Year in Review: 2020

Old Navy

Only a whole two months late, but when was the last time I was consistent about updating the long form blog? As much as I wish it didn’t, 2020 still happened, so here’s a (relatively) quick review of qualitative trends in my own closet from that year. Also, I felt like I couldn’t publish any other posts until this was out, so I’ve got a big backlog of less personal style notes sorta posts that I already had drafts for coming up!

Wardrobe trends

The three main trends from this year are: colorful, comfortable cute, and crunchy casual!

Colorful

If 2018 and 2019 were the years of transitioning from neutrals to carefully curated earth tones, 2020 was the year of embracing the rest of the rainbow. Not the rest of all colors – but I did bring in a lot more blue, purple, and pink when previously I’d stuck to warm colors and green (autumn leaf colors).

I don’t regret starting my last wardrobe overhaul with a more limited palette at all. At that point it would have been overwhelming to think about color on top of style, silhouette, etc, and limiting the color palette made it so that I could screw around with other aspects but still know that outfits would be nice and color coordinated. I originally started with the autumn palette because 1) I just really really love it but also 2) I used to wear mostly cool toned colors and I felt that jump starting with a larger change would force me to pay more attention to whether I liked a particular color, and liked that color on me than if I continued going with shades that I’d previously worn a lot simply because my brain wouldn’t be able to look at them as objectively. I still love a good all black witchy or minimalist blogger outfit, but more often than not, that’s not what’s been ~*sparking joy*~*

With such a heavy year, having a wardrobe with happy colors is at least one thing less depressing. My favorite grab-and-go item combo for adding color has been the monarch butterfly baseball cap + the 1970s palette plaid scarf. They’re not super matchy but coordinated enough that throwing them over a drab jacket cheers the whole thing up without feeling random, and the pinks in the scarf also work nicely with the pink quilted jacket.

Comfortable cute

Even though I hardly left my apartment, I still got dressed up more often than not. I just really like clothes that much! But contrary to what I expected, the fact that I was moving around less actually resulted in me avoiding stiffer and generally less comfortable items. I think that the longer I marinate in the same sitting position, the more aware I become of anything that’s uncomfortable vs flitting around every 30 minutes even if that involves climbing a flight of stairs in 3-inch heels.

I still like a good fun and cute aesthetic though, so instead of bringing in more feminine or romantic elements in via pumps, vintage-inspired skirts, and jackets I ended up wearing more oversized hair bows, puff sleeves, and cute but flat shoes. This combo with the waffle-knit gigot lace-up sleeve thermal shirt (I am still not over my giddiness in discovering that someone at Free People thought to make such an extra but comfortable, machine-washable, non-wrinkly item), high-waisted jeans, and derby flats was one of the combos I’d call a personal uniform this past year. What’s easier to throw on for any occasion than a shirt + jeans + flat shoes? (I know, I always talk about dresses being easy, but they’re honestly a bit less all-weather all-occasion for my lifestyle than some good old fashioned stretch denim).

If anything is emblematic of my descent into fashion DGAFery, the oversized velvet hair bow scrunchie is it. 5-year-old Margaret would be very pleased with this, and 14-year-old Margaret would be horrified. Margaret of four years ago would be low-key just scared of wearing anything out of the ordinary, despite still admiring various fashions on Tumblr and Polyvore (may it rest in peace). It turns out years of almost daily practice of scrutinizing outfits and deciding they needed another dash or two of visual interest eventually compounded into becoming the person wearing things that people comment on about wishing they could pull things off. That’s pretty wild, but when it comes down to it, basically the same as any other lifestyle change like deciding to cook something with a new ingredient each week while really thinking about how each meal came out as you sample it and ending up being a more fluent home cook. I don’t think I’m ever going to reach Blair Eadie levels of extra (nor am I actively aiming for that), but I can see myself poking around in different microcosms of fashion even if it’s just how to style some particular piece.

Anyway, here’s another outfit that was pretty fun in a background character in a storybook inspired film/show sort of way. While I won’t be doing any hikes in it, wasn’t something I’d worry about if I was say, hauling groceries back the half mile from the store.

