Style Evolution

When I was in Cleveland, I found my old school agendas. In them, I catalogued outfits and wrote things like "I heart Hayden Christensen."  I don't pretend to think anyone cares, but based on old photos, notes, and memories, here are my year-round wardrobes for the past decade or so, as accurately as I can remember them. This might be interesting to people who feel minimum closets can't incorporate colors, prints, or patterns; are impractical for four season-climates, students, travelers, corporate settings, apartments without laundries, etc. Bottom line is, wardrobes smaller than mine are possible for everyone. They might not make everyone happy, and that's okay. A minimal closet doesn't necessarily mean an ethical or sustainable one, as my experiments with fast fashion show.

Middle school to college

Dresses 11
1 gingham thrifted H&M
1 leopard print thrifted H&M
2 bright blue thrifted H&M
1 grey H&M
3 plaid- two thrifted: one white, one red and black. One purple that my friend made
2 rainbow striped thrifted dresses- one white, one black
1 black polka dotted dress (tiny beige polka dots), thrifted

Tops 24
1 red tie-neck, 3/4 sleeves, Urban Outfitters hand-me-down from my mom
1 purple ruched Velvet brand v-neck, thrifted
1 fluorescent green square neck ruched top
2 long sleeve fluorescent square neck tees, one yellow, one royal blue, thrifted
1 black sweater, H&M
Thrifted khaki military shirt
1 mint cardigan
1 silver sweater, thrifted
2 thrifted tank tops- one black Forever 21, one purple
2 thrifted camisoles
1 Free People tie-dye purple and blue blouse, thrifted
1 pink thrifted blouse
1 floral Wet Seal blouse, thrifted
1 leather blazer, H&M
1 Gap purple and red striped t-shirt, thrifted
1 velvet blazer, thrifted
1 powder blue v-neck, thrifted
1 fluorescent orange merino wool sweater, thrifted
Thrifted embroidered peasant blouse
Neon crop top
Bright blue lace bustier
Leopard H&M jacket

Bottoms 15
3 pairs jeans, Junya Watanabe, J. Lo Glo, and Paper Denim and Cloth, thrifted
Three pairs leggings- velvet, zebra, and the

leggings I have now, thrifted
2 skirts I made myself, one toile, one denim
Two pairs shorts, thrifted
Five skirts- one floral print, one linen, one white, one rainbow wool plaid, one black, thrifted

Coats 6
Camel coat, thrifted
Blue coat, thrifted
Leopard print coat, H&M
Lavender trench coat, thrifted
Pink satin bomber jacket, thrifted
Velvet blazer, thrifted

Accessories 36
One fluorescent pink studded H&M pleather bag, thrifted
One heart-shaped red H&M purse
Six rings from various fast fashion chains
Two pairs giant earrings I made myself
1 leopard print H&M hat
Doc Martens I spray painted gold
Thrifted mittens
2 pairs boots- one black hand-me-down, one leopard print
Pink leather Gap sandals, thrifted
3 pairs heart shaped sunglasses- purple, white, and yellow; thrifted
Nike sneakers
Tan wedge Nine West heels, thrifted
Ivory bow-back Steve Madden heels
Brown espadrilles
Leopard print, black, purple, plaid, navy wool, and red tights
1 beige Levi's bag and 1 black leather Michael Kors bag, a gift from my aunt and uncle
2 fluorescent velvet Gap belts, thrifted
One purple velvet belt with vintage elephant buckle, thrifted
Pink fluorescent Gap flats
Floral flats
Saddle shoes
Gold sandals

Total items: 93

I lumped these years together but didn't own everything at once- when I had the camel coat, I hadn't yet thrifted the blue; I bought ivory heels for my high school commencement; a friend gave me Doc Martens freshman year of college and I sold them a few months later. I threw away a lot of stuff back then. Coats stayed on their hooks year round, and out of season clothes went into a trash bag at the bottom of the closet. When I moved out, my wardrobe was effectively reduced, because a lot on this list actually belonged to my mom or sister.

