This emerald green and black off-the-shoulder gown by Adrianna Papell was once the most expensive piece of clothing I owned. (Sidebar—I bought it on sale at Dillard's but it was still more than I like to pay for a dress!) That was until I was given the exquisite beaded shirt dress below. With Covid, who knows when we'll be able to don our formal wear again? In the meantime, these two lovely pieces will continue to "hang" around in my closet, carefully wrapped up until the next big event. Read on to learn more about the journey I'm on to clear out some much-needed real estate in my closets.
This past January, after seeing how packed our guest room closet was with my stuff, my son Nick remarked, "I bet you could go the rest of the year and not wear the same thing to work!"
I thought about this for a moment, wondering if that might be possible. I knew I'd been guilty of hanging onto things for way too long. It made me recall something I'd heard a motivational speaker say one time: "You should get rid of anything that doesn't make you feel like a ten."
"Challenge accepted!" I told Nick. And thus, Closet ClotheSure 2020 was born. I began this quest on February third. Monday thru Thursday I wear something different each day to the office—even when we weren't physically going to the office. (Thanks again, Covid!) Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I added another couple of rules:
I can buy no new work clothes during the challenge.
I must wear whatever is in my closets—be it too tight, loose, out of style—well, you get the picture! It's all part of my penance for being a clothes-hoarder!
Oh, and the shimmering black and gold shirt dress shown above? Well, it once belonged to the daughter of my dear friend Janet. I've only worn it one time to an AAGD Christmas party in 2017. This silk dress by designer Badgley Mischka weighs nearly two pounds! The craftsmanship on this garment is simply beautiful and it's definitely the priciest piece of clothing in my closet! I keep it stored in a special breathable cloth hanging bag to protect the delicate beadwork.
I Never Met Mandy, But I Bet We Would've Been Friends!
Every once in a while, you meet someone who impacts your life in a way you've never expected. Such was the case when I met Janet Howe. But, let me back up a little . . . Janet and I actually met several years before we became good friends. Honestly, I was a little in awe of her. I'd never met anyone like this spunky lady who was as quick with a zinger as she was with a compliment. Janet, a former Assistant Director of the Alumni Association at Southern Methodist University and editor of their alumni magazine is like a walking textbook on all things Dallas—especially Big D's most influential movers and shakers.
It was when we were working on my "Smile You're In Texas" campaign that Janet and I bonded. As a native Texan, (and die-hard Lyle Lovett fan), she loved everything about the idea and helped me by researching avenues to further its success and writing a stellar piece that appeared on the PR Newswire.
I knew that Janet was still grieving the untimely death of her only child, Mandy, but she put on a brave, cheerful front and was always a hoot to be around. Out of respect for my sweet friend, I won't go into detail about the circumstances surrounding Mandy's death but suffice it to say, it was beyond devastating for Janet. It was hard to watch her go through such a difficult time and although she has many friends, she felt very much alone. I believe it's true that grief is an incredibly personal journey. And while it's comforting to know that others want to bear this burden with you, at the end of the day, it's something you go through alone. I learned this firsthand when I lost my mom a few short months after Mandy died. Like the champion she is, Janet was there for me always lending me a patient ear.
Over the years, Janet and I have grown closer. She was a key ingredient for the success of my first published book, I Have A Complex, But I'm Managing It! We spent many hours together writing, proofing, and ultimately laughing about the zany world of property management. I have her to thank for the clever subtitles in the longer stories. We've learned that we share the same favorite candy—Reese's Pieces. And, our middle names are both Elaine. When Janet discovered this, she decreed that we were the founding members of the T.O.E. Club! (thus the shout-out to T.O.E. in my books, which stands for The Other Elaine. (Incidentally, my mom Franny's middle name was also Elaine).
To the left is Janet with my son Jacob at the Dallas Arboretum in 2017.
Later in this post, you'll see that the clothes I've chosen for work this week were all once Mandy's. This is what prompted me to write about her. Janet gifted me with these pieces a few years ago. I treasure them and smile whenever I wear something from Mandy's closet. The outfits are some of the finest pieces in my wardrobe and I know Janet delights in seeing me wear them. Sometimes I'll discover an old dry-cleaning tag still attached to something with Mandy's name handwritten across it. It's interesting to me that in addition to all the things Janet and I have in common, I've learned that Mandy and I also share some similarities.
Like me, Mandy was tall—5' 10" and we have the same shoe size—a whopping size 10. Both of us have big, blonde hair (hey, it's a Texas-thang!) And, a love for clothes—although her credit limit was definitely higher than mine! Mandy was a true fashionista—a bug she undoubtedly caught from her mom who introduced her to Neiman Marcus and fashionable baby boutiques across Dallas at an early age.
