Posts Tagged: dressing

Reader Request: Dressing for Grief

dressing for grief and mourning

Reader Karen emailed me this question:

My question for you has to do with how to approach clothing and style while one is experiencing grief. The Victorians had dressing for grief figured out: the grieving wore black or grey or lavender to help manifest their grief externally, and to signal to others the need for extra care or sensitivity. But in our own time, for better or worse, we seem to have lost these visible markers of sorrow.

Could you offer some suggestions for how clothing and style might help me move through the world as I am managing my grief? What are some ways that I could mark my loss for myself (perhaps with a piece of jewelry, wearing a particular color, etc.)? How might I think about dressing for grief to encourage myself to actually get dressed on those difficult days? While clothing is not the first thing on my mind these days, I believe that an intentional approach to getting dressed in the midst of sorrow could help me present myself more authentically and perhaps help me to integrate the experience of loss more fully.

Karen kindly agreed to let me post our correspondence. Here’s what I wrote to her:

I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve experienced such a painful loss. I hadn’t really given much thought to how style and grief might interact before, but here are a few things that came to my mind:

Above all, be gentle and patient with yourself. There is a huge body of rhetoric out there about coping with loss, and it’s incredibly contradictory. In my opinion, this is because no two people experience grief in the same way. This also makes most advice a bit useless, if well-meaning. But the only thing I’ve ever heard that makes near-universal sense is to be gentle and patient with yourself. What you’re going through is hard. It may take a long time before you feel like you’re even starting to heal, and that is completely OK. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s time to move on and don’t force yourself to do anything before you’re ready.

I think part of being gentle with yourself could certainly involve physical comfort, which is where style comes in. If typical comfort clothes aren’t an option for your daily life, look into middle-ground pieces: Ponte knit pants and skirts, flowy maxi dresses, waterfall cardigans, flat or supportive shoes. For me, the ultimate in security-comfort is a scarf. It envelops me in softness, and I feel safe and snug.

As you mentioned, including a practice of remembrance in your daily outfit assembly can be healing. This can be anything from wearing a locket with your loved one’s photo, to wearing that person’s favorite color somewhere in your outfit every day, to keeping a wearable item that belonged to your loved one on your person at all times. Do this for as long as it feels supportive and important.

There will be days when motivating yourself to get dressed will be challenging, and I imagine that you’ll need to handle those on a case-by-case basis. Some days, you may just not get dressed. Others, you’ll have to. And for those, it might be beneficial to create a few easy outfits that you can keep in your closet hanging together so you can throw them on without having to think too hard. Or even a few simple outfit formulas that you can fall back on when creativity feels out of reach. Try to assemble these outfits/formulas on a day when you feel a little more energetic, if possible, and also try to incorporate jewelry and/or accessories. Accessorization and finishing touches are often the hardest to care about when your mind and heart are elsewhere, but you’ll feel and look more polished if you can remember to add a few. Mapping out which ones ahead of time will be helpful.

Finally, I can’t think of a truly elegant modern-day alternative to all-black mourning attire, and agree that lacking a public practice can feel odd. Regular clothes can feel almost costume-y when you are hurting badly and constantly. The only solution I could come up with – and it might not appeal at all – would be to find or create some sort of black armband for yourself. Black armbands are a relatively widely recognized symbol of loss and mourning, but can also be fairly subtle. Wearing an armband may also inspire curiosity, though, and if you don’t feel ready to field questions about your loss, might not be a good idea. It depends on how significant it feels to mark your loss in a way that others can see, and also on your peer group and environment.

I hope some of these ideas will resonate with you and be helpful, and that you are surrounded by loving support during this difficult time.

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The Right to Bare Arms


I’ll fess right up: I’m not terribly fond of my arms. I lift weights every week based on a regimen created for me by a personal trainer, and there’s loads of muscle in there. Seriously, just ask me to flex. But there’s also loads of jiggle. And although I don’t want to be, I’m self-conscious about it. And I generally dress to keep them covered.

But it’s summer in Minnesota and that means it can get hot. Also nastily humid. Ya know, that sticky, icky, clingy environmental moisture that makes you feel like a giant dog tongue has just licked your whole body, clothing included? And under these circumstances, 3/4 sleeves become implements of torture.

