The “What’s in my bag” post.

My first bag came from Aeropostale. And I didn’t call it a “bag”, I called it a purse. Because I was ten, and believed everything my mom told me – bags are used to carry groceries, purses are used to carry all of your little trinkets and treasures that you can’t leave home without.

I mean, she didn’t put it EXACTLY like that. My mom wouldn’t call her used Kleenex and traveling pill case a “treasure” per say, but you know what I mean. It’s a purse. She kept her wallet and her tissues and her breath mints and her receipts and her tiny, little traveling pharmacy of Advil and allergy pills in a “purse”. 

So – my first PURSE came from Aeropostale. It was – hands down – the smallest purse I’ve ever owned. It may have actually been the smallest purse, ever. To exist. This would have been around the year 2001 when “the small purse trend” was in… I think? I don’t know, I was ten. Maybe it was just “in” for ten year olds, because ten years old didn’t have a bunch of stuff to lug around in 2001. All I needed was a place to keep my twelve dollars in cash and… like, that’s it. What else do you need when you’re ten? A pager?

It’s not like I had keys to worry about, because I was always with an adult who had to carry around the keys. I didn’t need a cell phone, because I was ten and it was 2001. I am now part of the generation that sees a ten year old with an iPhone 8 and says, “Well back in MY day, we didn’t have cell phones when we were ten” – as if we grew up Little House on the Prairie style and were all forced to churn our own butter and read by candlelight. We might as well have grown up on the Oregon Trail (which most of us did, as a computer game).

I don’t know why I remember this purse. Maybe because I carried it around for so long. In hindsight, it looked like a children’s purse (which is fine, because I was a child – even though I thought I was a lady. A little ten year old lady). It was tan colored with an embroidered butterfly in the center and a skinny brown strap that was – PROBABLY? – supposed to go over your shoulder? I mean, I don’t know. This tiny, little “purse” went over my shoulder and was so small it basically just hung out right there under my armpit. So it was basically a wristlet that wasn’t a wristlet. It was an armpit-let.

But up until that moment, I had always thought to myself, “Why would anyone carry a PURSE? That’s so dumb. Then you have to CARRY IT AROUND. Why don’t women just carry their money in their pockets like men do? What is so hard about that?” 

Because then we don’t have any place to keep our trinkets and our treasures and our used Kleenex, Little Jenn. That’s why.

Fashion bloggers always do a post about “What’s in my bag” – and it is usually called “What’s in my bag”. Like we’re expecting them to say they’ve been carrying around a sword in there.

I don’t know what the fascination is with these posts, but I fall for it every time. When my favorite beauty blogger does a “What’s in my bag” post, I read it. And I mean, I read it with the expectation that they’re going to say something other than “my phone”, “my keys”, maybe some some headache medicine? I instantly assume – before even reading it – that there will be SOMETHING in there that is going to change my life. Something that’s going to make me say, “That’s such a good idea! Why didn’t I think of that?!”

How to dress yourself skinny.

I like to call this pose – that thing you do when someone says “look natural” and you totally DO NOT LOOK NATURAL. Fashion bloggers use all of these tips and tricks when they’re trying to model. Like “stand on the balls of your feet” and “stand with one foot in front of the other” and “know your angles”

What are my angles? I knew I should have practiced this in the mirror before we left the house.

Eventually my boyfriend, who is also my extremely patient photographer, was like “What are you doing? Just stand still so I can take your picture.”

Look, I get it. You’re supposed to look natural. I mean, they don’t say that in any of the fashion blog-y photo tips, but it makes sense to look natural as opposed to someone who looks stiff and uncomfortable. So I strive to “look natural” –  but not like TOO natural, because my ACTUAL natural state is  “slouched over with an occasional case of Resting Bitch Face”, so… you know. It’s really all about trying to look skinny. Right?

This concept was lost on me as a teenager. I didn’t know know how to look skinny in pictures. I was just doing what all of my friends were doing and wondering why I – being 5’9″ and 155 pounds – didn’t look like my friends who were 5’3″ and small enough to say things like “Ugh. They didn’t have a size zero, and the size two was too big!” 

I’ve never been “fat” fat, but I’ve also never been thin enough to complain about swimming in a size two. When you’re sixteen and buying clothes that are literally three times larger than that of all of your friends – it can make you feel “fat” fat. In my mind, my friends looked like normal teenage girls, and I looked like the momma duck. I had these hips that made me “curvy”, and a stomach that was – I don’t know, enough to make me uncomfortable wearing a bikini.

