Style

A Week of Outfits: Melissa Sonico

A Week of Outfits: Melissa Sonico

College teacher and writer Melissa Sonico lives with her husband and toddler son, Harrison, in Redlands, a small city between Palm Springs and L.A. Her easy style reflects her California upbringing and laid-back personality. “My style icon is Joan Didion,” she says, “or Miranda July, when I’m feeling more eclectic.” Here, Melissa shares five go-to outfits and the ethical, women-owned brands she loves…

A Week of Outfits: Melissa Sonico

Jacket: Elizabeth Suzann. Dress: Town Clothes, similar. Necklace: Melissa Sonico. Bag: Catz Orange. Heels: Paloma Wool, similar.

“I’m not an outgoing person. To be honest, I’m really shy; first-time conversations with people are super awkward. So, it’s nice to be able to express myself in a way with clothes, without having to say anything. I try to find things that are easy to throw on and can mix and match. I’ll wear this dress over pants when the weather gets cooler.”

A Week of Outfits: Melissa Sonico

Dress: Reformation. Sweater: Babaà. Necklace: Na Nin. Bag: Clare V. Mules: Madewell.

“I save short dresses for evenings out with friends or my husband. That way, I don’t flash anyone while bending over to pick up Harrison! On an average day, I’ll take Harrison to school, then teach college-level composition. I also make some jewelry on the side. A couple years ago, I began playing around with clay and making necklaces for my friends. Then I created an online shop, and it’s slowly getting more popular.”

A Week of Outfits: Melissa Sonico

Camisole: Lacausa. Pants: Everlane. Straw hat: Brookes Boswell, similar. Necklace: Melissa Sonico.

“I’m a big fan of creative nonfiction regional writers like Didion and Flannery O’Connor. I’m drawn to short stories, having studied and written them for my master’s degree. (My thesis was actually a book of short stories!) Recently, I enjoyed Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang and Too Much & Not the Mood by Durga Chew-Bose. Zhang has such a deft and funny voice — my husband really liked it, as well. Chew-Bose’s essays are so smartly written, and her love of Pacino was enough to pique my interest.”

A Week of Outfits: Melissa Sonico

“I love this visor! I have a big head, so most hats are too tight, but without the top part, this one works. And since I wear a lot of white, I always have a Tide pen in my car.”

A Week of Outfits: Melissa Sonico

A Week of Outfits: Melissa Sonico

Top: Elizabeth Suzann. Skirt: Shaina Mote. Necklace: Na Nin. Backpack: Madewell. Mules: Loq.

“Even though I have short hair, I’m trying out this green ribbon, after seeing a similar look in runway shows. I chopped my hair off after I got married and then again after my son was born — I get haircuts during big life changes! Most nights, I sleep on it wet and then use an iron and Tresemmé heat tamer to smooth it out in the morning.”

A Week of Outfits: Melissa Sonico

Blouse: Dôen. Pants: Jesse Kamm. Necklace: Na Nin. Shoes: St. Agni.

“Overall, I gravitate toward independent brands run by hard-working women: Elizabeth Suzann, Town Clothes, OZMA, Rudy Jude, Dôen. I love the sense of community they foster, both online and off. And the clothes will fit in with the rest of your wardrobe five, ten, fifteen years down the line. Many of these brands are really transparent — Elizabeth Suzann has a whole team in Nashville, doing every step of the process of making clothes. And Everlane. It’s important. For petites, I love the online boutique Stature, which curates petite versions of ethical clothing.”

Thank you so much, Melissa!

P.S. More women share their weeks of outfits, including workwear ideas and budget-minded tips.

(Photos by Nicki Sebastian for Cup of Jo.)

  1. I love your style. you have such an elegant style.

  2. I love this recurring feature and this particular one is lovely. Thanks for the ethical clothing sources! One small issue: “College teacher” = professor, right? Or, if she’s adjuncting, it’d be great to mention that. More and more college professors are actually low-paid adjuncts and people should be aware. Thanks!

