I get knocked down, but I get up again

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Last week I was running to catch the train. It was just starting to snow, and I was hoping to get home before things really picked up. The doors were closing and a man stuck his hand out to hold them open for me—how nice of him.

Two steps to go before I would be safely inside and I slipped in the kind of way you see cartoon animals slip on banana peels. I slipped and fell hard on my back. I lay for what felt like two minutes but was probably closer to two seconds before realizing my right arm and leg was between the subway car and the platform, a dangerous place for which new New Yorkers are warned to stay away. I quickly, dizzily rolled my way over to the platform and slowly sat up.

“I think I hit my head,” I said to what I thought would be a crowd of strangers hurrying to lend a hand.

But no one seemed to notice except for the subway conductor who gave me a thumbs up before closing the doors for good. It scared me more than it hurt me, at least until the next day when my whole body ached from what I presume was a combination of whiplash and landing flat on the corner of the subway platform. But not one single person asked me if I was ok, not even when I was sobbing on the stairs for 22 minutes while I waited for the next Q train. Yeah, now you know why I was running to catch the previous one.

Here’s my theory… because I refuse to believe everyone in this city is horrible. Maybe no one thought to comfort me  because I was wearing my black leather jacket. Girls in black leather jackets don’t usually look like they need help. Girls in black leather jackets always look cool and independent and effortless and they also probably don’t fall in public places. At least, that’s what I tell myself when I’m wearing my leather jacket.

I have always wanted a real leather jacket to keep forever and hopefully pass down to my future daughter. And I think this one is pretty perfect. I imagine it camouflaging all of my a-line dresses and and delicate blouses, just so everyone knows I mean business and don’t need your help. Except when I fall.

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[jacket-uo (similar), top-free people, jeans-zara, shoes-doc marten, necklace-madewell]

on watching yourself grow up

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Having a blog to document arguably one’s most formative years is weird. Having a blog to document what one wears during those most formative years is way weird.

Thankfully I decided early on this little piece of internet would not be a public diary. I saved the majority of my juicy first date night stories and weepy first days in a new city rants (most of them, at least) for spilling into the ears of close friends. Instead these four-ish years of Ragged or Well-Dressed has documented what I look like. Just great.

My relationship with the way I look has, for the most part, been pretty simple.

LOL JK.

My relationship with the way I look was solely determined by men until one broke up with me and I cut off all of my hair and started this blog.

My heart was halved and with it my long tresses. But instead of the cliched break-up bob I went full on Miley, letting the hairdresser determine my fate. She said I would look great with the sides buzzed. I followed her lead blindly, leaving my confidence on the floor along with my severed locks. I loved my new do, but no one else really did, leaving me to determine my own worth, my own beauty standards by myself.

The hair was gone and with it the confidence that had once come so effortlessly. My first task in my forray into singledom: I would attempt to style a “going out” look for the downtown Tuscaloosa scene. Turns out I had no “going out” tops for drawing a strategic gaze, my shortest shorts were denim and frayed—and forget dresses, my new hair made me look like a prepubescent boy playing in his mother’s clothes. After multiple outfit changes and with my floor covered in every tank top and sparkly skirt I owned, I chose my denim shorts, a striped SWEATER, and platform sandals. And I looked good. Not one boy looked my way, but I loved what I was wearing and I was happy.

Since then I’ve rocked, no attempted, nearly every trend imaginable and settled somewhere in the middle. Culottes, tulle, crop tops, sequins, boyfriend jeans, leather. But mostly boyfriend jeans and sweaters. And behind each outfit post spewing fashion how-to’s, there was an event I overdressed for, a date scared away by billowing fabric, a Sunday afternoon dress-up session grabbing the closest cousin, friend, crush to catch the twirling half smile I never could figure out. Each outfit takes me back to a very specific story, a specific moment documenting varying levels of confidence.

I was most “me” in a fluffy tulle skirt and mink stole jaywalking across University Boulevard. I loved the way I looked and didn’t think twice about the girls gawking in their athleisure or boys baffled in ill-fitting khakis. Today I don’t think I would be caught dead (Scratch that. Please bury me in that tulle skirt) in tulle or really skirts for that matter. But cheers, old Abbey. That confidence is inspiring to this new, not so confident Abbey swathed in mostly neutrals and ankle-grazing skinny jeans.