So I tried to fit in. I mean – I didn’t try TOO hard, because it wasn’t like I started doing sit-ups or trying to cut out pizza, which would have been the healthy way – but I learned that if I stopped trying to wear “belly shirts” (yea, remember when those were a thing?) and low-rise jeans, I could LOOK thinner. MAGIC. Optical illusions. Laziness.

Fall fashion trends (that you probably already have in your closet!)

I believe it was Oscar Wilde who said, “Do not fall in love with a man who doesn’t make you feel like the most awesome, incredible, baddest bitch on the block.”… those of course weren’t his exact words, but the sentiment was the same. You know what else can make you feel that way? A leather jacket. 

Seriously. I can be wearing sweatpants, and still feel like a stylish badass biker babe if I’ve got a leather jacket on. (I have never been on a bike – and by “bike”, I  of course mean motorcycle – so I don’t know what that really feels like, but this is the only way I can know how to describe it.) It’s like magic. While sweatpants in public say, “I can’t get my life together”, a leather jacket says, “This is OBVIOUSLY a style choice. And if you don’t get it, then you’re not as cool as I am.” 

I mean, don’t go out there wearing a leather jacket and sweatpants, you’ll look ridiculous. I’m just saying. If you want to feel like a badass, buy a leather jacket. I have five. Because I feel the frequent urge to badass it up in my everyday life. 

The problem is that I can’t wear ANY of them while it’s still 85 degrees outside. I’ve considered it – because, in my mind September = Fall, and Fall = Leather jacket time – but I’d rather not sweat off all my make-up and die of heatstroke. It sounds like a terrible way to go. 

But it’s almost OCTOBER. I mean, come on. While everyone else is hanging on to these last few *surprise* weeks of summer, I can’t wait to bundle up in scarves and the three new pairs of boots that I just bought. (Pro tip: if you really want to feel like a badass, put on a pair of boots with a leather jacket. Something about it makes me feel like I could really kick some bad guy booty. I mean, it would probably actually be harder – since I wouldn’t be able to run as fast in the boots, and the jacket would give me less range of motion – but you know what I mean.) 

This is when I get excited for Fall. It’s not the Pumpkin Spice whatever’s, or the football games every weekend, or the bonfires, or Halloween – it’s the clothes. Honestly. When I see the mannequins in Macy’s wearing scarves and plaid shirts and fuzzy sweaters and cardigans, it makes me feel relieved. My wardrobe options are about to triple. Everything’s going to be okay. My fashion identity is really coming together.

Department stores and fashion designers will try to trick you into believing they’re designing these hot new things. You have to keep up with the trends. You have to buy the sweaters with the holes cut out of the shoulders (I have yet to purchase one of these). You have to buy the sweaters with only ONE shoulder. (No thanks, I have yet to find some place where I could actually wear this.) You have to buy the hot new color for FALL. (The hot new color is purple. It’s the same every year. I read this once in a magazine years ago – “PURPLE is THE color for Fall this year!”and legitimately believed that I needed to buy a bunch of purple things. Ya know, so that people would think I was “in”. It took me a few years to realize this is the same every year. They probably use the same article every year. Purple is just a Fall color.) 

The majority of Fall fashion is the same every year. The basics don’t change much. And heavy duty clothes like sweaters and jeans usually hold up longer than those light-weight t-shirts you bought at the beginning of summer. So when you’re putting together your Fall outfits in a few weeks, remember the basics and you shouldn’t need to run out and go shopping.

How to make ANY outfit look good.

There were two things that I wanted to be as a high school freshman: a Varsity cheerleader, and the lead in the school play. As a quiet, mousy, afraid-to-even-raise-her-hand-in-class kind of kid, these seemed like totally normal things to want. I was too shy to ask a question during English class, but getting up in front of everyone during a basketball game and jumping around in a short skirt? That sounds GREAT! Sign me up. There was a guy I liked on the basketball team.

I mean, of course there were OTHER reasons I wanted to be a cheerleader – because it’s a SPORT. And a healthy extracurricular. And a great opportunity to build life-long friendships with my other cheer… mates? Cheermates? Is that a word? Cheer friends?

Whatever. It was mostly about the guy. And everyone knows cheerleaders are hot.

