Monday, January 4, 2021

Sustainable Style: Finding Winter Trends in Your Quarantine Closet


 With stay-at-home orders in place and nowhere to really go, the opportunities to dress in real clothes are currently few and far between. It is less likely for me to wear a suit to work these days; I choose not to work from home, yet I am alone in my office all day and colleagues are seldom seen. I have been opting for more comfortable silhouettes because, frankly, I am not in the mindset for heels and highly structured clothing. I have, however, been following fashion trends closely, if only out of mere curiosity: What are people wearing these days? 

     One thing I have observed, fashion is all about comfort right now, and even though the optimism for 2021 suggests that we will all be going out and about again like we used to, the styles for winter still call for feeling relaxed and surrounded in warmth and coziness, with everything chunky, puffy, knit, bulky and substantial. These are elements that create a sense of security. We feel safe when we are wrapped in thick sweaters and scarves, our feet surrounded by stompers or soles inches away from the ground. Styles are carrying us from virtual meetings on the sofa to the supermarket and back home to the sofa again, swaddled in softness that soothes our souls from the uncertain and turbulent world outside of our doorsteps. We can't always carry a teddy bear, but we can certainly feel the snuggle whilst being dressed like one. 

     Since the only place I have ventured lately is my own neighborhood,  I didn't have to look far for inspiration. Right in my own closet, I found quite a few pieces to compile a number of looks that currently speak to staying home and staying safe, only making a few purchases to fill in the gaps in my capsule wardrobe. Because who has truly worn any outfits you purchased this time last year? Not me. So, what resulted from a shopping spree within my own closet? A fun and practical winter look book of outfits that have kept me feeling like I am wrapped in a warm hug this season. Because that is what we all want and miss right about now. 

1. Sweater Dresses

     I had quite a few sweater dresses in my wardrobe  a couple of years ago, but I felt like they were falling out of style and I gave most of them away. Now I wish I hadn't (and I have learned a valuable lesson) because sweater dresses are now in style again! This one is a vintage piece given to me by my mother in law, in a beautiful aqua color. This is actually a three piece whose separates can also be worn with other items. I like wearing the cardigan with a t-shirt and a pair of jeans, or the skirt with a striped shirt and a leather jacket. Here, I paired the pieces with tights and Chelsea boots, and added a puffy vest to unify the look. 

2. Dare-to-Wear White and Classic Sneakers

  Wearing white in winter was once considered taboo. I am sure people had their notions they thought were reasonable, such as white reflects heat, and you would be cold wearing white as opposed to darker colors that attract more heat. For me, however, there is no better time to wear white for its bright, cheery crispness and its ability to complement other colors. From the most vivid white to creamier hues, this neutral can rock in pants, sweaters and coats. I like going monochromatic with a classic sneaker and a pair of white jeans. Sneakers that were a hit circa the 1990s have made a comeback, with many of the new styles now sporting a platform sole. A dark, Aran knit sweater adds a hip contrast when framed with a classic camel wool coat. 

3. Duvet Coats

    Another trend inspired by wanting that snuggly blanket feeling to follow you throughout your day is also a resurgent style: Duvet coats, named after our puffy, quilted bedspreads that we wish we could appear in during a Zoom meeting. Since that is far from acceptable, a nice, quilted coat or jacket is the next best thing. I already have a quilted jacket from years ago, and another puffy jacket I recently purchased to add a pop of color to my neutral basics. 

3. Scarves are sooo IN!...

     ...The bigger the better this season, with soft, cashmere-like knits that are affordable, yet luxurious. I love infinity scarves and very long scarves that you can bulk up and wrap around your neck at least 3 times, making for deep, warmth and coziness when I do manage to venture out safely to the market or my favorite taco truck. Longer scarves like this 3 yard piece from Bleu Salt can be worn as a scarf, a wrap, or even as a throw for nights watching Netflix on the sofa. Speaking of which, I am loving "Bridgerton". If you have not yet seen it, be sure to catch it! 

4.  Coordinated Knits

     Sweater pants were in twenty years ago, and I have had these grey cashmere slacks since then. They get put away and then taken out as pajamas or comfortable work pants that I dress up with a jacket or a longer sweater. Here, they are once again, matched with a mock neck sweater of the same color and coordinated with a colorful hat and ankle boots, perfect for masking up and running a quick errand to the car wash or doctor's appointment, then back home again to slippers and a cup of tea.

5. Sweater Vests 

     True story:  I was once mocked for wearing a sweater vest to work by a colleague, implicated as being a nerd. Of course, I ignored it, considering myself never a slave to fashion trends and also an adult who can make her own damn decisions about what to wear. I took the slight as a compliment and a cue to wear them more often. Now, sweater vests are in vogue, once again, showing up on runways and in fashion blogs this season as a go-to winter essential and provide a soft, yet professional silhouette for virtual meetings.  

