Style

How I Found My Personal Style

Ashley Ford

In the summer of 1998, when I was a child desperate to be a teen…

I read this in a magazine: “Clothes are easy, but style is hard.” The person I went shopping with as a kid was my grandmother. It was our favorite activity, strolling through malls and department stores any given Saturday. Combing the sale racks with eager hands and sharp eyes. My mother didn’t have much disposable income, so one of the ways my grandmother helped her was by buying most of my clothes. Nobody had a closet like my grandmother’s. It overflowed with pantsuits, cardigans and furs. Almost every dress had a matching handbag and/or pair of shoes, and there was no shying away from animal print. My grandmother’s style was all her own, and if it was hard, she made it look easy.

She always hoped I would mimic her more, but I didn’t. Even then, I knew her look wasn’t my look. When I told her, she responded, “So, what is your look then?” Devoid of a clear answer, I said, “I’ll figure it out.” When I asked my grandmother how she’d found hers, she said, “I didn’t find a style really. I just wear what I like.” I thought must be nice, and changed the subject.

In high school, I wanted clothes from particular stores, no matter how well the clothing actually fit me. And unfortunately, no matter how much I wanted to look like a teenager on TV, my Midwestern hips actively revolted against the seams of their low-rise jeans. My junior year of college, I gave up on pants completely. My entire wardrobe became a series of dresses picked up on sale at Target, J.C. Penny or The Gap Outlet. I didn’t know how to dress a larger body. Besides, there didn’t seem to be many things to choose from in bigger sizes. I languished in oversized sweaters and sweatshirts, didn’t wear makeup, and just waited to be cute (and thin) again. I’d weighed around 200 pounds for several months before I began to feel heavy. I withdrew from my life. I saw friends less and less often. Who wants to go out when you know you won’t feel good when you get to wherever it is you’re going?

It’s strange how much clarity we can gain from a person’s words after they’re gone. When my grandmother died in January of 2015, I was heartbroken. I flew back to Indiana, drove to her house, and plucked a simple black sweater from her closet to wear to the funeral. I wanted to smell like her when I said goodbye. I also went into her bathroom and found a brighter shade of lipstick, the kind she always asked me to wear. Despite the sadness of the day, my mother, aunts and cousins all mentioned that I looked fantastic. I smiled and thanked them through tears. The odd thing was, I believed them. In that moment, I liked the way I looked more than I ever had before. In a striped grey dress, a black cardigan, and the brightest lipstick my mouth had ever worn, and on the saddest day of my life, I felt beautiful. I was devastated, but so very happy to be alive.

When I came back to New York, after the funeral, I kept thinking of my grandmother’s words — I just wear what I like — and suddenly, nothing had ever made more sense. I cleaned out my closet. There were many things I wore all the time, but didn’t actually like. I didn’t have much money to buy new clothes, so I went back to what I knew, combing sales racks with a sharp eye. I walked into stores with an open mind, tried on things in a variety of sizes, but still often left empty-handed. So, I tried something new. I finally went shopping online.

For years, I’d avoided events that would require me to dress up. To be honest, the phrases ‘Cocktail Attire’ or ‘Black Tie’ still make me quake in my boots. (I literally spent years thinking, ‘I hope nothing fancy happens.’) But Eloquii and Torrid offered me gold gowns that shimmered in the streetlights, floral sundresses, and all the fun celebratory clothing I couldn’t find in my size at most stores. ModCloth and ASOS Curve gave me fun quirky pieces that spoke to the more whimsical parts of my personality, like royal blue cropped sweaters and dresses bearing the faces of my favorite comic book characters. Universal Standard took all the simple and sleek designs I thought didn’t work for a body like mine, like shirt dresses, and showed me I still had so much to learn about what a quality well-built garment could really do for a bigger body.

Slowly, but surely, I built a wardrobe that for better or worse felt like me. I waited for sales, or saved my money and invested in pieces I stalked for months. I modeled my new clothes for my fiancé, and watched his face light up not just because I looked good, but because I looked happy. When I glanced in the mirror, my face brightened as well. Happy looked great on me.