  3. Nam Aster says...

    I absolutely love that this focused on sustainable fashion that not only supports the planet, but women entrepreneurs. I find it interesting that some of the comments are regarding the cost of Melissa’s outfits. Melissa is making a choice with how and where she is spending her funds. She believes in supporting independent, hard-working women. As women, if we can, we should absolutely be concerned about equity for those who make our clothes.

  4. Good gosh! Her style is perfection. Minimal and chic!

  5. EL says...

    Thank you for this post! I love her style and attitude. I am trying also to change my thinking when it comes to clothing purchases and focus on ethically made items that will last so this is a good motivator. I’m slightly obsessed with Elizabeth Suzann!

  6. Kirsty says...

    Absolutely loved this! I literally pinned every single outfit, they all look so effortless but also well put together. Serious summer inspo. (Also obsessed with the short hair and fringe)

  7. Rachel says...

    I LOVE redlands! Charming houses, wide streets, looming palm trees, family friendly, bustling downtown! Dreamy little town.

  8. SJ says...

    I’m so into St Agni shoes and am chuffed to see it on CoJ!

  9. Adele says...

    Gorgeous natural style. Ive saved all the pics because I want to cut a fringe like this! And the hat – i so want something like this. So my hair in a bun can pop through the openeing, otherwise its so hard to wear a hat.

  10. Nancy says...

    Obsessed with her style! This is one of the best week of outfits in a long time. Thanks for finding her!

  11. Sharon says...

    Thank you for posting someone who lives in a warmer, more casual environment! As a Floridian, I’m always trying to look put together without being sweaty…

  12. Katie says...

    I love how much depth there is to her choices – so thoughtful.

  13. I love her style and the places she shops! It’s the perfect combination of casual and professional.

  14. Caroline says...

    Where is the green ribbon from??!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’ll ask her!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      she says it was from Joann’s Fabrics.

  15. Zara says...

    Short fiction and ethical style. Best one yet!

    PS Try “This Cake is for the Party” by Sarah Selecky if you’re interested in Canadian short fic. One of my go-to recommendations.

    • Michaela says...

      Putting that book on my reading list. Thanks!

  16. Benita says...

    Love your style! Any tips beyond the tide stick on keeping whites whites while running around with kids? Any special laundering methods? Thanks!

    • Lila says...

      Hi Benita! Overnight oxyclean soak and drying in the sun. If you have a washing machine at home, soak it in there, turn on in morning. This is also my secret to having wild messy kids that still look clean and tidy. ?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Great advice, Lila! And here’s another note from Melissa:

      “If you get a stain, just try to treat it right away with whatever you have handy, before the stain sets in: club soda, an ice cube.. also don’t rub it!”

    • Benita says...

      Thanks Lila, Melissa and Joanna! I swear by oxiclean – thank you for this great new method!

  17. I can appreciate her clothing style and yet recognize they are not for me personally…but my god, could I ever look so damn cool standing next to a chair in front of a fence with one arm behind my head, ever???? Did I ever know I wanted to try so badly?? She just exudes coolness.

  18. Love your style. Effortless, easy and cool:)

  19. Martina says...

    Love her style so much! This is exactly how I envision my style.. she has just taken it to the next level :) She also has my dream career as well *sigh* #followingoninstagram <3

  20. I’ve been following her on ig for awhile. What a nice sense of style!

  21. i’ve loved her effortless style and casual look for so long! thank you for making “a week of outfits” about her :)

  22. Heidi says...

    Where is that chair in the last photo from? It’s great.

  23. samantha says...

    first time i’ve ever seen anyone in jessie kamm pants and thought they looked GOOD in them! great style.

  24. Nicole says...

    I’d be curious to know where she shops local to Redlands? This is great that she mentions LA-based designers. Redlands is not Los Angeles- as someone in the Inland Empire, I’d love to hear where she shops locally.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      she told me that she mostly shops online, but i’ll ask her if she has specific recs! xo

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Hi again! Here’s Melissa’s answer: “Locally, I mostly shop thrift and vintage shops in Redlands. Everything else I shop online or make the trek to Los Angeles.” xoxo

  25. Anna says...

    She has such a cool sense of style! Love how put-together she is while still keeping a laid-back vibe.
    (And also, second the love of Flannery O’Connor– just finished Wise Blood and am still unpacking all her imagery and wisdom!)