And the fact of the matter is that my arm-related self-consciousness is centered on a recently developed, socially generated expectation that – in addition to slender legs, a flat belly, and lush breasts – all women should have toned arms. Absolutely jiggle-free, rock-solid, sculpted and toned arms. Similar to the ones seen on Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Biel, and other celebs who have live-in personal trainers and whose job it is to look a very specific way. Like all body-related mandates, this is unreasonable, shaming, and downright awful. I know this inside my brain. And it angers me endlessly and I want to fight back. Unfortunately my emotional self still kicks and screams when I pull on a tank top, wailing at the size, the jiggle, the uneven skin tone of my exposed arms. It then becomes an internal battle of wills: Shirk the imposed body mandates and feel exposed and self-conscious, or give in, cover up, and attempt to relax?

I try to bear in mind that sleeveless garments can be more flattering than short-sleeved ones, and go that route when it’s sweltering. And if it’s cool enough, I do 3/4 or cuff my long sleeves. But other days, days when my outrage manages to squelch my insecurity, I just force myself to remember this important mantra: All women have the right to bare arms, regardless of size, shape, or tone. The vast majority of us HAVE arms, many of us are forced to deal with heat and humidity at some point in the calendar year, and we should not allow restrictive social norms about how our bodies “should” look to shame us into dressing in clothing that makes us feel hot and miserable. Arms come in all shapes and sizes. Flattering them can certainly be a priority, but covering them up on a miserably hot day and risking heat rash in the name of hiding a little jiggle? No way. Not OK, not reasonable, not necessary.

I used to be incredibly self-conscious about my belly, and I still dress to downplay it. But friends, I have come to have a real and deep affection for it as a natural, biological, lovely, and defining part of my physical self. It took years of work, but I got there. So I have faith that my arm-battle will end because I want it to end. And I know what my ultimate conclusion should be: I have the right to bare arms. And so do we all.

Image courtesy sean dreilinger

This is a refreshed and revived post from the archive.

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Spring Wardrobe Capsule: My Run In Pastels

The Pastel Capsule Wardrobe

Joi’s Pastel Capsule Wardrobe

Hey Style Lovers! So, I recently took my very first try at creating a wardrobe capsule, and let me tell you, it truly was a challenge for me.



Why? Well, for one thing, I love variety. Switching up my style genres depending on my mood is a part of who I am (see examples here, here, and here). Yet, I also enjoy stepping outside of my box, especially on my own terms.  The idea of maximizing a minimal wardrobe fascinates me. To be sure, a wardrobe capsule can be considered somewhat confining: One usually mixes and matches similar pieces to create cohesive looks for multiple days and or events. But, those confinements also come with fringe benefits!


The Pastel Capsule Wardrobe: Take 1 of 4

Since this was my very first time I decided to take things slow:

2 main tops + 2 main bottoms = 4 different looks.

Spring is in the air, and what says springtime better than pastels?!

The Pastel Capsule: Take 2 of 4

The Pastel Capsule Wardrobe: Take 2

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Staying within the same color family is a simple way to go for beginners
  2. Don’t be afraid to switch up pieces and wear them in a way that you normally don’t. For example, I’m wearing one of my tops backwards. I’ve since discovered that I like it better that way :)
  3. Having a capsule wardrobe on hand makes getting dressed easy. It could be quite the ideal “go-to” for trips and work weeks.
  4. Don’t be afraid to challenge or limit yourself. You might actually enjoy it! The challenge for me was to limit my options, which in turn helped me to look at my clothes in a different way. This was a win/win for me!
The Pastel Capsule Wardrobe: Take 3 of 4

The Pastel Capsule Wardrobe: Take 3

For more details about what I’m wearing, visit my blog, here.

I’m curious: Have you tried creating your very own capsule wardrobe, or are you content with perusing them on Pinterest/ admiring them from afar? Which look is your favorite from my Spring Wardrobe Capsule?

Until next time!



I’m Joi and I blog my personal style via In My Joi. I’ve always enjoyed dressing up, yet notably, my personal style took on new dimensions when I hit my 30’s. You’ll find me saturated in bright colors, draped in vintage, and topped in hats. Occasionally I venture off to black and white combinations or take a playful dabble in mixed prints. It has been said that style is a way to express who you are, without having to speak. I wholeheartedly concur. Each day of life offers up a blank canvas, a fresh opportunity to use style to express different dimensions of my authentic self. Join my style adventures via Instagram, Tumblr, or Facebook!

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