✅ Stretch waistband
✅ Knit top
✅ Flat shoes
✅ Whimsical color palette
✅ Softly structured textured pieces

Alas like many others, I did end up having to neglect a good portion of my denim and general non-stretch bottoms wardrobe category due to weight gain. I’m not gonna lie, that’s pretty frustrating as someone who’s spent a lot of time and money curating my clothing collection and who considers getting dressed a hobby, but on one bright side I feel like I ended up focusing on fine tuning more loungewear or no-brainer outfit combos like sweater+leggings+boots styles. Previously these were neglected in favor of outfits for the office or going out, and while I wasn’t mad about wearing ugly old t-shirts and boring sweatpants for more relaxed times, none of these sparked joy in an aesthetic sense. I’ve since been wearing cardigans or “outfit sweaters” in more lounge-y fits and I also splurged on a set of cuter pajama shorts and a pair of sweatpants that wasn’t black or gray. Most of these don’t make it into my permanent Instagram feed, but since I spend almost all my time at home now, having cuter ultracasual options is a definite quality of life booster.

Crunchy casual

As much as I enjoy the fantasy-academia or whimsical mishmash of old-timey elements in “storybook style”, I’ll admit those aspects make it intrinsically less suited to a really well and truly casual lifestyle. It’s not impossible to wear it anyway. Regular readers know I’m convinced that any high concept style can be adapted to casual wear as long as you accept that it’s going to be a compromise. There are definitely stretch waistband pleated trousers, and a blouse in a relaxed-cut linen should be very comfortable, but after a certain point it’s just more fun to switch to a style where you can stay comfortably in or even spend energy making louder within the casual realm vs spending energy toning down things that you like or hunting for types items that are just much rarer. I’ve always liked the 90s kid at summer camp vibe (AKA how most of the people in my neighborhood dress anyway) so I let myself lean into jeans, graphic tees, crunchy prints, and sandals.

Just to round this section out, here are two dressy outfits that I really liked but that don’t fit in with any of the other patterns 🙂

I wore this McQueen inspired in the end of January in the last time I went out for fun 😭.

In my quest to become a connoisseur of tulle skirts, I traded in some of my cheaper ones for this absolutely magical navy one from Moulinette Soeurs (old season Anthropologie)

Other trends

More secondhand

I think over half my purchases last year were secondhand, mostly through Poshmark. I don’t bucket myself into sustainability or thrift bloggers because I buy way too many things generally to say I’m in the spirit of environmentalism. My primary reason for shopping secondhand is that you can generally find more interesting and better quality items than retail at mall brands. I occasionally check eBay for specific items, but I’ve mostly been on Poshmark because I’ve found the interface easiest to browse.

I’m absolutely chuffed with a lot of my purchases (like the sequin skirt above, or the orange plaid flannel), but one flip side of this shopping strategy is that things that don’t work for whatever reason have accumulated and it’s going to take me a while to re-sell everything! It’s also a lot more pricey on that end if you’re buying from sellers or platforms that don’t accept returns. I think for the rest of this 2021 or until my partner and I are both vaccinated and consignment reopens (RIP East Bay Area Goodwill thrift stores, which have mostly now permanently closed), I’m going to stick to shopping only from vendors who accept returns. Which will likely mean a lot more off the virtual rack purchases, which my inner sustainability influencer is upset about, but frankly… if you can’t try it on, that’s just more practical. It’s hard to tell if something will sit the way you want a lot of the time even if you get the basic measurements.

Outfit styling over stats

I’ve actually not logged any of my outfits into Airtable for months now. Is this blasphemy?? Who am I even anymore?

Part of it was several months into 2020 I didn’t fit a lot of my non-stretch fitted items anymore, and it was just making me sad to have it emphasized that they were unworn while I figured it would take another year or two to shift back to the lifestyle where I’d fit (not that I’m against larger bodies at all, but like, I spent so much time and money finding those specific items I don’t want to completely rebuy everything 2 sizes up when there are perfectly good items right there and this current lifestyle is temporary, even if that means a year and a half).

I’m also just so, so, so familiar with everything I own at this point from continuously taking it out, trying it on, leaving it out for three days, then attempting to reorganize everything as I put it away that I don’t think the inventory aspect is as illuminating anymore. And I’ve also been spending a lot more time on Instagram, and since I’ve been posting any outfit that isn’t loungewear there, I feel like I’ve got a good sense of what’s been in the loop without the work of additionally uploading everything into the database.