Now I make sure I like everything in my closet. If not, it goes back on the rack, gets returned, or is promptly donated. When I find clothes that fit well, I feel more comfortable and confident and, it turns out, I feel better about the body I already have. I go out more, I smile more, and when someone looks at me now, I know they’re seeing the version of me I chose. Not the only version I had access to.

My grandmother gave me so much while she was alive, and most of it had nothing to do with clothes. Still, whenever I put on a bright lipstick, or a black cardigan, I think of her and how much she loved me. It reminds me to love myself, just as I am, and to dress as if that’s the case. I spent years of my life believing my best looks were behind me, but now I’m in the midst of a body revolution. My personal style will grow as I do. That magazine in 1998 lied. Clothes aren’t always easy. But style doesn’t always have to be hard.

Ashley Ford

P.S. Ashley’s week of outfits, and body confidence in a relationship.

(Photos courtesy of Ashley Ford.)

  1. Kathryn says...

    Not. Crying. Okay, totally crying. Such lovely writing…took me by the hand and walked me through years and moments — yours, and some of my own. Thank you ?

  2. Alice says...

    This brought me to tears. Such a beautiful article. Ashley, this was so comforting, your words are powerful. xx

  3. Anne says...

    “I wanted to smell like her when I said goodbye.” Chills. So powerful. Thank you for this beautiful essay.

  4. Jasmine Kemp says...

    A beautiful post, such love and it’s lovely when you can relate to a story. Your words sound so genuine! Thank you for sharing your experience! Really engaging writing!

  5. Kim says...

    Ashley, I loved this article and even though I am way behind in my blog reading, I think I read it at the perfect time. My grandmother’s funeral was yesterday, and she and I also shared a love of shopping together. I am wearing one of her sweaters today as I read this (in Indiana, actually). I loved what you wrote, but I think the picture of you and your grandmother is my favorite part.

  6. Kelly says...

    I can’t help but see the significance of this article through the lens of our current sociopolitical culture. As we move through this uprising and revolution, as women gain the power and respect they deserve, as we work to release and relearn patterns that no longer aid in our cultural subordination, as we seek to unearth the patriarchal values we have internalized, I believe we will ALL continue to uncover the miraculous ways we love ourselves. And this story, in its infinite vulnerability, is an example of one of those ways. Thank you so much for this beautiful tribute, Ashley. You are an incredible addition to the CoJ team! XO.

  7. Nicole says...

    so incredibly happy to see Ashley here. I love her writing and style and think she is a wonderful addition to the CoJ team!

  8. AnnieB says...

    My grandmother meant the world to me too – she made me feel loved and worthy too. Ashley, thank you for writing this poignant, beautiful reflection on your grandmother and what she taught/ gave you – seems like it connected to a deep place in lots of us and we’re grateful! And successfully combing through sale racks is def a special skill ;)
    Thanks for the resources, site ideas and exposure on dressing to feel like you’re best you — all of it was refreshing. Cheers to engagement too!

  9. Melissa says...

    Great article! Thank you! :-)

  10. Paula says...

    Beautiful and so inspiring <3

  11. KRA says...

    Loved this. And then the picture of you loving on your grandmother just made me cry. To be loved like this reminds us of how beautiful we are.

    • Clara says...

      *this* made me cry! Thank you, beautiful stranger <3

  12. Paige says...

    Such a beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing a part of your grandmother with us.

  13. Well this just made me cry. I’m 6′ 3″ and have weighed over 200 pounds for a good portion of my adult life. So I know how you feel. I wanted to look like a character out of One Tree Hill or something. I’m 30 now, and I feel like in the last three years I’m FINALLY figuring out what my style is. And it’s exactly what your grandma said: I wear things I like. I take my time shopping, and purge when I notice something that’s been sitting for a long time.

  14. This is so beautiful and so profound. Thank you for sharing – it’s stuck in my brain for good!

  15. Jessica says...

    So glad you’re on the Cup of Jo team now, Ashley! Your perspective and voice are so welcomed in this community!

