Let’s get real. I did not follow through on my goal to get fit in time for summer. I completely abandoned the idea. As soon as I set out to promote the idea of “getting into shape”, it felt altogether wrong. I mean, getting and staying healthy isn’t wrong. But setting a deadline and trying to look a certain way just suddenly seemed misguided to me. And right around that time, I started to see and hear people advocating for the idea of accepting ourselves as we are and acknowledging that we are so much more than our size. So, I just couldn’t do it.
In the past I set a goal of getting down to a certain weight in time for summer, by the time I had to put on a swim suit. I felt like a needed a little push to be more active (a good thing) and eat healthier (a good thing) but ultimately like I needed to fit into an arbitrary aesthetic ideal (maybe not a good thing). And, as I get older, it seems, well almost cruel to keep holding myself to this standard.
Goal start: March 10, 2019, 137.1 lbs.
Goal end: May 27, 2019, 135.6 lbs.
By the time the above photo* was taken, on the kids’ last day of school, I was down another pound and today I’m at 133. And, you know what? Who cares?!
During the first few weeks of my fitness regimen, I worked out 2-4 times a week at the gym with lighter workouts on the other days. I didn’t do anything radical in terms of diet. I was more conscious of my choices, but continued to do my usual “just-eat-real-food” philosophy with maybe a little bit of “intuitive eating” thrown in. All along I was nursing a really old injury I always referred to as “tight IT bands from running”. I stretched them religiously and they didn’t get better. They almost seemed to get worse! Then I went to the Chiropractor and he admonished me for stretching what was overstretched and explained that I had a muscle weakness/imbalance. That was a turning point when I had to face the fact that I did not know what was best for me in terms of fitness. I sort of surrendered.
The next couple weeks I was in California and didn’t do much formal exercise. My pain pretty much went away and I resumed workouts, roughly 2 hard classes a week and a little walking. By the time school let out, I willingly gave up the gym and just did whatever. At some point I stopped worrying about planning workouts and recording them on my calendar. So I can’t really tell you what I’ve done this summer. I do know I started really running and it feels amazing. I recently had some suspicious chest pain and actually saw a cardiologist. After I learned that I my heart was 100% healthy I’ve been feeling so grateful for my health and ability to do pretty much anything. That’s what it’s really about, right?
Do I still want to lose weight? Kind of. Do I wish I had more toned legs? Totally. But this is me. It just is. And it’s good.
J. Crew Brown Sandals $48
I LOVE these sandals. I tried a bunch of similar options and these were the winners. I wear them all the time, with everything. I feel like Jackie O. on holiday.
Nike Running Shorts $20
I’ve wanted these forever and couldn’t seem to allow myself to buy them. Why? Now I have them, run in them and am finally living my best cool-girls-track-team life.
Old Navy White Tank Top $7
I love this white tank and wear it so much. When it’s in the laundry, I long for it. Seroiusly perfect basic.
Old Navy White Crewneck Sweater $12
I get cold in the summer (?) so I love having this… just in case. It’s a soft and comfy cotton and I’ve gotten a ton of compliments on it so I feel validated for choosing it.
Old Navy Black Denim Skirt $30
@jillgg made me do it. This is something I didn’t think I needed as a summer basic, but apparently I did! It’s stretchy, casual but an upgrade from shorts.
L.L. Bean Dress $119
I bought this for a recent wedding. You have no idea how long I looked for something wedding-y (but made me look hot, but not hotter than the bride, but also age appropriate and not too dressy…arg!) but I love this and I think I’ll wear more than the once. It’s also a great example of my current style shift I’m calling, “New England Matron”
I think I did pretty good in May. I shopped a lot but didn’t buy a lot. It’s good to be picky. I’m known for buying and regretting.
I don’t regret these new black pants at all. I love a good pair of black trousers. I thought these were going to be my go-to, but I never wore them. The cut just wasn’t right. I got this new pair at Old Navy (which has been wowing me lately) and they are just perfect: retro, slim, cropped and very comfy/stretchy.
This month I also got some much needed new running shoes, a basic black tee and a new spring/summer handbag.