First two years of college

Dresses 10
Red H&M sweater dress
Colorblock satin H&M dress
Yellow Calvin Klein cotton dress
Red Calvin Klein cotton dress
Grey Calvin Klein Dress
Red Limited dress
Khaki Ann Taylor shirtdress
Lavender H&M floral dress
White plaid Urban Outfitters dress
Bright blue Anthropologie dress

Tops 16
Mint cardigan
Bright blue satin H&M blouse
Pink peplum Forever 21
Black Forever 21 tank top (thrifted)
Green J Crew tank top (thrifted)
Black H&M sweater
Black H&M cardigan
Purple ruched Velvet brand v-neck (thrifted)
Green fluorescent top
Red H&M t-shirt
Floral Wet Seal thrifted blouse
Green J Crew cashmere cardigan (thrifted)
Green linen t-shirt (thrifted)
Dior shirt (thrifted)

Powder blue top from TJ Maxx
Leather H&M blazer

Bottoms 9
Two pairs jeans, Junya Watanabe and Paper
4 skirts- black, floral, linen, white
2 pairs leggings- black and velvet
Black H&M skirt suit

Coats 2
Blue thrifted coat
Thrifted lavender trench coat

Accessories 12
Leopard print, black, and beige knit tights (people thought the lacy knit was a skin disease)
Thrifted mittens
Nike sneakers
Black patent pumps from Target
Green suede Steve Madden heels
Black boots
Leopard boots
Urban Outfitters gladiator sandals
Brown espadrilles
Thrifted black studded leather bag
Three rings and a bangle bracelet

Total items: 53
I lived in a house without laundry, so having less pieces year-round minimized the number of trips needed to clean everything. For my first job, I wanted to look more professional; a mix of Crayola brights and fast fashion was my idea of corporate attire. Though a full-time student, I felt I could finally afford to shop at the mall, and bought a lot of disposable clothing, which didn't satisfy like thrift store finds. I started consigning unwanted clothes then.

Kate Middleton phase and 1st trip to Paris

Dresses 8
Red H&M sweater dress
Grey wool Valentino dress
Red Limited dress
Khaki Ann Taylor shirtdress
My grey wedding dress
Paul and Joe dress, bought in Paris
Powder blue Cavalli dress, bought in Paris
Blue floral Express dress

Tops 11
Ivory lace Ann Taylor
Red H&M t-shirt
Gap peach zip front chiffon-paneled t-shirt
Two green J Crew tank tops
Two Forever 21 tank tops, one navy, one black
Black H&M sweater
Black H&M cardigan
Green linen t-shirt
Apple green cashmere cardigan

Bottoms 4
Two pairs shorts

The black skirt I have now
One striped Anthropologie brand skirt
(I didn't live with my sister anymore; she kept the Junya Watanabe jeans during this period)

Coats 2
Black wool J Crew coat
Zara trench coat bought in Paris

Accessories 10
Silk scarf I took from my mom
Brown espadrilles
Dior sunglasses bought in Paris
Green Steve Madden suede heels
Tan Jessica Simpson espadrille-sandal-heels that broke on the street
Tan Skechers sneakers
Black hand-me-down boots
Black Louboutin patent pumps
A purse I took from my mom
Black knit tights

Total items: 35

All items secondhand unless otherwise noted. I worked at a summer camp for kids with serious illnesses and also in a corporate setting, so my year-round wardrobe reflected the dichotomy. I didn't have laundry in my building and couldn't afford dry-cleaning, forcing me to pare down to minimize costs. I started traveling, which crushed acquisitive tendencies like a box of macarons in a carry-on. Traveling meant a tighter budget, and I returned to shopping secondhand almost exclusively.

Post-undergrad and subsequent trips to Paris

Dresses 11
Grey wool Valentino dress and Alexander Mcqueen dress
My grey wedding dress
Black Paul and Joe dress, bought in Paris, and the same dress in pink
Orange Paul and Joe Ryana dress
Black Dior dress
Black Chanel dress
Red sleeveless H&M dress
Hot pink vintage YSL beaded dress
Blue Dior dress