  16. Rachel Oliphant says...

    Ashley — You are an amazing writer! It’s a joy to read your stuff. Thank you!

  17. Debbie says...

    I teared up! Beautiful essay.

  18. Stephanie says...

    Yay Ashley!

  19. Ariannah says...

    Beautiful essay!

  20. Jackie says...

    Really beautiful. So glad you joined the CoJ team! ❤️❤️❤️

  21. Sarah says...

    Gosh this made me miss my Grammy <\3

  22. Rebekah says...

    This is so beautiful. I feel like Grandmother’s see us clearly before we even see or find ourselves xx

  23. Talor says...

    Loved this piece. I’m so happy you’ve joined the CoJ family!

  24. Memories. I wore several of my pop-pop’s shirts after he died. I spent high school trying to dress like Janet Jackson (tight shirts, baggy pants), but I still gravitate towards striped shirts like he used to wear.

  25. I love this – and love your voice and perspective Ashley. Good advice for all.

  26. Sofia Johnson says...

    i love this so much!!!
    thank you :)

  27. Kate says...

    “…I think of her and how much she loved me. It reminds me to love myself, just as I am…” This line filled me with joy. I hope that my daughter feels this way about myself, my mother, and my mother in law some day!

  28. Sarah says...

    What a beautiful photo, Ashley!

  29. Nadia says...

    Found an eggcorn! The expression is “tide us over”, as in rising with the tide, not “tie”.

  30. KE says...

    What a great read! Ashley, you’re a fantastic storyteller. Loved this.

  31. KDH says...

    I never, ever comment on posts but just had to tell you how much this spoke to me. Your words and insight are beautiful. Thank you.

  32. M says...

    I love your style, both with words and clothing <3

  33. Anna says...

    Oh, what a nice Story! I do agree with your grandmother but I would like to add a Little Nuance: Style changes over the years. As a Young Teenager, I had none, but Soon I got. inspired by several tv Series and mtv. when I started to work, I just wanted to Look more Classy and bought skirts and Shirts (and sometimes I Mixed Both Styles Up but some of my older clothes just had to say good Bye!). And now that I‘m a mother, everything is changing again: it has to be easier, comfier

  34. Kate says...

    I love this. My grandmother passed about a year and a half ago, and she was one of the most stylish women I think I’ve ever come across. It’s relatable, because she would talk about fashion and style as though it just made sense. I always thought that it was simple for her, she was wealthy and a size four. Yet, even when she was in a hospital bed, washing her hair about once a week, she had style. It was as much a part of her as anything, and her class stayed with her always.

  35. Caroline says...

    Ashley, this post was so moving and beautiful. You are beautiful.

  36. beautiful beautiful. thank you for sharing, ashley. xx sk (a fellow hoosier native/nyc transplant)

  37. Thank you Cup of Jo for adding Ashley Ford to your team. I’m a long-time fan of her and you both! This eloquent post was an awesome read, and Ms. Ford never disappoints.

  38. Lydia says...

    I love this. I am so happy you are here, Ashley.

  39. Meg O. says...

    I love your writing, Ashley! I’m overjoyed to learn you’ve joined the Cup of Jo team! Such a lovely story, and wonderful wardrtobe advice, to boot. :)

  40. Sophie says...

    really appreciate this one <3

  41. Lauren says...

    This was so moving to read. Thank you for your honest, personal, great writing; it’s empowering. Have a wonderful holiday season. Appreciate and bring the joy and laughter around you.

  42. Becs says...

    I love this so, so, so much. So much good advice to start a new year on. Thanks for sharing. This particular quote really struck a chord with me.

    “I go out more, I smile more, and when someone looks at me now, I know they’re seeing the version of me I chose. “

  43. Kat says...

    So beautiful. The line “I hope nothing fancy happens” was completely silly and sad! It’s so much fun to dress up! I say better to over dress than under dress. If you are confident you can pull off anything!

