New job, new house, new clothes…
It was May 2012 and as mortar boards glided like confetti in the air, another product designer was minted. For commencement I’d paired a sweet little cream dress (that had rested quietly in my closet in the eight years since my first high school dance) with a pair of second-hand shoes I’d worked forever to afford from eBayer distinctivecouture: Christian Louboutin Simple Pumps in jet black Napa leather.
Throughout college I’d taken on all sorts of odd jobs, from freelance web and graphic design and photography to hosting yard sales and selling beat up bicycles on Craigslist. There was one brief stint as a dorm RA and another running a produce stand. After a summer renting innertubes in North Georgia and working in a pottery shop, I’d head back Atlanta for fall semester, logging onto Model Mayhem to search for modeling gigs for local designers’ lookbooks and fashion shows.
A hard look at my closet and shopping habits
My first job out of college wasn’t related to any of these endeavors, and neither was my wardrobe. My closet was brimming over with jorts and colorful sun dresses, while the corporate office where I worked as a proposal writer was filled with a slow gradient — tan to grey to navy to black — of many men in neatly pressed suits.
Work was busy and important and rewarding and most days my meals were taken from carry-out boxes. Lunch breaks spent shopping at T.J. Maxx were a quiet sanctuary from the constant stress of deadlines, and shopping eventually evolved into a sort of easy therapy with souvenirs.
Shopping was a gentle distraction from thinking. Thinking about how most of my friends from college had moved away. Thinking about how, at 23 and surrounded by colleagues twice my age, I had no idea how to present myself as strong and feminine and serious and beautiful — unflappable, confident, content. Thinking about how insane people must have thought my boyfriend and I were to co-sign a mortgage just shy of our first anniversary… and how exactly we were going to fit our messy, jumbled up lives into four tiny 1930s-era closets. Thinking about the stress and cancer that had seeped into my brother’s brain last fall as it snapped away his health, humor, and eternal wisdom from me for good.
How this blog started
I had no idea who I was but more importantly, I had no idea how to be content with my circumstances. So I started to write about it, here. Although I started by tackling what felt like a superficial source of my unhappiness, cleaning up my closet eventually led me to take a pay cut and quit my job (and my gym), lighten our home by more than a dozen carloads of unappreciated things, detox my makeup bag and kitchen cabinets, and start a second blog focused on travel, style, and sustainable and ethical living: Where With Elle.
I began approaching life as I first was taught to do in university studio: defining problems, setting goals, researching solutions, visualizing and designing improvements, and creating a life that’s well made and worn well. I hope my story helps as you outfit for a big, beautiful life that’s filled with adventures.
–JESS HUNT-RALSTON, JANUARY 2017
This page is an archive of what I wore before I really started cleaning out my closet and unearthing a lot of information about sustainable shopping, ethical closets, and responsible fashion companies.
Jun 4, 2013
“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on,
deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
I am having a moment with colors mostly fit for bush walks and hunting camps. Plus black, and gold. And nothing else. Last week I bought the Michael Kors Ava vachetta sandals I had been eyeing for months, and am so happy with them. Soft leather and simple, confident lines.
Thrifted top and shorts — similar ethical options available at Everlane. Michael Kors Ava sandals.
Remember Your Rose
May 23, 2013
The tradeoff of taking a hiatus here was spending more time exploring others’ sartorial journals – and I now have a whole collection of new-found blogs on my reading list to show for it! But it also opened my eyes to how hard it can become to be yourself – and be proud of yourself – in a community where powerhouse agencies perpetuate such an unreasonable standard of hyper-consumption of fashion goods, and hyper-production of fashion content. Fashion is fast and can pack a mean punch, but style will always have more teeth – it’s those perfectly broken-in boots you wear every fall, the throw your grandmother made for your tenth birthday, your mom’s old silk scarves and box of favorite bangles. Style isn’t about being a collector of fashion, it’s harder – it’s knowing who you are and editing your life to the essentials that speak to those feelings.
