My closet: a look at me


wpid-wp-1442504588782.jpegHappy Thursday! Today is the birth of a new weekly series called “my closet.” Each week, I’m going to take a closer look at one woman’s personal style, with a focus on dresses of course. Our clothing says so much about us each day. It tells the story of who we are and what we are about. Even if we think we don’t care much about style, that too comes across in what we wear. Personal style is all about self expression. Personal style fascinates me.

I figured I might as well go first. Thanks to my good friend Cindy Stuntz for these amazing photos and for putting up with my like 10+ costume changes. Here we go … a closer look at the dresses in my closet.
10626604_10102290626243852_8377483669797098629_nSupposedly every woman should have a little black dress in her closet for formal occasions. I am a fan of this suggestion. I like it so much that sort of on accident, I have four. I just keep seeing ones I like! So I’ve included my favorite of the four in this post. This one here I bought at a cute little store called Apricot Lane. I was throwing a bachelorette party for a friend and the theme was “little black dress.” I just love the waistline and the detailing around the neckline. Cindy suggested I should act like Madonna here. I thought “why not?”

12019962_10102286652103062_8759504602655842590_nMoving on we come to one of my most worn dresses. This has a sweater material to it, so I wear it the most during cold weather with yoga pants and a pair of boots. I found it at Francesca’s. I think Francesca’s is one of my favorite places to buy dresses. I’m pictured here doing the “sorority girl” pose. Honestly, I never take photoshoots seriously. Every time I try to do a serious, model face I end up looking constipated. So there’s that. This one is no exception. Also, this is my mom’s classic “mad face

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Old Navy dresses for fall

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The other day, I decided to wander into Old Navy. I had about 20-30 minutes until my lunch date and felt Rookwood Commons calling my name. Now a quick stop in a few shops has ended with several new dresses, but I was good and bought nothing.

I’m always pleasantly surprised at Old Navy. I never expect the clothing to be super remarkable but still essential. I have found some great dresses, sweaters and pants there. Yet I cannot say any of my favorite dresses come from Old Navy. Basically, it always warrants a browse, even if I walk away empty handed.

After a quick browse, I start to sense a grunge chic theme this fall. There’s definitely a vintage feel to the dress patterns. To the right is one example. Most dresses are a spaghetti strap. They have these light denim button downs next to the 20150913_121128dresses. The mannequin is wearing one over her dress, so it be in style, right? After all, the mannequin is always right. Pair that with a cute pair of short boots and some tights, and you have a trendy fall look. I’m a fan. I don’t think cold weather should ever dictate your decision to wear a dress. Thank you Old Navy for agreeing.

20150913_121429I am just in love with all the patterns. Patterns seem to be a big thing at Old Navy this fall in terms of dresses. One of my absolute favorites was a pattern of little blue birds (pictured left). I know you’re not supposed to wear white after Labor Day, but I might have to break that so-called rule for this little number. I just love the pattern!

I’m goin to leave you with one other fun Old Navy dress. If you’re looking for a grungier dress look this fall, look no further than Old Navy (pssssst check out that jean jacket!).

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An evening with Kendra

Each week, I want to talk with a different woman about all things life and dresses. My friend Kendra agreed to be my guinea pig and go first. She’s brave. This past Friday, we met up for a photo shoot in her three favorite dresses and a chat on everything from California dreaming to losing her father at age 12 to horrible people on Tinder to that time she walked into a wall in middle school. My hope is that through these weekly interviews, dresses can tell much larger stories to the complex lives of women in our world.

Name: Kendra Pressley
Age: 23
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

So how would you describe where you are in life right now?

It’s a hot mess (laughs). I mean, it’s a genuine hot mess. I’m about to be done with school and that’s kind of a tough place for anyone to be. I’m looking for a big girl job and I’m trying to figure out how to move to California. It’s just transitional.

Tell me about California. Why California?

It’s very sunny there. In Southern California specifically, it’s very sunny. I mean, I mostly want to move there for work because I do want to act and get into acting, and ultimately get into producing film and television shows. But more so right now, because of the weather. I would adore living close to a beach. I keep hearing that people who move to LA don’t really go to the beach because they’re in the city, but I don’t think that would be true for me. I just kind of am ready to be somewhere not Ohio, so the furthest possible place to stay in the United States is California.