Although I went to Mandy's funeral, I do regret that I never actually met this outstanding person. She sounds like a total dynamo who accomplished so much in her short lifetime.
Artsy and extremely creative, she had a passion for learning foreign languages and exploring the world. She spent her junior year in high school as a foreign exchange student in Bari, Italy. Coming back to Dallas, she skipped her senior year at Highland Park High School and immediately entered Southern Methodist University. Already fluent in Italian and Spanish, she took up studies in Mandarin—which stood her in great stead when she later practiced law and shopped voraciously in Hong Kong.
Suffice to say, Mandy continued her love of fashion during her year's stay in Europe—picking up Prada, Botega Venetta, Yves Saint-Laurent, Hermes, Jimmy Choo, and Dior, among others.
Entering law school at American University in Washington, D.C. after her early graduation from SMU, she quickly finished her degree in International Law and headed to London where she worked in the country's Banking Ombudsman Office and spent time at the Inns of Court. London introduced her to custom-made fashions. A winter side trip to Iceland forced her to pick up a full-length mink coat that nearly swept the floor on her svelte 5'10" figure.
After returning to the states, her best friend convinced her it was time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. So, off they went in mountain gear and Texas boots to make the summit. While they were there, Mandy and her friend helped establish a school for native children. On the way home, she dipped into the Mediterranean Sea for a swim with a giant shark!
Mandy Howe was fearless, smart, and creative and lived an enormous, world-traveling life until her untimely passing in 2010. She was a kind and generous companion to her friends and an enormous blessing to her family. There's no doubt she left a memorable mark on this world and in the hearts of everyone who knew her.
Closet ClotheSure Week 35 - From Mandy's Closet
I kicked off Monday with this funky-bright orange designer dress that Mandy had made in London by designer aei:kei. The garment is a complicated piece, featuring sweeping, pleated sashes in front and back. The length is perfect for me and it must have looked amazing on the young, vibrant attorney when she wore it for one of her charitable events in Hong Kong. A funny sidebar on this dress; when Janet first presented it to me, one of the sashes was pulled around in the wrong direction. Being as that I'm somewhat challenged sometimes, I had a bear of a time trying to figure out what went where—it was like playing a game of Twister. Janet had to come and help me put everything back where it belonged and we both nearly fell down in the process! We're sure Mandy would've gotten a kick out of seeing us trying to maneuver my bod into her awesome dress!
I'm going with another designer piece of Mandy's choosing to throw this Trina Turk (Los Angeles) red duster over some black jeans (Gap) and a silk top from Ann Taylor.
Mandy paired this bright jacket over everything from skirts to dresses. It reminds me a bit of the red power suit Jill Murray wore to her meeting in Big D in my book, It Happened In The Hill Country. (available on Amazon and also online at BarnesandNoble.com) Yeah, that's a bit of shameless self-promotion there!
There's just something about the color red!
This one got some luke-warm reviews on social media earlier this week, but frankly, it's not the outfit getting the boot!
It's hard to see the true color of the blouse in the lighting but it's an awesome steel blue and has a nifty tie-up just below the bust-line, giving an otherwise plain piece an added bit of flair. (very Mandy!) The top is super soft and actually quite flattering. Made by designer Ronen Chen, I have a hunch this was one of Mandy's favorites!
Mandy's flair for style is reflected in this vibrant coral-colored Ann Taylor silk top. I love its built-in cami and the way it ties at the waist.
Now, the olive-colored trousers by LAUNDRY are another story! If you guessed that these would be the one thing I'd be donating this week, you were right on the money!
Though we shared the same height, I've got freakishly long legs (36" inseam), which makes it really challenging to find pants that are long enough. Here I have flats on which works, but the legs are too wide and so the fit is not as flattering as it could be. Since these were Mandy's, I'm not going to give them to just anyone! I have someone special in mind who will look great in them and totally rock their perfect-for-fall color!
From The Garden
When I tell this story, this American Green Tree Frog is going to be much larger than he actually was! Seriously, this little gummy-looking glob of frog was perched so eloquently on one of our plant hangers that I couldn't resist calling James out to see him. We have tons of frogs down by the creek, but I've never seen one like this guy! Sure hope he's a snail-eatin' frog since we're always battling those slimy varmints—I'd also be happy with a mosquito-eating frog!
I'm a blessed woman to have so many friends! Thank you for reading my blog. I always love hearing your feedback. I'll end with this wonderful scripture from Proverbs 18:24: One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than brother.
God bless you & remember, God is in control and hope is on the move!