  44. I love this! I’m not gonna lie I have happy tears and am
    Inspired! I feel lost in terms of fashion. I’m 32, petite with 2 kids (6 and 4). I feel like I’m too young or too old for most things. Anything nice I’m afraid to wear because it’ll get ruined by rolling around with kids or cooking.

  45. Talya says...

    Beautifully written personal article. What an incredible testament to your grandmother.

  46. Maggie says...

    Such a lovely piece. Thanks for sharing <3

  47. Emily says...

    This was such a wonderful post, for many reasons, but Ashley, your writing…. your writing is just magical!

  48. Alicja says...

    Loved this article, I rarely comment but you had me in tears with this one :) beautifully written

    • L says...

      Agreed. I was so close with my grandmother and the beautiful relationship you described brought back wonderful memories. Thank you, Ashley.

  49. Jen says...

    Love the pic of her and her grandmother. And the advice to wear what you like. Im bigger after having a baby and struggling with what to wear. I think I need to channel Ashleys positive outlook :)

  50. I love this, and I’m so happy that Ashley is part of the team.

    Thanks for sharing this part of your story, Ashley.

  51. Amy says...

    I just wanted to add to the chorus….that I loved this beautiful, honest piece. I felt like I was listening to my best friend. And the picture at the end…..just pure love and happiness there.

  52. Caroline says...

    Loved the picture at the end. Beautiful and well written.

  53. Bobbe says...

    Despite being old enough to be your grandmother, I just love, love , love your blog. This entry is so inspiring and meaningful. All women should read it!

  54. MK says...

    Love reading Ashley Ford’s writing here on Cup of Jo. This piece is so heartfelt and relatable, I enjoy her writing so much! My dear Grandmother passed in 2015, months before my wedding, and I miss her often. How lucky those of us are who got to experience the love of our grandparents. Over the years I have also come into the realization that I can just wear what I like. What a revolution that has been for me!

  55. Brooke says...

    Loved this! Had me in tears, it was so touching. Love the links, too!

  56. Emmie says...

    This reminds me of my grandmother. I used to sleep in her bed when I would spend the night and watch her get ready in the morning. I can still see her getting ready in my mind: spraying perfume on her naked wrinkly arms, hoisting her very low saggy breasts up with a structured nude bra, applying orange-y lipstick that almost always ended up on her front teeth, applying gobs of moisturizer to a sun-spotted face. Trying on her all-matching jewelry sets. Grandma’s are the best!

  57. KAtherine MacLeod says...

    So glad that we will get to hear more from Ashley. I love how she writes. And what a sweet photo at the end.

  58. Danielle says...

    LOVE this story. After having a baby, my body has morphed and grown and gained (as much after baby as during pregnancy), and rediscovering my style has been tough. It’s easier to cover up than to show yourself sometimes. This story is so lovely and really resonated with me–though if it were up to my grandma, I’d always be in white or pastels because you *know* they’re clean. Thanks Ashley!

  59. Major says...

    I wanted to smell like her when I said goodbye.

    • Turtle says...

      Yes.

  60. This is fantastic. I’m really struggling with clothes right now. I feel like such a different person after being pregnant or breastfeeding for 4 years and I haven’t had the chance to get to know my new body at all. I live in jeans and sweatshirts. I hope one day soon I’ll have the energy and confidence you found.

    • Danielle says...

      This. Just posted the same <3

    • Alex says...

      I feel the same! I’m on baby number three right now and feeling desperate to be stylish. Letting go of the expectations of others is revolutionary in my life.

  61. Becca says...

    What a beautiful essay. Thank you Ashley!

  62. Abigail says...

    I love love love everything Ashley writes. Her essays are always so comforting.

  63. Jennifer says...

    LOVE this. Thank you!

  64. Leslie says...

    Thank you for sharing, Ashley! This is a beautiful piece and really resonates with me. I’m struggling with my weight and how to dress now that I’ve had a baby (who is now a toddler). With the holidays and judging relatives, I’ve been feeling glum about myself. This really inspires me to go clean out my closet and maybe treat myself to some makeup!

  65. Jodie says...

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful and inspiring piece! So grateful you’re a part of my favorite blog!