So what draws you to acting and producing?

I just watch a copious amount of films and TV series’. I’ll be really addicted to one. For a while I was really addicted to United States of Tara, which only had three seasons but was like a legit show and it should have had more seasons. I’m really into character development and how to build a character, and how to break one down and how to build it up again. That’s kind of very Grey’s Anatomyish. Like they’ll do something to all of them and one of them will be like completely shattered and then the next season it will be like “okay. I’m okay.” And then the next season they’re completely shattered. It just kind of, I think to me, shows how real life happens. I’m looking to make a more authentic way of having art imitate life.

What does being a woman mean to you?

I don’t know, I mean it’s something I’m still trying to figure out. I mean being a woman has its advantages, obviously, but more often than not I feel like I’m trying to surmount so many different things in terms of work. The whole unequal pay thing is insane to me because a woman will make what 60 cents on the dollar that a man is making, maybe 70 cents now. But then a black woman is still making below that, so I’m still trying to gage like my actual worth against other people in terms of trying to find jobs. The next person will do it for less than I would or if they are white or they are like not a very dark-skinned person of color, they’ll get an advantage and so that’s kind of difficult to me. That’s a struggle for me right now.

So you feel like there’s sort of a double disadvantage in being a woman and then being a black woman?

Yeah. It’s this weird paradox. I’m not even sure. There are black men who are usually conservative Christian types and they will place all the value of a woman on her virginity and her pureness, and how she should be this submissive person. It’s like really extreme. So there’s that on the one hand and then you have white men who are fetishizing you in every way possible. I can’t even tell you how many Tinder inboxes I’ve gotten that literally there’s no hello, there’s no introduction, it’s just like, “hey, down to fuck?” It’s insane and my other friends who have Tinder have never experienced something like that. I had a guy last summer ask me how much. Like in my inbox. It was like horrifying and he was some guy who graduated from Ball State. It was just like, “I could easily find you in your real life. You are a terrible person.” But I’m just like why would you match with someone who you essentially just want to humiliate? I felt so disgusted after that experience, and so I mean, it’s just two different ends of the coin. I don’t really know how to navigate it. I just take it a step at a time, a day at a time. Some days are much better than others.

What are things that you like about being a black woman?

Um, I mean I like looking 12. Like my pictures as a kid and pictures as a teenager; not very much has changed. So I like the advantage of knowing that my face now will likely be my face at 40. I like how insanely curly my hair is and just doing different stuff with natural hair care, because I did go natural almost three years ago. Three winters ago I cut off all my hair … well, I did a bob.

What made you decide to go natural?

Oh it was very cosmetic. My hair started thinning in the front and that runs in my family, so I’m trying to keep my hair as thick and as lush for as long as humanly possible. The real decision was when I could see my scalp and I wasn’t parting my hair. That was a true indicator that I needed to give this shit up. It was like no. So it wasn’t terribly hard for me. I mean my hair just kind of evolved as I changed what I was doing. I would do four relaxers a year, so that’s every three months. Many women go every six weeks. They can’t wait that long. I was lucky and I could. I mean I honestly didn’t need them in the first place, but it just helped me achieve that straight hair look that everybody in high school loved. I don’t know what it is about teenage girls and having pin straight hair, but I mean literally every one of my friends, black, white, Asian, whatever, pin straight was the way to go. It’s one of those other things that I don’t think white people quite get because they’re like, “It’s just hair. Why is everyone making a big deal if you put a chemical in it or not?” For me it wasn’t so much that I hated having curly hair because I was black. I just hated having curly hair that I couldn’t manage.

What are you most passionate about?

I think I’m most passionate about just having a good time. Like I think so many different things in life are so difficult and it’s a pity to waste your time on things that don’t make you feel good. So whether that’s people, places, different things you’re able to do, things that money can’t buy, things that money can buy, I think you should always seek a good foundation in happiness. Like I spend a lot of my weekends drinking with my friends but that’s how we socialize and I appreciate that. So right now that’s kind of like my very go with the flow, easy going type of situation. I’m just really passionate about feeling good about the things that I’m doing. I want whatever I’m doing, whether work-related or personal, to have a meaning.

