Sally McGraw

Sally McGraw is a stylist, blogger, and freelance writer whose massive shoe collection is threatening to overtake her tiny, North Minneapolis bungalow. Her popular daily fashion blog, Already Pretty, explores the intersection of personal style and body image, offers practical figure flattery advice, and urges women to love themselves regardless of weight, age, height, or body type. She firmly believes that style is a tool for self-love that should be accessible to everyone. Including you.

Underutilized Wardrobe Items: Keep 'em Visible

Posted by: Sally McGraw under Clothing, Women, Shopping Updated: August 22, 2012 - 2:16 PM

We all play favorites. We reach for the same skirt, the same jeans, the same flats again and again. And in order to make that reach less time-consuming, we move those favorites to the front of the closet, the nearest shelf, the top of the drawer.

And this? This means that we may be unintentionally creating closet orphans. Why?

Because if you can't see it, you'll forget about it.* That embellished cardigan that you snapped up on clearance after waiting patiently for the price to drop? It's hidden beneath your gray and black ones. That pair of burgundy skinnies you simply had to have? Buried after one wear, overshadowed by its denim-y cousins. And unless you remind yourself - visually - that these items are yours for the wearing, they shall go unworn. And, eventually, you may apply a rule about length of time unworn and donate them without even giving them a fair shake!

If you've got items that still fit and that you still adore languishing unworn, I recommend moving them to the front of your closet, the top of the heap, or even to a wardrobe staging area where they're in plain sight. Getting them out in the open allows you to consider their possibilities, mull how to wear them, consider moving them into rotation.

And if, after a few weeks of this, they still can't seem to worm their way into daily wear OR if you find that instead of sparking your creativity they're simply stoking your guilt, consider your options. Do you want to make a project of this? Set aside some time to workshop a few outfits around these items? Or has this proven to you that they were bought in error and should be donated, handed down, or sold?

Either way, you've just forced a decision. And potentially saved a garment from an orphaned life.

How do you deal with the items in your closet that hide in corners and remain unworn? Does it help to drag them, kicking and screaming, into the heavy-rotation areas of your closet? Or do you just pass them over and eventually stop seeing them there as you reach for your faves?

*Assuming that you have a fairly full closet and are not a minimalist. Some people own 20 total items! They can see IT ALL.

Image courtesy Apartment Therapy.

Sally McGraw is the author of Already Pretty, a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image. 

How to do scarves in summer

Posted by: Sally McGraw under Clothing, Women, Shopping Updated: August 8, 2012 - 2:06 PM

Here's the part where I reveal, once again, that I'm a relative newcomer to the world of fashion. I'm pretty sure that scarves were NOT considered to be appropriate summer accessories until about 10 years ago. I mean, aside from the occasional riding-in-a-convertible headscarf. Is that wrong? Have summer scarves been fashionable for ages and I just didn't know it?

Regardless, I love keeping my scarves in rotation year-round, but find them more challenging in hot, sticky weather. So I thought I'd share a few ways that I love to style my scarves during the summer.

Long and loose

I've used this photo in other examples because it was taken on a day that was so hot and humid that the camera lens kept fogging up. See the fog? Yeah. It was oppressive. The scarf was my effort to inject a bit more interest into an otherwise plain outfit. You'll note, though, that I've simply taken a long, lightweight scarf and draped it over my neck. No knots or ties when it's lens-fogging weather, thanks.

As a wrap

This is a very dramatic outfit, but you could certainly use a large rectangular scarf or pashmina as a wrap with more casual ensembles. I love this option for sleeveless or revealing dresses and tops. The looseness of the wrap allows for some ventilation while still providing coverage. A cooler option than even the most lightweight of cardigans.

As a belt

Scarves can make fantastic belt alternatives, especially if you'd like to add more pattern or movement to an outfit. I find that long, slender scarves make the best belts for my figure, but experiment with a few widths and styles to find an option that works well for you.

If scarf-as-belt doesn't float your boat, consider using a scarf as a backdrop for an actual belt. Knot the scarf in back and tuck the ends into the body of the tied scarf, or wind them around the belt. (It won't look totally clean from the back, but believe me, you won't get a ticket from the Fashion Police for this one.)