Hi, and welcome to my secret world of obsession and indecision. I’ve been looking for a new handbag and although I think I know what I want, I decided to go through what I have to help me make a decision. Here’s what I have:
Black Banana Republic Top Handle Bag (similar): This is my go-to everyday bag. It has multiple pockets and zippered compartments, a top handle and a shoulder strap. It’s a bit heavy though and quite boxy/structured.
Black Liz Claiborne Shoulder Bag (similar): I love this bag. It’s made with a really great quality leather and has a relaxed shape. It used to be my number one bag but now I don’t use it much. It is a great bag…
Brown Madewell Transport Tote: I was thrilled to get this as a Christmas present a few years ago. I love the look of it, but it’s heavy and much too big for what I need to carry most days.
J. Crew Straw Tote (similar): This is my tried-and-true go-to summer bag. I choose it over the others most of the time. So good.
Multi-color Le SportSac Nylon Tote (similar): I don’t know when or why I bought this. I’ve seemingly had it forever. It is really good as a beach tote or if I’m going shopping. It’s lighter weight than the brown leather one and it’s a great choice if it’s rainy. I really like it, but it’s not very chic.
Black and Tan Element Backpack (similar): Why is this even included in my handbag collection? I mean who uses a kid’s school backpack anyway? But, I think it’s good. I actually bought it at Disney World. It’s pretty indispensable for traveling. It carries a lot comfortably. I took it to California last month and I was really glad I did.
David Bowie Ziggy Stardust Canvas Tote: This bag sort of checks off all the boxes. The perfect size. Kind of goes with everything. Not pretentious. It’s the sort of bag Rita would have as her handbag. It was $15 at Target. It’s cool but not very grown-up.
Black Canvas Barney’s COOP Tote: This was the bag I got when I bought a pair of J Brand jeans at the COOP. It was free but I liked it so much I kept it. I often use it to carry my laptop (in neoprene sleeve that fits in the tote perfectly.)
Hawaiian Print Tote: I got this on my honeymoon in Kauai so it’s pretty sentimental. It’s funky and on the small size but good for summer and goes with black better than my straw tote.
Brown Lucky Crossbody Bag: I bought this a couple years ago because I became convinced I needed a bag this color and shape. It’s nice but very stiff and the flap closure kind of annoys me. Also, it’s a little too small for an everyday bag.
Black Banana Republic Crossbody Bag (similar): I like the look of this bag. I like that it’s black and has the gold chain. It’s quite small and not practical for everyday.
Light Blue Coach Crossbody Bag (similar): So cute but so small. I almost never use it and wonder what I was thinking when I bought it. However, I did take it on my last trip and it worked out quite well.
Black J. Crew Clutch (similar): One has to have at least one clutch, so I have this.
I could choose to keep one or the other of my two black bags (or find one that I love.)
The Madewell transport and straw tote are both keepers…
…as are the nylon tote and backpack. Very functional.
I could probably do with just one cute, casual canvas tote.
I really only need maybe two crossbody bags – one black and one not black (and the brown one isn’t really working for me.)
I really want a Spring/Summer bag that is leather, light colored, medium sized, that’s not too structured and makes me feel like a grown up.
I’m considering one of these:
I think my favorite might be the Madewell medium tote (in “Linen”).
Okay Madewell, you win. I was doing really well on not going over budget and then the weather got warm and life got stressful and Leigh went to Madewell. I don’t regret it. I pick out 4 items I absolutely LOVE and had been wanting for a long time. Here’s what I added in April:
Packing for a trip is a perfect way to obsess endlessly about the exact right clothes I’ll need. My OCD kicks in as I ponder what to include so that every item coordinates with every other item and I’ll have everything I’ll want, never be too hot or too cold and have it all fit in a small roller board that will fit in an overhead compartment.
I spent a week in Santa Cruz, California (and the Bay area and the Monterey Bay) back at the beginning of April. Having lived in Santa Cruz for 10 years, I knew there was a good chance it would be cool and possibly a little rainy but I was hoping for the best. I even packed a swim suit even though no one goes in the ocean in April.
