Summer Stories ~ Fashion and Beauty

In this last post of my summer stories (I know summer is officially over, bear with me, I'm shifting to fall soon), I'm writing about an unfamiliar topic, fashion.

Today's Story: Fashion and Feeling Beautiful

I'm probably a clothing minimalist. I've never consciously limited my wardrobe to x number of items. But moving a whole bunch in recent years and our hike last summer, in which I wore one outfit (with extra layers in cold weather) for 6 months, tipped me over the edge into a minimalist wardrobe.

Damien and I share a four drawer clothing dresser. I get two of those drawers. Roughly speaking, one holds in-season clothing, and the other one, off-season clothing. What was off-season will soon be in-season. I also claim 23 (I just counted) all-season clothing on hangers. These include my "once-a-year" dress pants and my "once every-three-months" long sleeved white button up blouse.

I don't actively try to limit my clothing, I'm just not "into" clothes, I don't like shopping, and I don't have any patience for uncomfortable or ill-fitting clothing. These factors conspire to limit my wardrobe to well-worn favorites, with the occasional investment into a foundation piece of clothing.

My wardrobe is cobbled together with found, functional and free items. Found mostly at thrift shops, functional because I value practicality and comfort, and free because I'm blessed with a mom (with great fashion sense and a similar body size) who passes things along.

This black skirt is actually a hiking skort. These are the "shorts" I wore for the second-half of the trail, after my first pair became threadbare. These are a highly functional piece of clothing in my wardrobe.

Last winter, I noticed that my spring and summer wardrobe was in dire need of an infusion of color and "wear outside the house" worthy threads. When we came to Montreal in April to find an apartment the girls and I hit up Value Village and I scored big time.

Not all of these have proven to be keepers (but when you pay $3 for an item of clothing, that doesn't sting so much). The straps on the white tank bother me. The grey pinstriped leggings were cooler in concept than reality. And the grey shirt with the purple/orange/pink animal print-ish center stripe makes me look pregnant.

But a few of these items paired with favorite staples already in my wardrobe, a local friperie find, and a hand-me-down from my mom made their way into my clothing favorites this summer. Pretty much everything I wore this summer was one of these outfits or a combination of them.

The one outfit I wore most often, sometimes for days in a row with a shower washing at night, is the psychedelic circle rayon dress.

I love this dress the most and feel beautiful wearing it. I think I never did get a full-length photo of me in it because I was afraid the picture wouldn't capture how wonderful I feel in this dress and how much I love it. I've been complimented on this dress, by strangers (blush) and friends more than any other clothing I can recall.

If you scroll through my instagram you'll see corners of this dress in almost all the photos of me.

I've not had many experiences with feeling really beautiful in the clothing I'm wearing. My desire for comfort and functionality preclude a lot of showy and fussy clothing. I don't know that I've ever lucked out like this before, something that makes me feel beautiful is also completely functional (I bixi in this dress) and extremely comfortable. In fact, on humid days the light rayon of this dress was the most comfortable thing to wear from my closet.

Because I haven't had a lot of "wow, I feel beautiful wearing this" everyday clothes (it's not that I feel ugly, but mostly I feel "put-together" or "cute") this dress taught me something.

I've underestimated and undervalued the restorative, healing, and life-giving power of feeling beautiful. What you wear can be a form of art, an expression of you. And what You are is beautiful.

It's a vulnerable thing to believe about yourself, it's a vulnerable thing to share - I feel beautiful, I am beautiful. It's no doubt at the core of why I was insecure about getting my photo taken in the dress. Can I be so brazenly beautiful?

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  • Lisa Zahn

    Lisa Zahn on Sept. 25, 2015, 12:44 p.m.

