I love black even when it's hot outside, so when I spy hot-weather classics like good ol' Jack Rogers clad in my favorite non-color, I'm all over it. Here's what I took with me on my recent trip to Florida... thanks to those Jacks, a pretty white skirt from Island Company (plus its necessary accompanying mini steamer, ha!) and a few other brands long-trusted by Floridians, I managed to stay comfy despite temperatures pushing the triple digits. Hope these trusty items inspire your sunny day suitcase, too!

1. for embracing an island classic... Jack Rogers Navajo sandals, 110.00, jackrogers.com
2. for sunny days... Costa Wingman sunglasses, more about those here
3. for beachy waves... evo Salty Dog salt spray, 17.50, salons and amazon 
4. for poolside... Maridadi Trading tie-dye scarf/sarong, 120.00, inquire info@maridaditrading.com 
5. for dining al fresco... Island Company Mar-a-Lago skirt, 155.00, islandcompany.com 
6. for dodging the burn... Island Company Islander sunscreen, islandcompany.com  
7. for poolside and airplane reading... Graphic Image iPad case, 145.00,  horchow.com
8. for thanking my host... Terrapin Stationers note card, 18.00, terrapinstationers.com 
9. for that little something extra... BaubleBar Boho drop earrings, 38.00, nordstrom.com
10. for laying out on the sand... Fresco Towels Aztec beach towel, 149.00, burkedecor.com

1. At Chef Ford Fry's Attack of the Killer Tomato festival this past weekend, that ripe, red summer fruit was the star of the show, cast in countless cocktails and dishes courtesy of the South's best chefs, restaurants and bartenders. One of our favorite bites was Canoe's hush puppy creation, which was served with a plump, juicy Doux South Drunken Tomato on the side. We popped them like candy and let 'em burst in our mouths (which sounds kinda dirty, now that I say that) - they were just what I wanted on such a hot, muggy day. I can see these being a great pantry staple and an easy addition to  bloody marys. 

2. Paris on Ponce is the kind of place you come from far and wide to visit. It's chock full of quirky, well-edited booths of antiques and off-the-beaten-path boons. Last weekend was their Bastille Day party which was a great excuse to wander around the seemingly infinite outpost. When you visit (because you should!) don't miss the back room - stocked with piles of furniture, headboards, old doors and other bits ready to plunder - or the red velvet-drenched Moulin Rouge-esque Le Maison Rouge room, a très racy sight to behold in itself. 

3. My friend Christopher has been telling me for months to visit Chef Guy Wong's Old Fourth Ward ramen joint Miso Izakaya. I finally made it there on Friday night and all I could think the whole time was "...how did it take me this long?" I ate the Dan Dan Ramen, which was spicy and oozy in all the right ways, and learned all about shochu, which I would describe as a boozier, more liquor-y sake. Wide-eyed at this entire genre of alcohol I prior had no idea even existed, I kept pestering the bartender to tell me more about it. Finally, he laughed and said "Shochu is like the internet. There is no end." 

Ed note: many prayers for the victims of Malaysia Air Flight 17, such an unspeakable tragedy. 

I know, I know, it isn't easy to "think Fall" when temps are tipping the 90's, but as we all know, if you wait until September to start shopping for cool weather, all the good stuff will already be snatched up. My first job was as a sales girl at Nordstrom, so I had it drilled into me early-on the big event that the company's annual Anniversary Sale really is. Unlike most sales this time of year, which feature the picked-over dredges of the season prior, the Anniversary Sale launches brand new, exclusive fall and pre-fall items from name designers at steep discounts. It's urgent, too - on August 3, all prices go back up to full retail, so you only get a short window to shop this stuff at discount. That means it's much $marter to plan ahead, y'all feel me? I've scored big in past years! Here's what I'm eyeing right now. Be sure to scroll through the slider at the footer and check out Pinterest and the Goods page for even more good stuff. 

