I look ok

Most days I hide my self-esteem issues with a bold lip or a silver loafer. Larger-than-life ensembles seem to help me compensate for what I sometimes view as a larger-than-life body. But when the bold wanes, what’s left is an insecure woman fighting each day, coaxing herself into believing she’s pretty enough. I don’t even have to be pretty, just OK.

I look OK. I repeat this to myself dozens of times a day. I catch myself in the mirror after a shower. I glance two seconds too long into the reflection of a window display.  I look OK, I tell myself again. 

I notice myself again in the bathroom mirror at work, the light highlighting my textured skin. I look OK. I take a bath and fill it with bubbles. I suck my stomach under the water to try on another size. I look fine. I imagine all the body-positive accounts on Instagram, the girls who let their stomachs curl in on itself. They wear their skin proudly, no matter how much of it hangs. I feel a little better. I put on my fiancé’s T-shirt, expecting it to fall daintily off my shoulders. It’s tighter than I remembered. I look Ok, though. 

But sometimes I’m not OK. At parties, I pray I’m not the only one who wears a medium-sometimes-large at Old Navy. When I arrive in a crowded room, I scan for someone, just one person, who maybe has broader shoulders than mine, or whose eyebrows are over-plucked, whose arms are rounder, hips wider. I frantically search for someone with whom I can compare my mushy middle and rippled thighs. Because maybe I’m not the least attractive person there. I look OK. It sounds sinister and cruel, but it feels primal and exhausting.

I think it must be an instinct remaining from thousands of years ago when we used to have to peacock ourselves, erasing the competition, to get a mate. Oh wait. I wish this instinct, this internal desire to devour the flaws of other for my personal satisfaction would abate. 

I feel my best me in extravagant looks I’ve prepared the night before. I have trouble sleeping lots of nights. But on nights when my mind doesn’t wander too far into the dark, I prepare my outfit for the following day,  piecing it together like a puzzle to hide my body shame. It doesn’t have to be flattering or even pretty, but when I’ve gathered all the pieces, it usually involves some sort of dramatic silhouette or a punchy shoe.

When each piece fits together - my body decorated, dripping in confidence - I am able to look just a bit longer as I pass a mirrored window. I can believe the compliments casually strewn on a social media photo, and I am able to appreciate the flaws that make other women beautiful. Because I have highlighted mine in an A-line skirt that emphasizes the largest part of my middle. It’s hard to do this every day, but most days, I do look OK. Maybe fine even.

This is one of my armor outfits, an outfit I spend a good chunk of time not sleeping over. I felt OK this day. I plan on wearing this metallic skirt year round and not just for special occasions.

skirt-habit, shirt-madewell, shoes-anthropologie, jacket-uo

date night

Getting ready in the morning and gussying up for a night out are my most favorite ways to relax and center myself. I love to warm up a cup of coffee or pour a glass of wine and sit down at my vanity to apply my makeup, usually to the sound of familiar tunes. There’s just something about the therapeutic massage of a luxurious moisturizer and the gentle coaxing of each eyelash into position with mascara that completely mesmerizes my senses and takes my mind off of my regular stresses. It’s a restorative way for me to start my day or prepare for a night of intense entertaining.

So when C surprised me this past wekend with a staycation at a hotel near Central Park, my first thought was not of the delectable cuisine we would surely try, or the extravagant sheets we would cuddle beaneath, but the king-sized hotel bathroom that awaited me. Its wide marble counter tops, flushed with the perfect overhead glow, the spotless bathtub was anticipating my arrival.

He suggested we both take backpacks to the hotel since we would be taking public transportation to our destination, but I knew that better than to squeeze my spread of makeup and skincare encouragement into the front zipper pouch of a Jansport. C likened my filled-to-the-brim-duffel to a child who won’t leave the house without his entire collection of Legos. What can I say, a girl needs her Legos.

I set out each tool, cream, bottle and compact neatly on the counter and excitedly began my transformation. I even bought fake eyelashes to try for the occasion. (spoiler: they were so much fun and looked pretty good if I do say so myself). I took close to two hours soaking in the tub, applying masks, moisturizer, makeup, sprays, every superfluous step carefully executed. All the while C watched the coveted cable in the room over, every so often commenting on my slow progress.