At heart this notebook is really about being true to myself, learning as I grow, and maybe providing a little extra happiness for others, if I’m lucky. Reading over a chapter of one of my favorite childhood stories reminded me of all of this – that fashion is what you wear and that style is who you are. Taking a break has been wonderful. I took a hard look at why I was hanging on to so many clothes, and starting giving a lot of them to friends and to this incredible organization – but it feels good to be back with a fresh look at where I would like to go with this little story. Thank you for stopping by to read. I hope you enjoy watching this grow as much as I enjoy cultivating it.
May 20, 2013
After a month of surprise trips to DC and San Francisco, celebrating birthdays with Wick, and settling into my new job – oh hello, blog. I pulled down another old friend when we walked to hear Frightened Rabbit in the spring heat – tiered lacy shorts to wear all summer long.
Cream crochet shorts: Sans Souci (last season). Splendid top (thrifted), sandals (thrifted), Michael Kors Runway watch, Bottega Veneta bag.
Apr 9, 2013
I preemptively declare this my spring uniform.
Inspired by Lady Pulitzer, a woman who has left this world a brighter place.
Thrifted skirt, top, shoes. Kate Spade bag.
Adieu, Winter Blue
Mar 31, 2013
The winter weather that required this outfit last week is gloriously, undeniably gone. I will miss you, cozy cardigans and printed tights… but not that much. Find me preoccupied with sunshiney walks, flowers carpeting Atlanta, and pulling down warmer weather outfits.
Zara splitback cardigan — similar ethical option by Cuyana, Vince Camuto dress — here’s a better navy silk dress I bought from Cuyana, Frye riding boots, Tiffany lock necklace.
Interview: The Follow Fashion
Mar 17, 2013
Name… Jess Hunt
Location… Atlanta, GA
Occupation… Marketing, Identity, & Design
Who or What inspires you? Travel, Nature, Literature; Cracking the binding on a fresh copy of a favorite magazine.
How you describe your personal style? Farm-raised Atlantan. Growing up, we were a house of the own-nothing-neither-useful-nor-beautiful tribe – and that’s stayed with me. I am always most comfortable when dressed in well-made, functional – but also beautiful! – pieces.
Favorite brands… Classic, quintessentially American and Italian designers. I live in thrifted Ralph Lauren, J.Crew, Ferragamo – but supplement with thoughtful new purchases. I have an equal love for my first pair of Louboutins and my coveted hand-me-down Dooney & Bourkes, silk scarves, bamboo and gold bangles from Mom.
Any last words? Style has so much to do with how you carry yourself, the work you do, how you treat yourself and the world around you. Be kind and the favor will return to you in droves!
Good Wool Hunting
Mar 16, 2013
There’s something I find endearing in natural materials: wool, cotton, silk on my back; wood, bamboo, plants in the house. It’s led to this habit of shopping by touch and then reading the fine print on everything – what’s it made of, where’s it from? It feels awfully antiquarian (and can probably be traced back to the childhood moment I found out my prized polyster Cinderella pajamas were a fire hazard) – but when I came across this tartan wool shirt it just felt good – soft and scratchy like you know it will last thirty years. And it’s light enough to wear in this warm weather!
Ralph Lauren Plaid Wool Shirt (thrift — similar ethical options by Tradlands) / Sanctuary Hunter Green Pants / Frye Paige Boots / Dooney & Bourke Vintage All Weather Leather (Florentine) / Maui Jim Dawn Patrol Sunglasses / Bangles: Nana and F21.
Feb 1, 2013
Sometimes you’re working and working and it just hits you that you really need some fresh air. After a long week in Nashville I pulled over at the Georgia-Tennessee line to give my thirsty eyes and legs a long, cool drink at Nickajack Lake Dam. When I was little I was always tucked warmly into nature – but living in the city always leaves a tug on my heart, especially in the colder months before spring pops through the ground.
Papa Thoreau knew the sentiment. “We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” I can never have enough home (or how much like home an old sweater can be), either. You forget how much you’ll miss a happy little fur baby and long talk over dinner until you spend a few days without them!