1. B.P. striped sweater with elbow patch 24.90, after sale 38.00 and Treasure & Bond quilted leather moto jacket 218.90, after sale 328.00  2. Molton Brown Black Pepper body wash duo 39.00, after sale 60.00 3. Alexis Bittar long pendant necklace 149.90 after sale, 229.00  4. Jo Malone Blackberry & Bay collection 88.00 after sale 110.00 5. Steve Madden knee-high leather boot 133.90, after sale 199.95. 

Costa Wingman sunglasses, right at home on the shore of Palm Beach, Florida, where I just got back from vacationing. I'm pretty sure it's a mandate written into state law that no Floridian - snowbird, sportsman or otherwise - should be on the water sans-Costa. Their necessity is about the only thing I can think of that both Northern and Southern Floridians (which we all know are two extremely different groups of folks) agree on. Bonus points: the proliferation of colored, mirrored lenses and aviators having a major fashion moment. Oh, and they really protect your eyes, too. 

Laurann Claridge.

Claridge + King is one of those lines I came across years ago (I think in a very early issue of Lonny!), fell in love with, and stayed in love with. Girls after my own heart, Houston-based Laurann Claridge and her Nashville-livin' sis Lizbeth King were inspired by men's closets but wanted something that fit them a little better, a little sexier - while still holding onto the elegance and cool of boyfriend shirt theft. Have you ever walked around in a man's way-too-big crisp oxford? If you don't feel sexy in that, I think you may need to have your pulse checked.

The sisters execute every design with an enduring sense of style in mind, striving to conjure up thoughtful clothing, attention paid to every detail. I think the reason their items last in my wardrobe after year is because C+K chooses to completely eschew fads. They're shooting for something quieter that still works hard in your wardrobe (without being drab or matronly). Given the heavy mileage of my shirts, I'd say they've succeeded. I've got a massive weekend ahead full of house guests, high school friends, big dinners and a gun dog named Quincy - I'm relying heavily on one of their shirt dresses to get me through it looking halfway composed. Let us pray.

5 Questions for...
Laurann Claridge, Claridge + King
Dinner with anyone, dead or alive?
Let’s make it a dinner party, shall we? We should invite a wildly varied bunch of people–all never shy about sharing their opinions! How about … Charles James, Diana Vreeland, Julia Child, Emily Post, Gertrude Stein, Teresa Caputo (the TLC medium), Oscar Wilde, Etta James and of course, my husband William Zeitz.

One album that meant something to you as a teenager.
The Best of Earth, Wind and Fire (circa 1978), their dance-able classics were the anthem of my youth. I still can’t hear “Got to Get You into My Life”, “September”, or “Boogie Wonderland” without moving my body or singing out loud—impossible.

If you could only eat one thing forever, it would be...
Carbohydrates. No doubt I’d put on the pounds, but I’d have so much fun eating my way through thin crust, coal-fired margarita pizzas, pasta Bolognese, and fleur de sel laced bittersweet chocolate chunk cookies.

Tell us about those shirtdresses!
Well, well, well as you well know, it all started with our boyfriend style, His is Hers® Original Shirt. Then our customers clamored for a fitted style shirt—hence the Great White Shirt and the Ivy styles were born. Shirt dressing was the third part of our design evolution. We wanted pieces that could multi-task as a long shirt–slash–tunic, pieces we could wear on their own or layer with our long tanks, favorite jackets, coats, and accessories. The fun part is to see the design directions we can take each of them. Every season we add a few more to the mix.

Is everything really bigger in Texas?
Yes, thank goodness! People in Texas are bold and beautiful. Hospitable and kind, and they live life to the very fullest, opening themselves up to both new experiences and new friends. I love living in the South, particularly here in the mighty state of Texas.

True & Co. bra, The Laundress wash basin, delicate wash, delicate spray, and stain bar.

Mornin'! Remember this post and this bra? Go look, I'll wait. 

In it I talked about lingerie. At length. And got some brow-raising reader email after, let me tell you. If you need a refresher, think of True & Co. like the Warby Parker of bras. You have a try-on box sent to you to fit in the privacy of your own home, then you keep what you want and send back what you don't. Since becoming acquainted with them, have racked up a nice collection of delicates... ones that I obvs can't just throw in the washing machine with my beach towels (the horror)!

