How Living in the Midwest Changed my Style

blank nyc suede jacket with a tie sleeve sweater

Brown Suede Moto Jacket | Tie Sleeve Sweater (size down) | Skinny Jeans (size down) | Brown Satchel | Kate Spade Watch | Pearl Necklace | Tortoise Sunglasses | Brown Booties

I’m guessing you already have some ideas about how this move to the Midwest has changed my style! After 10 things I learned about living in Chicago and my 7 must have beauty products earlier in the week, it felt right to talk about fashion today. As you can imagine, beach weather in December is quite a bit different than wind chill and sub-zero temperatures. There were quite a few things I learned like the importance of having an umbrella on you at all times to what SOREL (the brand) was. But there were a few surprises too!

It took me 2 hours to realize I wasn’t in California anymore. My interpretation of “fall” was pretty different having spent most of my life in the Golden State. Whether consciously or subconsciously, Matt and I chose an apartment that was located one block from the Nordstrom on Michigan Avenue. Along with unpacking boxes and unwrapping kitchen utensils, outfitting myself with a wardrobe made for Chiberia was at the top of the list. I look back at my California wardrobe now and laugh. So while Matt was still in LA, I had a little “treat yourself” moment one night after work. Here’s what I got (and why Nordstrom will always be my ride or die).

1. Outerwear isn’t just about style. It’s about survival.

Before moving to Chicago, my coat collection was slim to none. Erring on the side of none. Sure, I had the occasional lightweight trench but you wouldn’t have caught me wearing a puffer coat for the life of me. Also, it wasn’t necessary in Los Angeles. Exactly 1 week before the first snow, I walked through Nordstrom and casually browsed the puffer coat section. I was curious. Did cute ones exist? I doubted it.

After a lovely and helpful conversation with the saleswoman, she told me they had been selling out of so many styles. Already? It’s barely even November, I thought to myself. She helped me find a coat that fit me (how was I supposed to know what requirements you need in a coat?) and I walked out of there with my first puffer coat. And I wore that thing until April. Whenever my coworkers commented on the fact that I was still wearing it, I had one response. I’m from California!

grey suede moto jacket

Grey Suede Moto Jacket | $22 Twist Front Tee | Black Jeans | Grey Suede Booties (on sale!) | Grey Crossbody Bag | Black Sunglasses | Silver Pave Bracelet

2. Casual is the name of the game.

Almost immediately after coming to Chicago, I noticed that people dress a lot more casually here. In LA, there was always the pressure to wear a fancy top or wear heels out to the bar. In Chicago, you can get away with a $22 twist front tee and your best pair of flats. Heck, I’ve even seen people out in sweatpants. There’s even a brunch place in Chicago that encourages you to wear pajamas to breakfast. Honestly, I’m loving it. It’s so nice to be comfortable and get more wear out of pieces like this! That being said, I do like dressing up for date night every now and then because Matt appreciates it!

pink bp sweater

Pink V-Neck Sweater | Plaid Scarf | Brown Belt | Skinny Jeans (size down) | Leather Jacket | Tortoise Sunglasses

3. Scarves are your bestie.

They add a touch of something extra to your look while blocking your face from the wind when it’s raging at you with speeds of 30 mph. PS. it’s impossible to breathe otherwise if you’re walking outside! I wore so many of them my coworker asked me once if they were blankets. Which brings me to my next point, they double as blankets! I always bring them along when I travel to use in over air conditioned airplanes or as a pillow!

pink suede slides

Chenille Cardigan | $22 Twist Front Tee | Boyfriend Jeans | Pink Velvet Slides | English Rose Crossbody Bag | $55 Pink Sunglasses

4. Layering is an art.

My knowledge of perfecting the art of layers was pretty limited a year ago. Put a t-shirt under a light jacket and that was the extent of it. Now, I know about leggings under pants (such a weird feeling) and t-shirts under sweaters under cardigans under puffer coats. Nailing this look without looking like the Michelin man is a feat in itself. Let along walking to work under all of it. Admittedly, I still haven’t perfected going back indoors without quickly becoming drenched in my own sweat. I think you have to start peeling off your layers before you actually get indoors. But stay tuned – I have high hopes for this winter.

beige cardigan from nordstrom

$49 Beige Knit Cardigan | Pink V-Neck Top ($39, so soft!) | Skinny Jeans (size down) | English Rose Crossbody Bag | Bar Necklace | $55 Pink Mirrored Sunglasses

5. Cardigans are a desk staple.

For some reason, Chicago building authorities deem it necessary to blast the AC all summer long. The hotter it is outside, the lower they turn the temp inside as if to overcompensate. Therefore, my cubicle feels like a freezer most of the time. Unfortunately, the opposite doesn’t apply in winter. Is it freezing outside (NOT an exaggeration)? Those same authorities decide it’s a great opportunity to save energy and refrigerate you until it becomes impossible to type your Outlook emails. So there is always a cardigan like this one on my desk along with a personal heater. But don’t tell anyone about the latter. I’m sure it’s a fire hazard.

