ZOOM Con, Confidence & Teens

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So I'm sitting here on my laptop on a Friday night thinking the same thoughts I always think before I have to give a presentation: What... do I... have... to offer?  Like really.  Self-doubt. Insecurity. Inadequacy. I'm flooded with all of it.  Worried that the audience will think that my work is trivial (I mean, I do shop and play with clothes for a living), worried that as a white, cisgendered, college-educated, middle-class, slim/muscular woman... maybe I'm totally un-relatable. Maybe I have nothing to offer at all. Maybe my life looks too rosey, maybe my hardships don't matter or "count." 

But they do. Of course they do. All of our experiences COUNT. Because they're OURS. Our experiences are what color our world. I absolutely struggle. I struggle with things that people would never imagine that I struggle with; "but you seem so confident!" people say.  I am. But I haven't always been confident and I don't stay super pumped up on myself 24/7.  Ha, it's too hard. I haven't always loved myself, my body, my choices, my brain, my mistakes. And that's relatable. We all have "stuff," we all struggle, we all wish things to be different from time to time. We all compare ourselves. We all long for something slightly different from our reality at one point or another. 

So. Sigh. Tomorrow I get to speak to a group of pre-teens and teens and educators and parents. About... self-confidence. And style, of course. And how loving yourself can make all the difference. And I want everything I say to be true. I want to tell these girls that if they are equipped with self-confidence and a solid sense of Self than they are unbreakable and unbeatable. But that's just not the case. There will be days -- and probably already have been days -- when these girls will feel so beaten down; they will feel so defeated. And what do I say about Self-confidence, then? How does it help then? 

What I've learned over the years is this: know your personal truth. Establish your personal truth on your own, for yourself. You get to decide what you think of you. Not everyone will accept you!. You will be told "no" and "I don't like you" and even horrible, terrible things about your outward appearance. It's going to HURT!!! The world has always been this way and may never change. I am daily reminded that I am not "for everyone."  But it is in these moments of pain that I hold onto my truths:  

  • I was made to give and receive love. Fact.
  • My beauty is intrinsic... it has everything to do with the way I connect with and serve others and pretty much nothing to do with how I look.  My physical appearance is a bonus. The way my body is shaped is a bonus. The way I dress is a bonus. Only the last one is a choice (and thank goodness because I sure do love to shop.) 
  • What I value in life, in relationships and in myself is different from what others value. That's okay.  My values are not flexible.

Do I get carried away in comparison? Yep. Do I ever feel rejected and worthless?  Sure do. And then I remember my list of truths. My purpose. My beauty. My values. The more we self-explore, the more we find what makes us work and tick and LOVE... the more unshakable we truly are. Getting rattled, shaken up and beaten down is inevitable. But rallying around our truths is a way to rise. 

If your current truths are mean and ugly (about yourself and/or others), fake some nice stuff. Fake a nice list of truths. And then stick to those. The negative "truths" don't help. They're not useful. They get you no where (I ABSOLUTELY PROMISE. I know because I was once married to ALLLL the negatives. For real.) Commit to the good.  Watch how your mind and outlook shifts. 

Posted on March 24, 2017 .

A Balanced Closet

bal·ance /ˈbaləns/
Noun: a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
Verb: 
offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another.

I see allllll kinds of closets. I mean ALL KINDS!!!  I'll write a book on it all one day but for now, for here, I'm delving into two categories.  1) Safe and 2) Mismatched.

We are creatures of habit.

We love what we love and we dismiss what we cannot imagine ourselves wearing.  We stay comfortable wearing what we know. We fear what we don't know. From what I've gathered as a seasoned personal stylist, at the very root of fear as it pertains to fashion there is this sentiment: "I just don't know how to implement ____ into my wardrobe."  So, the same decision is made over and over and over again. Same style skinny jean x 13.  The same style cashmere V-neck sweater x 8.  The same pumps for work x 6. Because it's safe. Because there's no risk. Because we don't know what we don't know.  Yes, these closets hold a lot of clothes but my gracious (and forgive me!) they are boring!  You can only "mix it up" by buying your go-to faves in different colors and patterns so many times. But if the silhouette is always skinny pants + sweater + pumps (or whatever your go-to is)... you're going to get bored. Period. 