The Laundress has long been setting the bar for gold-standard home care. J.Crew even caught on awhile back and teamed up with them for a specially-scented cashmere wash. The pretty packaging and insanely fresh scents are enough to sell you, but this stuff isn't just fancy fluff. It actually works, and works well. I thought it would be a nice follow-up post to grab some tips on caring for nice underthings from the brand.

So, what defines a delicate? Its not just your bras and undies - pretty much anything that's a silk, synthetic, or blend counts as an item deserving of TLC. That also means stuff with an embellishment, hardware, lace or fine mesh, and of course anything labeled "hand wash only" or "dry clean". 

I keep my dry cleaner pretty busy, (Stephen at Press Atlanta for you locals, they even pick up! Tell them I sent ya!) but some items I keep home and tend to myself:

Prepping a Delicate Bath:
1. In my little Laundress wash basin, I treat any stains with the wash and stain bar and then prep a delicate bath. 
2. The Laundress recommends filling the basin with tepid water and adding 2 capfuls of Delicate Wash - don't let the small bottle trick you, this stuff is highly concentrated. 
3. Like colors only!
4. Submerge the item. This is something I have to remind myself of, not to rinse everything to death. Their words: "gently agitate" your items so they are evenly soaped and wet.
5. You can soak items for up to 30 minutes.
6. I usually see a little dye in the water, it's normal! You won't notice any loss, don't worry.
7. I rinse with tepid water until it no longer runs soapy and (this is key) I don't wring. Especially with bras, they will totally lose their shape! Just press the water out of your item. 
8. For odors, try adding 1/4 cup of white vinegar to your basin.
9. Lay flat to dry.

If you're a die-hard washing machine gal (like my Aunt) then you're not SOL. Just set your machine to the delicate cycle on cold, place your item inside out in a mesh bag, and add the appropriate amount of Delicate Wash according to your load. Just don't throw it in the dryer after! Lay that puppy flat!

I'm a big fan of steaming to knock out any remaining wrinkles and have been preaching the gospel of Jiffy hand steamers ever since my sister gave me one for Christmas a few years ago. That thing has saved me countless pennies on dry-cleaning and makes ironing a rarity. Seriously, can't recommend it enough. 

After that, you can freshen up with The Laundress' Delicate Spray between wearing and washing. It smells so good, some nights, I even spritz it on my pillows before I go to bed.

Howdy! How was y'all's Fourth of July? Hope you got to see some fireworks and some family - I sure did, and the break was welcome. Now that I'm back to it, I thought it would be fun to kick summer content back off with something I promised a few weeks ago - travel guides. I pondered how I wanted to go about these in my own way because a big long guide is just too exhaustive for a cozy little blog like The Love List. Who do I think I am, NatGeo? So I put on my explorer's hat during my recent trip to Florida and decided to let the "guide" idea evolve based on what I saw and did. My conclusion? Mini-guides just for eating, town-by-town, which I'm going to call "Hit Lists". Hit Lists aren't going to be the end-all be-all Eater-level heat map, but instead 3-5 places in each town and/or neighborhood that I've sat down to a good meal at and feel proud to share. I'm going to cut those in with another post series of Studio Tours, which I will start to publish later this month. So let's get on with it, starting with Winter Park, Florida.

If you've not yet been introduced to Winter Park, it's an affluent suburb of Orlando that most notably plays home to Rollins College. Nearby the school is the town's beating heart, Park Avenue, a stretch of walkable restaurants and retail on charming brick roads. The signs on the way to my best friend's parent's house that say "WELCOME TO WINTER PARK, PLEASE DRIVE WITH EXTREME CAUTION" absolutely kill me. He and I always kid that they might as well have a disclaimer afterward that read (...because we're rich here). Joking aside, it's a great little town that I've loved visiting ever since he and I became close in college. It's quaint, well-manicured, (and though some may disagree), I think in comparison with other established Florida towns, is low on the pretense scale. The eating is real good, too - whether you choose to stay within the confines of Winter Park or venture out a little into nearby College Park even (gulp) Orlando. Here were my favorite spots this trip:

The view from Hillstone's deck on a rainy evening.