  26. Kim G says...

    Wow, what a beautiful lady, and I love her style influences! That hit me in a soft spot. Miranda July and Joan Didion, my heart fluttered.

    • LJ says...

      #same

  27. Joaquina says...

    Brava, Melissa, for pulling off clothes that are stylish AND ethical!
    I’d like to shout out to a LA-based (and produced) clothing company:
    La Causa. Their dresses remind me of what Melissa is featured wearing.

  28. Jenny says...

    Love her style! I would wear every single piece. She’s beautiful.

  29. Debbie says...

    Well, I guess I need to buy every piece by Elizabeth Suzann now! The link for the jacket is for the Clyde Trench, are we sure it isn’t the Harper Jacket?

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Same here, Debbie! Thank you for the catch — just updated. Stella x

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Thanks so much, Zoe! Just updated :)

  30. ophelia says...

    Would love to hear more about how these women budget these pieces into their lives, and maybe some alternatives for those of us who can’t quite afford to wear doen and jesse kamm on the reg.

  31. Gen says...

    I really liked this piece. Love her style and these brands. Sour Hearts was my favorite book that I read last year and related to it in a unique way that I rarely do with other literature. Jenny Zhang is indeed a super talented writer.

  32. Carrie says...

    Outfit #2 is great! Love those mules, and I’m not usually a fan of mules! Such unfussy style, it’s very refreshing

  33. Sasha says...

    The photography and the soothing warm palette in the outfits is just so beautiful. Melissa wears it all with such elegance and ease, love her hair too. This post feels full of sunshine and warmth! Thank you, needed that today.

  34. Jean Jones says...

    Where did she get that sun hat? I LOVE it, and I also suffer from too-big-of-a-head for most hats syndrome. :-)

    • Sasha says...

      Me too!! Sometimes I see pics of myself and I am actually startled it’s so big. My family swears it’s not. Liars, of course ?

      I can only wear base ball caps that adjust, or stretchy warm hats. Or hats made for large men.

  35. I love her style, and especially her commitment to ethical shopping. Something I am really working on improving!

    Also, I’m totally getting my hair cut like that tomorrow! It was already the plan, so it’s not creepy. Haha.

  36. sandra says...

    How about a PreK Teacher? ( sooooooo many paint stains…..) ;)

  37. Laura says...

    how about a nursing mother’s week of outfits? :)

    • Ooh! That’s a good idea!

    • Sasha says...

      Love this idea!!

      When I was nursing, many long years ago, and for many long years!, I wore overalls a lot. I already had them and wore them before, but loved them for nursing. I never liked to put a cover on, but it’s cold where I live, so the bib on overalls kept me a little covered. The bib also covered spit up and milk leaking. Plus pockets!! And room for a tummy. Since overalls were already my style, wearing them also helped me feel like me, and oddly enough, when your boobs aren’t really yours, that seems important.

    • Gitty says...

      Thirded!

    • Annie says...

      YES THIS PLEASE!

    • Kirsten says...

      This nursing mother’s week of outfits consists of 3 black oversized stretchy Target tees on rotation, so would totally love that feature.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      great idea, laura!!

    • THAT WOULD BE GREAT

  38. Capa says...

    That Elizabeth Suzann silk top is amazing!
    Any tips for bras that would work with it?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      good question! i wore this at my wedding, and it worked well: http://bit.ly/2Jboi5l
      but i have pretty small breasts, so i’d be curious what other readers recommend!

    • Hi Capa. I have this top in black, and I just wear it with a regular black bra, tying it right at the level of the band/clasp. It pretty much covers up the bra and if a bit shows, it’s hard to tell since they’re the same color. It’s also great in that it can be worn reversible with the tie to the front for a different look! :)

  39. Amber says...

    I love this!!! “Week of Outfits” posts might be my favorite CoJ feature — ahh, but in such close running with like everything else.

    You may have already thought of this, but — what about featuring someone for a Week of Outfits who is pregnant?? That would be so interesting!

    xo

  40. Love all of them!

  41. Rose says...

    These posts are always so inspirational for me! I love how these featured women all dress so intuitively.

