What’s In Your Closet? with Jen Shoop of The Fashion Magpie
Jen Shoop’s blog The Fashion Magpie is one of my top-five blogs and one I try to check first thing every morning. Her blog covers a wide range of topics from fashion to motherhood, books to life, and her posts are insightful, poignant, and moving. I am so thrilled that Jen agreed to take some time to participate in the next installment of What’s In Your Closet? You can find Jen at her blog, Magpie by Jen Shoop, and on Instagram.
Tell us a little about yourself!
Hi! Let’s see — I am a wife, mother, reader, writer. I am also the founder and author of Magpie, which I refer to as “a literary lifestyle and fashion blog.” The name is a bit of a misnomer because I cover topics as disparate as motherhood, grief, and books — and of course lots of chic finds for home, self, and family. I’ve arrived here by virtue of a squiggly path. After college, I earned an advanced degree in literature with the intention of pursuing a career in academia and then ended up spending ten years in the non-profit sector focusing on educational attainment for dis-advatanged youth. (I’m eliding a lot of the details.) I took another left hand turn when I then founded a technology business with my husband — a harrowing, necessary experience that I’ve still not fully digested — before deciding that my true calling was writing, and I have since been focused full-time on The Fashion Magpie, which I first started as a hobby in 2009.
I love reading your blog, and always try to start the day checking in at The Fashion Magpie! Your posts are so consistently thoughtful. How do you balance sharing more personal posts (in something I feel is a very early 2010s way of blogging, which I love and miss!) with shopping-related posts?
Thank you! The mix is an honest reflection of my interests, thoughts, observations. Sometimes I sit down and work through half-formed musings on motherhood, or entrepreneurship, or relationships, or cultural phenomena — I write to know what I think! — and sometimes I am drawn to a recent trend or gift ideas or some other shopping-related theme. I think for a long time I felt that writing about fashion wasn’t serious or cerebral enough, or that it didn’t have a place alongside more substantive fare. But that’s simply not true. A woman can be many things, and often many things at once. I can be shopping for a chic wool coat and also worrying about whether I’m present enough as a mother while I’m simultaneously unpacking a book I just read. These things can and do co-locate in the same spaces in our lives. I’ve given up on the idea that certain spheres are highbrow and others are lowbrow, or certain topics can only live in certain venues. The blog is a space for my whole self and all of its disparate interests to live.
When I first started following you, you were living in Chicago, then New York, and now you are back in the DC area. I loved living in Glover Park for five years, and definitely find the lifestyle different from New York. You wrote about the differences between DC and New York recently on your blog, which I thoroughly enjoyed. How do you find your time in New York still influences you, in terms of style and decor?
I might not have enough distance in the rearview mirror to answer this well, but I do think New York teaches you to take more risks. No one bats an eye if you walk onto the Subway in a formal dress (which I did!) or wear glittery boots at 9 a.m. (which I also did). I also wear a lot more black than I used to — that stereotype held true for me!
What period of your life has had the most impact on your personal style?
I can’t isolate a period in time — my style is constantly evolving, inflected by what I’m watching, what I’m doing, where I live. I remember when I was ten or so begging my mom to wear a baseball jersey with leggings because that’s apparently what Claudia Kishi wore in one of The Babysitters’ Club books and I thought it sounded cool. When I got my first job in high school, I wore kitten heels and cardigans because I was obsessed with the style of 1950s movie stars like Tippi Hedren in The Birds at the time. I wore a boucle coat in college because I was in a major Jackie O. phase. I am always finding new inspiration and interpreting for myself.
What places have had the most impact on your personal style?
I would say I take more inspiration from cultural productions — movies, books, characters, street style starlets, historical figures — than places.
Who are your style icons?
Grace Kelly, Jenny Walton, Giovanna Engelbert, my grandmother, Jackie O., Ralph Lauren (a dude but my God, does that man know how to dress and how to conjure a mood and lifestyle through clothing). I’m fangirling over Nellie Diamond at the moment, too. Finally, I have several close friends who dress beautifully — Alison Kenworthy Koenigs, a high school girlfriend of mine, comes to mind.
What are your five most special pieces in your closet?
My Chanel bag — I bought this for myself years ago when I hit a major professional milestone. Every time I wear it (which is a lot — it goes with absolutely everything and will be handed down to my daughter one day), I feel a little pinch of pride. I earned that bag!
My Hermès scarves — One was a gift from my mother, whose own mother had purchased it for her. It is emblazoned with peonies, and peonies are my mother’s flower. I can’t pass one by without thinking of her and this beautiful peony bush she lavished with attention in the home I grew up in. Wearing the scarf is like carrying my mom with me. The second was a gift from my thoughtful husband, and it has a military design on it. He gave it to me the night before I gave birth to our second child via c-section, telling me that he thought I was the bravest person he knew. The motif had reminded him of my mettle going into delivery. It was just the vote of confidence I needed. These scarves are forever pieces. Right now, I like pairing them with Kule tees or draped around my neck with contrasting-print shirt dresses, but I’m sure I’ll eventually be a little old lady wearing it with a silk blouse and Ferragamo flats to the supermarket.
My hot pink Louboutin shoes — Every gal needs a pair of shoes in her closet that scream: “Take me dancing!” They are joyful!
Ralph Lauren black watch tartan wool strapless dress — I bought this in college and have worn it close to every holiday season since. An absolute classic. I love a trend, but I know a good investment when I see one, and this has stood the test of time. Every time I put it on, I feel like Charlotte York. It’s seen in the photo layered beneath a fur-trim cashmere shrug that my grandmother had made for my mother, and that I now routinely wear.
Hill House Home nap dresses — I’m not saying I’ll never tire of these, and I may possibly donate them years down the road, but I am including them here more as a placeholder for my general philosophy on fashion, which is: have fun! Don’t take yourself too seriously! Try the trend! Wear what feels good and what matches your mood. I’ve had friends tell me “I think I’m too [x — old, tall, conservative] to wear [y].” Who cares?! No one is policing your fashion but you, and if somebody does make an untoward comment, that says more about them than it does about you.
Thank you so much, Jen, for your amazing comments and for sharing your five most special pieces! I loved taking a peek inside your closet. Be sure to follow Jen on her blog, Magpie by Jen Shoop, and on Instagram.