Our first meal of the trip was at an old haunt with a new (old) friend - Shawn Reed of form function form (you may remember him from this post). Like lots of friends I've made via The Love List, often you've emailed, texted and talked so much that by the time you finally meet, you feel like you already know someone, and Shawn was no different. Hillstone, named for the restaurant group rather than what it actually is, is really just a re-branded Houston's... much like the ol' Palm Beach Grill or what have you. 

Normally I don't know that I'd mention a chain on one of these guides, but I've been going to this restaurant a long time and have visited a lot of other Houston's - I have to say it's by far the most beautiful one I've ever been to. Shawn, who was an architect in a past life, was admiring the beam work while I was enjoying the view. If you get a table by the window, you're treated to the sight of a glassy lake surrounded by gorgeous Florida vegetation. There's a dock to dine on and Adirondack chairs on the lawn if you'd like to wait for your table with a drink outside during nice weather. On this particular night, it was a little rainy, but during the sunset the three of us agreed that mixed with the light shower it was absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous out. I had what I always have at Houston's: spinach dip and a hamburger. 

The bottom line: "Hillstone" it may be, but by the menu... just another (consistently good) Houston's. Go for the grounds, the gorgeous space, and ask to be seated by the window for a killer view. Time it for sunset if you can.

Minty fresh.

The Colonial Town (Mill's 50) district of Orlando is one of those neighborhoods that writers like to call "up and coming". I prefer the term "hipster gentrification". The Strand is seated all perky, green and new, right on the corner. Everything on the menu is fresh, done well, and really inexpensive. The interior is a well-edited mix of historic and mid-century. It's a quick, affordable made-from-scratch lunch (I had a BLT) with a young crowd seated at every table. Their lunch menu is pretty straightforward, but the buttermilk chicken sandwich is by far the star of the show. Our sandwiches came with a healthy ladle of pesto quinoa (which is at the top of my list to knock off at home). 

The bottom line: They've got cold beer on tap, friendly service, and lots of style. Oh, and you can get out of there with your tummy full for under ten bucks at lunch.

The Gin and Tonic On Tap with pink peppercorns and Red Sorrel leaves.

One of my favorite college girlfriends, Maria, just got engaged, so we went out to dinner with her fiance Matt to catch up and celebrate. We decided sort of last-minute on Cask & Larder, which is arguably Winter Park's toughest reservation right now, but had no problem sliding in at the bar. We girls weren't that hungry, but I was in heaven and right at home when I heard Mofro floating in over the restaurant's sound system, and even happier when I saw a Jack Rudy G&T (from a keg!) on the drink menu. Brooks (inventor of Jack Rudy tonic, who I wrote about here) tells me that's due to the talent of top-notch bar man Eric Foster. I just wanted a snack so I ordered the Crispy Corn without giving it a lot of thought. Everyone at the table tried it and I think the general consensus was "holy shit!" Basically, it's corn on the cobb cut into quarters then drenched in Alabama white BBQ sauce and finished with something diabolical they call "hot sauce bread crumbs". It was amazing. Matt didn't talk much once food hit the table, he was really into his country ham and biscuit platter ;)

The bottom line: another gastronomical home run from the same chef couple who brought us The Ravenous Pig.

All the essentials at Black Bean Deli.

Sweet Sarah at Rifle Paper Company (saving that studio tour for its own post) tipped us off that designer Anna Rifle Bond designed some of the signage in this slick new Cuban joint, so we went to check it out. First of all, may I just say: best. chicken. empanada. ever. We washed one of those down with a Mexican Coke before lunch even hit the table. My $5.50 lunch special included a tasty giant half Cuban sandwich and a healthy side of traditional black beans and rice. It stands to note this place loves Sriracha - it's all over the walls here, encouraging you to drizzle your sammy with a little kick of the spicy stuff. I hear when the shortage was going on, people were BYO'ing the red rooster. 

The bottom line: beautiful of-the-moment space (lots of white subway tile), extremely inexpensive and well-executed food and plentiful Sriracha. Basically, trendy 2014 good eats in a capsule. 

The succulent selection at East End Market.