The evening climaxed with wine and cheese and pasta at an amazing Mediterranean restaurant the concierge promised was only filled with locals. I checked my makeup a few times in the bathroom and documented my face in the dim lighting with a commemorative selfie. After stumbling back to the hotel, I less than methodically attempted to clear away the work I had so painstakingly applied and collapsed into bed; my belly full of good food and my heart filled with good company.

I’ve never tried my hand at beauty blogging, but here’s a rundown of what I use when I want to go over the top with my getting-ready routine. These products have all been in my lineup for months except for the Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder which was kindly gifted to me by Influenster. I however, fell completely in love with this no fuss powder that kept my makeup in place and oil free all night.

Maybelline Cushion Foundation This is actually the best full-coverage, lightweight foundation.YSL Touche Eclat for under the eyes

Wet ‘n Wild Color Icon Blush and highlighter (this is hands down my favorite drugstore brand. These were both $5)

Laura Mercier baked radiance bronzer

Laura Mercier Translucent Setting Powder

L’oreal Carbon Black Mascara

Tarte Tartelette palette (literally contains every color you need for a complete eye look)

Mac Fix Plus setting spray

Glossier Balm Dot Com in Cherry

YSL Touche Eclat

method acting

One of my goals this year is to read more. Read more, exercise more, yeah I know. What else is new? But I figured essays on Longreads won't satiate all of my curious character-craving neurons. 

As a kid, my wardrobe was often inspired by book characters. First as a 7 year old, I dressed as the Italian grandmother from Tomie dePaola's Strega Nona. As a middle schooler, I was inspired by my blog's namesake A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Nicolas Spark's The Notebook to attempt my hand at period dress. I remember buying a simple black and white checked sundress from Target. I imagined I was Francie Nolen in 1920s Brooklyn, prim but carefree in my flowy frock. I imagined myself with a boy in that dress, like the scene in The Notebook when Noah plays the piano for Allie and they spend the night together. That never happened. It never happens in planned outfits. I still have the checked dress though.

I've continued to be inspired by my literary heroes, but more from blogs and memoirs. Leandra Medine from The Man Repeller is still my number one when it comes to clothing inspiration. But also from the less obvious, Stefanie Broder a la So Sad Today. Her memoir recounts her journey struggling with mental health. I was inspired the way she characterized herself, her date night ensembles, her yoga attire. I guess that just fits in with the whole - dressing to be someone else, to sample a taste of someone else's way of life.

Today it was Madeline. I mean I love walking two by two (most times holding hands) with my lady pals.  I am fully embracing the neck scarf trend. And loafers are kind of my thing. I know Madeline never sported silver patent loafers, but I figured if Madeline were here today she would be the girl that wears silver loafers to go dancing in Bushwick.

Books I've read recently that I would recommend:

A Handmaid's Tale (maybe a little too 1984 for these days, but Hulu is releasing the TV version of the book this spring)

Stiff by Mary Roach. A non fiction book on what happens to your body after you die. Not for the faint of heart/struggling with your views of the afterlife/not afterlife.

Amber Tamblyn's book of poetry Dark Sparkler

Books I want to read in the next couple of months.

Your Voice in my Head by Emma Forrest from Eat, Pray, Love.

Roxanne Gay's Difficult Women

HIllbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and

Alana Massey's All the Lives I Want

dress-asos, shoes-asos, bag-aldo

36 hours

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This is the part where I should have some introspective metaphor for wearing a dress over jeans. But alas, I just wanted to look cool and be warm on my way to brunch.

New York in the winter is tough. With grey snow lining the streets and the bitter wind lapping at your nose, it’s hard to make it a point to take advantage of your home city. But against my better judgement, I've been pushing though the winds and stomping through the grey sludge, even on the weekends. I just don’t want to miss a moment in this place.

I've made my ideal weekend itinerary, a la 36 Hours from the New York Times, just in case you're every in my neighborhood.

Friday

4PM Get drinks at Soda Bar (my favorite happy hour dive bar) on the back patio. I promise it’ll be warm enough with the heaters.

6PM Dinner at White Tiger, an immaculately designed (see Instagrammable) Korean restaurant. Order the Korean Fried Chicken.

8PM See a show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. They have independent films showing year round and frequently host comedy shows, concerts and plays. 

11PM Cocktails at Crown Inn. Have the bartender customize your drink and sit in the back.