     Pair a vest with a collared shirt, billowy blouse or even a maxi dress and Chelsea boots. There is no right or wrong way to wear them, and as a classic piece, sweater vests will never go out of style. 

     I guess my colleague did not know that nerds really do rule the world. And most of them look good doing it. 

     My mother always told me to keep care of my clothes so that they would last a long time.  Little did I know just how important that advice would be. As we all begin to return to a new type of normal as spring returns, it is good to know that we have come to realize what we have is already enough. A new attitude of minimalism has arisen, liberating us from the "more is more" mentality that all too often becomes the source of stress and anxiety. While shopping IS fun ( I do miss it!), scouting for things I already owned helped me to sort out excess and express gratitude for what I have: Clothes, food, a home filled with people I love, clean water and electricity, and a steady job; a rarity in this time of uncertainty and difficulty for so many others. This period in our history - this great pause - has allowed most of us to slow down and take stock of the most important things in life. Like these simple surprises I found in my wardrobe, I hope to carry this idea with me into this new year of hope and guarded optimism for what is ahead. 

What are some winter fashion trends you've grown to love this season? Have you incorporated any current pieces in your wardrobe when creating new looks? Leave your comments below! 


Saturday, August 22, 2020

Staying at Home and Staying Sane: Developing A Healthy Routine During Quarantine

I think I've got Cabin Fever...

I remember watching "Muppet Treasure Island" in the theatre with my husband, and being the only two laughing the loudest at the high brow humor throughout the movie. Aside from Miss Piggy's entrance to "Boom Shakalaka!", the part that I remember most is the scene where ship has encountered the doldrums, and after 5 days of no wind, they go mad, bursting out into the song, "Cabin Fever". 

When I went to watch the clip on YouTube, the comments clearly indicated that everyone had already thought of it as a perfect representation of 2020 amid the Coronavirus pandemic and other recent chaotic global and social events. As day by day passes, there is yet another day that goes by; we are now in what is an endless pause of days, with no place to go. It seems we all have cabin fever right about now. 
I am blessed to be enduring this difficult time with a loving, patient family who is never short on talent and creativity. My adult children all chose to return home to face the quarantine together with their mom and dad. None of us were naive enough to believe that this experience was short-lived, it was our guess that the period of Staying Home-Staying Safe, wearing masks and limits on social interaction are all now part of our daily lives, and that this not-so-new normal will be around for much of the foreseeable future. 

Having said that, knowing that the things that bring us all joy--going to concerts and museums, hanging out at the beach, hopping on a flight for a weekend getaway at a fancy hotel, enjoying a ball game or a visit to your favorite pub -- may never be the same, we are all going through an unusual grief process. One where our hope remains for the old life and the return to the way things were, but it is waning due to relentless news reports of cases continuing to rise, businesses and service openings being reversed, the political climate, racial unrest, and the threat of an unstable oil tanker poised to bring environmental disaster on a global level...what else can possibly happen? 

There is nowhere to hide, and we are all going mad. 

Being here, at home, can also have its share of frustrations when there is a strain in the family fiber. An argument can rattle already delicate relationships, or a person's need for distance can cause hurt feelings and a sense of feeling trapped. Especially when the world outside is much more threatening and stressful than the world within the walls of home. 

I know I had to stop and think about just how much more I will have to muster to power through the uncertainty of it all. Since the shutdown, I have battled depression and anxiety, insomnia, weight gain due to an interruption in daily routines, I have even had to sever a few relationships with friends and family, because recent events have only magnified the true toxicity of these connections. I do not believe I am any different from many of us who are trying to find a center during this time, however:  Every emotion has been felt by the collective mind and body of the world, and we all wonder where, exactly, we are headed. 
But in the meantime, I have found a bit of peace; not because of anything but stopping and slowing down enough to help myself manage my mind. Mental health is the top priority in order to continue to remain strong through this crisis. Here are some things I have tried. I am not a doctor or a psychiatrist, so I am only listing the things that have worked for me and my family, to help us to continue to celebrate life and find happiness and purpose together on this road to wherever. 

1. Find what centers you, then find gratitude.

I am a person of faith, so I pray and meditate. What is it that you do to quiet your mind and reflect within? Find time in the day to practice "centering" through practicing mindfulness by focusing on breathing, listening to the sounds around you and finding gratitude for what you have. When I want to put my mind at ease and wind down, the Calm app helps me with its guided meditations, stories, talks and music. Beware: you may not get to know what happens at the end of the story because you will be off to dreamland in minutes! When your are able to clear your mind, gratitude comes more easily. Interestingly, the act of being grateful is not only for times when we experience wins and wonderful things, it is also for the struggles and difficulties. 