Audubon Park's East End Market touts itself as "Central Florida's Food and Culture Hub", and for good reason. It's a quaint but densely-packed neighborhood market that boasts nearly every kind of specialty food vendor you can dream up - coffee, fresh bread, organic produce and meats, funky kitchen supplies, books aplenty, pressed juices, and a forthcoming sushi bar. Artisanal as hell and independently-owned, natch. Chris purchased a beaker from Whisk and Bowl, the market's tiny but rich baker's shop. He thought it would double as a cute jigger for his bar. "That's borosilicate glass." The proprietor told him, "It can be heated up to 1500 degrees without damage."  After a little Googling, I found out borosilicate is what they make those trusty Pyrex glass bowls out of. Good to know.

There's a restaurant on-premises too, of course, all of it adding up to the sort of vibrant, high-integrity commercial hub we Millenials (who else hates being called that?) so love flocking to in droves. Do you care about the significance of your food? East End Market is for you. And even if you don't give a rat's ass about pasture-raised beef, you can still enjoy a quick coffee run (Chemex, naturally) or pick up a chic succulent for your favorite summer hostess. Be sure to check in for current events as well, since the 'mkt has always got them going on. 

The bottom line: if you like food, there's something for you here. If you love food, there's everything for you here.

Neon work by American artist Joseph Kosuth hangs at the Alfond Inn

Honorable mentions go to Rollins' newly-built Alfond Inn, which from 4-7 has a Grey Goose happy hour with $5.00 well drinks and $6.00 martinis, and to Prato, which I didn't get to visit this trip but have had many a great meal at in the past. If you're looking for a nice Italian dinner on Park Ave, I don't know any local that wouldn't recommend it. 

While I'm on vacation for July 4th, here's some summer reading to keep y'all busy! This is the stuff that inspires me on a daily basis, hope it does the same for you.

For your iPad...

Southern Living - the magazine via it's slick app is the perfect way to experience the infinite new life being breathed into it with every new issue. If you haven't read Southern Living in awhile or think of it as a magazine for your Mom, rethink it.
The Bitter Southerner - one great story from the South every week.
National Parks App by National Geographic Traveler - for camping trips!
Paper - the coolest doodling app e v e r.

For your beach chair...

Lucky Peach - brainchild of David Chang
The Great Discontent Magazine - just launched via Kickstarter!

For your news feed...

These days I'm mostly a twitter and Instagram kinda gal. I LOVE Instagram. I am an Instagram nerd! It's chock full of artful people who share thoughtful, beautiful images. Here are a few of my favorites - some are friends and some are strangers, but all of them have interesting, relevant feeds that are worth your follow. And of course, you can follow me @jessnellgraves if you want!

@maxsinsteden - the curated life of the most fabulous interior designer I know. See also: @thedocumentedcloud ;)
@chromeyellowatl - a favorite Atlanta shop
@jessikaholiday - owner of the Boston/Beacon Hill Holiday boutique, lots of charming interiors, flowers and architecture.
@jamestownrevival - cool band, great feed
@ginnybranch - Atlanta-based superstylist and curator of all things pretty, totally ethereal snaps.
@huckberry - adventures, camping, and good-looking rugged men via this rad online retailer.
@lacqueredlife - Charleston-based historic preservationist Olivia Brock
@dappervan - snaps from Palm Beach, East Hampton, and DC
@thiswildidea - Maddie the coon hound and her person Theron.
@amandacbrooks - snaps from fashion industry icon Amanda Brooks' new life across the pond. Lots of equestrian and sporting shots.
@yolandaedwards - Creative Director at Condé Nast Traveler. 'Nuff said.

What did I miss??

I am taking a short summer vacation for the next week or so. I'll be in Winter Park, Florida, where I'm writing from now, to visit old college friends until Tuesday. Then I head down to Palm Beach and Wellington for a good stretch to see my family for the Fourth of July. I've been "unplugged" (from my computer, at least) for about five days now and the lack of distraction has given me a minute to settle into some thoughts that have been lurking around in the back of my mind since my last birthday in March. 