  66. April says...

    What a sweet story. Grandmothers are the best.

    I’m in the midst of a style crisis after having a kid and feeling divorced from the body I knew and myself as a woman (and non-mother). This was really timely for me.

    So glad you’re here, Ashley!

  67. Renee says...

    “In high school, I wanted clothes from particular stores, no matter how well the clothing actually fit me.”
    SAME, it pains me to thing of the money wasted at Abercrombie and Hollister.

  68. Marite says...

    This essay was so beautiful written and such a lovely reminder that personal style isn’t just surface stuff — it’s a way to relay messages to the outside world and connect to others. My favorite line: “I modeled my new clothes for my fiancé, and watched his face light up not just because I looked good, but because I looked happy. When I glanced in the mirror, my face brightened as well. Happy looked great on me.” So happy you’re on this site, Ashley.

  69. Loved reading this. It cheered me up.

  70. Yuki says...

    What a beautiful, sweet piece. I also draw fashion inspiration from my grandmother, so this really hit close to home. Thank you so, so much for sharing :)

  71. Jackie says...

    What a beautiful essay. Thanks so much for sharing!

  72. Mumbai says...

    what a wise grandma…happiness and a smile is the best outfit you can ever wear

  73. Jip says...

    What a beautifull article!

  74. Betsie says...

    I could not be happier that we get more Ashley at Cup of Jo!

  75. Kate says...

    Love this. Love love love. Awesome author. Great writing. 100% relatable.

    My grandmother also had great style – she often wore this humongous squash blossom necklace with turquoise stones. She used to say, “you can wear anything you want, as long as you have the guts to wear it!” I try to remember that when I put something on that excites me but feels a little out of my comfort zone.

    Also, I’m totally in love with Universal Standard right now. Their pieces are well made, simply and stylish. Their customer service is great too.

  76. Marlena says...

    I’ve read this twice, I’ve loved it so much. I am so glad that you are at Cup of Jo! Ever since you did your weekly outfits post, I’ve been following you on Instagram. Thanks for introducing me to Universal Standard, and for sharing your voice!

  77. Vanessa says...

    Love this! Happy tears. Beautiful tribute to your Grandmother. :)

  78. Megan says...

    Fantastic! I love this.

  79. Laura says...

    Love this piece! Thanks so much for sharing!

  80. Maiz says...

    I love this! So good.

  81. This is so beautiful – thanks for making me tear up at my desk. Ashley, I hope you can tell how happy us readers are to have you here!!

  82. Liz says...

    This was so great to read. Thank you!

  83. Jen says...

    Ashley! Thank you for this moving post. I cried! I’m so happy you’ve joined COJ!

    As different as we are, I can relate SO much. How refreshing. Thank you for some much-needed Thursday inspiration :)

  84. Lee says...

    I loved this. What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. I can relate to how difficult it can be as a teenager to find your personal style. After years of struggling, a friend of my mother’s lent me a battered old copy of “Colour Me Beautiful” from the 70s (anyone heard of it?) and it kind of blew my mind. Although it has some extremely dated advice about make-up and fashion, the basic concept is really cool. I discovered I’m an “autumn” with a “winter” mother, who had always dressed me in cool colours that washed me out (plus, my high school uniform was a white dress shirt which really took its toll on my self-esteem—I NEVER wear white now, it’s the worst on me). As soon as I started only wearing colours in my palette, things started to make more sense and shopping got a lot easier. I often see a gorgeous piece of clothing but in a colour that wouldn’t work for me, and I know better than to try to make it work—I just won’t end up wearing it. I’ve lent the book to all my friends and it’s a bit of a joke with us, we talk about our “palettes” all the time, but it really is a helpful concept.

  85. mughand says...

    Love this entry. And the photo at the end — awww such love! My grandmas lived far away so I didn’t get to see them much.

  86. This is such a beautiful essay, I’ve read it a few times now. It’s both a love letter to her Grandma and a love letter to herself.

