Sugarlaws: Living Sweetly.

how to wear pleats for spring

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May 21st, 2015 · Print Print

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I bought this top about two years ago, right before February fashion week.  It felt like sort of an odd indulgence, since it was sleeveless and very spring-oriented and I was heading up to snow in NYC, but I just couldn’t resist.  To make it appropriate for winter, I paired it with a leather jacket and earmuffs and boom, suddenly it was fit for freezing New York winter temps.  I fell in love, then and there: it proved to me how versatile the right pleated pieces could be, no matter what the temperature or event. 

Pleated pieces have been all over the runways for the last few seasons, and I’m curious: Have you worked them into your wardrobe?  Pleats can be a little tricky, so I thought I’d post some tips to help you guys tackle this trend. 

Mix Textures: You don’t have to limit your pleated pieces to the textures you’d expect, like airy chiffon or silk.  Think about incorporating heavyweight fabrics for a totally different take on this trend: in the outfit I’m wearing above, the pleated skirt in this outfit is actually pale pink leather, while the top is an airy, lightweight fabric.  Both have great movement and add a ton of visual detail to an otherwise simple outfit.

Simplify Without Bulk: Pleats add a lot of volume to an outfit, which is part of why they’re so fun.  But if you’re nervous about pulling off a lot of fabric, pair a pleated skirt with a slim-fitting, simple top or bottom.  The easiest way to dive into this trend is to limit it to about 1/3 of your outfit: try pairing a solid-color boat-neck top with a pleated maxi skirt or a pleated, mega-volume top with skinny jeans and flats. 

Streamline Accessories: The biggest risk with pleats is that they end up looking a little schoolgirl-y when done wrong.  (Won’t lie; this was a look I was very fond of in high school!) Combat that risk and keep your image grown-up by grabbing a ladylike purse and a bold pair of shoes to minimize the schoolgirl-chic vibe. 

Or take the opposite approach: Embrace it!  Grab your favorite pair of kitten heels and a white button-down shirt, and you’ve got a chic statement look that’s on trend and adorable. 

What are your favorite tricks for wearing pleats this spring?

Photos by Kate Robinson.

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one more thing…

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May 18th, 2015 · Print Print

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Thank you guys so much for your wonderful responses to my most recent career post.  I talked about how to find mid-career motivation when you’re at a crossroads, and it all boiled down to one simple piece of advice: Find something challenging that matters. 

Since that post, I’ve gotten so many comments and emails from you guys, and they made me so, so incredibly happy.  It means so much to me when I hear from you all, and I’m thrilled to have touched on a topic that matters to so many of you. 

But as I thought about that last post, it occurred to me that in some ways, it wasn’t a career post at all. 

Because the flip side is this: Parenting is challenging too.  And it matters just as much. 

One of my hesitations in writing about my career is this: there’s a fine line between encouraging and supporting women’s careers and getting into the working-mom vs. stay-at-home-mom debate.  And that debate isn’t one that I’m particularly interested in joining.  Why?  Because they are both valid life choices.  I don’t care which one is right for you.  But I do want every woman to have the opportunity to pursue the one that she chooses.

And maybe that’s the best lesson of all.  Because finding the path that’s right for you doesn’t always mean becoming the CEO of a company, or devoting yourself entirely to your family.  It can mean both, or neither.  And realizing that the answer may be different for every single woman (every single person) out there… well, I think that’s the right place to start.

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career: find something challenging that matters.

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May 7th, 2015 · Print Print

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A few weeks ago, after I wrote this post, I got an email from a reader asking me to write about a different career topic, one that really resonated with me.  She asked if I had any advice for tackling those mid-career moments when you struggle with motivation and direction:

Hi Katy,

I’m a longtime reader (I found your blog via Ramshackleglam years ago!) and loved your recent post on wearing red for a confidence boost; I was wondering if you had any further advice that have helped you with your career or still follow to this day.  I’m not in the legal world but I would love to hear any tips you have on how to navigate a demanding job without losing motivation or feeling overwhelmed by everything.  Or even how you managed your time to successfully run a blog and write three books on top of being a lawyer!

My first year in my current role was fantastic as I had so much to learn, but now that I can navigate things easily I’m not sure how best to hone other ‘professional’ skills, or even show my managers I am ready to work at a higher level.  So this was just in case you had been thinking about writing more work-related posts – yes please! :)

I thought about this a lot, and get ready, pour some coffee, because, man, I have a lot to say.

In some ways, it’s easier to be relatively junior in many fields.  Sure, the hours are long, but in most jobs, for the first years, someone tells you what to do.

Sure, there’s a reason for that: you don’t have the training and experience to know exactly how to do everything, yet.  So your job (even in a very challenging career) initially is more task-oriented.  The downside is that you’r often working really hard, long hours, but the upside is that you have a pretty good sense of what’s on your plate at any given moment. 

But here’s the thing no one tells you: that changes.  If you stick with it for a while, suddenly you’re not the one taking orders anymore.  You’re giving them. 

That’s a little terrifying.

And it’s also completely amazing. 