I've talked before about how 28 is a weird age, but this week I'm really feeling the growing pains big time. When I first turned 28, it hit me in a way that I didn't anticipate. Like lots of twenty-something folks, I've procrastinated on processing the impending realities of turning 30 until, well... I actually turned 30. But the funny thing about turning 30 that only now occurs to me is that once you do it, it's already done. You have arrived at your destination. You're either where you want to be by that age, or you aren't. I realized that this is the time when I need to get real about preparing for where I want my life to be by 30. Whoa, dude. Heavy.

So when I first turned 28 in March, I kinda felt the weight of all that hit me at once, and I wasn't prepared for it. Felt like the wind got knocked out of me a little, so I took a few steps back. Then I talked to my friend Clay who is most of the time silly but sometimes very sage - he'd also just turned the same age and felt the same weight a few months before I did, but came to the conclusion that we're at a really excellent crossroad in life. He said he thinks you've got a little more wisdom and you're starting to enjoy the benefits of having some life experience under your belt, but at the same time you've still got a young body and mind and most of your life is still laid out ahead of you - "the world on a string", he said. And that made me feel better, because he's right.

But I was still thinking really hard about happiness. Its meaning by my personal definition. I asked myself where I see my life going, how I picture it when I turn 30. The prevailing image was me at a laptop, writing, producing magazine stories, and doing the brand development work that I love to do. Work that due to my day job, I wasn't able to really commit to. I wasn't an unhappy person, and I'm not now, but it terrified me that I saw my life veering a hard left from a road I'd spent the last nearly ten years paving. Also in that picture was someone to share my life with - past that, I'm not sure I want to impose some kind of deadline on myself for marriage or kids, as easy as it would be to make it "by age 30."

So, I got rid of the things that I didn't like and amped up the things that brought me joy. That meant quitting my job and focusing full-time on my freelance projects, for one. Right now I am in the midst of that transition, and it's been a little bumpy (that's to be expected) but hot damn, I feel so much better already. Good call #1. Chicken soup for the soul. I launched my new website last week.

Then, I got here, to Florida. My friends here are buying houses, having kids, getting married... and I just felt this big tug in my heart because I always imagined I would have those things by 28 and certainly 30. Now, I'm not so sure I will. I sure don't want to whine, because my life is damn good and I'm grateful for all the good work God does in my life, but I'll be real: I've got no partner in Atlanta and my family is hours away. So living here is a solo act, and it ain't an easy one. 

Every little, tiny thing has to be done by me, myself and I. I got a new lawn mower recently and putting that thing together damn near brought me to the brink of my own sanity. I bring the garbage to the curb every Sunday night. I pay the bills, fix the faucet, take the dog out, hang the pictures... all the little day-to-day work that lots of couples split, I, like lots of other single girls, do on my own. Compounded by the fact my parents aren't in town to lean on in any way, the weight of carrying my whole life on my own two shoulders can be crippling sometimes. Plain and simple, it ain't an easy racket. That said, being happy with your job and friends is extra important in these particular circumstances, because it's kinda all you've got.

Usually, I'm so busy with it all that I don't have a minute to sit still and let all that stuff sink in anyway, but this trip has given me that time. It isn't a sob story I'm weaving, it's just that all the babies and husbands and houses of the past few days really drove home my own solitude, and it kind of bummed me out. I want those things too, and at an earlier age it was easy to wave my hand and shrug like it would all come along eventually. But let me tell y'all, 28 makes you really start to feel anxious about when it will.

Maybe my problem is the fact that I'm looking at 30 like a deadline, but the fact of the matter is that's really what it is - its a hard date that says "yo, your life's a third over, you're by every definition an adult, and you better have your shit together by now." So what does having your shit together really even mean? And how do we pull it all together in a way that gives our life purpose and joy?

I'm sharing these thoughts with you because this is just where my head's at right now. I haven't arrived at any conclusions. Hell, who knows if I will? I guess we'll find out in two years when I turn 30 (which coincidentally will also be the tenth anniversary of this blog). 

What I do know is y'all have been kind enough to let me take a beat from our regular content and share thoughts like this periodically with you over the years. I'm lucky that you let me keep doing it, talking to me all the while like the old friends we are.

