How cowgirl boots have led my heart home (I’m not even kidding) + the birth of The Wear Your Joy Project

Nov 20, 2013 | My Creative Practice, Wear Your Joy™

It all started when True was about 8 months old. I was in those awkward new mama throws of figuring out how to stay at home with him as much as I could while still running my business.

(True and Papa, 8mos old)

Life was joyful, but it was tight, full to the max. Barely enough sleep, and barely enough time to shower, let alone get dressed. I could sense that I was losing bits of myself to the experience of becoming a new mom – just in the small (but big over time) choices I would make. And getting dressed was one of those choices I let slip. Before I knew it I had a drawer full of funky tights that hadn’t seen the light of day in a year. Or all the cute skirts and dresses I once adored and claimed as part of my creative style went MIA from my daily outfits. Part of it was never losing the baby weight and not fitting into my clothes. And part of it was not showing up for myself every day in a way that felt intentional, and conscious despite the changes in my body.

And then one day, it all changed.

I fell in love with a pair of Old Gringo cowgirl boots. And then I bought them. And then I wrote a love letter to them because I quickly realized that it wasn’t about the actual boots, but about what they represented to me. They were like a postcard from my former self, reminding me that I could still integrate joy into my wardrobe.
I wrote an entire post about this, including the love letter I wrote back in 2011.


Fast forward a couple of years until just a few weeks ago when I bought another pair of cowgirl boots during a trip to Texas at a time when I was up against a personal growth edge (a good one). They were red. And, for me, they were another postcard from some bigger version of myself, encouraging me to step into the next chapter with courage and moxie. I wrote more about that in this recent post.


And then I was onto something – something began to shift for me internally in a new way. I know it sounds crazy that it started with a pair of boots, but it did. I’m reminded how nothing in this life is superficial – but rather when our hearts speak, we gotta listen. We just never know where it will take us.


In this case, it’s taken me to something bigger – it’s not about boots or pairing together perfect outfits. It’s about wearing our joy. 


I began to get excited about getting dressed in the morning. What jeans could I pair with these red boots? What skirt could I pull out of the depths of the closet that I haven’t seen in forever? What TIGHTS would look amazing with these boots?
(left: red boots, NYDJ skinny jeans, Free People vest. right: Keen boots, an old Anthro sweater + belt, H+M tank layer)
For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you know how this story goes. I began to take selfies of my daily outfits with my iPhone . I had no idea WHY I was doing it, but I just allowed myself the delight of answering the urge.


Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned these last many years as I made my way into a creative life, it is this: when we have an urge to do something, even if we don’t know WHY, it’s likely that it’s our intuition calling us – a little whisper nudging us in a direction that will lead to joy.
(left: keen boots, hand-made skirt, leggings from H+M; right: NYDJ skinny jeans, H+M tank layer, old Anthro sweater, Frye cowgirl boots)


And that’s what happend. I began to enJOY the practice of getting dressed in the morning with intention. Do I love it? Great, then it goes on my skin. Do I not love it? Then it doesn’t go on my body. The self talk is moving from what do I want to look like to how do I want to feel? And it’s also moving from I’ll never lose the weight to I have big gratitude for this healthy body and how can I celebrate it’s creative spirit/expression today?
Sounds so simple, but I believe the energy translates. It’s not about putting together perfect outfits. It’s about wearing our joy. 


(left: Old Gringo red boots, purple tights, sweater from Papaya Living; right: yellow tights, slate Frye boots, vintage slip, slip dress from Anthro, Gap Jean Jacket)


About three weeks into documenting my daily outfits, I had one of my favorite human beings come over to my house. Her name is Lynx. I fell in love with her earlier this year (we were roommates in Bali – more about that here) at a time when I was beginning to see myself more clearly inside the fog of a few life hurdles (around confidence, mainly). Lynx is a big part of my story this year. Since meeting her in Bali, she’s become a dear friend and is one of my studio mates at Soul Shine Studio. She’s a sacred, whole life stylist and I just feel deeply seen by her. She inspires me to remember and to be who I am. Our good friends are like that, I think. They’re sacred permission givers. So she came over and worked her professional magic and helped me create new outfits with clothes that I already had.
She gave me permission to follow my whim (despite the gremlins) to layer clothes on top of more clothes, to put purple tights with red boots, and to PLAY with my wardrobe just like I do with my paintings, which are also deeply layered and colorful.


It was a flurry of activity. Clothes everywhere. I loved it. And she helped me deepen the journey I was already on with capturing my daily outfits with my iPhone.
(left: Old Gringo red boots, NYDJ skinny jeans, Free People slip dress, H+M basic layer; right: Keen boots, Target leggings, Gap jean skirt, Garnet Hill tie sweater)

And so I kept going….creating time in the morning to embrace my new routine of being intentional and conscious about what I was choosing to wear.