    Whew, I have so many thoughts about this post I might have to write one of my own on this topic. I was never taught to “wear what I like.” I was taught to wear what fit and what could be found in the Pretty Plus section of Sears.

    “Happy looks good on me,” might just be my motto for 2018. So glad you’ve joined Cup of Jo, Ashley!

  87. Megan S says...

    I have read this blog since forever and have never posted before. This post really spoke to me. No matter your size, shape or age, this is such an important message. Thank you – I will start looking at my closet and myself through new eyes.

  88. Laura says...

    I LOVE THIS. So glad Ashley is a part of things at Cup of Jo.

  89. Caroline Findlay says...

    Love, love, love this post! I related to Ashley’s story on so many levels. Thrilled to see her join the COJ team! xo

  90. Alanna says...

    This is such a beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing Ashley. xo

  91. Andrea says...

    Thank you for this!!!! <3 <3 <3

  92. I love reading your pieces! Your stories trigger stories of my own. Like, I felt my most beautiful after giving birth (my hair was such a beautiful mess) and during the first days as a new mom. Without any make-up, a pale white face and dark circles under my eyes, a belly that still looked like there was a baby inside, one boob bigger than the other… and beaming of love. Made me realize I need so very little.

  93. Made me tear up at work. Beautifully written!

  94. Cooper says...

    I’ll never forget watching my husband try on a pair of jeans ordered online, declare that they were too small, and promptly return them. It sounds ridiculous, but until that point, when I tried on something that didn’t fit, I blamed my body and felt like I should hold onto the piece until I could shape my body to fit it, instead of the other way around! This piece has encouraged me to finally get rid of those skinny jeans and too-tight dresses that are hanging in my closet – with tags – and invest in clothes that I love :)

  95. Kat says...

    “Happy looked great on me.” – so true!

    Really lovely line and piece.

  96. MA says...

    The idea of wearing what you like is so liberating. Even in my 40s, when I think I have it all figured OUT style-wise, this is great advice. What great advice from what sounds like a pretty awesome grandmother.

  97. MoMo says...

    So sweet. I’m a Grandmother now and I hope my babies look back on me someday with this sweetness and love.

    Ashley, Grandma is BEAMING right now. Lots of love to you.

  98. Lovey says...

    Loved this piece so much. Thank you for sharing!

  99. Suzanne says...

    Ashley – thank you for sharing such a beautiful post. I am still so thrilled that you are a part of CoJ!

  100. Beautiful tribute.

  101. I love this, and I love that y’all got her to jump aboard the CoJ train! I am very much in conflict with my wardrobe right now. I work in corporate, but I have a back office position, so it’s not required for me to dress business professional the way our senior employees do. When I first started, I would dress to the nines regardless, even when the people in my department told me it wasn’t necessary. But after about a year, I hated the stuffy, sharp, and uncomfortable feeling of my work wardrobe. I started wearing more, but still appropriate for work, clothing. I’m in a phase where I’ll wear the same pieces twice in one week with a different top or pair of pants because I hate being uncomfortable that much now. Currently, I’m wearing a sweater I wore Monday and a skirt I wore Tuesday, and will continue to practice this, regardless of how it may look (if anyone even notices) until I can start adding to my wardrobe. I hate shopping because I worry that I’ll buy something I’ll end up not liking after a few wears, but I know I need more items in my closet to fill out my wardrobe. I’m probably about to be in for a really cold winter, because I threw out a bunch of pants and sweaters that used to drive me crazy with discomfort when I wore them. I keep telling myself I’m going to start thrifting, but it honestly makes me super nervous. Anyway, I’ll hush now. Excellent post.

    <3

    • I started wearing more relaxed**** clothing, my b.

    • Kate says...

      I promise you – nobody will ever notice if you wear the same things multiple times a week. I’ve been wearing the same two shirts 2 times a week each because I love them so much and they’re so comfortable, and I guarantee nobody cares! (And if they do, I don’t.) There’s something to be said for a uniform!