And then there are the adventurous types. 

The I can do, wear and be whomever and whatever I want!  These closets are bursting with colors and patterns and asymmetrical lines and shoes. They're chock-full of decorative pieces that only go with one outfit and sweaters that are worn once every four years (if that)... and it's exhausting to get dressed in the morning. If you have an unlimited budget and unlimited time to scour through your closet every day, fine, maybe this is your getting-dressed approach for forever.  But I find that many of my clients are exhausted by the idea of getting dressed in said closets1. And of course it's exhausting!  These ladies walking into an arcade to get dressed!  This type of person is always adding something new, but without direction or focus as to how to pair their garments together when they get home.  They end up with a closet full of orphan-items: pieces that are really lovely on the hanger, in the store, yet they don't play nicely with the rest of the wardrobe, at home.

Now, I understand that making clothing choices has much more to do with just like/dislike. We dress for our personalities, we dress to stand out, we dress to hide, we dress to impress, we dress to disappear. We make clothing choices based on our bodies, budgets, environments and social lives. But in all of this decision making, there must be BALANCE.

Somewhere in this mix of the ways we make purchasing decisions and the ways that we self-identify, our personal style is developed.

Sweater from a warehouse sale $25; Madewell Denim @ 20% off; Donald J Pliner booties purchased online from NM last call  ~ $119

I've been working at and on my wardrobe, professionally, for a number of years now and here's what I've found to be true for myself:

  • I lean hard into the neutrals and textures categories.

  • My closet(s) are almost half black and other half is white/tan/gray with a little army green and maroon thrown in there.

  • My go to textures are snakeskin, leopard or some other kind of animal texture.

  • I LOVE leather, suede, cashmere, fringe of any sort, pom-poms and velvet.

    • I'm totally happy in 4" heels and hate 1.5-2" heels (the lower heels kill my knees)

     

  • My personal style does NOT include bows, paisley, stars, houndstooth or zebra prints. It just doesn't. But have at it if its your thing, sister! 
     
  • My favorite accent colors are chartreuse, anyyything metallic and magenta.
     
  • Accessories are life.

Look at the previous two images. Neutrals. But nothing boring. Textures. Interesting styles that flatter my shape and accentuate parts of my body that I DO like. Accessories that draw the eyes to a concrete focal point. Shoes that elongate next to a wide leg. Fringe. Fur. Layers of bracelets.  These are a few of my favorite things!

Bringing the crazy colors/patterns to a healthy 50% (or less) of your wardrobe and owning neutrals that tie the outfits together... is an artwork.

To show you that I'm not all white smocks and black capes, here are a few of my favorite navy, magenta, silk, plaid, shimmery pieces...

I can literally wear all of these pieces with denim. With an ivory shift skirt. With a pair of waxed black jeans. With a gray coat.  With a black leather jacket. The list goes on. None of these pieces frighten me on their own and all of them can be paired with a variety of options. Great.

Here are a few of my favorite GRAYS!

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Not a single one of these pieces has the same shirt opening. One has a tail, one is cut straight across, one is scalloped, etc. These gray tops have different neck openings, different shades and vary in degree of tightness, weight and length. None of these pieces are a "repeat."

It's a balancing act. The whole creation of the wardrobe is a balancing act. It's a matter of taking stock of what you have and noticing what you love. It's a matter of asking yourself "where am I getting stuck?"  What do I KEEP purchasing over and over again? Ask yourself: How would I choose to move through the world if I could wear ANYTHING? Now, what do you have, currently, that matches that your ideal vision? 

I want to help you create your dream wardrobe. I know where to find the pieces and how to bring your vision to life. Let's chat

Posted on January 8, 2017 .

Social Media Giveaway: January

Because Great Style is More Fun with Friends!

You have FOUR DAYS to enter, Monday, January 9th through Thursday, January 12th.
You may enter as many times as you like by tagging three friends in as many IG posts as you wish! 

1. "FOLLOW" me on Instagram: @lilliangraycharles
2. Tag THREE of your besties who love great style.
3. Sign up for the WLC Newsletter:

4. Boom! You're entered to win this statement necklace:

Collette Statement Necklace: Vintage gold necklace with semi-precious labradorite and genuine leather wrapped beads.
Finished beautifully with hand braided threading. Wear as one cohesive look or wear either necklace separately.