Have you ever wondered why you’re drawn to certain things, and not others? This couch, not that one?
This sweater, not that one?
I have a theory.
Everything we find “beautiful” is actually a quiet whisper … calling us closer towards the life that is waiting for us.
That’s why surrounding yourself with beauty is never “shallow” or “superficial.” Quite the opposite >Whenever you make or are drawn to something beautiful, you are directly responding to the call of your heart.

(left: Red Boden dress, Old Gringo boots, vintage slip, and belt from Target ; right: Frye cowgirl boots, purple tights, old Anthro skirt + shirt + sweater)

Which is why it’s so crazy important that we get conscious about our choices: Do I even love this pair of shoes? Does my heart light up when I see that sweater? Or am I just unconsciously wearing clothes, picking out paint colors for walls, and choosing things that aren’t even me? Nothing is superficial. All of our choices matter.

Also, getting dressed shouldn’t be a daily opportunity to critique ourselves, or wishing we were 10 pounds smaller. It’s about being with our bodies and our selves today, in this skin, in this vessel. And choosing to dress ourselves up in joy. Today. Not when we lose more weight. Or grow out our hair. Or have enough money. Or or or.


(left: Old Gringo boots, NYDJ skinny jeans, H+M tank layer, old Anthro shirt and sweater; right: Keen boots, NYDJ cords, Prairie Underground hoodie, handmade scarf)
Over on Instagram, I’ve been calling it The Wear Your Joy Project and I’m using #thewearyourjoyproject to document my outfits over there. Lots of folks have joined in. And I’d love if you joined us too. Now that Facebook does hashtags, I think I’ll start posting some of these over there as well with the invitation for anyone to join in.
It’s not about having perfect photos (a cell phone will do) or about having perfect outfits. It’s about first honoring, and then wearing our joy. 
(left: Keen boots, tights, H+M basic tshirt, old Anthro dress; right: Keen boots, NYDJ skinny jeans, handmade schoolhouse tunic)
So that’s where I’ve been, friends! I’m surprised how fun it’s been – how not a chore it’s been. I’ve also been surprised at the undercurrent of what’s really going on. How this all started with the purchase of a pair of cowgirl boots and how honoring that small whisper/piece of myself has gently led me back home in a way. Home to that place where inherent creativity and joy live. Where I get to play again. Where I can make conscious choices again.
(left: red boots [brand unknown], tights, jean skirt, old anthro sweater, faux leather coat from Target)
In some ways it’s been a beautiful reintegration of my current life with my former non-mama life but also my old life as a kid where memories flood in of my taking risks and having fun with my clothes.
Do you remember those days when we wore jelly bracelets up our arms and wore mismatching converse sneakers and how much we loved our parachute pants? Did you know I was voted most likely to wear stripes with plaids in high school? Reintegration, friends. Remembering who we are and what lights us up.


(left: Old Gringo boots, NYDJ skinny jeans, Anthro shirt and sweater, H+M long tank under layer; right: NYDJ straight leg jeans, anthro shirt and sweater)
Feel free to join in with me over on Insta or Facebook or your blogs or just in private.
I hope you’ll learn what I’m relearning: Style isn’t superficial. It’s the call of your heart, made visible — and wearable.


You in? I so hope so!
ps: I’ve tried to include links to specific clothes above. Honestly, I shop the sale racks at Anthropologie a lot, so a lot of the Anthro clothes aren’t available anymore – they’ve been in my closet for years, but I tried to link to specific products when I could. The phone cover you see in all of these photos is available for just about any cell phone model right over here.
pps: Any and ALL mean-spirited comments will be deleted. Please keep it positive. If you disagree with where I shop, my outlook on life, or how I dress, please move on (respectfully).

Sending much love,

Show/Hide Comments (29 comments)
  1. Karyl

    I truly loved this post. Made me smile!

  2. Kimberly

    Thank you Kelly. I really want to add this to my day. I also have a 3 yr old and find myself searching for a part of me as I love on him. Many blessings to you!

  3. Doodlebug

    How awesome! You inspire me. 🙂

  4. Cameo

    This is such an inspirational post! I have been lagging in the fashion department for a loooong time. I love clothes….I just rarely like them on me. Or it seems like the clothes I really like aren't meant for my body type. So basically I tend to focus on wearing jewelry I love. Then last winter I really got into fun scarves and it felt good to try something new again…to be brave again, like I used to be. It has felt weird that I am such a creative person, yet I'm not with my clothes. And I don't really invest my money into shoes and clothes either. This has inspired me to be braver, because nothing beats the joy you feel when you can fully express yourself and what you love….in any part of life 🙂

  5. Jo Hilton

    You GO girl!!
    thought of you when I saw this… (warning…. strong language!)