  102. Fiona says...

    I’m so thrilled to have you as a writer on this blog – I love your voice, and appreciate you sharing your process for finding your look – I’m in the process of going through my memories and finding stuff I loved but was teased for wearing, and working through being brave enough to just wear the stuff I love!

  103. Caitlyn says...

    This was a fantastic essay. Crying at my desk :) Thanks for sharing.

  104. Joanna says...

    Style. Voice. Authenticity. This piece of writing is the most honest and true thing I’ve read in ages. Thank you for sharing.

  105. dani says...

    The photo at the end made me tear up. Your grandma would be proud!

    • freya says...

      i know, me too!

  106. Katie says...

    My nana bought most of my clothes and I treasured our shopping trips and miss that time with her dearly. She was always trying to make me wear bright colors and loved well tailored clothing. If she thought it looked good she’d say “oh my that’s smart”. Thanks for such a beautiful essay! (And making me tear up ;)

    • Kate says...

      “Oh my that’s smart” Love it!

  107. Courtney says...

    Do all grandmothers have the absolute best style? Mine always wore “rouge” which is blush and had really cool handbags, a big giant gold pin of a dragonfly pinned to her lapel, really boxy, structured handbags…I could go on. I love the photo of Ashley at the end with her grandmother! So sweet.

    • Courtney says...

      I mentioned handbags twice in my excitement, ha! clearly they were AMAZING.

  108. adele says...

    Wonderful story. This inspires me to rethink my style! As someone who works in the public sector, I find myself dressing to avoid getting looked it. This has resulted in a really ho-hum wardrobe and perhaps even sometimes a ho-hum attitude. I need to find pieces that inspire me to be awesome like you!

  109. Lynn McKoy says...

    I loved reading this!!! I’m 44 and although I get many compliments on my style/outfits, I still feel like I haven’t found “my style” yet. Thank you for this story and sharing your loss.

  110. molly says...

    One of my favorite posts so far – I am so glad you joined the COJ team Ashley. Can’t wait to read your future posts!

  111. Emily says...

    Thank you so much. From one Midwestern girl with hips to another.

  112. Anne says...

    I am so happy to have you contributing to Cup of Jo. I love reading what you write.

  113. Heather says...

    I find it cheering and inspiring to be around someone like Ashley, who has her own sense of style and the confidence to go with it. And feeling good and comfortable in your own skin is KEY. I noticed recently, however, that my own search for my personal sense of style has gotten too tangled up in communicating a particular persona to people around me. Sometimes, I want people to know something about me just by looking at my clothes, but often I don’t – especially in work settings where I want people to focus on what I’m saying and not what I’m wearing. And then, because in searching for my personal style, I’ve started focusing on the ethics of the product as well its ability to be a “closet workhorse,” shopping has gotten very expensive. I keep finding that achieving simplicity (in my wardrobe as elsewhere in my life) is not easy. And curating a wardrobe of only things I LOVE is not something that will happen quickly, both because I can’t afford to replace my entire wardrobe all at once, and because you’re going to make a lot of mistakes, and buy things you think you’ll love but discover you don’t love after all. And maybe “love” is too high a bar for a t-shirt or a pencil skirt! Today is the winter solstice – a perfect time to release those things that no longer serve you – and one of those things for me is letting go of achieving the ideal closet. Probably an authentic smile is all any of us really need to look and feel our best.

  114. Hell, yes! Wiping tears. This essay vividly called to mind my Italian grandmother, how she loved me, and how she had two dramatically different looks. At home, she wore things that could have come from the rag bag as she cooked, cleaned, and gardened. But if she went out, even if it was only down the street to the store, she always put on a sharp, two-tone print dress, matching high heels and bag, and red lipstick, powder, and rouge. Dressed either way, she was comfortable, dignified, and in charge. I learned that clothes weren’t everything, since she could look really different and still be the same person.

    I made the same red-lipstick discovery as Ashley a couple of years ago, during a bad time. I was miserable, looked it, knew I had to do something to mask it, but lacked energy. Then I remembered the Nars free birthday gift I’d gotten from Sephora the year before and never opened. It had a red “Cruella” lip pencil. I never wore bright lipstick; I thought it wasn’t “me.” But I put it on, and that was that. The transformation was internal and external.

