owning your style - part 1




thank you everyone for all the great questions on my last post.  i still have more to answer  but i thought this next question posed by wwm would need a blog post of its own.  her question was this...

"How have you managed to so completely "own" your style, both within the cottage and vis-a-vis your wardrobe? Has this been a natural evolution or were you just thusly inclined?"

well first off i'm very flattered that anyone would ask this question of me.     i just don't see myself as that stylish.  i see myself as more of a basic dresser.  but i've given it some thought and this is what i've come up with.
































i was influenced as a little girl by uniforms.  my mom was a registered nurse back in the day when nurses wore all white, including white stockings and a little white starched hat with a hatpin in it.  i loved that uniform and can remember counting and arranging them in her closet.  oh lord,  counting clothes started early! then i attended catholic school and became fascinated with the nun's habits.  i would study the layers of black and deep chocolate brown fabrics set off by bright white cuffs and collars. oh and those shiny black beads of the rosary at their hips.  and to top that off my middle sister and i would help clean the convent on saturdays.  polishing the shiny wood floors and minimal furnishings really began to shape my eye to an uncluttered look.  we would also get to go into the walled garden and sweep and tidy up that space.  it really was a heavenly experience!  and to top it off i wore a uniform that consisted of a black and white houndstooth skirt, white peter-pan collared blouse, a red sweater, and black and white oxfords.  i've mentioned it here before that most girls rebelled and hated their uniforms.  i remember karen borges burned her uniform and put it in a jar and brought it to school on our last day.  i just didn't get that.






all of this obviously had an effect on me. today, no matter what i'm wearing i can guarantee you that it won't be fussy.  that is probably my number one fashion rule.  and it always has been.  i adore accessories...mostly on other people.  when i was in my early 20's a neighbor woman asked me why i always dressed like a man.  i remember knowing she was being mean but i decided to take it as a compliment.  gosh, i'm going on too long here.  but i think you get the point, i believe my personal style comes from the experiences that have shaped me. and i think that is how a person finds and owns theirs.


i am planning on doing a series on this very question.  i have a couple of great examples already lined up and you are going to love them!


enjoy your day and be kind.

xo
janet

56 comments

  1. I always loved my school uniforms too! I don't see you as dressing like a man. I see non fussy, elegant dressing, which suits your very elegant frame and hair!

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  2. Janet! Love that my question has started something so great and interesting! And you do "own" your style! Can't wait to hear the rest of the story!

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  3. Fascinating story, Janet! I can see how those experiences shaped your style. I'm glad you didn't let that neighbor woman get to you!

    My tastes lean more toward the masculine both in decorating and in dress. For example, I was in a Coach store the other day just looking around, and gravitated immediately to the men's section with its black, brown and tan satchels and messenger bags. Simple, clean lines and practical colors. Much more my taste than the "girly" bags with all the shiny embellishments and bright colors.
    Claudia

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  4. I love reading this post and I love your style, both in home decorating and in clothes. It is interesting that uniform wearing taught you about simplicity and unfussiness, you might have hated the uniform ( I did) but you made it into a positive, same with that comment from the neighbor. This is probably what I admire most in you,most people (myself included) are taking everything personal and focusing on the negative. Thank you for your refreshing perspective.

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  5. I'm fascinated by your answer, it's really insightful, and we usually aren't that self aware, especially when it comes to our appearance. It makes perfect sense that you loved uniforms, and now that you've told the story, I can really see that influence. Now I have to go and ponder my own sense of style, and where it came from...thanks for the inspiring post!

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  6. I like the 'Dear Janet' idea and your thoughts about owning your style. I'm quite unfussy myself, and dress in quite an androgynous way - which I always put down to growing up with two brothers!

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  7. What a great post. I have such a visual of the uniforms that surrounded you when you were growing up, including your own.
    I love uniforms too. Really it's brilliant for high school kids too, it's hard enough to be a teenager.

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  8. Every time you post that chambray shrt I think how much I want one just like it-is it RL or JC?I think you said before but I can't remember...menopause ya know!

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  9. My mother was also a nurse in the day of all white and stiff hats. I also attended catholic school through the 12th grade. Unfortunately, i always thought that was the reason for my lack of style because i never chose my clothes always just put on a uniform. Today i am in healthcare and wear scrubs everyday. I still just dont really know how to dress. I think thats why i enjoy your fashion posts....very interesting. Im going to have to think on this a bit.