Tops 16
Black and navy Forever 21 tank tops
Black H&M sweater
Black H&M cardigan
Black silk Alexander Wang blouse
Black Equipment lace button-down
Nude Equipment lace button-down
Black sheer Equipment silk top
Louis Vuitton silk shell
Express silk shell
White Valentino ruffle button-down
Grey wool funnel-neck J. Crew top
Short-sleeved white Ann Taylor blouse
Green J Crew linen t-shirt 
Beige Vince leather jacket
Red silk Prada
Red Etoile Isabel Marant sweater

Bottoms 5
The black skirt I have now
Junya Watanabe jeans
One red H&M skirt (actually my sister's)
The same leggings I have now
Current Elliott floral print stiletto jeans
Black Alaia skater skirt (purchased at the Alaia shop)

Coats 2
Green Banana Republic wool coat
Floral brocade Versace coat

Accessories 13
Beige Miu Miu boots and black studded heels
Black heart-shaped Forever 21 purse
Black Louboutin patent pumps
Purple Alaia cage heels and Alaia flats
Black knit tights
Dior and Alexander Wang sunglasses
Gold Newbark flats
Leopard print Louboutins
Green suede YSL here and grey-pink LV heels
Embroidered silk scarf

Total items: 48 (all secondhand unless noted)

Here's where I started falling for designer items. As the secondhand market became more savvy and expensive, so did my wardrobe. I worked full-time in a corporate setting with a strict dress code. I lived in a studio without laundry, and didn't have a closet or dresser, so I put everything on a small garment rack and steamed clothes during showers.

Pre-Paris move until 1st year in France

Dresses 8
My grey wedding dress
Black Paul and Joe dress, bought in Paris, and the same dress in pink
Black Dior dress
Red wool Valentino dress
Bright purple silk-cotton Alberta Ferretti dress
White and blue toile print Bernie Dexter dress from my sister
Blue Dior dress

Tops 12
Black H&M sweater and red Etoile Isabel Marant sweater
Navy Uniqlo blazer
Navy and black Forever 21 tank tops
Green linen t-shirt
Black lace button-down
Nude lace button-down
White Valentino button-down
Grey wool J Crew top
Black silk Alexander Wang blouse
Short-sleeved white ruffle button-down
Blue gingham top (worn with floral jeans)

Bottoms 6
The black skirt I have now
J Brand jeans
One pair beige M Missoni pants
Grey Isabel Marant pants

Floral print Current Elliott jeans
Black Alexander Wang pants

Coats 2
Grey wool hooded J. Crew coat
Trench coat I have now

Accessories 15
Black boots (hand-me-downs from middle school)
Miu Miu black studded heels
Longchamp bag
Black Louboutin patent pumps
Purple Alaia cage heels (in black, here)
Black knit tights
Dior sunglasses bought in Paris
Black Alexander Wang for Linda Farrow sunglasses (in white, here)
Black Alaia flats
Black and white Alaia flats
Green Nike sneakers, a gift from my husband
Ancient Greek Sandals
Grey and pink Louis Vuitton heels
Green suede YSL heels (in orange, here)
Silk scarf
Wedding ring

Total items: 46 (all secondhand unless noted)
I ruthlessly halved this list before moving, then realized what I kept was impractical for car-less city life. The past few years were trial and error as I adapted my style to a new environment. I don't like wearing all the bright stuff I used to in Paris. Certain shades don't look nice in the weather or against the buildings, I think. When I dressed that way, people immediately knew I wasn't from here and would bother me on the Métro or street. Now my wardrobe is at the point where I still have variety and can add a few pieces without being overwhelmed. I definitely wouldn't say I was fashionable, but I feel good in and truly love everything I wear, which is more important. Photos 11 and 12, Emanuela Cervo. Photo 14, Emanuele D'Angelo.

Paris to Go


  1. Great info! I do wonder about the laundry though... You must be really organised. (well I kind of guess you are)

    1. Thanks Emma! I'll do a post on laundry soon. I wish I was more organized!

  2. It all reads like a great adventure. The places travelled, the years, and the clothes.

  3. Loved reading this. Funny how we change so much. My style evolved along with lifestyle adjustments as well. After getting married, I no longer wanted to wear short shorts like when I was single. Certain things didn't feel appropriate anymore. Then, came children, and I felt the need to make my look more "mom." Lots of polos and bright colors that didn't take kindly to the wash! Still, clothes can be a great security blanket when you feel uncertain about something, and the switch made me more confident in my abilities as a parent.