What impact do you want to make on the world in your life?

I just want to leave it a little better than I found it. One of my biggest passions in the world is LGBTQ youth. I have had several really good friends, best friends, who have been treated terribly by people that claim to love them, or perfect strangers too, for simply being who they are. Here in Cincinnati, it’s a very difficult place to find help. There’s no homeless shelters that really offer a helping hand to LBGTQ youth citizens. Many of them are homeless. I mean the homelessness rate for LGBTQ youth is like double than teens that identify as straight. So I kinda want to have an impact with that. I’ve always wanted to open a nonprofit here, when I’ve made enough money, to pull resources. Housing, job opportunities, safe places for them to go and be, etc. I think cincinnati is up and coming, and I think with all the progressive places that come into Cincy, especially like small businesses and the people who are working for the larger corporations like P&G, need to make an effort at least to say “hey, this is a safe place for you to work.” I think along the lines of that is where I want to place more of my passion.

Who are the most important relationships in your life?

I would say my mom and my two sisters. I mean above anyone else, they’re all that I have in terms of family that I really solidly have in my corner all the time. Even when they’re arguing with each other, they’re it. I think it’s been very difficult to maintain those relationships just because of various issues, but it’s worth it. Then outside of that I have several really good friends and then I have a friend group that does not live in Cincinnati.

What has had the greatest impact on you?

There’s two things. There’s my father’s death, which just kind of completely changed my life. I think that happens to more people than we realize. You go from being a solid, stable middle class family to an unstable lower middle class family. That’s exactly what happened to us. We lost my dad’s income, lost our health insurance. All the things that kept us pretty solid were no longer there. So having to kind of grow up really quickly and try to figure out different ways to make this new life work, I think that definitely had a bigger effect on me than I think I’m willing to admit to.

Starting school here at UC I was a completely different person. I think it’s so heinous that I thought I had it all figured out. I thought it would be fine as an adult. I’m fucking horrified that that was where I was mentally. Coming out basically on the other side, it’s very interesting to see. The feelings and frustrations I have with this school as an institution, it’s not just me. I mean I think college changes everyone, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. I think UC has given me footing in terms of having a good moral compass of what’s right and wrong, and has provided me with a decent education. Aside from that socially, I really didn’t gain much. I didn’t really fit into whatever this is. But i appreciate it.

So you were 12 when your dad passed away?

I was 12.

How did you mom end up dealing with it? She probably took it the hardest.

And still 10 years later takes it hard. I just kind of, I don’t know where this sense of I just need to make sure I was responsible for things kind of kicked in, but it did. I think my dad was grooming me to take his place because I was going grocery shopping with him for as long as I could remember. I learned how to budget food and household needs. He taught me how to fill prescriptions and pay bills. Like I knew where to go to pay our phone bill and our Duke bill, and how to fill up a tank of gas. My mother knew none of these things and she was like a 40 something year old woman.

So what was life like growing up in College Hill?

Its tough to describe College Hill. College Hill seems very much like its own little town. They have a neighborhood council, we have parks and we had a grocery store but it moved. Then we had Family Dollar and everyone went to your local family dollar. Everything closes at 9. No matter where you go, College Hill shuts the hell down at 9. So it was very much like growing up in a small town. Everybody knew everybody. My family was everywhere because most of my dad’s family lived in College Hill. It was very idyllic for most of my life. We had a neighborhood store called Charlie’s where the fire station is now. It was like a little pony keg and they used to sell these 25 cent caramel apple suckers that were like one of the best things on earth. They’re kind of hard to find now. They still produce them. And these little 5 cent bubblegums that had strawberry filling on the inside. I can remember I couldn’t even see over the counter but I could go in and be like “I need a quarter pound of like this much meat and this much cheese.” This older couple that worked the stand every day knew our faces and knew my whole family. It was very comfortable and even after my father died, there was still the comfort of being surrounded by like everyone I knew. I walked to church for I don’t know how many years. I walked everywhere or rode my bike. I had a bike for most of my childhood.

What has been your biggest life lesson?