I finally settled on 1 dress, 3 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of jean shorts, 4 tee shirts, 4 long sleeve tops, a light jacket, 1 pair of clogs, 1 pair of sandals, 2 pairs of sneakers. Here are some of my try on shots:
I had planned to take my Madewell transport tote but switched it out at the last minute for a plain black backpack which I thought was really smart and much more comfortable for travel. I also swapped my army jacket for my a trench coat but ended up wishing I had brought my Uniqlo puffer. I also wished I’d brought a hoodie like my one from Old Navy. I ended up buying Santa Cruz Skateboards sweatshirts for my kids and wore one almost the whole time. I didn’t wear the shorts, the dress or the bikini I brought. Have you figured out that northern California can be cold? It did finally warm up and it was beautiful. I ate a lot of tacos, saw lots of my west coast family and friends and had a really great time.
I love to organize. I especially love to organize my clothes. I’ve done so many closet clean outs. I would get rid of things that didn’t fit or I never wore. But then three years ago I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. #konmari #sparkjoy I went through all my clothes, category by category and asked myself if they “sparked joy”. I was able to let go of items that didn’t spark joy even if they were gifts or expensive, or “might come back in style one day”. The whole process was so good! And I followed her advice about folding and arranging things so I could see it all easily. I stopped packing away off season items. All of it worked for me and I have kept it up over the years since.
This is my small walk-in closet. Items are arranged left to right: dresses, skirts, trousers/chinos, jackets, sweatshirts, long sleeve tees, button downs, tees, tank tops. I hang a lot of my clothes. Then, items go left to right: long to short, dark to light, heavy to thin… And I can see all of it at once.
I fold my sweaters and place them on a top shelf, organized by color. Thinner ones tend to go on top but then I get lazy so it’s favorites on top.
In my top dresser drawer are tights & socks, then bras and underwear.
Next is an extra deep drawer with my obsessively curated collection of jeans, followed by shorts.
Drawer three is: pjs tops, pj bottoms, pj shorts, swim suits and finally (summer) scarves.
The bottom drawer is all workout clothes: jackets/long sleeve tops, tanks and sports bras, shorts and capris, and then long leggings. There are some towels tucked in the back…
I have about a dozen bags hung up, including totes, a backpack, handbags and crossbody bags. Then I have my collection of belts and necklaces. I can’t say I ever really wear any of them but I’ve narrowed them down to what I think are essential. I also have a small selection of jewelry on top of my dresser along with some sunglasses and perfumes.
Shoes! I love to see all my shoes, and even though they get a little dusty, I like them lined up on shelves, not in boxes or bins. I made these shelves myself — just plain boards like the one up top for my sweaters. They are long enough to fit 11 pairs across, so my total shoe collection is 33 pairs…not including athletic shoes, or rain & snow boots which are kept elsewhere, along with outerwear, hats, gloves and scarves.
I love these new jeans. I was at Nordstrom Rack with a friend and she said, “Here, try these on.” I did and they were perfect. It was supernatural. Also, they were the same exact jeans I had put on my wish list after a few bloggers had recommended them. I did not need another pair of jeans but I don’t know how I ever lived before I got these.
I fell in love with the leopard shoes from J. Crew after seeing them on Natalie Borton. I’ve gotten so many complements on them and they are so unique. This was definitely a solid addition.
Lastly, I added these white sneaks which were probably a mistake. I haven’t worn them much. I’m starting to think that my feet are getting smaller. I’ve always been an 8.5 but think I may be an 8 now. Weird. I think I might have to give them to my daughter who is the same size as me (She’s 10 years old!) but still growing.
This is an account of how my sense of style came to be. When I wonder why I’m so preoccupied with clothing, I only have to look back on my childhood and it’s pretty clear I how I grew up to be obsessed.
Vintage kilt and saddle shoes
Alice in Wonderland look.
Pretty epic pair of overalls.
