Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Power of the Cardigan

[Meg's note: When I met Jaina and learned about her Jackie cardigan lifestyle, I knew she could write an amazing post for F.E., and once I learned that she documented her cardi-based outfits on Jaina in Jackie, I was hooked! Thanks for sharing, Jaina! xo]

The first time I truly thought about becoming a librarian was when someone said to me that I look like a librarian. I looked down at my dress and cardigan and up through my cat-eye glasses at the accuser and said "thank you!" I've been a librarian for almost eight years now. Obviously, there were some mentors and life events that led me to library school and to the career I have today, so I can't owe it all to a cardigan. But, I can give the garment enough props that I've devoted an entire blog to it. I run Jaina in Jackie, a selfie Tumble devoted to me and my collection of J.Crew Jackie cardigans.
I've considered cardigans a wardrobe staple since my early 20's. They were there for me to keep me warm in the winter when I wore short-sleeved dresses, and also while I sat in overly air-conditioned offices while I surfed the web at temp jobs. In my later years, after I obtained a large arm tattoo in order to properly brand myself as a millenial, cardigans became something else: tattoo cover-ups. They went from being a must-have to being a drag. Cardigans symbolized that "the man" was keeping me down.
However, something changed: the J.Crew Jackie cardigan came into my life. The Jackie had the perfect sleeve length to cover up my tattoo, it held up after multiple washings, and it was affordable ($62). Although I had solely worn black cardigans my entire life, the Jackie opened up my eyes to color. Red! Yellow! Green! OMG Orange! I began to see cardigans not as a way to cover-up an outfit, but to enhance it.
I'd say that my personal style goal is to "dress like a librarian." I like things that have a vintage feel or basics that I can style vintage. I sort of have a set list of things I will wear: a-line skirts, pencil skirts, shift dresses, and skinny black pants. I find that I know my body shape and style well enough that I almost never leave a fitting room disappointed. When I read fashion profiles of cool girls in magazines, they always are like "oh, I wear something different every day- I love experimenting." Maybe that works if you're a size 0 and you don't have a professional job, but my recipe for looking good is knowing what works and sticking to it. My style icon is Joan on Mad Men. Give her some glasses and a cardigan, and she'd be rocking my look.
If I were going to give advice to somebody starting up a Jackie collection, I'd first say "great job!" Then: don't be afraid of colored cardigans. Playing around with color is one of the best things about having the same sweater in a color assortment. If you wore an outfit once with one color, think about how it would look with the complete opposite. And stop worrying about matching. For years, the cardigan lobby told us that we had to buy sweater sets. Fuck that. Wear your cardigan any way you damn choose. And if you're too afraid to jump into the deep end of mixing colors, wear black and add a colored cardigan. That's what I do when I'm really tired in the mornings.
If you're going to buy Jackies, wash them in cold water and hang them to dry. These bitches don't like the dryer. J.Crew has tons of random sales, so wait until then and you'll grab your sweaters cheaper. They also cycle colors every season, so you can grab different colors on sale all the time. I snagged my red cardigan half price because they weren't doing to do that color the following season. You don't have to obey Jackie season rules; it's all about building a collection. Right now, I have 17 colors. I add a new one every three months or so and plan to continue.

Some ladies do shoes, others do purses, I do cardigans. It's a less glamorous obsession than most, but in the end, librarians are practical people. 

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