Saturday

9AM Yoga at Brooklyn Yoga Collective for an unpretentious workout. It’s super cheap (pay what you can) and you truly get a feel for the neighborhood community.

10AM Breakfast at Olde Brooklyn Bagel Shoppe. Iced coffee and a bacon, egg and cheese bagel for less than $6. Simply the best.

11AM Explore the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. The tropical plants indoor exhibit is the perfect winter respite.

3PM Walk down Atlantic Avenue. This street cuts through boutique clothing stores, adorable toy shops and awesome antiques. Make sure you stop by Nunu Chocolate for some local dessert faire.

7PM  Uber over to Gladyss for Caribbean cocktails and authentic jerk cuisine. This is by far one of my favorite restaurants/date spots I’ve been to in New York and it's very affordable.

9PM Before calling it a night, drop into The Weigh Station, a Doctor Who-themed jazz bar for cocktails and live music. Someone is always dancing.

Sunday

10AM Breakfast at Tom’s Diner (a la Suzanne Vega’s Tom’s Diner). They literally have everything you could ever want for breakfast, but I’m a fan of the link sausage and pancakes.

11AM Spend the rest of your afternoon at the Brooklyn Flea Market. You are sure to come back with the best “authentic” NYC souvenirs. Explore the handmade shoes and clothes, antiques, paper goods and trinkets. Top off your trip with lunch from one of the many food carts.  

Ode to a Burger

I am a burger girl.

I know a good many avocado toast girls. They have althleisure down pat. They don’t like cats. Avocado toast girls also drink green juice because they like it, not because it looks good in an Instagram. Avocado toast girls know the proper times to emote. I aspire to be an avocado toast girl.

Then there are pizza girls. See also: mayonnaise and Diet Coke girls. A pizza girl is sarcastic and self deprecating, but not in the weird way that makes people feel uncomfortable. A pizza girl is street smart and owns lots of “cute tops.” She has lots of best friends.

A Caesar salad girl is socially liberal but fiscally conservative. She hates hot dogs and culottes. Caesar salad girls love cruises and are great with directions. She flirts effortlessly but needs to be in her own bed by 11 p.m. Caesar salad girls are cool.

But I am a burger girl. I look like a stuffed sausage in athleisure. I love cats and culottes. Green juice is gross, and I hate diet coke. I make people feel uncomfortable with my self-deprecating jokes, and I don’t own any “cute tops.” Burger girls are kind of messy – her emotions overflow like the number of toppings allowed on a Five Guys double patty. She likes frivolities, especially sweet potato fries and honey mustard. A burger girl can’t keep secrets, but she can keep friendships. I am a burger girl.

**The above burger is the Branded Burger (maple-glazed bacon, blue cheese bourbon sauce, lettuce, tomato, house pickles) from Branded Saloon in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. 3.5/5 stars.

my armor

Clothes have always been a sort of armor for me. In middle school my armor (Abercrombie tops and American Eagle jeans) was for likening my image to the crowd less awkward. In high school, my clothes were for dressing up as characters in costume for theater and dance, armor for performance. In college, I armored up to delineate myself from the traditional co-ed. With my hair cropped short and my clothes so outrageous, I subconsciously said “this isn’t for you” to friend and foe. I’ve seemed to have lost the angst over the last several years, but I still use my outfits to fight.  

New York has broken me in plenty of ways, both good and bad. I never expected my fashion sense to be one of the first pleasures shattered. I figured street fashion was for the thin, the beautiful, those who are allowed to call attention to themselves. So with anxious, defeatist tendencies and the addition of 15 pounds, I didn’t deem myself worthy of being noticed. Where I once excelled, I slunk back in defeat. 

But I fought back. I fought the anxiety. I fought the self-doubt, the weight gain, the word “pretty.” And I came back with a new set of armor, a new look because I deserve to be looked at twice. Furry oversized vests, structured coats and bold patterns became my coat of arms. The bigger the better. Each day I make it a point to put together an ensemble that emboldens me to be the biggest version of myself. And today I was emboldened by Duckie of “Pretty in Pink” and Diane Keaton a la “Annie Hall.” So there. 

madewell coat
chloe faye
fashion blogger

[coat-madewell, earrings-anthropologie, scarf-zara, sweater-madewell, bag-chloe]