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  10. Oh what a fun idea for a series...
    My mom was a nurse too and she had her uniforms starched and the hats came back flat and she had to put them back together.
    Like origami!
    She trained in a catholic hospital with nuns.

    I never had to wear a uniform to school but we gals used to wear a certain brand of jeans to fit in...

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  11. I think you may be Coco Chanel reincarnated.
    xo

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    1. had the same thought. just finishing up Coco Chanel, The Legend and the Life, by Justine Picardie. this post comes at just the right time. just got home from a trip and i always dread unpacking and putting all of my clothes back into my closet. i have waaaay too many clothes, and i try and try to weed things out, but i have a problem - i love nice well made things and thus have many nice, well made things and have a hard time parting with any of my nice, well made things :0 - also living in southern California where the climate is so mild many of my pieces can be year round. a nice cashmere sweater is can be worn in the spring, fall and winter and m/b even on a cool summer night with some scruffy beat up jeans or cut-off jean shorts, but i digress. i have too many pieces and i am only one person! i have followed you blogs and of the many blogs i follow via bloglovin' i always check your out first, 'cause i know it will not be fussy and filled with over the top words and fluff (many of the blogs i follow are like my clothes - collecting dust!). any who.....i just this morning thought i should do what Janet did and just weed out everything but the essentials and my absolute favies, AND quit shopping - at least for a month - NO more new clothes!! and Garance also just did a blog on a "fashion strike" - ah, sounds perfect. most likely i will not do it, but a girl can dream........thanks for sharing - you rock!

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  12. Oh dear god, if I were influenced by the nuns I would be running around with my skirt rolled up around my waist and a white shirt only ironed in the front, cause we wore a navy blue sweater atop.

    Tho I do wear a lot of navy, and I'm not too frou frou....

    I wasn't ever invited into the convent nor was I ever invited to lay the wreath on Mary's in May..

    Not to make this post about me and my resentments, style on Janet:-)

    xo J,

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    1. her head, that's Mary's head I was talking about.

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  13. First of all, I can't tell you how disappointed I am that no unsavory questions were forwarded to me. I thought for sure a few crackpots would surface when you opened up the mike for public Q. and A.

    Secondly, I had to answer some questions the other day about "my style" and I came to the same conclusion. There are often connections to my my childhood and my experiences growing up in the country that affect what I want around me. Now, if only bib overalls would make a comeback, I'd be right in style.

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  14. Something I'd never given any thought to, until this post - but I did grow up in a rural neighborhood of all boys, and always dressed sort of like them. I've always dressed in a sort of tomboy style, and maybe that's the root of it? I would have been teased terribly as a child had I worn "girly" ruffly pink dresses. Denim overalls and cowboy boots were more of my uniform then, not unlike what I wear to paint in everyday now. And like you, I love accessories, but on others. This whole "Dear Janet" post series and the ideas that'll spring from it are fascinating.

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  15. hi ajj,
    (for those who don't know... it's a compliment. i thought from the first that you have the spirit and style of all that was best in audrey hepburn and jacqueline kennedy onassis!)
    i call it a "throw away style." it's an ease. an un-selfconscious, comfortable in your own skin type of thing. it makes others relax. and wonder how do you do it!!! speaking of sheer simplicity,
    i have wondered myself where my love for minimalism came from. i wish i could trace it back the way you have. perhaps if i give it more thought. i always admired boats. maybe some from that.
    ship shape and bristol fashion. i'm like you on accessories. i adore them. only on other people!
    i just love your blog!
    cheers,
    tammy j

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  16. Great post Janet!: I especially liked the part where the other girl burned her uniform.....too funny.SS

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  17. Love the "you dress like a man" comment! As a total tomboy growing up ( and still a bit as an adult, lol) I too eschew accessories-except earrings, maybe a scarf when it's chilly, and at times one bracelet.

    I just can't do the layered necklaces and tons of bangles-even though I like the way they look on others. I always wore a man's watch until I got a cell phone; then the watch got put away.

    Some people chase fashion instead of accepting their own style. Some, like you, figure it out early on ( my daughter is also one of those)and some, like me, take a while longer to figure it out ( my 1980s long "Dallas" perm and subsequent radical asymmetrical cut come to mind ).

    Once found, however, I think it makes dressing/shopping so much more enjoyable.

    Interesting how we are all influenced by different people/things-I would never be comfortable with my late Mom's style, yet my daughter could be her doppelganger closet-wise.