So I dragged my friend to try-outs with me – you know, because I was too afraid to go alone – and together we learned all of the basic chants, stunts, cheers, I think there was a dance involved? The only thing I can remember is thinking how they made everything look so much easier in “Bring It On”. I couldn’t even do a cartwheel, let alone the front handspring-stepout, roundoff back handspring-stepout I had planned to blow everyone away. You know, if I practiced enough. How hard could it be? It’s just, jumping around. On your hands.

I did the splits for my “stunt” portion during try-outs. That was one of the things – you had to do a “stunt”: a cartwheel, a roundoff, a handspring, you could even do a forward roll if you weren’t coordinated enough to do anything else. Which I wasn’t. But I chose to do the splits, because I decided that a forward roll might be too dangerous for someone inexperienced like myself.

Also I thought the splits would be more impressive. Which they would have been – had I actually done them, instead of whatever I did. Because what I did was slide down about halfway to the ground, until my knees started to bend and my legs made this triangle shape with the floor, and I was like “Ta-da!”

Hah. Hah. Hah. Oh, right, did I mention I’ve never been able to do the splits?

I was shocked (I know!) when I didn’t make the team. The squad? I don’t know, whatever. My dreams of becoming a Varsity cheerleader that year were squandered, and the only thing I had left – the ONLY other thing I wanted – was becoming the lead in the school play. Because, for some reason, I thought this would make me cool. “She’s the LEAD in the school play”, they’d say. “She’s going to be a star!” Like lead in the high school play is the first step to Broadway.

There was also a boy. In the drama club. And I liked him too, and wanted to impress him with my amazing acting skills, because I thought that I had amazing acting skills. Kind of like how I thought I could do the splits for my cheer try-out. I had amazing, and slightly unjustified, confidence as a fourteen year old.

Of course there were OTHER reasons I wanted to be in the school play. Because it builds a healthy level of charisma and increases skill in public speaking, and… it looks good on college applications? Probably? I don’t know. Whatever, we both know it was mainly about the guy.

How to Instagram like a fashion blogger.

Oh, Instagram. It took me forever to figure out that it wasn’t Facebook.  I mean, I obviously KNEW the difference – but you know what I mean. If someone Friend requests me on Facebook without annnnny sort of mutual connections (“Did we at least go to high school together? Grow up in the same town? Are you a friend of my mom’s?”), I immediately feel violated. “How did they FIND me?” I think. Like I just caught them with a telescope peeping through my bedroom window. (Sometimes even if there is a mutual connection, I think to myself: “Why are they adding me? Do I KNOW them? Did we meet once and I forgot?”) But Instagram? Haha. That’s totally fine. Follow me. Ask your friends to follow me. Encourage random strangers to follow me. FOLLOW ME. I NEED MORE FOLLOWERS.

If you’re a fashion blogger, you’re probably already on the ‘gram, and you probably already have more followers than I do. Right now I’m trying to break 300.

Not 300k. Not 300 million — (haha, does ANYONE have 300 million?) I have 300 followers. Well – actually, no I don’t, I’m trying to GET 300 followers. I’ve been batting around 287-295 all summer.  I don’t know if I can even call myself a ‘blogger’ at this point, even people who set their accounts to private and only follow friends and family have more followers than I do. When I hit 300, I should buy balloons and throw myself a party. You know, like the real bloggers do after they’ve hit substantial numbers.

Fashion bloggers consider Instagram to be a faucet of their business. They have a fashion blog on the Internet – they post pictures of themselves wearing a bunch of different outfits, what better way to advertise that than Insta? It probably helps them to get a ton of new followers. I say “probably” because they have thousands, and I have – ALMOST – 300. But I also don’t post as many #ootds. Mostly because my “photographer” is my boyfriend and it is a special occasion when I can get him to take a picture of me. I purposely try to look extra fashion-y when we go out, so that I can pull him aside as we’re leaving a restaurant and say “Hey, can I be weird for a second? Will you take a picture of me looking out into traffic?” And he says “Ugh.” and then gives me two minutes to be weird, because he loves me.

I’ve tried to subtly hint that I’d like to spend a few hours one day taking pictures “around town” (a few months ago we moved to a picturesque little suburb town about 30 minutes outside of Chicago that reminds me of Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls). “Our town is so cute!”, I say. “There are so many places where I want to take cute blog pictures!” But the idea of spending 2 or 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon just taking pictures of myself to put on the Internet…? It’s still a little… I don’t know, it makes me feel a little weird. It’s kind of like Senior pictures all over again… but not really. Because I’m not doing anything super momentous that should be documented. I’m just killing a Saturday afternoon because I want to show everyone that I know how pick out my own clothes.

