I Lived Like Jenna Lyons (Birth-Control Glasses Included)

Pigs in blankets and sequins

12.29.16
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The letter “J” on my keyboard is jammed due to a piece of food lodged under it (it sounds like a crouton is being smashed each time I hit the key), which makes typing out “Jenna Lyons” and the company under her sartorial reign, J.Crew, less than fluid. It’s the kind of thing that would normally drive me insane, to have to punch a key harder than the rest. Yet as I write this, I am taking an uncharacteristic pleasure in the obstacle, relishing in the trick-J’s peccadillo. It feels authentic and lived-in, as though this particular spot on my keyboard is worn from years of signing-off emails with Jenna’s name. A technological patina. I wonder if the real Jenna would think it chic.

I tried the Jenna Lyons Diet for one week. It was an exercise that helped to quell my anxieties regarding anything that isn’t neat and in its place. Because nothing in my life ever is, I believe “put together” to be the ultimate compliment. Jenna, meanwhile, is so put-together that she adds one elegantly disheveled element to each look, just to mess it up. She’s made this a major cornerstone of her and the J.Crew brand’s modern aesthetic.

“There has to be something that’s a bit undone,” she once said to Into the Gloss of the way J.Crew approaches sexiness. “You can’t have perfect hair, and clothes, and makeup — you need an element of imperfection to make you feel like there’s a person behind it all.” It’s what makes her brand of glamour feel actually doable.

In what was a well-timed series of days just before New York City emptied out for the holidays, I dressed like Jenna Lyons in this one-thing-off manner every chance I could get. I wore sequins with mohair (and a parka) to the office, a Canadian tuxedo + feathered plume dress + turtleneck to a party (festive sweat) and I did the no-bra under blazer thing (as worn with ripped jeans).

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A while ago, GQ published a list of Jenna’s 10 essentials, which lead me to realize that she and I have so much in common (rose gold signet rings; Man Repeller on Instagram; Uber — obsessive checker of my rating; bespoke white shirts — the cornerstone of my personal brand).

We differ in some areas. For example, she has mastered the look of Moscot Mensch glasses whereas they make me look like the love child of Groucho Marx and my senior year of college graduation advisor. When I saw that she listed Nike Air Force 1s, I was thrown. Those were cool in my high school, but I guess I didn’t like how they looked with Juicy sweats. But then, I drifted into a reverie: I borrowed a pair of Nike Dunk Sky Hi sneakers from my friend Elyse four years ago for a “lax bro” Halloween costume (I’m short and wanted height). I never gave them back, so I wore them on the first day of this diet.

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^ Me in the sneakers with a J.Crew blazer and a shearling that I stole to copy her office chair’s pink shearling.

Everyone was very confused, but “I am Jenna Lyons today” proved to be an excellent excuse for the shoe choice.

My favorite thing about Jenna is that she and I share a mutual respect for the same culinary delicacy. “I love a pig in a blanket,” she told Bon Appétit. “I horde them.” I used this to really up my intake quota at Christmas parties, another instance where the “I’m Jenna Lyons” excuse came in handy. And where the “I’m half-Jewish” thing didn’t quite hold.

Another excuse: Per Domino’s tour of Jenna’s old Brooklyn brownstone, she “obsessively sprayed” the fixtures in her bathroom with ocean water so that the brass would appear “as seasoned as the herringbone floor.” My friend came to visit the week of my Jenna diet and I used this to explain why everything in my apartment seemed to be falling apart.

Friend: “Your paint is peeling.”

Me: “Shh. It’s called a patina.

In that same Bon Appétit article, Jenna said that she eats a Cobb salad every day from Westville. They don’t put an egg in theirs (which is not a Cobb salad, Westville) so her assistant brings her one. This piece of insight came just as I was about to eat Leandra out of hunger, so I, too, ordered a Cobb.

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In addition to Westville’s disregard for the protein components of a true Cobb, its Cobb comes in a foil takeout container. Eating from it give me this weird flashback to when I had braces and would touch a paperclip to them by accident and get that blood taste(??). So I ordered it from Spring Street Natural instead. Like Jenna, I ate it in a meeting and felt guilty about it. (While I seem to have assimilated to adult culture and the general human race, I’ve yet to eat a salad without shoveling it into my mouth as though it were snow that I had to remove from the driveway and chuck into the yard, the yard being my gullet. I bet that was fun for everyone.)

Unlike Jenna, no one brought me my own hard-boiled egg. Everyone did, however, compliment my now-perfected Jenna side-part.

In that Into the Gloss article I mentioned earlier, Jenna Lyons said she approaches aging “with ice cream and a martini.” Not up for a game of gastrointestinal Russian roulette, I skipped this particular combo. (Ice cream makes me sick and I drink martinis with less skill than I eat salads.) Still, I thought it was an important takeaway. Like a ball skirt with a sweatshirt, these two things weren’t intended to go together, but Jenna Lyons has a way of pairing the unexpected. I obsessively sprayed some salt water on a pig in a blanket and called it a day.

Photos by Krista Anna Lewis; Amelia wearing Moscot “Mensch” glasses throughout.

You know what else tastes good? The J.Crew diet.

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