Personal wear stats I think are also not nearly as helpful to other people compared to notes on how I styled my outfits. I know the general advice to do these things for yourself, but in spectrum of fashion related things that have some value to to me, I don’t have time for all of them, and it’s important to me that I spend some of my life doing things that are useful for other people so I take that into account. Daily tracking is frankly complete overkill for most people, but anyone can take an extra minute in the morning some day and think “huh, you know maybe I could try swapping out shoes here, I saw that on Instagram with shoe X and I liked that.” And it’s not even easier to do styling! It’s more of an art, and I think there’s more value in breaking that down into accessible chunks for people than convoluting my wear counts and spending into some kind of presentation to the non-existent board of directors.

I think at some point I do want to get back in there and update the catalog aspect of it because it’s great for planning capsules or packing lists, and if I ever stop posting OOTDs on Instagram then I would definitely want to record them there. But at this stage, I just haven’t found it worth the time. I’d rather spend the extra 10 minutes a day fine tuning the outfit or the writing in the caption distilling it.

2020 Goals

L O L. Actively working toward and tracking these just absolutely got thrown out the window from a combination of lifestyle change and stress. For the record, they were

Wear more difficult-to-style items more often – I definitely didn’t write many new style notes blog posts, but while I wasn’t counting how many things I’ve covered in my Instagram captions, I did keep up all the #ootdindepth captioning and experimented with styling different shoes, dresses, bags, etc. Given the circumstances I might call this one just barely checked off.

Repeating more favorite outfits – honestly my style preferences fluctuated a lot to be more friendly to the “crunchy casual” end of things because it was more suitable for a lifestyle that was 99% in the radius of 5 blocks + I was not able to wear a lot of the midi skirts, jeans, and trousers that appeared in most of my previous favorites. I did make some efforts to wear fun and frivolous items periodically even if it was just at home or to the grocery, so again, given the year, I think I didn’t do too bad here.

Low buy (no more than 15 items total) – Lol. Just, no. I’m pretty sad about this one because I thought I had totally figured out how to nip my shopping habit in the bud. I realized 90% of my shopping was done through my phone when I was on the bus/train commuting, so I replaced it with pre-downloaded YouTube videos to watch during that time instead (gotta keep the phone data consumption down). Of course, I haven’t commuted for about a full year now, and I haven’t figured out how I could decrease what’s basically a shopping addiction short of completely shutting down my Instagram, Pinterest, and blog.

A respectable attempt at getting into sewing – I did actually get all the materials for a supposedly beginner-friendly blouse at the start of quarantine and I started tracing the pattern onto the paper the week that shutdowns were ordered. What with all the panicking and apartment overhauling we did over the next few months this never went anywhere. I did sew a few masks back in April when it was still hard to buy any cloth ones. My impression from watching a lot of videos + that experience is that sewing is most similar to baking, and that while I think I could get more into it given a lower-activation-energy workspace (our apartment is about 400 sq ft and to do any sewing requires moving a lot of stuff out of the way / working on the floor for a lot of prep), that is completely not the type of thing I like doing in my spare time. I’m more of a cooking or free-form crochet sorta person when it comes to hobbies, not a chemist or machinist.

Not to mention how expensive it is for relatively little output when you’re starting and expect to not be happy with most of the projects you make! Also, I’ve learned that outside of bad 90s casual, the types of clothing I gravitate toward that I would want to bother actually custom making are absolutely not the minimalist boxy style of beginner-friendly patterns. I really like a lot of knit items or more ornate/offbeat Free People / Anthropologie esque things that I expect I would have to sew for years to be able to make myself to a quality that is anywhere approximating store bought. That’s just …. I don’t find precise physical processes like this fun at all. I’m good with saying I tried this and cutting my losses.

Funnily enough my partner actually took to it a lot more after getting roped into the early mask making. I wouldn’t say he’s actively into it, but he’s since made a bunch of his own masks and hemmed a couple of his own clothes and has been drafting patterns for some around-the-house fabric things he’s wanted.

Refine my day to day “finishing” – things like makeup and hair. Well, I did switch to cutting my own bangs, and I did refine my makeup routine slightly to incorporate brow pomade instead of just brow pencil or gel for a more precise look as well as ditching all brushes besides an angled brush for the pomade. I’ve also gotten back into frequently including some eyeshadow. I’m still not 100% happy with my hair but I think I need professional help for it at this point so I’m just going to put this off for now.

