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HOW TO DEFINE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE

If I scroll back a few years into the blog archive there are quite a few outfits that don’t feel like “me” – not to say that I’m embarrassed of anything I wore, it’s just that it would likely have been better suited to someone else. A floral kimono comes to mind.

The funny thing about defining your personal style is that it can take years to figure out.. but at the same time you kind of knew the answers all along. Think of the icons you loved when you were a kid. Mine were Jackie Kennedy, early Elvis and Dolly Parton and the cast of shows like The Wonder Years and Happy Days. I’ve always known that I loved tried and true American staples. A 50s-era full skirted dress, New England fisherman sweaters, borrowed from the boys vintage Levi’s and 70s-style stripes. It’s what I feel most myself in. So why did I try to fight it with those palazzo pants or that body-con dress? Maybe, like finding a partner, you just have to try things on for size. Even if you know they won’t be right for you in the end.

Years ago I wore a huge velvet bow headband to my Mom’s 50th birthday party. It was a whole look. But it felt like me. A little bit vintage schoolgirl prep, a little bit modern without trying too hard. My sister’s boyfriend at the time asked me if I thought I’d look back on pictures of the party down the line and regret such a bold fashion choice. I figured I’d see myself in those pictures and feel pleased that I was confident enough to wear exactly what I wanted at that moment. And p.s. exactly that style of headband happens to be having a major moment right now. But I’m willing to let bygones be bygones.

The point of the story is that if it feels quintessentially “you” at that moment, then wear it. Even if what feels like “you” shifts over time. Although spoiler.. I still love a good hair accessory.

I’ve been thinking a lot this year about my wardrobe and the fact that I’m a happier with fewer things, but ones that all feel quintessentially Jess. The funny thing is that back in my shopping heyday I would have found this idea sort of stifling, but in fact it’s been so refreshing. Every morning I get such a happiness boost when I look into my closet and realize I truly love everything in there. And when I go to add new pieces, I simply ask myself if I’d feel like “me” when wearing it.

Now if only I had saved that velvet headband…

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LET’S CATCH UP 3.31.19

  • I spent last weekend in Charleston with my Mom and Sister on a little girl’s trip. It was my third time visiting that pretty city and I’m still charmed every time. We repeated a lot of the favorites that I mentioned in my Charleston Travel Guide – but this time added on Hominy Grill for brunch, Fleet Landing for a sunset dinner with a view of the water and a candle-making class at Candlefish. Highly recommend all three!
  • After adding a wallpaper accent wall, fresh coat of paint and new DIY mantle to our bedroom, things are really coming together. The next step is art on the walls, curtains and a vintage dresser makeover. Planning a post soon on all of my sources for affordable art, but this print just arrived and I’m in love. I’ve got my eye on this one next.
  • I thought this really honest post regarding money from one of my favorite British bloggers – The Frugality – was so refreshing. I find money to be such an interesting topic and most women really don’t talk about it. I’m thinking of starting a series here where I discuss financial things (like how I budget in an expensive city, how Adam and I handle money in our relationship, how I plan for longterm finances, etc.). Would that be of interest?
  • Speaking of money (well, spending it I guess…) – after plotting and planning for over a year, we just booked on a short trip to Paris in May. I’ve been just once before and that was over 10 years ago but Adam has never been. And honestly, what could be more romantic then a quick skip over to Paris in the spring? I’m hoping to add a couple more pieces to my wardrobe before the trip and this breezy blouse under $40 feels just right. Send me recs if you have them!
  • I’m starting to slowlyyy feel like the heaviness that I carry throughout winter (in my mood and general mental well-being) is lifting as we enjoy the first warmer days here in New York. March is always the toughest month for me mentally so now that I’ve survived it, I’ve got a few things planned this week to celebrate; like piercing the 2nd pair of holes in my ears (which I’ve wanted to do for like 5 years now, ha) and treating Adam to a fun brunch at our favorite Indian restaurant Babu Ji.
  • Last week Adam and I got together with two other couple friends for a game night. We played Pandemic and it was SO fun. Everyone is essentially on the same team and you all get to talk about strategy, but it gets really exciting as you go. Highly recommend. I want to get a copy of it to keep at the lake house this summer.
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MY SPRING IN NYC BUCKET LIST

Since I shared my Spring Wishlist (along with a disclaimer that I’m shopping quite a bit less these days) I figured I’d also share my Spring Bucket List – aka all the places and experiences – I’m looking forward to this season. And what better day to share than the first day of Spring!