Façonnable + Oliver Peoples
Jan 19, 2013
After visiting the eye doctor and learning (knowing and avoiding, for two years) I need a new prescription, I fell in love with these Oliver People frames. In other news, my two-month old Frye boots are now perfectly broken in and never come off my feet. I am hoping they last as long as my Dad’s pair – they’re pushing forty years young.
OLIVER PEOPLES FOLLIES EYEGLASSES | I am wearing size 49 in “Cocobolo/Tortoise Cream”. An identical budget option: Warby Parker’s “Daisy” eyeglasses ($95). I purchased similar “Greenleaf” glasses from Warby Parker in “Whiskey Tortoise” as a backup pair and love them! “Woodgrain Tortoise” is very close to the Follies “Tortoise Cream”. Also wearing: Façonnable Chambray Buttondown | Michael Kors Runway Watch | Petitor Necklace | Frye Paige Boots in Cognac
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
Jan 12, 2013
Though Atlanta is a drizzly 65 degrees, this verse rings in my new year. Fresh, focused, bright, cozy, patient, quiet. You can catch a peek at what I’m working on over at Instagram, or come visit for a round of french pressed coffee. Keep cozy, friends.
Ballad of Oregon: Fall Playlist
Nov 26, 2012
This weather makes me want to build a fire with Kips and hire a band to play around it:
 Ballad of Oregon / River City Extension  Goin’ Home / Dan Auerbach  Dorothea / Beanland  Bermunda Highway / My Morning Jacket  Butterfly Culture / Benjamin Francis Leftwich  Punching in a Dream / The Naked And Famous  Skinny Love (One Take Version) / Birdy  Meadowlarks / Fleet Foxes  Daughter / Youth  The Summer / Balmorhea  Sweetest Kill / Broken Social Scene  Gods / The Russian Apartments  Today / Zero 7  My Sweet Lord / George Harrison  Too Much To Lose (Regal Safari Remix) / Sun Glitters  Under a Blanket of Blue / Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong  Ain’t Misbehavin’ / Fats Waller  Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes / Paul Simon  Fake Palindromes / Andrew Bird (since 10th grade)  It all Began with a Burst / Kishi Bashi. All-sew, I was recently given a documentary on Beanland (pre Widespread Panic) by the director’s dad. Worth a watch if you’re pro-southern jam bands. All-sew-2, a farewell to summer music…  Welcome to 1976. Or 2012. Sleepy Monday music, courtesy of Michael Kiwanuka / Bones.  The Other Tribe / Skirts. Stuck in my head all day.  Jonas Rathsman / Tobago as filmed by French Express. Reminds me of Tamarindo, Costa Rica – put me on a plane! I am currently obsessed with  Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, especially “Garden.” The video contends with Chairlift’s Amanaemonesia in the arena of radically awkward and cool cinematography. Aaand just because… A video I made. Lamitie des Chiens Kipper and Augustus. Because Kipper the dog is a total nerd.
Emerald & Oxblood
Nov 19, 2012
I’m the last person in the world to learn what a sock bun is – so naturally I wore a tan sock in my hair to work today – so quick and I’m fairly sure no one figured it out. Almost my entire outfit is from Assistance League Atlanta today: Tan Theory merino wool jumper, emerald Louis Féraud wool skirt, vintage leather and gold belt, and Salvatore Ferragamo Vara bow black calf pumps. Vintage Palais Royal wool, silk and fur coat from… drumroll: Goodwill. Dolci Calze Ivory & Black Peppered Tights.
Bonbons & Bonfires
Nov 12, 2012
‘Tis the season for bonbons and bonfires. Vintage Coach City bag found at Assistance League Atlanta. Vintage Fleur-de-lis bracelet, Coro. Vintage ivory and gold cameo stud earrings are from estate sale shopping with mom. Thrifted J. Crew merino jumper. Jaipur trimmed scarf from Garnett Hill. Frye Paige tall riding boot. Lux skinny jeans.
Old & New
Nov 8, 2012
Some of my most well-loved go-to pieces this season: Vintage Simonetta Italian blouse – I love the pearl buttons and soft green flannel – and can’t find the old company anywhere! Vintage Coach City Pocket Tan Leather Bag, found at Assistance League Atlanta. A DIY J. Crew necklace project – The necklace was really heavy so I disassembled half and made it into a matching bracelet. Tory Burch Grey Flannel and Leather Flats, which match everything. Old dress, vintage belt.