As an accent

If merely contemplating these suggestions has you breaking into a sweat yet you'd still love to utilize your scarves in summer, consider using them as accents. Slip one through the strap of a tank top, wind one around your wrist instead of a bracelet, tie one to the crown of a brimmed hat, knot one to your handbag strap, use one to adorn a ponytail or bun. There are loads of ways to utilize scarves that don't make the wearer feel all prickly-heat.

And these are just a few! I'd love to hear more suggestions. Do you wear scarves in summer? What's your favorite way to don this accessory when it's sweltering out?

Sally McGraw is the author of Already Pretty, a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image. 

The Outfit List Revised

Posted by: Sally McGraw under Clothing, Women, Shopping Updated: July 6, 2012 - 10:01 AM

Wow. It's been more than two years since I first posted about my trusty outfit list. Much has stayed the same over time. I still spend a big chunk of time - three or four hours - every couple of months going through my closet and assembling outfits. Shoes, tights, bottom, top, and some larger accessories if I can think of them at the time. And I still feel that this practice helps me to utilize, appreciate, and be more creative with the contents of my wardrobe. I've started spending some time with my visual style journal and Pinterest account, adding visually inspired outfits to my list. It's always a rejuvenating and enjoyable exercise.

But a few things have changed. I've upgraded to digital, as you can see from the screenshot above. For ages I refused to transfer my lists to electronic documents because I loved being able to bring my little notepad over to the closet with me and jot down ideas as they were sparked by viewing my clothes in person. But now that I've made the change, I can't imagine ever going back because:

  • I've now got one document for each season. When I see a photo of a great winter outfit in the middle of July, I can commit it to the winter list immediately.
  • I never wore every outfit I dreamed up, and some of those unused outfits were good ones. But since I did my longhand lists seasonally, there was no easy way to transfer summer to fall, or stash a summer idea until next year. With the four seasonal lists, ideas can stick around.
  • I can use the "find" function in Word to search for specific items. If I want to wear an outfit with pants, I can quickly locate all instances of "pants" in the current season's list. (This is the biggie.)
  • Everything is SO MUCH NEATER. No more scratching out worn outfits, no more copying pages over once they'd become illegibly marred with scribbles. I can read everything. Woot!

I imagine that someday I may attempt to digitize my entire closet. (Go Chic or Go Home allows folks to do just that.) But for now, I'm happy with this middle ground. I like that this version of outfit listing forces me to think about what I have, hone my mental inventory. It helps me when I shop. I nearly always know the answer to this all-important clothing shopping question: Do I love this because it’s perfectly “me” or because it’s incredibly familiar? I know what I own and wear, so I know what would constitute a wardrobe duplicate.

Do you have any similar style journaling tools? What are they? How did you start using them? Do you think an outfit list like mine would help you feel more organized and stylish? Or do you prefer to improvise, and just wear what calls to you each day?

Sally McGraw is the author of Already Pretty, a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image. 

Making Sense of "Must-have" Lists

Posted by: Sally McGraw under Clothing, Women, Shopping Updated: June 22, 2012 - 2:49 PM

A reader e-mailed me this question:

I’d like to hear more about how to use “the must have lists” of fashion as concepts instead of edicts. For example, I don’t wear black or white, so the LBD and the ubiquitous white shirt are never going to be in my closet.

Nearly every style guide includes a list of wardrobe staples, items that every fashionable woman simply MUST own. These garments and accessories are generally conservative, classic, and a bit dull … yet they are meant to form the foundation of every modern woman’s well-rounded wardrobe.

In my experience, these must-have lists are seldom helpful in generating productive shopping lists. Sure, they’re great jumping-off points if you’ve just graduated from college and have no idea how to transition from ripped jeans to business casual. But even then, most of those lists do not address the following issues:

  • Pieces like button-down shirts and pencil skirts do not work for all body shapes
  • In this day and age, buying a quality suit isn’t always a wise investment
  • Some of us just don’t LIKE pearls, dammit

There is no one-list-fits-all set of classic items that will suit every possible body type, budget, and lifestyle. Plus, so many must-have lists overlook bodily diversity. They offer up items that flatter only a small segment of the womanly population, and tell the rest of us to just keep looking until we find a trench coats that don’t make us feel like walking sacks of potatoes. And besides all that, few women could purchase a list of classic, must-have items and feel complete. These items may encompass a fashion icon’s ideal style, but they seldom reflect the wants and needs of us regular gals.