Last year, I had so many valuable lessons in being grateful for what I had. Quite a few of my friends experienced loss or very trying times with spouses or loved ones. I cannot imagine losing someone I love so much and have spent the better part of my life with, that pain that they experienced so soon has to be unbearable. In addition to that, we lost a close friend and two relatives to cancer. My own situation with a cardiac episode due to a hostile workplace that resulted in a bout of PTSD, ironically caused me to realize that my problems paled in comparison to most people. I was able to reflect on the many bullets I have dodged that could have been meant for my demise. Since then, I am grateful for every thing; my wins, and my losses, because someone else’s losses may be too much for me to bear. 

Even in this time of what seems like the world is on "freeze" state, how many bullets have whizzed past you? What in your life did you see coming for you before the whistle blew, "time out"? Think about that and be grateful that we are now in slow motion, and you have time to fix it, or better yet, you may find that the problem no longer exists!

If feelings get too difficult with which to cope, seek the ear of a friend or loved one, or talk it out with assistance from a licensed mental health professional. A common stigma of therapy in the Black community prevents many from accessing this level of critical self care, yet there are growing resources becoming more available each and every day.  Therapy for Black Girls provides resources for women of color to help them to become the best versions of themselves. I enjoy Dr. Joy Harden Bradford's weekly podcast while doing my daily morning walk. 

Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to list those things that you want to say thank you for. You can even write out your thoughts in a brain-dump fashion to move your feelings from your head to the paper. Beginning this way, with Morning Pages, helps the mind to clear and ready you for the day ahead. Create a journal from a notebook, or invest in a planner and a few colorful pens to bring an artistic flair to your writing. It will foster a habit for jotting down your feelings and ideas. 

2. Exercise!

Moving around! We all know how beneficial movement is to the body. There are SO MANY resources that are available that provide whatever exercise that may interest you. Now that the gyms are closed again, creating time and space for workouts at home are what's up! I went to Target to get a yoga mat, and they were sold out. Finding equipment is not easy, because everyone is working out at home. 

  • I wake up and workout before the sun rises on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday and Thursday are dedicated to yoga; I love spending time with my sister-friend, Emilia, in her yoga class from Zoom. It is a time to get an outstanding yoga lesson and spend time with one of my most favorite people in the world. Saturdays are usually a day for dancing and weight training, and Sundays, yoga and resting. Each and every day, I take a 30-45 minute walk in the morning or early evening. 

Begin your day with yoga or mild stretching to get the blood flowing.  Photo: Adobe Stock

  • Some amazing apps that I use for exercise are Asana Rebel, an amazing yoga app that has multilevel lessons, music, motivational tips and healthy recipe ideas. There is a membership fee (65.00 annually), but with so many useful features, I think it is worth the price if you are no longer paying for a gym membership and are looking to save money.  I also use Fitbit and the Fitbit app to track my steps and to check in with friends who are working on staying in shape. Check out Instagram and YouTube for Mr. and Mrs. Muscle, a dynamic duo who provide free, action-packed workout videos that you can follow and focus on various muscle groups to help you to get toned and build endurance without any large gym equipment!

Get outdoors to exercise!

  • According to Andrea Goff of About Boulder, experts have found that while strength training and higher intensity exercise along with moderate exercise is the ideal situation for many, the National Runners' Health Study found that high-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running resulted in similar reductions in risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol , diabetes, and heart disease. If you suffer from knee, back or ankle issues, walking can be a valuable means of exercise. 
3. Get up. Make up your bed. Get dressed.

One thing about being at home most of the time during the pandemic is that mentally, your mind is in a constant state of semi-relaxation. This can mean that the idea of getting up and getting dressed in actual clothes may seem unnecessary .  While most of us have mastered the WFH look for the countless Zoom and Google meetings, there are still those times when we wake up and roll out of bed, and any effort beyond brushing our teeth and a messy bun feels a bit far-fetched. But experts say that morning rituals such as showering, grooming and getting dressed is beneficial for our mental hygiene. 

As it turns out, remaining in our pajamas or sweats for too long can have an effect on our self-image and our emotional state. According to Elizabeth Beecroft, an LMSW based in New York, "Getting dressed in the morning can play a role in your mood throughout the day and lead to further productivity, optimism, motivation and an overall improved mood." She believes that putting on clothes is an important part of mental health. 