When I was very small, my mother dressed me, as I like to joke, “like a character in a Truffaut film.” She scoured yard sales and the like for simple, understated items she considered cool. I didn’t think much about it at the time. I just wore whatever she picked. I do have one early memory where I insisted on picking out my own outfit and I’m pretty sure it was a checked top and stripped pants and she said it did not look good, that I couldn’t wear two patterns at once. We got into a heated debate about it which ended with her saying, “Well it doesn’t matter what you think you look like, it’s what others think because they’re looking at you!” Other than that, my early childhood was a blissful time filled with shopping together, handmade dresses from Marimekko fabric and the seasonal tradition of taking clothes out of the attic and making me try every single thing on to see if it still fit.
When I was seven, my mom left my dad and went to California. My brother and I stayed in DC with my dad. My stepmother arrived soon after and a new chapter in my fashion life began. Now all my clothes came from Sears and the only criteria for them was they were 1) inexpensive and 2) covered my body. This time from age eight to about 14—those very critical years for a girl—were very bleak but ultimately formative.
Hardy Boys t-shirt.
Dead shirt and jeans.
Strapless crop top and cut offs.
Every time I asked my dad for clothes he’d say, “Let’s look at what you have.” I’d have to open my dresser, take out all my jeans and explain why they weren’t perfectly good or try them on.” If it was determined I needed new ones, we’d walk four blocks to Sears and I got to pick out a pair of Toughskins or something similar. It was horrible. And that was the good part. A lot of my clothes were hand me downs from my older brother. My sneakers were Sears brand and everyone knew it. My shoes had 4 stripes on them, not 3 and definitely not a swoosh. I did everything I could to talk my dad into cooler shoes. He said, “We’ll see” which obviously meant “Probably not, or no, never.” But when my sneakers finally got holes in them, (I might have dragged my feet while bike riding), he relented and I got my Nikes.
My stepmother made an effort to intervene in the clothing department, insisting to my father that “Girls need pretty things.” She was an accomplished seamstress and would occasionally let me pick out patterns and fabric and then she would sew things for me. One item that I remember distinctly was a full length wrap skirt made out of baby blue satin. One Christmas she bought me a book of Japanese fashion and I fell in love with Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. I know, right?
It wasn’t until I had my first jobs, at Subway, then Baskin-Robbins, that I had the money and the power to buy what I wanted. I feel like I bought a pair of Jordache jeans with my own money. I distinctly remember trying them on and thinking I looked amazing. I don’t have any photos of me in them so maybe I just imagined it. I didn’t have much to spend in high school so I mostly shopped at thrift stores. Or wore my friend’s clothes. In these days my peers were wearing Polo and Izod shirts, Tretorns and Bass shoes. Some of them were Goth, but mostly just very plain and somewhat anti-fashion. We dubbed our style “the no-style style.”
College and the years after are one long, painful string of bad choices. With clothing, I mean. Okay, with everything, but mostly I bought many odd and unrelated items, from Ross or Marshall’s or maybe the Gap sales rack that I look back on and wonder, “What on earth was I thinking?”
Ever budget conscious, I shopped at H&M, Gap, Banana Republic and J.Crew either at their factory stores or if it was on sale. I found pieces I liked but nothing really went together, at least not the way I wanted. My style looked hodge-podge and cheap.
A french bulldog.
Argyle looks French, right?
In 2007, I got to fulfill a lifetime dream of visiting Paris. I always imagined how I’d look like a native and feel like a character in a Camus novel, or again, a Truffaut film. It didn’t really work out that way. Still struggling with what to wear and still on a budget.
After Paris came a long-awaited and very joyful pregnancy and birth of twins. From then on, there weren’t many photos taken of me. Just me taking thousands of pix of the kids. And really I didn’t think a lot about clothes. I just wanted to get back in shape and maybe have a full night’s sleep.
It was 2011 that I took my first mirror selfie. I had started looking at stuff online about putting together outfits. I followed J’s Everyday Style, Kendi Everyday and Unfancy to name a few.
In January of 2012 I started the blog “Women’s Work”, originally as a place to discuss the challenges of balancing work, childcare, etc. but it was really just a place to explore random thoughts and teach myself WordPress and blogging in addition to working as a Graphic Designer and being a mom of twins. Later I renamed it LeighFeather and committed to focusing on my three favorite things: Fitness, Fashion & Food, posting sporadically. And now it’s seven years later! I feel like I’m just starting to know my style and like what I wear. And it’s funny, I’ve probably known it all along. It’s simple and understated, sort of vintage/retro and a little masculine. It’s jeans and t-shirts and a good amount of black. And I feel good.