    Now they are older and I'm redefining my style once more, not according to how a wife or mother should dress, but how I feel like dressing. My husband is very supportive and welcomes the change.

    1. Thank you Tamara, and thanks for sharing your experience! That's a great point that clothes can be a security blanket. I like to think of them as armor.

  4. Love reading your blog but ...

    Would you mind to tell us your favourite Second Hand Shops in Paris? :)

    It is incredible that you know all your cloths in the past couple of years. I have no idea ^^

    1. Hi! Thank you so much! Here are my favorite shops:

      I actually cheated, I used to blog and keep a stylediary online so I had pictures of my clothes from before, I never would have remembered otherwise!

    2. Thank you for your answer!

      I also lived nearly two years in Paris for studying so I come back to this City on a regular Basis. Once fallen in Love with this City you'll come always back ^^ But I am happy to went back to my homecountry, I missed the mountains and the nature a lot.

    3. Now you have the best of both worlds! You can enjoy the nature and mountains and still visit :)

  5. I want to know the stories behind the pictures!

    1. Hi Jessica! Aw, all those pictures are embarrassing, but they illustrated the outfits. I was young!

    2. Don't worry, they're fun. The one lady in the picture with you looks so much like the author of How to Breathe Underwater. They could be twins!

    3. Good eye! It actually is Julie Orringer!

  6. I remember the Hollister craze like it was yesterday and I don't miss it. People still dress according to the same exact jacket-loose tee-skinny jean-hipster aesthetic as their neighbor, but at least this look is more attainable than fluorescent sweats tucked into Uggs. Not to mention the smell and noise of those stores was incredible back then.

    1. Hi Sandra, that is too funny. When I first came to Paris people were walking around with Abercrombie paper bags. I asked, "Do they even have a store here?" There wasn't one yet. It was just a status symbol.

      I will say my friends wear Hollister now and I can't even tell. One was wearing a white Hollister dress and it looked like Isabel Marant. Another- who works at the Abercrombie home office- wore a leather jacket and jeans from there and she looked like an Alexander Wang model!

      Did you see this article:

      Things are changing, even if the store is still dark and fragrant and loud (at least here anyway).

  7. I'm in Singapore currently on holiday but since reading that your bag is Longchamp, that's all I've seen the women carry here! Seriously every 1 in 5 are carrying a Longchamp. I can't unsee them!

    1. Ooh, enjoy your holiday! That's too funny. I'm surprised they're carrying Longchamp, honestly I would have thought women in Singapore preferred more "prestigious" brands like Louis Vuitton or Chanel. Not sure why I thought that. In Seoul, at least a few years ago, a lot of women were really into logos and more flashy designers but just a few weeks ago my friend visiting from there said they're all carrying Longchamp too and she had to bring bags back for half the people she knew. I wonder what prompted the shift.

    2. Yeah now you mention it I have seen less YSL, Prada and LV this year. Unsure, perhaps the new trend is to be stylishly minimal and functional. Or perhaps a Korean star was seen touting one (Korean dramas are the rage at the moment. I'm sucked into one called Tears from Heaven or something. So much incestuous drama!)

  8. Your reason on shying away from bright colors is interesting. I always wondered why people in Paris did that. I read an article once where some French style editor spoke of the rainbow shades she used to wear in the 70's, but she prefaced it with, "That was when girls could wear things like that on the metro."
    I'm curious, why do you think the number went up from 35 to 44 post-undergrad? Do you think your preference for designer items started in Paris? Although, I am jealous that you found Junya Watanabe jeans in a thrift store. Those must have been truly something.

    1. Hi Danielle! I've heard French women say stuff like that too. I still feel like Paris is super safe for women, but I'm sure the covered-up, muted color style of dressing is a protection.

      Those are good questions! The 44 figure represents all the items I had in two years. I kept buying designer items in thrift stores and selling them for way more to pay for plane tickets. I was really, really addicted to travel at the time, and got into a bad habit of just buying designer labels to make a profit. I'd wear it once or twice, realize it was annoying to keep tugging at the neckline or the fit wasn't right, and sell it on EDropOff or the Real Real for way more than I paid.