I think my biggest life lesson is that shit happens and you can’t hold onto it for very long. There’s no point in holding grudges or being angry. I mean I’ve had a lot of shitty things happen as a teenager and as an adult, but i don’t think that I’ve allowed most of those things to have any kind of a gravity as to what I’m doing or how I’m feeling or the choices I’m making. I think you just gotta live and let live. Bad things happen, you figure out a way to deal with them and then you move on. That was just my biggest lesson. To not sweat small stuff or hold grudges.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

I was in 7th grade. Unfortunately, when I was in 4th grade, most of the Cincinnati Public schools went to mandatory uniforms. So we had days where you could dress out of uniform and I had these really great jeans. Like my ass looked really solid in these jeans … my 13-year-old ass (laughs). I was walking around the corner and there was this guy I had a crush on. His name was Dorian and he was like the most beautiful guy that I had ever seen up until that point. I was walking around the corner and he and his friend Jonathan, who was equally attractive, were both looking in my direction. I kind of did a half wave and I kept walking, but I didn’t turn the corner completely, so I walked into a wall and passed out. I walked straight into the wall. Like it was not a soft walk into the wall. When I came up it was very embarrassing because the whole lunch room had seen me. They laughed, I mean once they realized I was actually okay.

What were your childhood dreams?

So all through my childhood I wanted to be a Radio City Rockette. I don’t really know why that was. I couldn’t dance and had never taken a dance class. And then I stopped growing in the 6th grade. Like I’m the height now that I was then. There was just no possible way that was going to happen because you have to be at least 5 ft. 7 to get in. So that was a far out idea that I could just go to New York and become a Radio City Rockette.

What do you think our world needs more of?

I think people just need to mind their business. People get very frustrated, whether it’s about gay marriage or the Jews or Muslims. People are just automatically fearful of Muslims because they think they are all just Muslim extremists and terrorists, and that’s just insane. People who think all these really extreme thoughts about things that they don’t know or understand, I think they just need to stop. I think if we could just get a solid moment where we’re like okay, every Muslim is not a terrorist and every black person does not hate white people and you know every cop isn’t bad. If we could get into this space where we stop grouping everyone into an either or category.

 

Thank you for reading! Know of a lady in a dress with a story to tell? Feel free to e-mail us at aworldofdresses@gmail.com.

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Dressember is coming near!!

Dressember 2015 from Dressember on Vimeo.

The thing I’m most excited to do is use this blog as a platform to talk about larger issues and then do something about them! Dressember is the perfect way to do both. I participated in Dressember last December, and plan to do the same again this year. What is Dressember? Well, it occurs in the month of December and you commit to wearing a dress every day of the entire month to raise awareness and money to fight human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a global issue happening everywhere, including the United States. It is any situation where a person is forced to work in slavery. This happens in the form of sex slavery with girls as young as 11 and 12 years old. This also happens in situations of forced labor. International Justice Mission is a non-profit working all over the world to end human trafficking. They first rescue people out of trafficking situations. Then they provide the victims with after care support and therapy to help them transition back into society. Finally, their legal team goes after the perpetrators to hopefully serve them with justice. They hire all their case workers, therapists, attorneys, etc. in the countries they work in. Those people are most likely better prepared to navigate these situations than someone from outside their culture.

It’s definitely not a small problem or one that is easy. But I believe in the work of IJM and am glad they are there for people. All the fundraising efforts of Dressember go to IJM . Each particpant has their own fundraising page with a goal they choose. For example, starting out my goal was $300. However I reached that two weeks into December, so I decided to up my fundraising goal to $500. I was wearing the dresses anyway, so why not? By the end of the month I exceeded that and raised a total of $510. This was all from reaching out to family and friends, and sharing the campaign on social media. I say this to encourage everyone that they too can do this! You can participate as an individual or as a group. This year I’m hoping to take it up a notch and have a team with a few other ladies.

Registration for Dressember 2015 begins October 1st. I hope you will consider partipating. Visit www.dressember.org to learn more. Feel free to e-mail me at aworldofdresses@gmail.com if you have any questions.

 

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It’s bridesmaid time!