Grey Ruffle Sweatshirt Dress $39 | Similar Pink Structured Tote | Pink Mirrored Sunglasses

6. Comfort is appreciated.

I have a pretty high pain tolerance. One might say it’s a gift and a curse. Long nights in the highest heels and tops that really sucked you in were not out of place in my west coast wardrobe. While I love those pieces for how well they hide the 30 deep dish pizzas I’ve consumed in the past year, I have to say that my Midwest girls really appreciate comfortable pieces too. This ruffle grey dress is the perfect example. Made out of a sweatshirt material, it is the epitome of style and comfort combined.

burgundy dress for work

Burgundy Midi Dress (4 colors!) | Beige D’Orsay Pumps | Black Shoulder Bag | Black Sunglasses | Bar Necklace | Pearl Necklace

7. Dressing up for work.

While I wouldn’t say this has so much to do with Chicago as finding out that you guys actually want to see my office OOTDs, it’s a recent development. Refining your business casual has the potential to elevate so much in your 9-5. From the water cooler conversations about how cute that burgundy dress is to the overall appearance of professionalism, it does not go unnoticed. I can’t tell you how many times in my professional career people have confirmed this hypothesis. If you’re just starting out in a professional workplace and are feeling a little lost on where to start, here are the 7 essentials for the career woman’s closet.

beige affordable sweater from nordstrom

$45 V-Neck Sweater (4 colors) | Boyfriend Jeans | Pink Loafer Slides | Pink Tote Bag (on sale!) | $55 Pink Sunglasses

8. Sweater weather is a thing.

Sure, we wore sweaters in Los Angeles. Probably a little too liberally. But Midwest girls have a passion for fall that is unrivaled. I once ran an Instagram giveaway asking what people’s favorite season was and got an overwhelming amount of responses claiming that fall was the best season because… #sweaterweather. I get it. There is nothing comfier than an oversized slouchy sweater. There also happens to be nothing better than one that is under $50 and comes in several colors.

When you’re wearing sweaters every day, you also have to get creative with the style. While a simple v-neck is classic and always necessary, you branch out to tie sleeves or ruffles in an attempt to free yourself from the monotony of another day spent in knits. Cloudy and 40 degrees out? Break out a fuzzy long sleeve knit. Still cloudy and 20 degrees? Try a turtleneck tunic with your favorite leggings. STILL cloudy and below zero? Time to break out the heavy artillery! Find your chunkiest knit and figure out how to layer that over at least 2 other shirts and under a blanket scarf. Oh, and good luck zipping up that puffer coat over all your layers.

Jenna Colgrove wearing black leggings, a blush sweater, and a grey cable knit scarf.

Thermal Leggings | Faux Leather Leggings (25% off!!!) | Similar Pink Cardigan | White Thermal Top (thumb holes!!!) | Similar Grey Scarf | Similar Grey Beanie | Black Sunglasses

9. Thermal leggings aren’t just for camping.

I wore thermal leggings from December through April last year. Matt saw it as an opportunity to get me into some more Nike gear (he loves Nike). I saw it as a way to prevent my legs from freezing mid stride on my walk to the office. I wore them under jeans, dresses, and these faux leather leggings. I sometimes wore them around the house on particularly chilly days. After one Chicago winter, I’m convinced that the inventor of thermal leggings (and clothing in general) is some kind of superhuman.

10. Peep toe booties are a joke.

No matter how adorable a peep toe bootie is, they just aren’t practical in the Midwest. If it’s warm enough to show your toes, you take advantage and wear a sandal. If it’s cold enough to hide them, you wear a bootie. There is no in between. Sure, there’s about a 2 week window between September and October where Mother Nature gives you some real fall feels but unless you’re planning to decorate your bookshelf with some gently worn peep toe booties, save your money for the real deal and protect those toes! Unless you live in California in which case, I’m jealous.

Did I miss anything about Midwest style? Do you have any tips for me this fall and winter?

*In partnership with Nordstrom

29 thoughts on “How Living in the Midwest Changed my Style

  1. This post was so interesting to read!! I am from coastal Maine originally, went to college and spent the past 5 years in Charlotte, NC, and just moved to a small town in Vermont for my first job!! VERY different style up here- and I know it will be a rough winter so I can so relate! Haha..

    xoxo A

  2. love this post, funny how moving from one place to another can totally change your wardrobe, I am experiencing that now with moving to canada from arizona!


  3. What a great post! Styles definitely change depending on where you live- I love all your cozy cardigans!

    xo, Kristina

  4. I can totally relate to this…although my move was from New York to Florida, so now I’m allllll about the open toe booties, haha!! You pretty much covered everything though!! The weather really can impact style! xo, Jaime Sunflowers and Stilettos

  5. Loved reading your post. All of your outfits are lovely. And definitely agree about the peep toe booties. We get about a 4 week window to wear them here in OK. LOL ;)

  6. all of your looks are absolutely beautiful and girl I can’t even imagine how cold it gets in Chicago!! And WINDY!

  7. Loved reading this!! I’m hoping to go to Chicago soon so this was a great read!

Let me know what you think!