  1. A stroll along South Street Seaport. I love this area but it can get SO crowded in the Summer. The first really nice spring day is great for walking along the water, grabbing tacos at El Luchador and eating on the benches with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
  2. Snagging tickets to see the NYC ballet’s rendition of Jane Eyre. I’m always looking for an excuse to go to the ballet (and Adam has zero interest), so when a friend asked me to join her for this Bronte classic I jumped at the chance! Tickets go on sale this weekend.
  3. A glass of rosé on the Met rooftop – this has become on of my favorite spring traditions. Even better when you can see all of the fresh blooms in Central Park from above.
  4. Running a 10k! This was on my list of things to do in 2019 (for now, my half marathon days are on hold while I see how my knees hold up to shorter distances) and Spring would be the perfect time weather-wise to do it.
  5. We may end up staying in the city over Easter weekend and if so – I definitely want to try a new brunch spot. Although Friend of A Farmer and Buvette (two favorites) are still contenders.
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SPRING WISHLIST UNDER $100

If you follow me on Instagram then you may have seen me mention I had officially gone 3 MONTHS without shopping for a single piece of clothing or accessories. In mid-December it was because I was spending on Christmas gifts for family instead. In January it was a concerted effort to practice self control and focus on my finances for the year ahead. But my February and into March it was simply because I really had re-set my attitude towards my wardrobe. Simply liking something in the moment wasn’t enough for me to own it. A sale going on didn’t need that I had to grab something just because it was a steal. In three months I’ve really been able to come to terms with what I want my wardrobe and shopping habits to look like going forward.

And that doesn’t mean I’ll never shop again. In fact, I finally broke the streak and just picked up this dress (which I know will work at the office with flats and a sweater, on a date with heels and on weekends with sneakers and a denim jacket). And I’ll likely grab a few more of the pieces shown here (the linen blazer and this little bag are top contenders) knowing that I’ll wear them constantly throughout the Spring and Summer ahead.

Happy shopping (or not – you decide for yourself).

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ps. this one bag is just over $100 but it’s so cute I made an exception.

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THOUGHTS ON PERSONAL GROWTH

One of my favorite mantras is “live in an environment of growth” – I try to keep this in mind when it comes to myself, my relationships and my career. The problem is, I’m not sure I’ve been living up to those words when it comes to this blog. Now 6+ years into the game, I’ve been feeling a little lost with the whole thing (hence the silence lately).

When I began I actually wanted it as a space to work on my graphic design skills. I had graduated with a degree in Fashion Design a few years prior, and was in the midst of transitioning from a career in Accessories Design into the graphics side of fashion and didn’t have much in the way of a proper portfolio. I also was spending a stint living in LA and thought it would be a fun way to document my adventures and love for clothing/interiors. Hence ‘The Steele Maiden’ – a first voyage if you will. I’ve now got a full time career as an Art Director and am neatly settled into life back in New York City. So if we’re getting technical, the original need has long since been fulfilled.


Somewhere along the way though I started sharing outfit photos, social media became omnipresent and well, here we are. And maybe its winter talking – because you all know I’m a vitamin D junkie – but I just feel sort of tired of the whole thing. Or perhaps more accurately, I feel bored of the whole thing. The witty Instagram captions and constant push to buy new clothing by influencers. The game of who can take the most extravagant vacation and be in the cutest couple. It’s started to feel like the internet equivalent of small talk to me – and I’m just not sure I want in on that kind of conversation anymore.

Don’t get me wrong – there are all sorts of amazing influencers in the world who talk about hard hitting topics and push this industry forward. But for the most part? A lot of it feels self-centered. I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts last week, Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard, and comedian Jason Mantzoukas said something that really struck me (to paraphrase) “Story-telling used to consist of someone grabbing the camera, pointing it at their world and allowing us to see it through their eyes. Now it consists of someone turning the camera towards themselves and them simply telling us how they see the world.” I can’t stop thinking about it.

To be honest, I still don’t know where all of this leaves me and The Steele Maiden. I love sharing bits of my New York life and travels, home decor and favorite outfits with you all – and for now I plan to continue, but I think it is also going to come with some sort of more personal writing. Something of substance. It also likely means that I’ll continue to operate this space in a somewhat more pared down version while I focus a portion of my mental efforts on building a new venture which involves a different medium of fashion storytelling surrounding that I’ve been daydreaming about for the past couple of years.

In short (or long actually) – I really appreciate all of you that have come along for the journey thus far. But I think it’s time I push myself back towards that environment of growth. And I hope you’ll come along for that voyage too.

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Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.