My hair has grown out and I’ve learned to not balance my levels of confidence on what I’m wearing or what my hair looks like. But along with hair growth, this blog has also documented adult acne, the death of my high school metabolism, and this chunk of grey hair that has appeared fiercely in my cowlick.

It’s weird to be able look at your physical transformation over time. It puts your body in perspective and it’s not always kind. But it’s kind of really amazing to look back and see how I found myself beautiful in shirts with “GEEK” emblazoned on the front and humongous sweaters that turtlenecked up to my nose, overtly feminine skirts and masculine trousers.

So maybe I just wanted to acknowledge and thank my old self; who discovered at 21 her worth is not in her hair, or how many boys buy her drinks at bars she doesn’t really even want to be at, or in the tag of her new skirt she had to exchange for a larger size. She would love my grey hair. She would love that I found a new minimalist look valuing comfort over style. But she would also want me to love it too. After all this new look, this new body, and this grey hair got her to her dream job in her dream city.

Thanks girl. Love you too.

I think I may be falling for you

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My boyfriend accuses me of being too gloomy on here. I prefer “real,” and real life is sometimes gloomy. But In honor of this perfect weather/my favorite season/almost Thanksgiving/this mustard turtleneck that is giving me life right now, I’ll hit some high points. Note: it in fact does take at least one year to feel on top of New York.

1. I scored the above mint green coat from Banana Republic for $50. Originally $300. I bought a petite medium in case you’re wondering. When they say oversized they mean it.

2. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such beautiful fall weather in my life. The highs have been in the 60s!

Putting the others to shame. I see you. 🌳🍂

A photo posted by Abbey Crain (@abbeycrain) on

3. I got a job at The Wall Street Journal.

See you tomorrow, @wsj. Don't worry, I'm not trading in my lipstick for a pants suit just yet.

A photo posted by Abbey Crain (@abbeycrain) on

4. I turned 24 since that last time I was here. That was cool I guess.

5. I am going home TWICE in the month of December. I can’t wait to see my mom’s new chickens. (and my mom)

6. My soul sista is getting married and I will complete my maid of honor trifecta. Y’all sure do know how to make a girl feel appreciated

It's hard to choose because this lady looks good in everything.

A photo posted by Abbey Crain (@abbeycrain) on

7. My beau is staying in New York on Thanksgiving to make just me dinner when I get home at midnight. I’m a lucky lady.

baby it's REALLY cold outside

A photo posted by Abbey Crain (@abbeycrain) on

8. I still live here.

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[coat-banana republic, sweater-loft (similar), boots-gap, bag-aldo]

photos by the lovely Alex Wood.

affordable athleisure

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Full disclosure: this mural is in front of a prison, but the colors were calling my name. I just felt like I was being dishonest being all cheery and such with my donut bag, so I needed to tell someone.

This weekend I celebrated the first long sleeved shirt of the season. And to celebrate the goosebumps acquired on my bagel run, I’m taking this blog for  back-to-the-basics fashion post. Forgive me if I’m rusty.

I’m all about the athleisure trend,  but I’m not about to spend an arm on a leg on pieces I know I won’t wear past these fleeting trendy times. The last time I bought tennis shoes was two years ago, as documented in this post. The last time I bought running clothes, I wore them once for yoga. And the last time I wore a hoodie was high school. This uniform-inspired sweatshirt from Old Navy is my kind of affordable way to salute the Chanel sneaker and Givenchy leggings.

This weekend was spent searching for good food in the neighborhood, which we found in the form of Dough donuts and Rosé sangria at a street fair. Gosh I love this place. Remember when I said the first year in New York is hard/the worst? Well July 3 was my one year with this place and since then everything has been looking up. I won’t go into too many details just yet. But stay tuned!

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[sweater: old navy, jeans: uo, shoes: sam edelman, necklace: h&m]

Good luck, Anna.

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For Anna. My beautiful, smart, carefree baby sister. I know you know a lot of this, but I wanted to remind you. I thought about sending you a letter, but I realized it won’t get home in time and you’ll already be at school.

Everyone says college is the most fun four years you will ever have in your life. Yeah, it’s pretty fun. Mom and Dad pay for your meals while you “find yourself” and try to make it to all of your classes. You’ll make lasting friendships, find a couple of boyfriends, and drink cheap beer. It really is the life, but you have to take advantage of this precious time.

Take school seriously.