2021 Goals

It’s been enough of a year that I’m just going to say that I don’t have any fashion/beauty related goals for this year. If I can shower and get dressed every day (I’m talking like, just drawing my eyebrows on and changing clothes for hygiene purposes even if it’s just into a different set of loungewear) then that’s great. I’m honestly still having difficulty adapting to working at home, and between everything else I have going on I don’t think I’m going to have the willpower or time to plan for and track any habit changes.

One thing that’s more of an ongoing project rather than a goal I do want to keep in mind is getting all my clothes and shoes to fit into their designated spaces. That’s much more literal than paring down my wardrobe to a certain number of items or as high maintenance as doing one-in-one-out, and overall is easier for my brain to process. Clutter really gets at me and it would be a huge lifestyle improvement for me to make putting stuff away easier. Currently I have maybe 10-20% more clothes than I have space for. I’m slowly selling things on Poshmark and Facebook. We are actually moving to a much larger space next month (830 sq ft!!!!), but owning a lot of stuff is a drain for me and I think strictly keeping the state of things to “everything hangs up easily in the wardrobe” is good for both generally limiting consumption (good for the bank account and environment) and not giving myself more housework. You bet that I kept myself 100% busy in the Before Times, but in the current state of things I feel like I have even MORE work because of online WFH creep and increased chores just from actually spending time in my own apartment. I don’t even have kids or pets and it has been exhausting.

Aside from that, I’m basically on autopilot for the habit of photographing and posting my outfits that I don’t think keeping that up needs to count as a goal. I still find it helpful, and based on comments it seems like other people still find it helpful, so imma keep it up. Blogging is definitely not on autopilot in my routine and to be honest, I can’t promise any sort of regular posting cadence here. A big part of it is that there are just way, way more people on Instagram. It’s really sad spending a lot of time on a post and feeling like only four people actually read it. On Instagram, I’m more confident that a larger portion of likes are from actual personal accounts, and there’s an order of magnitude more comments. I would prefer long form posts but it’s just not where the rest of the world is right now, and when it comes down to it, I think having a more active/visible community is more important for keeping up any sort of content production. (On a side note, I still refuse to start using TikTok because I hate the format so much. I don’t care how good their recommendation algorithm is from all the data they collect. 60 seconds isn’t enough time to communicate anything of substance and editing videos takes so much more time!)

Wrapping up

As per tradition, here were the 9 posts that got the most likes on Instagram (I know that you can see the top 9 by checking the Insights tab, but I wanted the fancy formatting). Some of these were definitely fun, but others I’m not sure why Instagram was so into them (probably the explore/trending algorithm just decided to promote them).

I learned a lot about myself this year and despite it being time-consuming and often not great for mental health, it’s been nice to have this option for socializing and having a “third space” in this corner of the fashion internet. Whether mostly here or mostly on Instagram, I really appreciate everyone who reads, comments, likes, messages, or puts out their own content. Thank you for letting me be part of your year!

I don’t think I’m ever going to hit full-time-blogger hashtag-aesthetic yas-queen goals type outfits consistently, especially without the right “extras” like Cool Hair or tattoos or an ideological goal. (Face it, you need to have some epic levels of charisma, work ethic, and marketing skills to pull off growing a personal style account in such a visual space without keeping up with the looks du jour in at least some dimensions.) But from what I can tell, my posts are generally helpful for people who also aren’t aiming to serve looks, just take their outfit from “I kind of hate this?” to “that’s kinda cute!”. Which I think is most of us! That’s very much not compatible with viral growth, but from personal experience I know that extra 30% boost to an outfit can do a lot to make you feel more like your best self even if it’s not going to land you any lucrative sponsorships. And so I’m happy to keep chugging along that route.

16 Comments

  1. Hello! I’m a new-ish follower of yours on Instagram and when you mentioned this post on your blog, I was excited to read it. I really enjoy reading fashion blogs so I hope you keep at it and hope that your readership goes up! I enjoy the long form writing and insight that you just can’t get on other platforms.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love all of the posts (I’ve reread the visual interest post about 1000 times) and love the long format. I used to have a regular blog and you most likely have about 10x the readers as you do interactions. I just lurked blogs for YEARS worried I would come off as a creepy stalker or something if I even said “good job”. It’s wonderful and your a fantastic blogger.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Izzy! I get the feeling of not wanting to leave comments just for the heck of it, and I appreciate that you stopped in the comments today!