How on earth is it March 20th already? I remember thinking that it would be 6 weeks before the new years resolution crowds would disappear. That was over a month ago. I didn’t really notice when it happened but the Y is a lot less mobbed. By the way, I am loving my gym membership. And now that my husband is working out on Wednesdays while the kids take their running class it does seem worth it.
So far I’ve tried quite a few different workout classes: cycling, pilates, grit, step, body pump, body combat. The YMCA has an app and I check it a lot to help plan my workout and my day. If I don’t go to the gym, I will either do a walk/run or do a video on Popsugar fitness or a yoga series of my own creation or maybe a foam roller series.
How do I decide what to do on any given day? How do I motivate myself? Or keep from overdoing it and injuring myself? I really think the hardest thing about working out is getting started. And the thing that makes people stop is going out too hard and too fast. My motto is, “Start slow and tapper off!” Haha! The challenge is to just show up. The rule for me is, as soon as I’ve had my coffee (and usually after the kids are on the bus) I get dressed to workout.
I usually schedule my workouts. I put them in my calendar on my Macbook. I even color code them (purple). What I schedule for any given day depends on what classes are available that day, or if I have a client meeting and have to be more time efficient, and the weather. I’ll pick from options at the gym or at home, inside or outside. Sometimes I don’t get a workout in first thing and then it doesn’t happen all day. Sometimes I’ll do Just Dance with the kids or a Nerf battle—running around the house, ducking down, jumping up, and then picking up 1000 Nerf darts is a great cardio-strength workout! So, I plan out what I’m going to do on my calendar, then make any edits after the fact. That way I can see what I’ve done. It gives me a sense of accountability and accomplishment. If I can do three or four challenging days (and at least one rest day), that’s a great week. I try to have a good mix of strength training, cardio and stretching of some sort. But, I also try not to over-think it. I mean, sometimes you just have to get out of the house and move! Anything!
I used to always wear a Fitbit fitness tracker (the Zip, the Flex, the Alta, and then the Blaze) but now I wear an Apple Series 1 watch. It doesn’t sync with my Fitbit app, sadly, so sometimes I stick the Zip in my pocket. It’s fun to compete for steps with my daughter who has the new kids Fitbit, the Ace. Does the Apple Watch make me more motivated to move? I think a little bit. At first it was really novel, but over time you just sort of ignore it. Sometimes I turn on the workout mode and track my exercise but sometimes I don’t. I do love it though! I actually really want the new one, but I doubt I’ll splurge on that. I rarely ever look at or use the Apple activity app on my phone. I wish it was better! All that being said, you don’t need a fitness tracker or an app to create a fitness habit.
I weigh myself daily. For a while now I’ve had this Fitbit scale. It uses wifi to send data to the Fitbit app. Then I can see my progress, an average for the week, on the app. I can even scroll way back and see that my weight was higher this time last year and that is encouraging.
A note about weight, it’s a tricky thing. There are so many variables: food, hydration, muscle mass, even bone density. You can’t take it as the only measurement of fitness. I’ll also say that I don’t trust the smart scale’s body fat sensor at all. It seems very inaccurate, so I just sort of ignore it. The app also tells you your BMI, but I think most people will say that BMI is very misleading and not the best measurement, especially if you’re fairly athletic. Sometimes I use a tailor’s measuring tape and check my bust, waist and hip measurements (which I need to order clothes online anyway) but it’s a lot easier to step on the scale everyday. I guess it’s good to know your waist measurement as it’s a good way to know your overall health. They say your waist should be smaller than your hips and under 35 inches (for women). Of course you can always use the my-favorite-skinny-jeans-feel-so-loose measurement system!
I’ll sum up with these 10 tips:
“Start slow and taper off”
Make a workout schedule then just follow it the best you can
Vary your workouts
Get a workout buddy, make plans to meet at the gym or the rail trail
Workout first thing if you can
Drink lots of water
Find ways to sneak in exercise—park far from the store, take the stairs