Posted on January 7, 2017 .

Choose Optimism

Let me preface this by saying that what works for me may not work for you. Yes, I'm a glass-half full kinda gal but I'm also totally down with a solid pity party. Throughout my adult life, my most successful weapons against the mopies have been 1. [great] personal style and 2. intense physical activity. While this combo will not be the answer for everyone, these two things combined have been the methods I've used to both heal and reassure myself.

It's why I style and it's why I teach.
 

In 2007 I screwed up my knee... and yes, of course, I was dancing. Now, almost nine years later to the date, I've re-injured my knee in a similar fashion. But this time my ability to teach is on the line, not just daily work outs. It doesn't sound like much, but my mind depends on working out rigorously even more my body does.  It's been eighteen days since I last taught at Cyc Fitness. I've felt sorry for myself and gotten angry with my body. I've doubted my strength both mentally and physically and worst of all, I've doubted my future as a spin instructor.

This morning I woke up in South Carolina at my parents' house. My knee was stiff and swollen; it immediately pissed me off. I put on a pair of baggy sweat pants from high school, an orange bra, a maroon tank (no, I'm not a VT Hokies fan) and a tight black zip up jacket.  Right before I left my bedroom I looked at my disheveled state in the mirror and said out loud, "we're not doin' this."  This not really getting dressed thing is an indicator for me. I saw my clothing choice as a way of saying "screw it... I'm not in amazing shape, I'm not proud of where I am, I'm feeling sorry for myself and I'm upset about my stagnancy."  Typically, I dress for my outlook on life, my personality and my attitude: adventurous, strong, feminine, spicy, bold, the list goes on!  And the antithesis of those adjectives is expressed in what I put on this morning.  I'm not denying those feelings... that I feel sluggish and my morale is down but I'm also not going to let myself wallow there. 

I rolled the tired sweatpants over my bum knee and let them drop to the floor.  I changed my bra to something that actually fit under the tank... and wasn't neon. I layered on my cozy but sexy new kit & ace top (black) and chose a comfortable pair of striped gray lululemon leggings. I looked over at all the fun (heels and wedges) shoes I'd brought home in hopes of being able to wear them once the swelling left my knee and then decided that UGGS (rolled down) would be totally acceptable for working from home today.  I washed my face, slapped on a little mascara and lip liner, glossed my lips and put my studs on.  

There. I thought. Better. I said out loud.  You can do this.  I chanted.

Have you ever noticed that you dress in accordance to how you feel about yourself?  What do you see?  What do you wear?  What's your best and what's your not-best?

What modifications can you make? You will not always be able to do everything you want to do, when you want to do it, the way you want to do it.  Suffering arises when we want what we can't have immediately AND/OR when we don't want what we have, in the present.  

Try. Just try to switch to gratitude for what is available in the present. Identifying gratitude does not mean a list of "it could be worse" comparisons. There is no reason to compare sufferings with someone else just to beat yourself up over being "better off" than the other guy. Leave that shit out of the narrative. Write out five things, people, experiences, gifts that make your life so incredible RIGHT NOW.  Here are mine:

  1. My clients. You guys are the MVP's who, upon hiring me, make the decision, the leap to be a better version of your already incredible selves. Not because you suck the way you are, but you because you believe in best-case-scenarios. I get you and you get me. Thank you.

  2. Kimberly, Caroline, Alexi, Courtney and the rest of my Cyc Fitness family.  They've encouraged me, covered my classes and continue to take great care of our studio's riders as I figure out next steps with this knee issue.

  3. UGGS and the ability to wear them stylishly (red dancing emoji entered here.)

  4. Fresh coffee, brewed by the cup in my parents' jura coffee maker thing. #gloryglory

  5. SADIE! My parents' amazing dog, who doesn't know what's going on "in real life" but can tell when I'm down and makes me giggle without any effort.

Yeah, being injured sucks.  Not getting to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, the way I want to do it sucks.  But I've got this incredible box of tools to put to use when I'm feeling down. And at the root of it all is the choice to be grateful and the ability to choose optimism.

Posted on December 20, 2016 .