Just go to class. It really is hard to fail if you go to all of you classes. OK, skipping a few 8 am’s or two won’t hurt because those are a construct of the Devil himself, but more than that and you’ll stress yourself. Feeling behind is the worst. I promise the stress isn’t worth it.

Take a couple fun classes.

I think I learned more life lessons from my “extra” classes than I did the classes I took for my major. Take women’s self defense, pottery, anthropology of sex. Whatever peaks your interest. The “extras” will give you personality points down the line in a future conversation with a boy at a dimly lit bar over artisan cocktails. More importantly they will stretch your mind and make you think about things. Maybe important things.

Be one of the guys, but don’t drink like them.

You and I both see eye to eye on this one. We like to hang with the guys “drama free” (jokes on us, boys cause way more drama than girls). It’s cool to be the easy-going friend who can get in deep conversations with any guy, but freshman boys are freshman boys and they don’t know their limits. Never be the girl with eyes glazed and has to be carried home. But if you do, make sure your ride is sober and don’t be afraid to call someone to pick you up. I really would fly to Birmingham if you needed me, but try Lily first.

On the topic of guys.

You may have a boyfriend, or two, or three, in college. They probably won’t be “the one.” Don’t forget to remind yourself that. You’ll be 21 when you graduate. You can’t  be expected to find your soulmate having only legally been able to drink for three months.

Don’t ever be afraid to say “no.”

You don’t owe anyone anything, no matter what you’re wearing, what you said before, how much you drink, or how much older he is. Even if you just wanted to make out a little, you can still say “no” at any point. You always call the shots. Period.

Dress how you want.

I made it a point in college to call out every girl (in a bi-weekly printed column!) who dressed the same. But just like I “did what I wanted” and wore tutus and sequined pants to class, so can everyone else. If you want to sport the Nike shorts and XXL Comfort Colors tee, by all means do it. It’s hot as hell in Tuscaloosa and I wouldn’t blame you. But don’t be afraid to rock your own look. You are queen of all things boho-chic and you look good in it. Keep it up.

Try everything.

Not everything. That’s not a good excuse to do dangerous or illegal activities. Try every club and every campus event. A bunch of them will be boring or sound lame, but it’s worth it. Not only will you have things to add to your resume (see: very, very important after you graduate) but you will also meet great, wonderful, unique people you would normally not hang out with.

Don’t use a fake.

You will get caught, it will go on your record, and dad will pay a fine. No fun.

Listen

Even in a stereotypical southern state school like UA, there are boatloads of people looking for answers outside the box. These people will do big things and you need to listen to them. I learned more from my peers than I did teachers. Listen to outspoken classmates with contrasting opinions. You may not agree, but his/her feelings are valid and you still need to listen. Listen when you think you should argue. It’s much better to hear all sides before coming out with a conclusion of you own.

Never wear heels on Gameday

It’s not worth it. Ever. You will fall over and your feet will bleed.

Good luck with moving in and rush next week. I miss you and love you more.

xoxo and rtr,

Abbey

on being an exhibitionist and leaving your window open

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Warning: This post is really sad. Animal-lovers beware. I’m not really sure where this is going, but this is one of those stories I couldn’t get out of my head until it was written down. I promise not to be as morbid next time. Actually I don’t promise, morbid stories are probably my favorite kind to read. 

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I moved to Brooklyn two weeks ago and it is wonderful. I am so glad I spent my first year in Manhattan, right in the middle of all the action. But I’ve always seen myself as a Brooklyn-gal. I remember venturing over the bridge for the first time on my second or third visit to the city and suddenly seeing myself here. The people seemed relatable, the apartments a bit more spacious, and everything just a tad less stressful. But I will certainly miss the tiniest room I ever hope to inhabit, and the the quirky neighbors that truly appreciated my kitty, and the window that looked out over a garden patio, orange tree and all.

I kept my window open year-round. I loved to listen. Ambulances wailing, kids playing, dogs barking, arguments ranting, music playing. It reminded me where I am, that I’m not alone, that me and my window were part of a community of others, even if I didn’t know who they were.

My window was decorated with succulents in the fall, books and a spruce-scented candle in the winter, and an air conditioning unit in the summer. Each object a necessity for the season. Sunlight spilled through the panes, unhindered by curtains. I never valued natural light until now. When buildings are pressed together, neither light nor air is a given, and I did not want to suffocate my allowance with curtains or blinds. Also, I tried curtains but the rod kept falling down.

