My students and I wearing our best smiles!

I have mentioned here on this blog that previously I worked in the field of education and social services. What I haven’t mentioned is that the students I worked with for years came to recognize a pattern in the way I dressed and had an interesting nickname for me. Let me first defend myself by stating the following: at the time I was working fourteen-hour days. Every day of the week.

So many hours I worked, that the Oprah Winfrey Show took notice and called to ask if I’d like to have my after-school literacy program featured on her show. “I’m busy,” I told her people. That’s a true story. Until the organization I worked for provided a gentle reminder: You are never too busy for Oprah. Hey, you live and you learn. Off to Oprah’s we went.

While nobody loves shopping and fashion more than I, you can imagine that putting together a stylish outfit was the last thing on my mind each day. Everything in my closet was white, black, or khaki – and it was all cotton. Not because I just love all that is common or because I’m drawn to monochromatic apparel, but because it made my life very easy. And up went my hair, into a bun. Every day. So bland, but so easy. 

One day, while chatting with my students after program in my office, the topic of clothes popped up. This is when I learned that I dressed “like a nun”. “Or like Olive Oyl!” one of my students chirped (it just seemed like the right thing to do: tying my hair up in a bun each day!). I admit, my style has always leaned towards modest, but really, a nun?

Like Einstein, I made the decision to fill my closet with simple choices so that there really was no choice: neutral colors that made getting dressed fast, but hardly fashionable. So it seems only natural that all these years later, as some inner force seeks to bring balance to my wardrobe, I seek out texture and color. Feathers, sequins, and lace? Sign me up. Tulle, chiffon, and silk? Absolutely. Pops of color? Check. Interesting and bold jewelry pieces? Yes, please. 

I had to laugh when ten years into my career, I noticed a photograph of me wearing the same outfit (that came to be my uniform of sorts) that I had worn when I was starting out ten years earlier: a white blouse and khaki pants. There I was, a walking ode to monotony. 

Jenna White, a Forest Park resident and local shopper, believes, “It’s a great time for fashion right now.” I would have to agree. As I replenish my wardrobe, it’s great to know that there are so many fabulous options right here in Oak Park and Forest Park. Muse, Chameleon, and Nora’s Shoe Shop are just three of my favorites in Oak Park. I’ll always find something fun at Afkara Shoes and M. Santana boutique in Forest Park. These shops have amazing selections and the prices are often less than what you’ll find at the malls.

There are also earth-friendly options, like the Economy Shop, 2nd Chance Shop, and Fashions Anew (183 S. Oak Park Ave.) in Oak Park, a consignment shop that offers new and gently used brand name items. I found a fun sequined tank here and a black, pleated Elie Tahari skirt that is perfect for the holiday celebrations on the horizon. Great items at a great price. 

As always, I encourage you to shop at our independent neighborhood retailers for all of your fashion and gift needs. I will continue to look for fashion inspiration while out and about from women and men like you! As I shed my very neutral fashion cocoon, I look forward to more shopping days ahead, and more savings to be had!

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