  42. Abesha1 says...

    Such lovely colors and photography in this article, Cup of Jo.

  43. Beautiful! I love how everything belongs to a muted color palette. I wonder if her whole closet can be mixed and matched! Must make dressing a lot simpler!

  44. liz says...

    best yet. ethical fashion is the only way to go. love her.

  45. Sequoia says...

    Wow! I think this may be my fav of the series. I am decidedly not eclectic but her looks read more California feminine to me. I loved her color palette and the silhouettes. As someone who’s currently rebuilding her wardrobe, I’m emboldened to spend a bit more on items that will stand the test of time. Thanks Melissa for sharing!

  46. Sumanta says...

    So very happy to see a woman from California’s “Inland Empire” featured! I grew up in this area and returned recently to raise a family and work. Loved her style and her message…truly inspirational! Thanks Melissa and Cup of Jo.

    • em says...

      And it’s such a BIG area that gets overlooked.

  47. One of my favorites so far – truly captured what I love about LA/Southern CA style she is exactly the kind of gal I’d see in the crowd and be immediately interested in – her deliberate choice to buy from women designers is also inspiring. We should all be working to support women based designers & companies!

  48. Alex says...

    LOVE her style, so effortless cool

  49. Melissa, I’m a lover of short story collections as well and am so glad you mentioned Sour Heart! It is a fantastic book! I highly recommend All the Names They Used for God as your next read! Also, I adore your jewelry collection and am so happy to have discovered it here!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      can’t wait to check out these books. thank you so much, rachel!

    • Lilly says...

      Sour Heart was SO GOOD! Loved Too Much and Not the Mood as well, but I’ve always loved Jenny Zhang’s writing (her old fashion blog years ago was incredible and I miss it.) Excited to check out All the Names They Used for God, thank you!

  50. THANK YOU for the petite shop recommendation!!! My choices are basically, “shop at Ann Taylor or Banana Republic petites” or “get everything tailored.” This is amazing, I’d love to see more petite clothing tips (particularly for those of us who are both curvy and petite :D)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      great idea, mary kate! and i agree that the petite boutique she recommended looks awesome. such beautiful pieces.

    • em says...

      But on the plus side, speaking as another petite, I can wear kids clothes :D To accommodate for the bust, I’ll just cut a line down the center of a cute shirt

    • Em, what do you mean cut a line down the center of the shirt? I have a pretty large bust for a small person so kids’ clothes generally don’t work for me (nor do a lot of small sizes … I would love if clothing makers would get through their heads that small size does not necessarily equal flat chest…)

  51. Hannah says...

    Love that she suggests a tide pen. I bought one on a whim a week ago and it came to my rescue yesterday to get a coffee stain out of my white shirt. How have I lived without this for so long?!

    Also, I love her hair.

  52. Liz says...

    I love her style! I’m planning on ordering one of her beautiful pieces.

  53. Rae says...

    Melissa, you have such an elegant style. I loved each of these outfits — especially the one with the green ribbon : )

  54. KT says...

    Yessssss. So good.

  55. You jewelry line is gorgeous and so unique! I love your style, that skirt with the green bow looks lovely. xAllie

  56. OMG my sister & I are always complaining about having big heads & not being able to find hats that fit. THANK YOU for linking to those hats for major noggins! (Thanks, too, for including a cheaper option!)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg i hear you. my head is so big that i had to wear one of the men’s graduation caps when graduating college. even the women’s large was too small on me!

    • Rebekah says...

      Yeah! I’m always stealing my husband’s hats because of my huge head. :)

    • Alex says...

      Oh yeah I hear you :)

  57. Dawn says...

    I love all of her outfits! I am so glad that more people are making the switch to ethical fashion. Most of my closet is Elizabeth Suzann and I love seeing how others style her clothes! I love Melissa’s comment about the community that these clothing brands foster. I’ve made so many online friends through a shared love of ethical fashion!

    p.s. Elizabeth Suzann is misspelled as Sezann in the last paragraph. :)

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Thank you so much, Dawn! Just updated! x