How to take photos like a fashion blogger.

One of my biggest worries is that my boyfriend will one day see my Google Search history. It’s not that I have a bunch of dirty Google secrets – I’m not hiding things from him, but I fear the day when I’ll have to explain to him why I’m looking up weird stuff on the Internet like, “What kind of salads do the Kardashians eat?” or “How to get more followers on Instagram”. You know. Personal things. Things between me and Google.

This almost happened last week when I was showing him a picture of a nature preserve where I thought we should go hiking. “Oh!” He said, “I should show you” (some forest preserve that had mountains and stuff) “Hang on, let me Google it”, he said, still holding my phone.

Panic set in. “I’ll do it!” I said, yanking the phone out of his hand. Like – straight up, grabbed it. Ninja style. Like he said he was about to scroll through my photo album and see all of my selfies and screenshots of inspirational quotes (this is my second biggest worry, by the way).

“Geeez.” He seemed a little confused. I have no idea why, especially since I was being TOTALLY NOT SUSPICIOUS AT ALL. “What don’t you want me to see?” He asked.

“Nothing!” I realized by this point – you know, after the fact – that I was being super weird.Like, DEFINITELY-hiding-something weird. Great. He probably thinks I’ve been looking up porn. “I’m just excited to see the place you’re talking about! What was it called?” 

“I was going to look it up.”

“I know! I just…” *Cricket* *Cricket* “What was it called?”

The thing is, my boyfriend is the kind of boyfriend who would probably let me use Google on his phone. He wouldn’t yank said phone out of my hand. Because he’s not looking up weird things like “What really happened with Corinne and DeMario on Bachelor in Paradise?” and “Is Corinne coming back?”

But, really. What happened?

We bypassed the awkward moment – he knows me well enough by now to know that I was probably just looking up dumb stuff about the Kardashians and not ‘how to smother your boyfriend in his sleep’ – and gave me the name of the forest preserve to search. As soon as I typed the letter ‘H’ – sure enough, another embarrassing Google search came up: “How to take photos like a fashion blogger”. 

It could have been worse. It could have been that time I asked Google “How to vote for America’s Got Talent” (asking for a friend). 

But, like, seriously. Taking pictures of my outfit? How do I stand? Where do I stand? Where should I look? Should I look away? What should I do with my hands? How can I make myself look thinner? These are important questions. You have to figure this stuff out if you want your picture to look like a #FashionBlogger picture, and not like something that belongs on your Myspace page from 2007.

Here are the tips that I found for “fashion blogger photography”  so that you don’t have to add another embarrassing search to your Google history. I’ve been Googling tips like these ever since I started this blog over a year ago, because I was looking for a way to stop feeling ridiculous every time I asked someone to take a picture of my #OOTD. “Do people really DO that?”, I thought. “Like, they ask their boyfriends or their friends or whomever to take a picture of them while they’re posing like a model? No one thinks that’s weird?” 

I live in Chicago. People do that all the time. No one thinks it’s weird. Promise.

How to purge your closet when you think you need everything in it.

Ugh. “Purge”. It’s one of those words like “moist” or… “moist”. It’s not the way it sounds, it’s just – you know, what it is. Purging stuff. I feel like I’m writing about my closet throwing up remnants of old college t-shirts and Target Mossimo tags. 

I’ve always thought the idea of “cleaning out my closet” sounded like a terrible idea. Like this monumental chore. Because it basically felt like opening up the door to my own personal landfill of Victoria’s Secret shopping bags (that I, for some reason, struggle to throw away) and shoes. So many shoes. WHY do I have so many shoes? I have two feet. I do not need twenty pairs of shoes. 

But, you know, some day, “I might wear them” – or so I tell myself.

I have clothes in there too. Some clothes. Not all of my clothes. A lot of them used to end up in piles on the floor. Because they wouldn’t fit in my closet. And the floor seemed like as good a place as any to keep them – you know, because I could see them. No sense opening up the pesky old closet and reminding myself what a mess it is in there. 