    I love this so much. Thank you for sharing. We all have this vulnerability around feeling beautiful, I think, and it's hard to face. I love that you found somethign you feel beautiful in. I'm going to search my closet for what makes me feel beautiful and gives me joy. Too often we dress to try and get others to think we're beautiful (even those of us who supposedly "don't care" about such things, like me) when really we should dress to please ourselves and that will come shining through. (That's me thinking out loud, I think. Thanks for inspiring it!)


  • Kim

    Kim on Sept. 25, 2015, 12:58 p.m.

    Perhaps, one day, you will show us how beautiful you are in that dress?  I'm sure it looks as lovely as it feels!


  • ~Heather

    ~Heather on Sept. 25, 2015, 1:06 p.m.

    I had a similar epiphany this summer. Our family took a one month trip to Europe and we started in Paris. All of the women I saw there looked well put together, but in an easily beautiful way. It's so difficult to put into words, their entire outfits looked like they were thoughtfully put together, but easy for them to choose from a wardrobe that was well stocked with pretty and functional pieces. Ever since our week there I have felt infinitely more comfortable choosing clothes for myself that make me feel pretty and confident (and functional too, high heels won't ever be found amongst my shoes).

    Upon our return home I took a trip to my favorite Hospice Shop on their opening day for fall. I found dresses and boots, cashmere sweaters and all at such a reasonable price that if something didn't look or feel right after a few wearings (or should I happen to shrink a dress - oops!) then from a monetary perspective I can easily let go of it.


  • Misti

    Misti on Sept. 25, 2015, 1:19 p.m.

    I love this! I've been loving all of the Capsule Wardrobe blog posts I see and have thought I might do something similar. I definitely do not have a minimalist wardrobe, however I do typically wear certain clothing pieces week in and week out. 

    You should check out Thred Up sometime. I've had decent luck with some more athletic pieces---though they can be hard to find. 


  • Nana

    Nana on Sept. 25, 2015, 1:23 p.m.

    You are beautiful - and even better, you're discovering how you feel beautiful! (And you are consistent - you've NEVER had patience to wear uncomfortable or ill-fitting clothes: oh the challenge of binding seams on flower-girl dresses so you could wear them for at least the day of the wedding :) xo, Mom


  • Chessa

    Chessa on Sept. 25, 2015, 1:35 p.m.

    I love this!  It does take a certain amount of bravery to say, "I feel beautiful in this." And I find the things we feel beautiful in - really feel it - are the ones we get the most compliments on.  It's like an internal fire is lit and everyone is reacting to that glow, rather than the clothing.  Or both, maybe. :)

    I had SO much embarrassment when I started my fashion project - the fact that I was setting time aside everyday to photograph myself (it always took a LOT of shots for me to find a couple that worked) AND writing about it - geez, it felt like the epitome of self-indulgent, silly, and narcissistic.  I even found that I was trying- not so much to hide it from my husband - but to minimize his exposure to it?  So much so that he actually had to ask, "You're not, like, pursuing another relationship or something, are you?"  I realized I was being ridiculous, but it really was a vulnerable thing.  To be out in front, saying, this is me, I'm trying a new thing.  It might be silly, but I'm into it right now.  He was nothing but supportive, of course.

    Anyway, brava!  I find fashion to be a form of self-care and creativity for me.  I love seeing other people embrace the empowering aspects of it! :) 


  • Beth

    Beth on Sept. 25, 2015, 1:53 p.m.

    This post really speaks to me.  I've spent most of my life extremely self conscious about  my appearance, mostly because of a struggle with weight.  So it became very important to me to have clothes I felt good in which unfortunately lead me to opposite extreme from your wardrobe.  As in, way too many clothes which caused financial issues in my mid-twenties not to mention an excess of STUFF I moved halfway across the country and back more than once.  As I've gotten older and managed to deal with the weight issue (at 42 I'm 90lbs lighter than when I was 22 and down to a US Size 10/12) my perspective on beauty and clothing has changed.  I have a much better understanding of what size wardrobe works best for me AND how much of my self consciousness is/was due to issues other than the weight. And most importantly, I've learned to embrace the beauty I have rather than beating myself up for not being able to attain the media set standard.  Which in turn has made me much more beautiful in the eyes of everyone I know and, more importantly, in my own eyes.