Weekend in Washington, DC
Oct 23, 2012
Notes from our getaway to the Capitol. Visiting old friends, making new friends over a bonfire with work. The Capitol Building, Smithsonian, Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, Ardeo for brunch, and Stafford, Virginia for the Anglicotech Pig Roast. Meanwhile Kip was off to sleepaway camp at Mommer’s in the north Georgia mountains.
Pumpkin Spice + Kate Spade
Oct 8, 2012
Things that I am currently fall-ing for:  Per always, Chad and Kipster.  An old standby, my old Steve Madden Perrin Boots.  Kate Spade bags in delicious moroccan green. I really, really liked the Bond Street New Ettie (sold out) my mom gave me – so much that I just got the Mott Street Bradie Wallet in celadon to match, when I found it seventy percent off.  This thrifted scarf from Assistance League Atlanta (ALA). The design reverses from cerulean to a golden olive and the threadwork is so beautiful even though it must be as old as I am. I’ve mentioned ALA and their store, Attic Treasures, a few times – a lot of my wardrobe comes from the shop, and anything I donate goes back to it. We attended the organization’s thirtieth birthday party with my Nana last weekend. So many wonderful ladies (and choice gentlemen!) work so hard with this organization to help women and children in the Atlanta area.  Trader Joe’s PUMPKIN Spice Chai Latte. This mix is even more no words-y than the original. It’s a cozy trip to the mountains, except to your stomach.
Alice + Olivia
Sep 23, 2012
A day for my faithful Louboutins, blithe little Alice + Olivia coat, and a golden jungle friend. He’s a rescue from Assistance League of Atlanta! | Alice + Olivia Sparkle Tweed Blazer
The Sartorialist: On Journaling
Sep 23, 2012
Closing the book on my old photo blog, The Life Exotic.
Via VA Sept 21 2012: I began (VA) one month after meeting Scott Schuman and Garance Doré at an Atlanta Gallery. I was halfway through undergraduate studies at Georgia Tech and wanted to start a fashion blog and Scott, who you may know as The Sartorialist, earnestly advised me to take a moment to look around me and consider that my life was not entirely made up of fashion.
My life was made up of late night studios, crisp morning walks to class, snow days, themed parties, day trips, forests and mountains, exam weeks, long summer breaks, traveling, football games, work, thrift store outings, late nights with roommates, cozying up at home, and from time to time – fashion.
Scott said to capture this and remember it always. His advice stands as relevant then as it does almost exactly two years later – today. College is finished and I’m four months into finding my footing in this big world. This new chapter means new experiences, interests, photos and writings – this time through a Nikon D90 / Nikkor 18-105 mm VR Lens. XOXO JESS
Sword, Spade, & Thought
Sep 6, 2012
Sword, spade, and thought should never rust.
Fall is my favorite time of the year in the south. Boots weather means bonfires and s’mores, crisp mornings, mountain drives through fiery forests of color, wool socks, and getting back to neutral hues (which make up almost my entire wardrobe outside of the rare Pantone color-of-the-year). Some rusty favorites include this Ralph Lauren horsebit bag and button (circa sophomore year of high school) paired with Kate Spade studs, Chor Jeans, and suede foldover boots by MIA. I really like them. Made in Brazil, reasonably priced, well-made, and comfortable.
Sep 4, 2012
Mom, Chadwick, Kipper and I spent Labor Day at a relative’s in Big Canoe.
Navy Rainy Day
Aug 29, 2012
There’s something about bright pants on a rainy day. I found this Pompano Shawls Italian scarf, ostrich leather belt, leather wrap bangles, and my Cole Haan Brandy Loafers at Assistance League Atlanta. The bamboo bangles are some of my mom’s jewelry from the seventies – I’ve worn them every week for years.