And then I moved in with my boyfriend. Who is not like the boys you met in college with McDonalds bags stashed under their beds and dirty clothes spilling out of the hamper (thank God) – he’s, like, an adult. He’s sanitary. And while I know he loves me, I figured it wouldn’t take long before he would get frustrated with me using my side of the closet as a landfill for VS bags and the bedroom floor to layout my clothes. All of my clothes. You know, so I can see them. Because you can’t do THAT when they’re in the closet. Too many other clothes in the way. Some shirt you love might be squeezed between two shirts you hate – and then you’ll miss it. And then you’ll be sad. 

Plus we have two closets, and he was nice enough to give me the larger one. So, like, I should PROBABLY take advantage of this kind gesture and actually, like, USE the closet space… ya know? 

But I knew what this meant: the big, scary task of getting rid of stuff. Most stuff, actually. (Okay, like a third.) Which is hard for someone like me, because every time I sort through clothes that I tell myself I need to donate, I think to myself, “But I might wear this! I just forgot I had it!” (It’s been in my closet for over a year with the tags still on it, but sure, I might wear it. I just need to remember that it exists.) So – without further ado (is it “ado” or “adieu”, I thought it was the second one, but Google said it’s spelled like AD-O) here are the steps that I’ve created to FINALLY get rid of stuff in your closet that you LITERALLY DON’T NEED AT ALL but, for some reason, think that you do. 

Vintage fashion debunked.

Is “debunked” the right word? I don’t know. I used to think that I looooved vintage fashion. The idea of a string of pearls sitting around in a jewelry box that’s been passed down since the Titanic? Maybe it belonged to Rose De… Dewitt? Google says “Dewitt-Bukater”, but I’m just going to call her Rose Dawson because we all know she should have scooted over and let Jack climb up on top of that door with her. He didn’t have to freeze to death. It’s not always all about you, Rose, people are dying.

But the pearls. Let’s get back to the pearls. Did she have pearls? Oh, wait – no, she had that gaudy necklace that she chucked it into the ocean at the end of the movie. Way to be a hero, Rose. People have been looking for that.

But when you say something is “vintage” – that’s what people imagine. That’s why they say “ooh… ahh…”, because they’re envisioning something that somebody wore back in the day. It’s a romantic idea that something has been around longer than, you know, a Forever 21 t-shirt that you ripped and threw away after one wash. It tells a story. It’s been around the block. It’s seen some stuff.

When I was in high school, one of the girls came to school one day wearing dangly paperclip earrings. Like, dangly earrings, made of paperclips. Tiny paperclips clasped together dangling from her ears. And when everyone said, “Oh! Those are… different!” – she told us that she found them in her grandmother’s jewelry box and that they were “vintage”.

Vintage paper clip earrings. From Grandma’s jewelry box. Like Grandma was a true fashion pioneer back in the 40s who just strung a bunch of paper clips together and then said, “Yea, I’m gonna keep these. Let me just put these in the jewelry box next to my pearls.” 

Did they even have paper clips back in the 40s? When did they start making paper clips? Were people even writing on paper back then, or was it all parchment and quill pens?

Okay, I guess it’s the 1940s, not the 1800s. You shouldn’t come here expecting a history lesson. We’re here to talk about clothes and stuff.

How to be a fashion blogger.

I don’t know how to ask someone to take a picture of me “for my blog” without sounding like a… like a total… what’s the mom-approved-PG word for douchebag? Because that’s what I sound like. A pretentious douchebag. It’s hard for me to take myself seriously when I’m saying, “Hey will you take a bloggy picture of me in front of this fountain?”… which is usually followed by, “What should I be doing? Should I, like, look off into the distance? Or, look over my shoulder? Should I smile? Is that weird? Smiling is weird, right?”

Sure. Smiling in a picture? Totes weird. Only serial killers and ax murderers do that.

Rarely is this magical moment complete without me asking, “Is it cute? Will you take another one? What should I do with my hands?” 

I never know what to do with my hands. And I alwaaaays ask if it’s cute. Like the person behind the camera is ever going to tell me:  “I don’t know, Jenn. You’re twenty-seven years old and still pretending to be a model. Is THAT cute?”

It’s not cute. In fact, the whole thing usually feels so awkward that I fidget for about five seconds in front of whatever fountain/brick wall/lake front/rooftop view I’m standing in front of and then ask, “Did you get it? Is it cute?” 

Like I’m Beyonce or something. IS IT CUTE? Sure. Like my personal paparazzi fan club was just begging to take a candid picture of me. “UGH. DID YOU GET IT? ARE WE DONE HERE?”