      WordPress does track views and clicks and such and alas I do have an order of magnitude more views on anything in Instagram compared to the blog. The bulk of the my blog traffic nowadays actually comes from google search going to about three of the posts vs regular readers one of which is my Madewell jeans review. I should probably SEO all the style notes pages since that’s the content I’m more into writing, but I hate framing it as “HOW TO STYLE” instead of just “style notes” because I try to avoid coming off as prescriptive, so the blog will probably just stay extra niche for the rest of its days.

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  3. Just wanna say you have my dream aesthetic! Reading your blog and following you on Insta has really helped me become more analytical when it comes to fashion, as well as get inspired. Thanks, and keep doing what you’re doing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I totally get that Instagram is where the people are, but I hope you’ll keep writing the blog, even if it’s not regular. Your level of analysis is beyond what I’ve seen anywhere else and I always look forward to your posts. A long-form blog post feeds my brain in a way insta nuggets never can.

    Congrats on finding a new place, hopefully the extra square footage will help reduce stress!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Anna! I’m so excited to move to the new apartment, there will be enough floor space for me to have separate spaces for work vs everything else!

      I wish I had the guts to just cut out Instagram completely. It’s SUCH a time and energy suck but I always feel like you can’t “blog responsibly” if one of your goals is to actually reach the people who want to see your writing. And then if you don’t post regularly the platform will stop showing your more occasional posts to even your subscribers. But on the other hand I’ve tried using the SEO tips from the wordpress editors when I considered using search as the primary funnel, and that’s nearly as soul-sucking as social media, and additionally absolutely no fun.

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  5. Long time lurker here, just chiming in on how much I love your long forms and I’ve read every single one! I quit social media this year, for mental health/time sink reasons, but Instagram was the toughest in no small part because of your account and this community. I won’t be catching you there, but I’ll be here whenever you’re up for posting!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Meredith! Thanks, it’s always nice to hear from blog readers. I don’t have any plans to stop writing completely, that’s for sure!

      This past year especially, I’ve really appreciated the social aspect of Instagram, but at the same time it sucks seeing how it’s affecting everyone’s mental health or pushing everyone to pander their content to what’s likely to do well by the feed algorithm instead of what they’d actually want to create :/

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  6. Hi ! Just leaving a comment to reiterate that your blog posts are always a joy to read and quite insightful. I understand that it is time consuming and not very rewarding in comparaison to the effort you put in. Just so you know, I’ll read whatever you post, whether it’s daily content or bi annual content. To me, if you post without any pressure of coming up with new content with a time constraint, the quality can only be better.

    I think I said it in another of your posts but I really love your outfits and style, but it’s not a style I would like on myself, so whenever I see one of your outfits with a tulle skirt or a giant bow scrunchie, I have to pause and have talk with myself otherwise I’d immediately be on poshmark looking for those for myself ! But what I appreciate with your content is that what I gain from it is not a list of items to buy but a list of ideas and things to fine tune; small details or bigger part of an outfit to edit to make it go from “kinda hate that” to “kinda cute”, as you said. That’s not something you find in every influencer sadly, but that’s the reason why you’re one of the two fashion instagrammer I follow.
    I love all of your nine best ig posts, and the blue princess dress with chucks, and my favourites are the colour coordinated outfits you posted: the red/plum one at the beggining and the yellow outfit with the straw bag. They give such a put together, cool vibe ! I would love to do that but only own black/navy/grey bottoms… And I have the habit on only buying dresses… I have already decided on the 20 items of clothing I am buying this year and got most of them, but for 2022 I’ll keep in mind more coloeful/interesting bottoms.
    Lastly, congrats on the move, I figure it will be such a release to have so much more space than what you are used to. I can’t imagine living in such a small space with another person, let alone being locked down there for months on end and working from home for an entire year, you’re a trooper. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi again Eléonore, and thank you so much ☺️ It really is such a shame that online platforms tend to reward extremes, isn’t it? I don’t spend as much time sharing posts from there as I should, but one of the things that’s been really neat to see is all the people who have been using the #ootdindepth hashtag on Instagram. I’m so used to my likes and dislikes and things I fixate on, it’s refreshing to see how other people approach getting dressed.

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