at the same time.” This view seemed so warped to me! Am I supposed to choose? Certainly, there are women who DO have it all – I know some of them! Why would she tell me this?

But now I know exactly why … because it’s true. In more certain and accurate terms, I think she was telling me – and I have come to realize – that in life we can attempt to juggle many things, but we do have to choose which things we want to do well. Yes, on the surface we can have it all, but as that all increases, we gradually begin to shift our attention from one thing to the next – never fully able to hold them all in perfect balance. We can achieve all of our dreams, travel to all the places we want to visit, become a wonderful friend/spouse/sister/mother/teacher/writer – but not all at once.

For some of us this means “mastering” 1 – 2 things at a time and then adding to the list. For others it’s means that as we get one thing in balance, another falls out of whack. And for yet another subset of folks, this quote means something completely different.

For me, it means choice – I CAN do it all, but not all at the same time. As I prepare for the fall semester and yet another shift in my school, work and home life I know that I have to – yet again – let some things go. Initially, I was nervous about this – even a little frightened. But now I simply see this decision as a shift in balance and a FIRM grasp on my sanity :-). I am excited about what my new life-season has to offer and willingly embrace the chapters that will close. I am choosing to have it all – in balance, in due time, during the appointed season.

One Month In

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PhD

It has been a full month since I started my doctorate program. There are some lessons have learning for the first time, while others are simply re-visitations of things I have been made aware of time and time again. Here are some of my reflections from Month One:

  • This journey is definitely meant to be shared. From my classmates to family and friends to former professors, I see more and more just how much it truly “takes a village” to produce a successful  – and sane – doctorate graduate. There is no way that I can do this in isolation, so I continue to use all the resources at my discretion.
  • With so many competing options, I must prioritize … daily. There are SOOO many things I want to do: sessions and conferences to attend, speakers to hear, socials to partake in BUT I can’t do it all. I am making a concerted effort to conduct my life in this exact order: my spiritual, emotional and physical health and wellbeing are first, my family (including friends) next, school third, followed by work. All else – side hustles, extracurricular activities etc. – comes
  • What about your friends? Just as was the case with my last graduate program, I am constantly reminded of not only the value of true friends, but remembering exactly what a true friend means to me during this phase of my life. My friends know that my schedule is absolutely insane and appreciate the moments – however short – that we have. They don’t shut me out, while remembering that I can’t accommodate every invitation or request. They value my work, even if they don’t understand it.
  • My faith walk is vital. If nothing else – if I don’t get any of the aforementioned lessons – this journey reminds me of how important my spiritual care is. Rituals like prayer, journaling and meditation have served as enormous sources of calm and reassurance during tough moments, even in these first few weeks. I am reminded of what it means to me to have faith that things will come together, even when I can’t see all the workings behind the scenes. I am reminded that this journey has a greater purpose and that I am not in complete control. And perhaps, most importantly, I am reminded to breathe – there is an orchestra of guardian angels, ancestors and a Divine Being working this thing out for me. I continue to recite to myself “I believe. I believe. I believe.

Sunday Musings Part II: Distracted Focus

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Sometimes I think I am the ONLY one who gets so far off track and so distracted by life’s minute pleasantries. What is it about my personality and choices that often leads to grand detours from where I know I should be? A faulty choice of friendship, a longing desire to belong to the common crowd or a seemingly minor choice in how I want to spend my Friday nights seems to take me down a road of ostensibly no return.

But this morning I dedicated myself to re-finding my center. I woke up in peaceful meditation and devotion. I committed some additional prayer time to a few friends and family members. I went to church!!! I commit to re-finding my focus, getting back on track, reducing the distractions. Have you ever experienced this – those moments when you look up and ask who am I and how did I get here? Do you ever think how did I get so far away from where I knew I should be going? Have you ever questioned why this distraction at this time? Do you have these moments or am I alone on this one?

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