    I think playing softball and being enamored of anything astronaut related gave me some weird, but modern, reference points concerning style-and its still evolving!

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  18. Thank you so much for sharing your personal style. I really enjoy reading about your experiences, and appreciate your insights.

    I've always been a tomboy, but had no clue what that was until you mentioned the tomboy style website a while back. Glad to finally know I have an actual style, and it is just fine!

    My mother is a floral, pussycat bows (remember those?), strippy sandals type. She looks great. But I was a disappointment to her style-wise. My greatest treasure was a Harris tweed I found at a thrift store, worn with jeans and a white t-shirt, with short boots.

    One of my favorite celebrity style icons is still Princess Diana, post-Charles.

    That woman who said you dressed like a man reminded me of the time I learned that a "friend" used to laugh at my clothes behind my back. I'm going to take a page from your book and consider it a compliment! - Jules

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  19. Uhzackly. Uhzackly. No fussy. Absolutely NO FUSSY!:) I look forward to this series.

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  20. I learned a few new things about you in this post and it seems we have more things in common besides thrifting and blogging. My mother was an RN who wore the head-to-toe white nurses uniform. And I also went to Catholic school where I had to wear a uniform. Your style is so clean and classic and simple. I have learned much from you, Janet, about style and about how to live life well. I look forward to your Dear Janet series. I know it's going to be terrific!
    xo, A

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  21. Hope you gave the neighbor that asked why you dressed like a man an answer that made them feel like a weenie for trying to be nasty.

    In the third grade my teacher took me aside to share that the principal noticed me and said I should wear dresses and not my beloved pair of army green jeans. [the only thing I owned that was not a hand-me-down] I look back and laugh at how much insight and chutzpah I had at eight years old. I knew that teacher was telling me what she thought, not what the principal thought, and I was not going to let her make me feel bad about myself. So I told a bit of a white lie and said that we couldn't afford clothes and that was the only thing I had to wear. Not exactly true but I wanted her to feel embarrassed for having tried to put me down. Hope you were sweeter after that, Mrs. Royer of Nora Elementary. :-)

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  22. Oh Janet, Janet, how I love your style! You are one of the most stylish people I've come across (Not sucking up here. I don't do that. I don't even really comment.) and I think you are so in part because you feel - or at least seem - comfortable in your skin. It's so true that you own your style. I, too, went to Catholic school and loved my green plaid skirt and miss it terribly! Growing up my style icon was C.Z. Guest but I was never able to emulate her because I was a chubby kid whose sole option was men's t-shirts. I dreamed of wearing finely tailored dresses with clean lines when I'm thin and grown up. These days I only wear dresses and skirts, usually sheaths and shifts of varying lengths, that provide structure. Nothing clingy. Always with flats. So in a way I am still wearing uniforms. Like you, I enjoy jewelry on other people but don't wear any except for a handbag. I don't follow fashion or plan my outfits ahead yet women stop me all the time (I know I'm sounding conceited). I believe in fit, tailoring and comfort. When it comes to interiors I can't stand colors. I love simple black and white spaces that are graceful but unfussy - stacks of books on the floor, patterns, and sofas that are suffocated in pillows make my head hurt.

    That bit about the girl who burned her uniform was amusing.

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  23. What an amazing blog! You are amazing! http://www.rubbishservice.co.uk/

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  24. I love this post Janet, and agree with WMM that you do indeed 'own' your style! I'm glad you are making this a series, and look forward to future segments. Btw, your outfit with the Chambray shirt is one of my favorites. I think it looks gorgeous on you! :)

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  25. Your post reminded me of several things.

    I, too, wore a school uniform. Grey flannel pleated skirt, white blouse, blue blazer, and a red tie. My uniform is different now but I'm still (usually) in uniform.

    Crazy 'bout your outfits. The dress in the first picture is reminiscent of of one of my favorite blouses featured on The Sartorialist and worn by Eva Fontanelli in Florence:
    http://www.thesartorialist.com/photos/on-the-street-eva-florence/

    The closing of your post is lovely ~ "enjoy your day and be kind."

    This reminded me of what Liam Clancy said to Bob Dylan.

    "Remember, Bob. No fear, no envy, no meanness."
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=te5TUg1bdqM

    I look forward to your series!