    HiLaRious! enjoy…. and you keep doin' what you're doing…. you speak TO MANY… who love you! thanks!!

  6. Pam

    what a great post and great inspiration. I got some cowboy boots this summer – even found the perfect size/style at a consignment store, which made them better. Sometimes I get lazy and slouch around in my jeans and t-shirts, then one day I'll wear something pretty, and fix myself up, and I get all these compliments. It has made me realize that people DO notice me, and I think I feel better about myself when I care about my appearance. It's tough when you are a new mama, those sweet little ones use up so much energy! Glad you are finding a little time to take care of yourself. xoxo

  7. Jeanne

    I LOVE the boots and so with that the weather in Los Angeles and menopause didn't hold me back from wearing cowgirl boots sooooo much more. Embrace the boot joy!!!!

  8. Samantha Agar

    Kelly, you are such a mentor to me…I am in that same position of having not dropped all the weight I would like, being crazy busy as a mom to two little boys and never having enough time to make art, write or be generally creative. I love ALL of your outfits and this post is actually inspiring me to set up a proper dressing room for myself. When we built our house, I wanted a pantry so badly I sacrificed closet space and now share one with my husband. It isn't working for me. I am going to buy a fun freestanding clothing rack and a mirror on a stand and find a corner somewhere – maybe in our guest room – and make it mine! I am excited to have some fun with my clothes now. Not ten pounds from now. Big love to you. Thank you for the boost!

  9. Kelly

    Oh, this just makes my heart happy! You're such an inspiration, Kelly Rae!

  10. Poppy Q

    My goodness Kelly Rae, I love what you wear, and wish I could find such funky clothes and put them together. I feel like a bit of a fuddy duddy, but we can't often find such awesome clothes here. You are an inspiration.

    Julie Q

  11. Merri Shearer

    As I enter my 50th year this coming February, I want my birthday present to be a pair of awesome red cowboy boots! I am in the midst of a life transition of sorts and look forward to the next half of the journey. I hope to embrace each day with authenticity, vunerability, love and grace. Thank you for sharing your inspiring and heartfelt thoughts and feelings. I am excited to live and dress with intention, grace and joy! Bless you.

  12. Beth Reese

    First – you look Fabulous!
    I have found that I enjoy my day so much more when I dress in clothes I feel and look good in. We have to get dressed anyway, so why not wear our nice clothes? It is silly to wait to wear them because today is important. "Some Day is not a day of the week" said by Dr. Phil. I am going upstairs to plan what to wear tomorrow when I go to sew with my girlfriends, and it is going to be pretty. Thanks, Kelly Rae!!!!!

  13. Rachel Whetzel

    So funny that you have shared this post and I have had a HUGE bug to go thrift store shopping for some good funk to wear!! I can't wait to get to it now! Looking forward to some #thewearyourjoyproject posts of my own!

  14. Sue Allemand

    You look SO happy Kelly Rae — and JOYFUL!! I have to "learn" how to get dressed again — and stop wearing pajama pants and old tops in the studio! haha I'm loving the Free People tops and sweaters – I think I'm gonna have to splurge and get me some! 🙂 Just so I don't get paint on them the first day! haha Thanks for the inspiring post!

  15. moyra scott

    enjoying your enjoyment!

  16. curlygirlpress

    GREATLY enjoying your Instagrams as this project started, and totally realizing I need to find my joy again in my clothes. I have a closet full of office-safe but I work in an office where wear-your-joy would totally be acceptable. Slowly, I'm trying to get back on that path (as a girl who used to wear costumes to school, had tons of jelly bracelets, and totally misses my kick butt cowboy boots I wore out thru two soles and two heels). Thanks Kelly Rae for being my inspiration!