I am happy to say, "Forget the sanctioned must-haves! Choose your own wardrobe workhorses!" But since this lovely reader is hoping to take something useful from these lists, here's what I'd recommend:

Analyze problematic items

If you don't wear black and an LBD is never going to worm its way into your closet, think about what that dress represents in the context of a must-have list. It's not the blackness so much as the versatility, classic styling, and subtle sexiness. Those characteristics can be found in a red dress, a navy dress, just about any dress that will work as a pivotal piece in your own wardrobe.

If an item on a wardrobe essentials list clashes with your own style, analyze that item and attempt to glean its essential traits.

Make substitutions

The next logical step is to swap in similar items. As mentioned in the example above, the LBD can be any color that suits you. If you're told to buy diamond studs, feel free to go for CZ, Moissanite, or even a colored gem like amethyst or garnet. Black pumps are certainly classic, but if you can't do heels go for a simple, versatile black flat.

If an item on a wardrobe essentials list just won't work for you, swap in something similar that will.

Consider the classics

Very few lists of wardrobe must-haves will include polka-dot leggings, tiaras, or chartreuse skirts. Why? Because these lists are assembled from classic, time-tested, versatile pieces. Now, some more recent iterations will throw statement necklaces, skinny jeans, and other fairly recent favorites onto the fire, but the general idea is still to collect a bunch of items that work fairly well across time, stylistic preferences, and body types. Nearly all lists fail to actually DO that, but they try. And knowing a bit about what is considered "classic" can help shape your idea of style and fashion. Even if there isn't a single item on Tim Gunn's list that calls to you, knowing what he deems classic, time-tested, and versatile is good knowledge to bank.

How do you feel about must-have lists? Are they bunk? Somewhat helpful? Essential to a complete understanding of the fashion world? What advice would you give this reader about using these lists without feeling bound by them?

Image courtesy Banana Republic

Sally McGraw is the author of Already Pretty, a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image. 

Dressing to Honor Your Body

Posted by: Sally McGraw under Clothing, Women, Shopping Updated: June 11, 2012 - 2:07 PM

There are so many ways to honor your physical form. Practicing yoga, enjoying your sexuality, eating mindfully and with great relish, honing your skills as an athlete, absorbing a wonderful massage. And, of course, voicing gratitude aloud or in writing is a fantastic way to show your body love and admiration.

But an often-overlooked way to pay tribute to your body is to dress it in a way that makes you feel amazing, strong, gorgeous, and unique. Or all of the above! As I've said many times, we must all dress on a daily basis, and doing so can feel mundane and even oppressive at times. But by viewing dressing as an act of praise, it becomes an easy, near-constant celebration of the body. By dressing to our strengths and favorite aspects, we do our bodies a small but powerful honor. By transforming the act of dressing into an act of love, we recapture and even expand upon that power.

The way you choose to honor your body through dressing will be totally unique. This concept doesn't rely on traditional ideas of figure flattery or femme archetypes, doesn't mean spike heels and red lips. Not to everyone. Dressing to honor your body can mean slipping on a silky caftan that makes you feel utterly goddess-like. It can mean wearing your favorite red bra under your sweatshirt as a fun little secret. It can mean taking a day off from stiff suits and constricting hose and relaxing into your favorite old jeans. It can mean wearing a favorite frock to work or class. It can mean making each outfit a riot of color. Whatever clothing makes you feel connected to and loving toward your body will do the trick.

The idea of the body as a temple has been around for ages, but too often the sentiment stops there. What is a temple for? Acts of praise and honor and reverence. If your body is a temple, consider honoring it. And if you're looking for a new way to do that, consider dressing in a way that helps you to feel like your best self.

Images via Wardobe Oxygen (left) and Eek! (right), two of my longtime favorite bloggers who, I believe, dress to honor their bodies.

Sally McGraw is the author of Already Pretty, a daily blog about the intersection of style and body image. 

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