We’re all exhibitionists here in the is city. It certainly does take all types, but a lot of the types here are the theater majors and changers, the dancers and artists, the stylists and the journalists, and all those other ‘ists showboating their names about town.The fashions can be likened to peacocks, displaying their personalities on their literal sleeves. Private conversations are paraded through crowded streets. And windows are kept open unabashedly allowing others to be a part of your space. With only a screen between you and the outside, you hear and see everything. The good, the bad, and the really bad. But all of us are probably just leaving our windows open to give others a peak.

My little window reminded me of bigger things outside, kept me cool, and added essential accouterments to my otherwise lacking aesthetic. But this window also let me hear the good and extremely bad things that happen in big cities. 

The good.

I saw the snow fall and build up on the sill and stay long enough for a photo, just like in the movies. During the spring and summer I could hear Spanish music playing in the community garden two buildings over. I’m sure neighbors were equally as entertained by my open window as I was them. With no curtain they heard my get ready tunes in the morning, giggly roommate conversations, and probably saw more of me than they wanted…. exhibitionist.

The bad. 

I still have not found a metaphor to explain this tragic story of my open window one winter night. But it still haunts me to this day. I don’t think this story has much of a place on a fashion blog, but we all know this little piece of internet has started to head in a different more personal direction anyways.

An open window is a gamble. An unexpected rainstorm may ruin your down pillows. A loud argument between a quarreling couple may interrupt a deep sleep. And it involves you in outside happenings you may not intend to be a part of. And vice versa

I’m used to unexplainable noises waking me up at night. Police sirens don’t startle me anymore. I don’t jump at loud creaks or unexpected “booms.” It comes with the big-city territory. But one night I woke up to a dog screeching and growling from what seemed to be just below my window. I jolted awake, but it stopped as abruptly as it started. It was way too cold to go outside and check it out anyways.

As I was just settling back down, a long, loud wail followed.

“Rick! Oh no, Rick!”

I’ve never in my life heard a wail like that night. It was almost inhuman. Who was Rick and what happened to him? I thought someone may have jumped.

The screaming continued. But the neighborhood was quiet. It took three minutes of the wailing until someone asked through their window if the man screaming was ok, if Rick was ok. I imagine that sort of scream is reserved for two or three times in a person’s life. We hear it on TV and in movies, but in person, that scream, it penetrates your bones and wraps it’s way around your lungs, tighter and tighter. I don’t think I could have physically said any comforting words even if I wanted to.

“Is everything OK?” a man asked from above.

“Shut upppp.” an older man farther away shouted.

“What’s wrong?” another chimed in from the window of a building next door.

“My dog fell. My dog Rick fell out the window.”

Rick didn’t make it.

A police officer came. Rick’s owner calmed down. Silence.

I never got the courage to go outside to see or talk to the man, but I can image this was one of the worst days of that man’s life. And I was there, just listening.

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Here’s a photo of me in a dress for the sake of this being a personal fashion blog and because I’m an exhibitionist.

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hey good-lookin’

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New York is sexy. Women hint at their form with loose, gauzy T-shirts and unbinding bralettes, not suffocating tanks and pushup lingerie. Sundresses graze calves instead of thighs and slips are forsaken in exchange for comfort. When commuting comfortably is a priority and workwear often becomes nightwear style can not be a burden. It’s an effortless sexy,  a too cool for the male gaze sexy—something I can get behind. When you put down another person’s definition of sexy, clothing options expand and things get interesting.

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jump around

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I’ve decided overalls and jumpers are the winning-est trend to happen this season. Swathed in denim from ankle to shoulder by day and a stretch v-neck number by night, I’ve decided there is no reason to pick coordinating pants and tops ever again. I will gladly sit all naked and vulnerable in a public restroom for the comfort and convenience of a one-piece.

Cover me up and zip me in. I will be living in this Free People jumpsuit this summer. This cropped, army-green denim number is my favorite tax-return purchase. It’s the perfect flea-market perusing (with my trusty Birkenstocks) and cocktail-sipping (with strappy heels) number and I will never take it off. Except to pee. And then I will have to completely remove it and have someone else zip me back in. Volunteers?

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[jumper-free people, shoes-birkenstock, necklace-anthropologie, sunnies-madewell]

Thanks, Sarah for the photos.

ponyboy/girl

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Confession. I am not keeping up with runway shows and designer duds anymore. Not forever, but that sure explains my mostly neutral closet and drawers full of boring basics. Sure I still appreciate the artistic process behind each collection and their gowns still appear in my Instagram feed, but it’s kind of just not on my radar these days.