  17. Cricket

    so so fabulous. i love all the selfies in your chosen adornments.

    i've always thought of clothing as an outward expression of the artiste within. interestingly, i also sort of succumbed to super basic, no frill, (NO FUN!) ways of dressing for "simplicity's sake" after having my two young daughters. My older daughter (5) recently taught me lots about amping up my sparkle power (& helped me birth a new mamma blog about it).

    i also find your post as a bit of a wink from my mom, who just tragically passed away. i have pulled out all the "tools" from my healing tool box but today decided to tune out & GO SHOPPING. or at least window shopping…. i let myself run my eyes & hands over color & fabric. so what if it was at a discount store? & you know what? i bought myself, for the very first time, a gorgeous wrap style CASHMERE sweater. my gift of comfort, luxury & self love, because i deserve it. 🙂

    thank you for sharing your realm & keep shining that bright & beautiful heart of yours. maybe you know, maybe you don't, but your soul reaches down & touches mine & likely so many many others from what i can tell. xooooo

  18. Elise

    You must watch Jesse Arrington's TED talk about dressing colorfully without buying anything new, it's so inspiring (as is your post 🙂

  19. angel

    once again…so brave of you to share with all of us!
    Getting older and working from home, I am often in easy-peasy clothes. This post is reminding me to BE who I am and let the self judgement go…now I just wish I could wear my boots and tights more, but living in TX where it is often 88 degrees – in December- w/ occasional hot flashes…LOL,isn't always realistic.
    Thanks KRR

  20. Lisa Middleton

    Thanks Kelly I too have had a hard time loosing weight this year because my fiance of 4 years walked out, a bought a new home, adopted a dog, and started my art business all while working a full time job. Thanks to your class fall I decided to accept me…and well…clothes don't fit me anymore and I feel bad about buying bigger clothes. Your post is comforting because maybe it is okay to be a size 12. Size 8 will always be there, but in the mean time I can love myself for where I'm at and the accomplishments of the last year. You are a darling Kelly! Please don't stop designing!

  21. Stephanie Ackerman

    For FOREVER I have told myself that I "Can't pull it off" when it comes to clothe & style and have stuck to my fav jeans and a hoodie….but YOU my sweet friend are reminding me of so much!!! I am in.

  22. Mary M.

    I was so happy to see this post today. I along with so many other moms out there have lost their sense of style. I stopped putting earrings on every day! You've encouraged me to work on getting back to my old self. I really do feel better when I'm dressed in really cool clothes. Thank you Kelly Rae!

  23. Shawna Miller

    I love reading your thoughts on this! I have been participating with you on IG. Since I had my daughter 11 months ago and became a stay at home mom, my style took a back seat for the most part, when it used to be such a big part of me. It's a challenge everyday, but I've been trying to get dressed even if I'm not able to until nap time. I've never had body issues before, and having the extra baby weight has been freaking me out, making me feel awkward in my own skin. Being a new mom I've felt a loss of identity, and this project is helping me find a little bit f who I am now everyday. Thank you for being such a huge inspiration.

  24. Mandy Ford

    Love this Kelly! Your wardrobe is so fun and I really enjoy the new perspective on getting dressed. I hope you don't mind but I shared this today in my weekly outfit post on my blog. 🙂

  25. Anonymous

    I was so many to read this post, along with other ladies above me, I resonate and needed to read this. Amanda above wrote about a neutral uniform, and I as well have been wearing a uniform ~ black yoga pants w/ assorted tops, can you say boring. So today, the yoga pants are gone. Thank you Kelly Rae for always inspiring me.


  26. Jungle Girl

    At first I was perplexed by the instagram pics, Kelly looks wonderful, but my horror at the thought of putting pics of myself in clothes on the internet was almost visceral. It was so shocking to me how strongly I felt and other murky emotions began to surface (jealousy, anger, deep sadness, not-enough-ness). My resistance to this concept has flagged up some major issues for me, surrounding losing myself completely since the birth of my daughter 5 years ago. I have been dressing to hide, disappear, desperately trying to be invisible and not matter because I've lost my true self. Thanks Kelly for shining light. A lot of work to do over here, I hope one day soon I'll be able to wear my joy too.

  27. CJ

    What a wonderful inspiring post Kelly Rae. I am determined not to hide in black again today. Thank you.

  28. AmandaMuses

    Even though I've been following along with your instagram posts, seeing your thoughts written out here about the process that lead you from a whisper to a happy, joyful place was really helpful. Have been feeling similarly stuck and sort of grasping here and there for breadcrumbs back to more familiar, positive, happy territory. Meanwhile I find myself ignoring much of my wardrobe in favor of a neutral uniform for no good reason. Sounds like it's time to follow your lead. Thanks for the inspiration (as usual) and illuminating the path.

  29. AshleyQ

    I love this! So! Much! Wear your joy. What a beautiful concept. I need to own where I am right now and dress it up! Thanx KRR!


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Hello + welcome!

I’m Kelly Rae Roberts

Before I picked up my first paintbrush at the age of 30, I was a medical social worker. I followed my creative whispers, and today I’m an artist & Possibilitarian. I’m passionate about creating meaningful art and experiences that awaken and inspire our spirits.

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