What's In Your Closet?

What’s in Your Closet? with Melissa Smrekar

Melissa Smrekar is one of my favorite people to follow on Instagram. Her motto, “living a life you can’t swipe up for,” could not be more aligned with the Fewer & Better mindset. Melissa is a true gem in the sea of social media, and a genuinely nice person. You may have seen her “white whale” days, where she shares the “white whales” that escaped her followers–often resulting in matches with much-longed-for items–to her emphasis on kindness. Her quest for life experiences that can’t be linked is something that deeply resonates with me, and her colorful style always makes me smile! I am so delighted that she agreed to be interviewed for “What’s in Your Closet?”!

Of all the people I follow on Instagram, you have consistently been one of my favorites. I love your “White Whale” Instagram stories and how much you inspire a community of “nice girls,” and helping each other, in an environment that can easily turn toxic. What has been one of the most rewarding experiences for you in fostering such a great community?

Finding the good pocket of the Internet where strangers are kind to one another and genuinely rooting for each other has been incredibly rewarding. I just want everyone to know that if they’re nice girls, they’re welcome here. There’s room for you! Internet friends are real friends! I think the most rewarding experience is when people message me that I’ve inspired them to be confident about what they like and to fill their home with things that make them happy, regardless of trends.

In your recent trip to Paris, I love that you eschewed the typical “luxury good” souvenir for smaller, quintessentially Parisian items that spoke to your trip, instead of what might get the most likes on Instagram. Your genuineness is something that continuously inspires me. How do you stay true to yourself with what seems like constant external pressure?

The most honest answer is that I don’t feel that external pressure and never have. I don’t know how to be anything other than myself. My friends would tell you that I’m exactly the same “in real life” as I am online. I don’t do things or buy things for content or swipe-ups or commissions. I buy what I love and wear what I love. Being candid and true to myself has always been my trademark ever since I was a little girl. I think I got it from my dad.

Melissa’s Bemelmans-inspired artwork

You have such a unique and fantastic style—it’s so colorful and cheerful, but filled with classic pieces. What is your favorite piece in your home?

My favorite piece is always changing, but it’s rarely the things that garner the most attention!

  • The handles in my primary bath that are shaped like ribbons and were hand-forged by a bronzista in Florence.
  • The artwork in my dining room inspired by Ludwig Bemelmans’ murals in Bemelmans Bar in New York. A friend painted them for me. They’re so exquisite that people always think they’re prints!
  • The ephemera that covers one entire wall in my studio space. From ticket stubs to cocktail napkins scribbled with love notes, I find “my treasures” endlessly inspiring.
Melissa’s ephemera wall

You work in the nonprofit sector—so do I, and I’ve definitely felt my choice of job has affected my personal style. Have you found that to be the case?

Working in the arts specifically has empowered my sense of personal style. I am a Serious Business Woman, but because I work in the theater, I feel free to express my creativity through my clothing. I’m not a banker, and I don’t need a blazer, slacks, or a sensible heel to be taken seriously. Maybe it’s the Gemini in me, but I quite enjoy the juxtaposition of asking donors for $50,000 while there is a bow in my hair.

What period of your life has had the most impact on your personal style?

A bit of an odd answer, but I suppose wearing a uniform from K-12  impacted my personal style the most. By wearing a uniform, I had to find subtle ways to make myself feed like an individual. During that period, I gravitated towards accessories, from hair bows to funky earrings. (Some choices aged better than others, of course. Wearing patent leather Airwalks with my plaid jumper was certainly… unique!) Having a uniform also taught me how you can wear the same thing over and over but find ways to make it look different, full of personality, and original to you.

What places have had the most impact on your personal style?

Dallas is my hometown and my favorite city. We are big dreamers, epic storytellers, and gracious hosts. I want my home and style to embody these traits. In the Big D, you can go for it, whether it’s 28 rolls of magnolia wallpaper or a vintage mink when the temp dips below 60 degrees. In my Dallas, all are welcome here. Your “too much” isn’t too much for us.

I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and being a Tar Heel certainly impacted my style. At Carolina, I became immersed in a preppy culture I was largely unfamiliar with. (Boys in bow ties at football games shocked me!) I really found my sense of style by taking classic staples and spinning them up a bit with something quirky or eccentric to feel like myself.

What are your five most special pieces in your closet?

  • Mink Coat I inherited my coat from my grandmother after she died, and it’s one of the only things I have from her. It was beautiful, but it was full-length with bracelet cuffs, and it made me feel like a mob wife or a character from Narnia. Instead of it sitting in a closet, I took it to a master furrier at Neiman Marcus and redeesigned it into a swing coat with cropped sleeves and a stand-up collar. We selected the most gorgeous emerald green lining and embroidered it with my name. I wear it anytime it’s remotely cold enough, and I’ll treasure it forever. My favorite place to wear it is with the top down in my 1986 Mercedes convertible with my poodle Tippi riding shotgun.
  • Charm Bracelet My gold charm bracelet is made up of family charms, as well as “new” vintage charms that I’ve acquired. It has charms from my grandmother’s honeymoon, a Phi Beta Kappa charm from my dad’s initiation for Organic Chemistry at SMU, a vintage sputnik, an emerald disc engraved with my favorite Latin phrase, etc. When it comes to charms, the bigger the better!

  • Emerald Ring I designed a ring for my Golden Birthday (26 on the 26th) that my parents gifted me. Emerald is my birthstone, and my favorite color. I don’t have anything that I wear every single day, but this ring is special to me, and I will certainly pass it down.

  • Vintage Lucite Handbags Collected over time, my vintage lucite handbag collection is definitely beloved to me! I like carrying a handbag that no one else has.
  • All my smoking slippers Basically my version of sneakers that I wear year-round.

Thank you so much, Melissa!! Be sure to follow Melissa on Instagram at @melissasmrekar!

2 thoughts on “What’s in Your Closet? with Melissa Smrekar

  1. What a great read on a Monday morning! Also working in nonprofit, mostly in DC which has its own style and norms, I especially appreciated this:

    “I’m not a banker, and I don’t need a blazer, slacks, or a sensible heel to be taken seriously. Maybe it’s the Gemini in me, but I quite enjoy the juxtaposition of asking donors for $50,000 while there is a bow in my hair.”

    It’s taken time, but I’ve definitely reclaimed my femininity after years of trying to blend with the men.

    Can’t wait to follow Melissa!

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