These days I’m really into dressing “trend-free.” I can honestly say everything I put on my body is a conscious blend of comfort and function. Does this mean I’m an adult? Probably not. Probably just lazy.  I’ve ditched all my high heels for sleek tennies and strappy flats because blisters are not friends of my city-stomping feet. I wear most tops buttoned up to my neck because cleavage makes me feel too self-aware. And I haven’t washed my black skinnies in a month or so because they’re the closest thing to black leggings I can wear to work.

With comfort at the top of my sartorial priorities, I’ve slowly sunk into a sort of boyish look that’s kind of fun and new for me. Shapeless jumpsuits, crew-neck T-shirts, sloppy shoes and maybe a kimono for a splash of drama. I like it. New York has stripped me of my love of A-line dresses because you can’t sit Indian-style at your dresk in those. My beautiful strappy black heels are in my “can’t fit in my closet” suitcase under my bed. But it’s OK. My style’s never been one to sit in one place for too long. I’m excited for what spring will bring. Maybe I’ll be inspired by one of Oscar’s polka-dot numbers and dress like a ’50s housewife for the month of May. But for now it’s all curb-stomping street-wear.

In the 7th grade my English teacher made the class read the Outsiders. It was probably the first book in school I enjoyed and we celebrated the end of the lesson by watching the ’80s flick with Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, etc. I fell head over heels for Ralph Macchio’s portrayal of Johnny and every now and again feel a shared bond between the character’s kind, meek side—but even more so his dark locks, Converse sneakers, and muscle shirts. Many days I find myself subconsciously likening my outfit to the Greasers, but of course adding a bold lip for girlish flair. Ponyboy, Johnny, Sodapop…. you are my sartorial sprit animal. But my wardrobe is a lot like Robert Frost’s poem and the last line of The Outsiders “Nothing gold can stay.” Next season it will be on to the next character Abbey wants to play. Cheers, Pony.

Side note: This was the longest winter I’ve experienced to date. My dream city made me long for sweltering Southern summers. And seasonal depression is real friends. A girl can only take so many grey sweater, grey weather days in a row. Thank goodness the sun has decided to show his elusive self these past couple of weekends. New York spring is beautiful.

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[shirt, jeans-UO, sunnies-madewell, backpack-rebecca minkoff]

snowbank sweaters

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Winter clothes are my favorite, but only a select few (roommates, co-workers, since I am a full-time employee now!) have seen my elusive winter wardrobe as I am normally bundled up to my nose with scarves, masked with a long down coat and another scarf just to be safe. It took a while, but the romanticized dreams of a city dancing in snow has faded, and I’m pretty much ready for some warmer weather. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful. But all good things must come to an end. Within 30 minutes of snowfall, blanketed sidewalks become slushy and grey, sprinkled with toxic chemicals to hasten melt time. While I wait for spring, I’m sticking to neutral-toned sweaters that match the blackened, road-stained snow banks that form on the sidewalks.

I haven’t strayed much from the grey and black sweater, black jeans combo. It’s just too damn cold to wear anything but pants and boots. I’ve made a uniform of sorts, and it cuts my getting-ready time in half.

For the record, New York is still kicking my ass, but I’ve definitely grown stronger with it. I’d say we’re just about neck and neck. We’re kind of like a “love-struck,” dysfunctional high school relationship. I’m always running back to him because he’s the hot shot quarterback, but he won’t invite me to hang out with his friends yet because I’m just not cool enough. But he promises he loves me and buys me flowers when I think about ditching him and I take him back reluctantly only because he’s hot.

So basically New York is John Tucker, the epitome of awful high school boyfriends. But who actually wins these battles? Brittany Snow does, and you, because you’re probably not with your high school boyfriend anymore, and New York won’t. Soon he’ll drop the veil of deceit and cave to pressures of my hard-work and tears. So don’t you worry, I’ll whip him (New York, John Tucker?) into shape in due time, I’ve never been one to let someone else call the shots for long.

So I tried to talk fashion, I really did. And then my emotions invaded this precious space and I didn’t even ask them and I can’t really help it. I hope you guys don’t mind. Thanks for listening.

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[sweater-zara, boots- doc martens]