Here’s the thing: it’s a scary thing to be in charge.  But at the same time, being in charge means that, suddenly, your work feels incredibly important.  For me, it marked the moment when my job became a career.  It was when my work stopped feeling like work and started feeling like a vital, integral part of my life. 

And you know what?  It wasn’t the moment that I started my own practice.  It would be easy if it were; that’s a clean story.  “All I had to do was start my own business, and then I was the boss and everyone lived happily ever after, the end.” But that’s not the real answer. 

The real answer is: it happened at moments, off and on, at different points in my career. 

Here’s one example.  When I was about three years out of law school, I worked on a case that exploded from a relatively small, discrete project into almost a year of non-stop work with dozens of people tackling different parts of it.  I was a third year associate, and found myself suddenly managing a team of a dozen other associates who were only one or two years junior to me.  This wasn’t because I’m an exceptionally good lawyer, although I’d like to think that was part of it.  It was partly luck, and it was partly because I’d worked really hard at the beginning of the case to make myself indispensable to the partners who were in charge of the case, and they’d decided I could do it.

Overnight, my role was flipped.  Usually, as a junior person, you’re the one asking all the questions.  But suddenly, I was the one answering them.  I was saying “yes” and “no” and deciding what got passed along to the partners at my firm and the client, who were trusting me to manage the small stuff myself and know when to consult them on the big stuff.  It was terrifying, and it was really, really cool. 

And I felt like what I was doing was important.  People were depending on me.  I’d check my blackberry at 3 a.m. not because I was scared that I’d get into trouble if I didn’t, but because I felt like my input mattered to the work we were doing. 

But.  You know there was going to be a ‘but’, right?

That moment didn’t last forever.  A year later, that case had ended, and I was still working long, hard hours, I wasn’t as excited about them as I’d been before.  I didn’t want to spend five more years getting back into that same leadership role that I’d stumbled into by accident.  I loved the people I worked with, and I still had the same job, same title, and yet something had changed.  It was the kind of high-stakes, demanding job that required you to give 100%, 24/7.  And there’s no way to do that if your heart isn’t there.  There just isn’t.

People sometimes hear that you should love your job, and they think it means that work should be all fun, all the time.  “I love windsurfing and I’m supposed to love my job, so I guess I’m meant to be a professional windsurfer!  Whee!

But the best job isn’t going to be fun all the time.  It’s going to be hard and challenging and sometimes require effort you don’t feel like you have.  You’re going to beat your fists against walls and feel like you have no idea how to get from where you are to where you want to be.  Those are really hard moments. 

So where do you go from there?  How do you figure out when you’re in that moment, and what you can do to change it?

When this reader wrote to me, she asked about finding career motivation and feeling overwhelmed.  But those are two completely separate things.

I feel overwhelmed all the time.  I have a career and a family and a house and two dogs and this blog.  Some days, that’s a little overwhelming.  I think it’s ok to feel overwhelmed sometimes.  And I think it’s ok to admit it. 

But the motivation side isn’t a question: it’s the answer.  I have a very demanding job.  But my career motivation doesn’t stem from winning and losing, or from the excitement of going to court, or the adrenaline of negotiation.  Some of that is part of it.  But what motivates me are two things. 

My work is challenging and I think what I do is important. 

That’s it.  That’s the secret to loving your job.  I can give it to you in five words.

Find something challenging that matters.

It doesn’t bother me that the work is difficult; I like hard work.  But that work has to matter.  It doesn’t have to matter to anyone else.  It doesn’t have to be high-paying or glamorous.  But it has to matter to me. 

For me, those two are enough.  They’re where my heart is.  When I check those two boxes every day, I feel good when I go to sleep at night.  Even when I’m stressed out or overwhelmed or unsure of what to do next.  And on the flip side, when I’ve gone through moments in my career without those, I’ve lost motivation. 

When I started thinking about this post, I thought that my answer was going to be: I can’t tell you what motivates you. 

But, actually, I think I can. 

Find work that’s challenging and that matters.  To you, not to anybody else.  Look deeply into your heart and your gut and if you don’t like what you’re doing, then change something.  And then change something else.  Keep going until your vision is crystal clear.

It doesn’t mean everything will be easy.  In fact, it probably means the exact opposite.  You will work harder if you approach your career this way, but it will be because you want to.  It will be for yourself (even if you aren’t the boss).  You will be choosing it because it matters to you. 

Almost six years ago, I ran a marathon, and I used to joke that the secret to marathon training was this: You get to the point where you want to stop running.  And then you just keep running.  And pretty soon, you’ll have run a marathon. 

But I think I was a little bit wrong.  Sure, that was part of it.  You can’t run a marathon if you stop after a few miles.  You have to keep running.

And yet it was more than that.  I came across a moment in life when I wanted to run a marathon, and I chose to run a marathon.  The motivation to keep running was completely secondary: the choice was to run the marathon in the first place.  After I made that choice, all I had to do was put one foot in front of the other.

In a lot of ways, running that marathon was the best piece of life training I’ve ever gotten. 

And I think it’s also the best advice I can give.  Commit to your career like you’re choosing to run a marathon.  Turn left or right, slow down, ice your knees, hobble along, sprint for a little while and then crawl if you have to.  But just keep running.

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Photo credit: Kate Robinson

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