I feel like this is a pretty common funk to be in. What was the 28-30 stretch like for you? What goals have you set for that ETA if you're still in your early 20's? And if you're right there with me sitting in that awkward slush between 2-8 and the big 3-0, where's your head at right now?


Two year old MiH Bonn jeans, updated with a fresh monogram

Recently I quit my job which meant I needed to redo my home office. Furniture and decor purchases, framing and painting all worked into my budget, leaving very little leftover for new warm-weather clothes. Being kind of a uniform dresser, it didn't phase me too much as what I wear season-to-season varies mostly in terms of layers and accessories. All about the edit over here - that's a fancy way of saying what I really am: compulsive purger. This spring, I only invested in a pair of sandals, a new tote and evening bag, updated my sunglasses, added new running shoes and a denim jacket to my arsenal and called it a day. 

The nature of well-worn clothing is to well... wear. And wear out. My favorite Eqiupment shirt finally heaved its last haggard breath in March when a hole of epic proportions ripped in the armpit. Or so I thought. 

"So there's this guy I see around with the best fucking style and he is giving me a run for best-dressed in my building" my friend said to me, playfully exasperated. We were making our way through TriBeCa early one morning in hot pursuit of bagels. I tried to keep up while he spoke as briskly as we walked. "You know, he's kind of preppy in the way you can tell it's like, an evolved fratty - but cool. He has this old Barbour Bedale that he wears around which is like okay, fine - everyone's got a Barbour - but then there is this huge rip in the back of it, and he mended it with this really thick red thread that almost looks like a scribble. And I was just like 'well, fuck you' because it looks so good and so cool. Ugh!" He laughed. Bagels in hand, we kissed goodbye as I grabbed a cab, trying to conjure up the image of that badass wax cotton jacket in my head.

Nike Air Max 90's threaded with my middle name - one I used to get made fun of for in grade school and love now.

It's an image that stuck with me, because I found myself instructing the very patient seamstress to not just casually sew up my perceptibly trashed button-down. "Could you mend it with thicker red thread, maybe in sort of a scribbled crosshatch, like this?" I asked her, fully prepared with visual aid via a "mending and darning" board I'd dredged up from the deepest depths of Pinterest. Yeah, I'm a total copy cat. Guilty! They patiently acquiesced to my request and now I feel like I have a whole new (much cooler) shirt. 

My success with that endeavor sent me on a crazed alteration/monogram binge - I've had the slits in the sides of cheap Zara chiffon tops raised to nearly my waist, giving them a floatier, sexier silhouette for less than ten dollars each. I've had dresses I long ago abandoned taken in and up - one beautiful dress, a very special gift from the designer that I couldn't bear to part with (despite the fact that it hung on me like a potato sack) now fits me like I'm sure she meant it to. It even saved me the agony of shopping for a new dress the weekend I needed something double-duty for the Atlanta Steeplechase and Easter Sunday - a huge relief, because what is worse than dress shopping for a specific occasion on the clock? You never find what you're looking for when you're actually looking for it, amirite

MiH jeans, one of my favorite brands, made my heart flutter when sweet Betsy who handles their stateside P.R. and deserves lots of credit for it told me about their bespoke hand monogramming service (!) I swiftly packed up my favorite two year-old pair of MiH Bonns and sent them to London, where a talented artist designed the monogram to order, then stitched my initials subtly on the front placket of my jeans.

My journal, full of all the things I can't publish here.

My old running shoes had seen better days, so I took to Nike ID to personalize a pair of Air Max 90's. It was a nice way to embrace my middle name, Nell - which I caught so much hell for until I was about 14. Hello, boys of Kate Sullivan Elementary circa 1992. Nelvis the Pelvis is alive and well (S/O to my partner-in-crime Barky).

The cherry on top? Aside from it being friendlier on the ol' bank account, it's a hell of a lot nicer to Mother Earth. So maybe this year, when you do your seasonal wardrobe purge, try to re-think the things you think may have seen their day. If it's something you love, I bet there's a creative way to give it new life... and to give the new stuff you accrue some sentimental value. You never know, your favorite new shirt may actually be your old one.