Get up, dress up and show up!   Photo: Adobe Stock

You don't have to dress up in heels and a power suit to have an at-home polished look. Opt for some comfortable joggers, or boyfriend jeans and a simple blouse, or an easy frock with a pair of UGG minis. During the summer heat, pull on a pair of white jeans and a bohemian top or trapeze shirt that can feel fine watering the lawn or taking a quick jaunt to the market (don't forget your mask!). Everlane is a company I have fallen in love with for their conscientious marketing and simple, clean designs I find easy to wear while working virtually. 

My Everlane haul.

And what if you want to dress up? Do it! Put on that sexy little black dress and go for a drive! Getting out of the house to view the city skyline or cruise up the coast is the one thing that still feels normal, and traffic is at a minimum, so traveling along the freeways are less of a headache. 
Whatever the day brings, face it by establishing a set routine of getting up, dressing up and showing up!

4. Eat right. 

It is sooooo easy to be cocooned away eating all types of comfort food, but we all know that making this a habit has a whole host of serious repercussions. Excessive weight gain is just one of them. Now is the time to explore healthy options that you may have not had time for at the beginning of the year. Try blending a smoothie in the morning to get in a few essential nutrients. Create your own special mix or try these amazing recipes from, which is filled with a variety of additional healthy tips and ideas for creating a clean gut and mindful lifestyle. 
Learning to create delicious meals that you can eat from a bowl is a simple way to put together clean, healthy combos that will provide all of the necessary components of a balanced diet. For more information, see my post making bowl food here

5. Connect with others.

We need human connection. Yet, at this time, in order to stay safe, connecting through a handshake, hug and kiss, high-fives and hand holding is best left avoided. If you happen to accidentally hug a friend you've not seen since the beginning of quarantine out of mere instinct, it now feels awkward. But according to well known science, our need for touch distinguishes us from other animals. Physical touch encourages bonding with others, boosts the immune system and builds trust, while the opposite is responsible for having a negative impact on mental health and sense of well-being, which may result in stress and anxiety. A lack of physical contact can also result in compensation by self-medicating or soothing with food, drugs and alcohol. 

Photo: Adobe Stock

Gathering with others is not possible in our time of quarantine, yet if we are home with others, we are fortunate enough to be in the company of friends or loved ones, who can be the sources of abundant hugs and affection. Pets provide unconditional love and have the profound ability to lower stress levels and high blood pressure. Even hugging yourself, a weighted blanket or indulging in pampering ourselves with a self-massage can boost comfort. 

Even though we must remain distant, we can still step outside to greet our neighbors or share engaging conversation from the safety of our own yards or from across the street. Making physical touch a priority in our daily routine will help us to cope and endure during this uncertain time. 

6. Find a reason to celebrate.

I have stopped my morning habit of waking up and watching the news, because of the bombardment of negative stories that flood the television. By the time I was ready to begin the day, I was saddled with anxiety, worry, anger and grief. This emotional state would carry on into the day, making recovery almost impossible. Eventually, I found myself feeling the need to reframe the circumstances. First, I eliminated watching the T.V. for anything except entertainment. Next, I chose to adopt the perspective that this Great Pause was an opportunity to do a number of things I have always wanted to do; work in the garden, spend time with family, read some awesome books, practice my violin...the list is endless. Finally, I looked for reasons to celebrate even the most mundane of things with a bit of luxury.

Every birthday in our house has been a private, elegant affair complete with elaborate balloon bouquets, charcuterie boards, fine wine and lavish cakes made from scratch. Everyone dresses up and we spend the evening dancing, playing fun games and enjoying opening gifts. We have enjoyed virtual concerts together, and a gourmet "S'more Bowling" Night, where we experimented with different ingredients to create new and different versions of the famous campsite treat, and played an energetic game of 9 Pins under a string of patio lights. Even something as simple as committing to a dedicated time of relaxing with a cup of tea and a few cookies helps to set an intention of appreciation for the simple, good things in Life that do exist all around us. These occasions have been some of the most magical times we have had together as a family. The memories we have made are priceless. 

On one of my most impatient days, where everything just seemed to be typical of our Coronavirus Pandemic culture - waiting in line, having your temperature checked just to pick up a prescription, my favorite tea store closing, finding empty shelves, trying to decipher what someone is mumbling behind a mask - I just fell out of sorts. I grumbled and complained. A conversation I had with Emilia one day called my attention to my salty disposition: She once told me, "It is not about waiting, but what we do while we wait."  It got me to thinking, like she always does. If we shift our focus away from the circumstances which have befallen us, and dedicate our energy to the way in which we respond to these circumstances, we just may find within ourselves a peace which surpasses all understanding. 

What are you doing to discover the beauty in this time of uncertainty? Leave ideas in the comments below!


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