    Red lipstick has a certain power over people. You can’t be a nobody in red lipstick. I was no longer invisible when I went out. That gave me confidence. I looked and felt better. I wear it every day.

    • Megan says...

      Red lipstick is my “fake it til you make it” enabler.

  115. Min says...

    I love the honesty and vulnerability in this post. Thanks for motivating me to go back go ground zero with my wardrobe!

  116. Mary says...

    Reading Ashley’s words is so comforting – it’s like a big hug, or someone saying, quietly, “I understand.”

    • Stephanie says...

      Yes! This.??

  117. colleen says...

    Beautiful story!

  118. Heather says...

    Thank you so much for all these links. I am right on the edge of shopping plus size, and it’s good to have some good, fashionable plus size shopping options up my sleeve,

  119. Heather D says...

    This is beautiful!!

  120. Anna says...

    “Happy looked great on me” (c)- just put this on my closet door. x

  121. Liz C says...

    This is beautiful!!!!!!! xoxoxoxo

  122. Meredith says...

    Ashley, I’m so happy to have your voice and perspective here. I’m going to try to do my shopping with your goals in mind. It is lovely to feel good in the clothes I wear, and not to feel that I’m hiding my body, but becoming me with my clothing choices. Thanks for this!

  123. Beth says...

    I love this. Thank you for sharing Ashley.

  124. adriane says...

    I love this! What a touching tribute to your Grandmother. Thank you for your words.

  125. Other Ashley says...

    Adding Ashley to the Cup of Jo team has done the previously unthinkable — made Cup of Jo an even MORE wonderful corner of the internet. You gals always hit it out of the park, but there is something so honest, raw and beautiful about Ashley’s writing. With Ashley on board, you all are really taking it to 11 :)

    I hope you all have a lovely holiday season!

  126. Gabrielle says...

    Ashley, your voice is so thoughtful, honest and gentle. You write like an old friend and I am to see your name pop up regularly now on this special site.

    I love the line “when someone looks at me now, I know they’re seeing the version of me I chose”. How true. Sounds like I need to do a closet clean out this weekend :).

    Thank you for this!

  127. Nadia says...

    Best thing I’ve read so far. Thank you cupofjo!

  128. Lisa says...

    Midwest hips for the win!

  129. Carrie says...

    I love this so much.

  130. Caitlin says...

    Feel a little choked up after reading this!
    xo

  131. Carrie Brass says...

    loved this! thanks for sharing with us!

  132. Trisha says...

    I love Ashley! This was such a sweet and inspiring story. Can’t wait to hear more from her!

  133. Corrie Mook says...

    I am so glad you’re here, Ashley! I wasn’t expecting to be so moved by this piece. It was truly beautiful.

  134. Rach in Oz says...

    A gorgeous read – thankyou Ashley!

  135. Karen says...

    I love this! Thank you for sharing your beautiful story and introducing us to your wonderful grandmother, Ashley.

  136. Patricia says...

    You are a talented writer, Ashley!

  137. Julia says...

    Your story is heartbreaking – in the best possible way.

    Happy Christmas, Ashley. May you look especially merry and bright this year.

  138. Maria Castro-Castillo says...

    So beautifully written! A great tribute to her grandma, too!

  139. Lisa says...

    LOVE that Ashley has joined the team! I’ve felt all those feelings, including the hallelujah moment when I realised that I should dress for me and not for anyone else. After all those years of trying to squeeze into too small clothes in wrong shape for my body, I found my own style in clothes that looked good on me. And with that came confidence! + hallelujah to online shopping as a big girl.

  140. Michelle says...

    Wise, so wise. Your grandmas super cool self is in you! No wonder everyone loves you – you are to be adored.

  141. Such a heartwarming story about an amazing (and stylish) grandma! How lovely.

  142. Kato says...

    What a lovely story and great writing!

    • Sophia F. says...

      Second this – I’m glad she’s joined the team!