My amazing friend Amy Guth – who recently became publisher at RedEye in Chicago – dropped me a note to introduce me to one of her style writers, Lauren Krause. And when Amy makes an intro, I pay attention. Lauren not only covers style for RedEye, but she also works on audience engagement at the Chicago Tribune and runs her own blog, This Life Styled, on the side. So she’s probably not doing a lot of sleeping. Since it’s a question that I couldn’t answer myself, I asked Lauren to weigh in on what defines Midwestern style (because I’m cruel and twerpy like that) and totally love her response. Read on for Lauren’s thoughts, and input from some her her favorite Midwestern style bloggers!
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When I think of West Coast style, my mind conjures up images of relaxed women looking cool and content under the California sun. Cue the long skirts, cut-offs, and Bohemian vibe stirred by the breeze wafting off the Pacific Ocean. My perception is that East Coast style is remarkably different, erring on the side of structured sophistication and traditional elegance, not to mention black piled on black. Both coasts have unique styles to call their own, but what about the Midwest? The quintessential style of women living in the center of our country isn’t as easy to define, but that doesn’t stop thousands of bloggers and fashion lovers alike from “working it,” if you know what I mean.
As a Midwest gal myself – born in Cleveland and currently living in Chicago – the primary factor I consider when dressing is the weather. Unlike the breezy, consistent weather of sunny Southern California, Midwestern weather can be changeable and fickle. After spending the coldest winter in years cocooned in my cold-weather clothes, I have finally started to reappear from underneath layers of wool, scarves, and bulky outerwear. Dusting off my spring wardrobe – which has been sitting patiently in the back of my closet – I feel ready to re-emerge as a stylish, Midwestern lady. Unfortunately, spring dressing in the Midwest can prove more challenging than ever. Temperatures jump daily and a sudden rain shower can totally ruin a look. I absolutely must rely on layering and rain gear to survive a Midwestern spring. Although I’m still not convinced that weather is the sole factor when it comes down to the wire. Choosing the right jacket is important, but am I only drawing influence from the changing seasons? Are other fashion forces inspiring myself and the styles of other women living in the Windy City and Midwest?
Still puzzled by this question, I sought advice from a few of my fashion blogging friends and asked what Midwest style means to them.
“To me, style in the heartland of America is chic yet practical. We Midwestern girls want to look stylish, but still be able to make a mad dash to catch the train! We take basic, classic pieces and spice them up with statement necklaces or pop-of-color heels that express our own individuality.”
– Jesi, Pepperminting
“When I think of Midwest style I think of a girl on the go who is confident in her unique, trendy, and multi-layered look. She isn’t afraid to mix patterns/colors/textures and can put herself together at a moment’s notice.”
– Peggy, Hallways are My Runways
“Midwest style is a mix of current trends, sophistication, and a laid-back attitude. People here aren’t afraid to take risks, push boundaries, and define who they are through what they wear. Unfortunately, weather plays a big role here so leggings, boots, and chunky knits are great go-tos for the colder months. Hopefully it will get warmer soon so we can break out the maxi dresses, gladiator sandals, and rompers!”
– Samantha, Gold Coast Girl
So what’s the common theme in all of their answers? There isn’t one! It seems that Midwest style is so varied and inconsistent because that’s quite literally how our climate forces us to dress. We are confident, trendy, sophisticated, and laid-back, but practicality is something we must consider. While much of the West Coast has the luxury of gorgeous weather and the East Coast often prioritizes elegance over pragmatism, women of the Midwest aim to practice self-expression but with a side order of function.
Whether we’re dashing to catch a train, running errands, or attending a great party, we must be prepared. So our closets contain a combination of practical and personal style. Practical style consists of layers, seasonal jackets, and fun, chic accessories. Personal style includes both trendy and timeless pieces, garments and accessories that catch our eyes, and items that make us feel great. The bottom line: Midwest style is its own breed of logical fashion. The weather informs our outfits, but it hasn’t stopped us from combining the fabulous with the functional.
Lauren Krause is a Chicago fashion blogger, journalist, and the brains behind This Life Styled, a Chicago fashion and lifestyle blog with a focus on how to’s, outfit compilation, and styling tricks.