      I still do that, but now when I buy something it at least fits and I liked it at the time; I only sell when I haven't worn something- either my tastes change or my body changes and wearing it becomes uncomfortable.

      The designer preference started in Cleveland, I was reading lots of fashion magazines and when I went to thrift stores I'd comb the racks for labels. It had more to do with a lack of imagination than anything else. It's funny, when I stopped looking for labels, and started looking at fabrics, I began finding a lot more designer stuff.

      I definitely wanted to buy things in Paris to take back home and just say, "Oh, I got this in Paris." That was the way I was wherever I traveled. I did equate designer labels with quality at the time, so I ended up with a lot of things I didn't need.

  9. I like your wardrobe and your zero waste way.

    And your SMILE:)

  10. The heels picture :) we need to organize a new Ro meet-up soon! It was so much fun.

  11. Nathalie / Mixt(e)November 3, 2015 at 7:53 AM

    Hi Ariana, once again I'm amazed by your powers of organization and memory. I was thinking the other day of all the clothes I acquired and lost/disposed of during my college years and could only remember a few key items. I wish there was a way of cataloguing all this, it would make for a fascinating trip back into the past...

    1. Hi Nathalie, I would love to read an article like that! I hope you are doing well, I thought of you when I saw SKP in front of Grand Palais all over Instagram. And the Mixt(e) issue in front of Fondation Louis Vuitton, wonderful!

  12. Love your articles on clothing, always engaging and inspiring reads. Nice to see honesty in your reports about style evolution and how you were once a fast-fashionista (so was I), but are now a quality-over-quantity type of gal - it's a reminder that keeps me stationed away from impulsive buys as well :) you're a walking example of how life can be exciting without an extensive wardrobe!

    1. Thank you so much! This comment made my day. After reading your blog I HAVE to read that book Overdressed.

  13. You are ridiculously adorable (loved the pictures!) and it was fascinating watching the progression of your style through your extremely thorough and organized lists. I always look forward to your posts and this is by far my favorite one!

    And for someone who describes themselves as shy and nervous in front of a camera, you sure seem like the life of the party! ;) You are the type of girl I would love to have in my circle of girlfriends!

    1. You are so sweet Joanna! I'm pretty awkward in real life and in front of the camera, but friends are willing to overlook it :) What a nice comment, thank you for this!

  14. This is a fascinating evolution! I wish I had kept track of what I owned in high school and university. There were definitely some cringe worthy items over the years. I'd estimate my high school clothes quantity was a little less than yours, but I went nuts with the fast fashion when I went to university (moved to the city and suddenly had proximity to stores I liked. Oops.) You've definitely picked up some covetable pieces over the years!

    1. Thanks Cassie! Yea, we didn't even have an H&M or Forever 21 in my town until I was nearly college age, so I can understand getting a little excited at all the trendy stuff :)

  15. I love this post and seeing your old photos! I would definitely not be able to go back and piece together the details of my wardrobe from earlier periods in my life. If I could, I suspect I would feel a little embarrassed about some of my more questionable shopping decisions: a lot of fast fashion and half the time I was buying things that only half-worked for me (at best) because they were on sale. I'm more careful now than I was before, but I have a ways to go.

    It is also really interesting to hear about how people dress in Paris. I'm not sure I would be able to pinpoint specific details about how women generally dress here in NYC, outside of some individual items or designs being absurdly popular (most recently it's Mansur Gavriel bucket bags).

    1. Hi Xin! Thank you so much! I had that problem with sales too. What is it with those Mansur Gavriel bags? They appear
      on every blog and seem to sell out as soon as shops get them. Maybe it's a reaction to all the logo bags? To me, it's one of the most visible symbols of the minimalist trend.

  16. Hoping you are well and safe after the events of tonight.

    1. Thanks Tracy, that is so sweet of you. Everyone we know is safe and in stable condition this morning. I feel for the families of the victims, can't imagine what a night they had.

  17. I also hearted Hayden Christensen. The guy was smokin'.

    1. Yea, it's too bad he isn't more movies, he's good looking and I think he is capable of acting well too :)