    KO

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  26. love the uniform analogy! I always wanted to be Glamorous when I grew up. I don't know why.

    xxx

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  27. I get it because I wore a uniform too. While I didn't love the look of it, I loved the ease of it.
    I left a comment/question on your last post and when I went back it wasn't there. Are you screening me out?... I wonder what happened and how often that happens (I never check).

    Hope you're doing well.

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  28. My sisters attended catholic school and I did not, hence, I covet any sort of uniform.
    It does make life easier. Love your style.
    pve

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  29. Ha, what a fun read, post and comments alike. Don't know that I have a particular style tho' I love clothing, particularly menswear fabrics done in a feminine way. Also western gear but tho' I was raised in the Midwest and now live in the southeast, don't see much of it :-) I realized I had cowboy boots and a Davy Crockett 'coonskin hat when I was five or so. Wonder what I'd like if I'd loved Micky Mouse ears?!!!!

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  30. What a fascinating read! You and your sister must have a place in Heaven reserved for you what with the extra cleaning on a Saturday!! You have too much of a wicked twinkle in your eye to pass as a good Catholic girl.
    I was always the bad ass at my posh all-girls' grammar, stopped by the headmistress and made to wash off the electric blue eye shadow or to let down the hem of my skirt to hide my stocking tops. xxx

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  31. My Dad was career Air Force so I grew up on Air Force bases where everyone wore crisp uniforms. The base was always clean with manicured grounds. We were expected to keep our quarters clean and when we moved out they were inspected. As a result, I like everything orderly, simple and I never thought about until you said it but I love uniforms! My Dad in his dress blues was awesome!

    I'm looking forward to the series!

    Betty

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  32. Hi Janet, another school uniform wearer here - I think that's why I love navy blue so much to this day! I'm the same too with accessories - love them on others, but I'm not so good at adding them myself. I think this is going to be a great series!

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  33. I love your style. And this is very insightful, Janet. It makes so much sense. So do you feel this is mostly what lead you to live your life in such a clean and uncluttered kinda way? Did your parents also have influence or do you think this is just a lot to do with personality/how you were born? I am so opposite in this regard that I am always in awe of people that are naturally inclined/driven to live this way. I am working at it but am not naturally driven and have a hard time ridding of my stuff. My mother is the same way..as is my sister. I know you've said that your children did not grow up to be like you in this respect.

    It just kinda fascinates me and it is yet another reason I am drawn to you. I've learned a lot about the thoughts and feelings behind simplifying and knowing what really matters in life, from you. It helps A LOT and I keep coming back for inspiration:)

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  34. This is so, so true! I think you either gravitate to what feels comfortable from your past, or you run right the other direction!
    I'm attracted to many home decor details because they remind me of my grandmother and her home. I loved her home so much as a child. She had white and black floors and many pieces from Europe and Asia. On the other hand, my husband's mom was a pack rat and loved small knick knacks. To this day, my husband cannot stand that look and wants everything clean and streamlined. This makes for a fascinating discussion Janet. And, I love your style, no matter how you got there!

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  35. Your description of caring for the walled garden at the convent and how it influenced your style is lovely. How special to able to ingest that lesson in simplicity of style that is both aesthetically pleasing as well as spiritual at such a young age.

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  36. Thank you for this post- you are such an inspiration for the over-40 blog readers. And I think there are a few more things that make your personal style work, along with well chosen pieces: Your chic, modern haircut, polished-but-minimal makeup, and an extremely well-proportioned body (and by proportions I mean shoulders, leg length ratio. Clothes tend to look good on you.). For those of us not blessed with the last, we can at least take note of the hair and makeup!

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  37. Janet, I like non fussy too. I'd love to dress like Katherine Hepburn. Classy and cool. Smiles to you, Susie

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  38. Janet, I also like a casual, yet classy look. I must say the best accessory which I see on you, "CONFIDENCE". You are comfortable in your own skin, this is not something you can buy, it just is....

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  39. Interesting post Janet ! my best friend in high school attended an all girl's catholic school and I always loved her uniforms.
    Being a public school teacher i have WISHED that students and teachers both could wear uniforms.
    It would definitely make life easier. No thinking about what to wear! You know I love your style ! interesting how you figured it all out and traced it back. My dad was in the air force -as was another poster's before me - and I think maybe that affected my sense of style and love of uniforms.
    thanks for making me think. i always learn from you!
    xo
    shell

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  40. I loved my Catholic school uniform! You do have a streamlined and very elegant style which I admire. I would like to post a question to you, what would your wardrobe consist of if you were to travel to Tuscany in the late Fall? My husband and I are leaving at the end of September for ten days. I do have a wardrobe but I would love to know what you would wear?

