Classic White Tops and Neon Pops: The Story of My Fashion Evolution

{Knit Top,  Neon Shoes, Neon Crossbody Bag, Statement Necklace: all c/o TJ Maxx. Distressed Denim Jeans: Rebel BoutiquePhotographed by Franky Arriola.}

My recent trip to New York, a place I haven’t lived in almost a decade and a half, had me doing some serious reminiscing about a lot of things. One being my own personal style evolution. It’s a question T.J. Maxx asked me that made me stop and think for a minute:

How has my style evolved over the years? Here’s a tale that I’d like to put a brown bag over my head before I tell. Back in 2000, I headed to New York straight from Gainesville, where I spent four solid years shopping at Wet Seal. (Because that’s all we had to choose from.) I showed up to my first-ever job interview in New York City in a below-the-knee, sleeveless black cocktail dress from Rampage, closed-toe shoes that looked like something your nana would wear—because someone told me I had to wear closed-toed shoes to an interview—and a bright pink vintage scarf tied around my neck. On my arm: a bulky man’s briefcase. I looked like a cross between Grease Lightning  and an octogenarian (in orthopedic shoes). Here’s the kicker: I walked into a fashion magazine and interviewed for a job—in this outfit. If anyone ever builds a time machine, please let me know. Please, I need a fashion re-do. Months later, I went to interview at Conde Nast for an intern position and was told by new friends I needed to wear a suit. Yup, me … in a suit. So I went to a shop on the corner and bought an ill-fitting black shift and collarless suit coat that had a purple iridescent lining. And I wore the same closed-toe shoes. I looked like a kid playing business meeting in my cheap, over-sized getup.

Ironically, the moment I walked out of the interviews, I threw on tall boots and a black and white smocked dress. I knew how to dress, but I kept adhering to other people’s laws of fashion for uncharted territories. It wasn’t until I moved to Miami that I realized those rules don’t apply. And I promised to never wear a suit again. It’s just NOT me.

Over the years I’ve learned to embrace what I like when I like it. I’d rather be the person at the interview that stands out than the person in a stiff suit. I’ve also learned that fit is everything. My seamstress is my best friend. But what stands out the most to me is (and yes, even that bright pink scarf applies here) that no matter how I evolve I will also be a basics kind of girl who lets her accessories do the talking. Why? Because basics will last you through the end of the time and you can keep the look modern by swapping out your accessories. Luckily, my taste in accessories (like shoes and bags) has upgraded over the years. These days, quality is everything.

T.J. Maxx recently asked me to dress my best self, and guess what I wound up with? Basics set off with a big, bold pop. I opted for an amazingly soft plain white designer tank (because it’s the most versatile piece you can add to your wardrobe). I paired it with one of my favorite pairs of distressed jeans and then I gave the look life with amazing shoes and matching bag that I also found at T.J. Maxx. Being a classic vintage girl, I believe your shoes and bag should always match. And these did to a T. What an awesome find. But the look was far from finished. I need a bit of bling and my statement necklace from the jewelry counter at T.J. Maxx completed the look.

How did this overall look make me feel? I felt like I could stand out in a sea of New Yorkers, even in jeans and a plain white tee. It’s classic but demands attention. Plus, I wore this look from day to night, which made me feel like I conquered a major fashion task. I chalk that up to the bit of glam my statement necklace brought to the look.

T.J. Maxx recently created a first-of-its-kind live fashion experiment about how your best self evolves through fashion. Check it out here and ask yourself: How has your style evolved? Are you still that little girl who loves a bold pop and a bit of bling? I know I am.