Zara Split-Back Cardigan
Aug 23, 2012
My new favorite sweater, from Zara. Silver threading is woven into the flecked yarn, and it has an open back with grey silk lining — similar ethical option by Cuyana.
Aug 23, 2012
This summer I’ve been very into lime hues, so finding these fun palm-patterned platform heels and a pair of highlighter skinny jeans at Zara for eighty percent off made my sartorial week. This caramel-toned leather bag was a gift last holiday from an Etsy shop out of Colorado, Dalle Miei Mani, that has disappeared. Wick gave me the Michael Kors Runway watch and I wear it almost every day.
Terrace in August
Aug 19, 2012
Bib necklace J.Crew. Velvet by Graham & Spencer V-Neck. Thrifted Ann Taylor Light Blue Cardigan. First Kiss Floral Skinny Pants. Serengeti Gradient Aviator Sunglasses. Vintage Gold, Snakeskin and Bamboo Cuffs and Bangles. Marco Buggiani Leather Tote.
Karl & Choupette
Aug 8, 2012
Inspired by the Kaiser and his new fur child. Today was a very Karl Lagerfeld day por moi. Kipper’s day was probably not a very Choupette Lagerfeld day. We make him eat his pâté on the kitchen floor. Karl on Choupette: “Now, Choupette really is famous,” he says. “She has become the most famous cat in the world. I even get propositioned by pet food companies and things like that but it’s out of the question. I’m commercial. She’s not. She’s spoiled to death. Obviously. ” Sequined Collar Knit Top, Monteau Los Angeles. Vintage Pebbled Leather Attache, Dooney & Bourke. Tiffany Lock Necklace, Tiffany & Co. Perforated Golf Shoes, Urban Outfitters. Liquid Metal Bracelet, Sergio Gutierrez. Serengeti Aviators, Serengeti. Kipper is from… Alcovy Pet Rescue!
Cream Crochet and Earl Grey
Aug 5, 2012
CPR and I visited the High Museum today. We couldn’t stop laughing when we found furniture that matched “the doily shorts.” Crochet Shorts, Sans Souci. Gold and Bamboo Bangles, Vintage.
We Are Handsome’s SS 12
Aug 4, 2012
I just found We Are Handsome‘s 2012 “The Romantic” collection via Les Nouvelles.
Smitten. The collection is everything a trip to the beach (or an Atlanta pool?) should be – inordinately adorable, eye-catching, and a little eccentric.
Golden Fishscales & Michael Kors
Jul 20, 2012
A new and an old favorite:
BOWERS WATCH AND CLOCK REPAIR / CPR gave me this beautiful Michael Kors watch. I needed five links out, and called a few in-town stores without much luck. Googling turned up Bowers Watch and Clock Repair off Cheshire. Go there! This guy really, truly, awesomely loves clocks and watches. He has a frog clock that ribbits every hour with a bug minute hand. He has this whole wall of cuckoo and grandfather clocks, and a cabinet of calfskin and gator-grain wristbands. He told me all about this gorgeous nineteenth century bronze lady-clock statuette someone brought in, and how it was made in Long Island and rare and how the pendulum worked. He couldn’t believe that my over-sized MK watch was actually for a woman, but had me out the door with a great fit fast. ALSO he wore American flag suspenders. Never going anywhere else.
ATTIC TREASURES, ASSISTANCE LEAGUE ATLANTA / The gold fishscale necklace was made from a belt I picked up at Attic Treasures – a Chamblee thrift store in the basement of a statured Methodist church. My Nana volunteers there and I always find fantastic pieces – Nordstorm silk tops, vintage Italian purses, scarves – many classic gems folded in with glittery sequined bedazzled fun.
Necklace: Vintage, Assistance League of Atlanta, Watch: Michael Kors, Wristlet: Bottega Veneta, and an eight-inch summer haircut from Aveda Institute.
Filly et Fille
Jul 17, 2012
Romping in Dad’s pasture. Wishbone necklace, Marc by Marc Jacobs. Eyelet cotton dress, thrifted.
PS: A few newer posts on how to get dressed
- Well Made & Worn Well: 4 Steps to Clarify, Clean, Organize Your Closet