    Thanks,

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  41. ummm...the black and white houndstooth...{CHECK}...the peter pan collar...{CHECK}...red cardigan...{CHECK}...STILL HUNTING the vintage saddle shoes!!! I hear there's a private school in Atlanta that still requires them and if you can find someone to stalk for you, you can get a great broken-in. I'm still working on my connection! It's on my NEED list! I will blog the dickens out of them if I ever get my hands on them and can't wait to wear them as described above or with my blog-famous patched jeans. A match made in heaven xoxoxo

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    1. I wish I still had my high school saddle shoes but I gave them to a friend who needed them for her North Carolina camp counselor uniform many, many years ago.

      If vintage saddle shoes aren't in the cards, there are new saddles from various on line stores

      Brave Gentle Man carries tan and brown saddle shoes for gents
      http://www.bravegentleman.com/shoes/summer-saddle-shoe.html

      The Paris company "GOOD GUYS Don't Wear Leather" has good looking bucks in a variety of colors
      http://goodguys.fr/about-gg-2

      This fashion blog spotlighting shoes made with non leather materials might have some saddle shoe pointers:
      http://marthaflatley.wordpress.com/the-best-sources-on-the-web-for-vegan-shoes/

      Candy Colored 50s Vegan Oxfords from Paris, Moonrise Kingdom, Vegan Saddle Shoes, and Great Company Names
      http://marthaflatley.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/candy-colored-50s-vegan-oxfords-from-paris-moonrise-kingdom-vegan-saddle-shoes-and-great-company-names/

      Good luck on the vintage saddle shoe search.

      KO

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  42. You describe the nuns habit, the black, the brown and the white, and the varying textures so well . . .and it pretty much describes the color palette and textural quality of your home.

    I have a rather "girly" aesthetic I would say. I did grow up wearing a prim school uniform but I only ever saw my own mother wear a pear of pants once, and I was raised in a pretty and romantic village, with a very old church with a steeple and cottages with rose gardens. When I was a girl one of the reasons I was in a hurry to grow up was that I wanted to wear makeup and heels so badly! I thought there was nothing better, or more glamorous sounding than the click of heels on the floor or seeing a woman apply a tube of color to her lips. I was just drawn to these very feminine things from as early as I can remember. Interesting, to think about why and how we develop our tastes and style.

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  43. Janet,

    Thanks for sharing your story...I have learned a lot from you and your blog, and never tire of reading it. Will look forward to your other posts!

    When I was growing up, my mom always was on a tight budget being a divorced mom trying to raise two daughters. One thing she taught me was that it doesn't take a lot of money to look nice, and always quality over quantity. I many not have had a lot of clothes as a child but the pieces I did own I could be proud to wear.

    Linda
    xo

    P.S. And yes, you are stylish!

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  44. I used to be a regular college student and now I go all over the country and stay at really nice hotels Best hotel dar es salaam

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  45. I learned a lot from being in the military. Uniforms or a uniform, simple look works. It's just discovering your style that is the hard part. I do not wear much in the way of jewelry either. I always notice a classic lady vice a trendy lady walking down the street. I think that speaks volume.

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  46. I too went to Catholic school growing up and to this day feel lost if I don't wear white near my face such as a white color or cami.. Funny how what you see growing up influences you your clothing choices your whole life.

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  47. I love that we get to know you better, and you give us food for thought. Keep up the good work.

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  48. Janet,
    How did I miss this wonderful post? I was just scrolling through your blog and saw it this morning...and so happy I did. You do "own" your style...both personal and in your home...as wwm stated. Mad and I were in the city shopping yesterday and of course found our way to madewell in Soho and we instantly thought of you! As we were walking up the stairs we spotted the Bass Weejun boxes. I bought a pair last year after seeing yours on your blog and they are so comfortable and well made. I had a couple pair in the 80's, but had it not been for you I would have never thought of Bass Weejuns again. Well at least not until Madewell or Jcrew made them popular again. You are way ahead of the curve. I adore your style!
    xo
    annie

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  49. Pretty outfit- it is a challenge to find tank tops that cover bra straps. I am too old to think that straps hanging out of one's top is attractive. Please don't block anonymous comments- I prefer a bit of privacy in a very public online world.

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kindness is never out of style.

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