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A few days ago, I recieved a very thoughtful e-mail from my friend Sara. This coming April, Sara is getting married and I’m one of her bridesmaids. Sara and I met 10 years ago in our freshman year at Western Kentucky University. I’m excited to be a part of the wedding! As most of you can guess, bridesmaid dress shopping is very exciting to me! (however my favorite part of being a bridesmaid is the bachelorette party, but that’s a story for another time …)

The other women in the wedding are friends from grad school and her future sister-in-law, women I have yet to meet. The e-mail was a bcc to myself and the other bridesmaids. She asked us several questions:

– Do we want a short or long dress?
– What is our budget?
– Would we rather rent or buy a dress?

Looking back, even the bcc part was thoughtful. What if all the women started replying to the whole group and one was too embarrassed to admit her budget was lower than the rest? This way, our only option was to reply to Sara, allowing our answers to be completely between she and each bridesmaid. Kudos to Sara! I’m also not surprised as Sara is very detail-oriented with everything she does.

Bridesmaid dress shopping can be fun but also stressful. I’ve outlined several tips for both the bride and the bridesmaid.

For brides:

1. Understand that not all your bridesmaids are made of money. While you may like that $400 designer dress, understand that even if they will wear it again, it will probably only be once or twice. Open communication before dress shopping is key.

2. Pick something they can wear again. Even if they’re not spending $400 on their dress, a bridesmaid dress is usually more expensive than your regular dress. A classic, timeless dress is nice not only for this reason but for when you look back at your wedding photos years down the road. Trends are called trends for a reason.

3. Don’t decide on something before you see at least a few of them try it on. I was in a wedding about two years ago (pictured above in a beautiful dark pink dress … affordable and timeless) and we decided on the dress together with the bride. Myself, the bride, her sister (Maid of Honor) and her mom all went to David’s Bridal. I remember gettimg stuck in one dress. That was a no. Then we found these pink ones which seemed to flatter all body types. Her two cousins (pictured on either side of me) did not live nearby, so the dress details were sent to their local David’s Bridal. Having the input of at least a few of your bridesmaids can help.

For bridesmaids

1. Understand that the dress will cost some money. My pink dress above was $168. A good ballpark is $150-$200. If you think about it, your average woman is probably going to be in 3-5 weddings in her life. So while this is an expense, for me it’s an expense I’ll gladly spend for my friends. However not all brides have their bridesmaids in typical bridesmaid dresses. Some pick a color and let them choose. It’s really just all up to the bride.

2. Understand that this is her day. She may pick something you’re not the biggest fan of. I am a fan of being open about your concerns, but if she’s super set on a dress, you’ll just have to go with it. On the bright side, it’s only one day and it’s not your big day.

3. Be open and honest up front. The last thing a bride needs on her wedding day or in the few weeks before is your bottled up feelings about stuff. As a bridesmaid, anything you can do to alleviate her stress, the better. That is part of your job. So if your bride is not as up front as Sara has been (thanks Sara!), then go ahead and take the initiative. Chances are if she asked you to be a bridesmaid, she cares about you and your feelings.

Are you a bride? Are you a bridesmaid? Have you been one or both in the past? I have never been a bride, so I do not claim to have all the answers. What tips would you have?

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My story with dresses

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Dresses are a huge part of my life. They are the sole reason I started this blog. However I wasn’t always a dress aficionado. No, this love affair began about 10 years ago during my time as an undergraduate student at Western Kentucky Univeristy.

College is where I settled into my uniquely me style. Let’s be real here. While we may all think we got it going on in high school, we don’t. If you can look back 10+ years later and still love your high school look, kudos to you! Anyway, my dress obsession started out slowly, just like any other obsession. I bought one here or there. Several years later, I had accumulated a good 10 or more. But it did not stop there.

Like any obsession, I just kept accumulating them. Now at the age of 28, I have over 60. Within this past week, I bought four more (I just can’t resist a Charming Charlie’s sale or the entire store of Franchescas!). I was laughing about how while I say I need to stop, I probably won’t. I suppose I could have a worse obsession.

People have said before that I should start a blog about dresses. I have decided to take that idea and make it my own. I am so much more as a person than the dresses I wear. I have many things I’m passionate about. I also know many badass, passionte women. So I intend for this blog to be part fashion and part stories about women.

I love and encourage any feedback. Feel free to leave me comments. You can also email me at aworldofdresses@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!

Love,

Nina

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