    I love how you embrace your own beauty.  Not only is it inspiring to the rest of us but it's a great example for your daughters.  Thanks for sharing.


  • Heather

    Heather on Sept. 25, 2015, 2:06 p.m.

    This is awesome!  And exactly how I feel - I don't often feel "beautiful" and am crawling my way out of the little years (my oldest is 7 youngest 11 months).  Finding clothing that you love is wonderful, and I am slowly working my way toward new clothes that will help me see myself as beautiful and comfortable as well.   Thanks for sharing!


  • Nicole Robinson

    Nicole Robinson on Sept. 25, 2015, 3:24 p.m.

    You look fabulous!  You cleary found clothes to fit your style and are very happy in them.  You are energized and glow.  You also look very fit, lean, and strong.  Save this feeling, bottle it, and keep it handy for the months to come.  After following you for a while, I know the coming seasons bring challenges for you.  (And me too.)  Well done!


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 25, 2015, 3:31 p.m.

      Nicole, You are SO right. In fact, in my original draft of this post I had written about how I wanted to bottle this feeling, to give, share and take during times of need. That part got edited out. But don't you know it that I need that during tough spells :)


  • Kim

    Kim on Sept. 25, 2015, 6:41 p.m.

    Can you tell me about the shoes?  I'm finally in a happy place wardrobe wise, but hate shoes.  Yours look comfy, practical, and transition well with the different looks.  My old Converse really need a more appropriate replacement.





    • renee

      renee on Sept. 26, 2015, 3:19 p.m.

      Hi Kim,

      You're not the only one asking about the shoes. I get asked about these often, they are my go-to summer shoe and I wear them pretty much all the time except for hiking, or a 10Km day of urban walking. 

      These are the Kigo Flit. I've had mine for more than four years now and this summer was their last season of wear for me. 

      Good news! Kigo is having a summer sale right now on these shoes. My plan was to replace mine next summer but it might be more economical to do so now. 

      You can see this instagram photo for a further discussion of these shoes (others recommend them as well).

      Also, four summers ago I wrote a short review of the Kigo and other shoes I owned at the time. The shoes I blogged about in that post, specifically the vivobarefoot lace-ups, and the new balance minimus trail shoes - are still the shoes I wear. The vivobarefoots are my fall non-rainy wear shoes and the minimus trail shoes are what I use for hiking. I've gone through three or four pairs (hiking for 1,500 miles will do that) in that last four years but they are my favorite model of "active-wear" shoe.

      So, that was probably more than you wanted to know, but there you have it. Kigo Flits - favorite summer shoe ever. 


  • Alaina

    Alaina on Oct. 1, 2015, 2:37 a.m.

    I find my clothes very difficult to figure out at times. I am not into clothes, or fashion, at all. I also have sensory issues. So most of the time I think I end up looking very plain, boring, or sometimes, I feel frumpy-looking. However my need for comfort and not feeling like every single minute I want to get changed is more important to me than what I look like. So if I find something that feels good sensory-wise, I try to buy multiple colours of that one item. I'm not really sure what people think...but I try not to care. I feel like if they truly knew what I go through with the sensory stuff then maybe they would understand. Oh well, it doesn't really matter. At least I understand one of my children who struggles with similar things. My own mother tried but she didn't get it at all. Anyways....I like that you feel comfortable wearing bright colours. I never feel right wearing them myself but I like the look of them on others.


  • Kim G.

    Kim G. on Oct. 2, 2015, 5:12 p.m.

    I completely agree.  You are absolutely.beautiful.  I'm glad you can finally see what the rest of us alread knew.

    I am the same about clothes.  I want them comfy.  I want them functional.  I need to be able to move.

    Have a fabulous weekend and an even more fabulous fall!


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