Women in UNIFORME: Jessica Tom

UNIFORME caught up with writer and food blogger Jessica Tom to discuss her offbeat signature style and her career transition from marketer to full-time writer.

Jessica wears the Hewett Shirt in White Giza 45 Cotton Oxford

I’ve always been style conscious. I remember crafting an outfit for the first day of elementary school: jeans, an Aztec-print jean jacket, an Ariel pin, and an Ariel watch. I felt so cool.

My dad worked at the Macy’s corporate office and got a ridiculous discount, but my mom only bought me items that were on sale. So I had a lot of clothes growing up, but the pieces were always the weird, unwanted things. I grew up to love the weird and unwanted and that became a central node of my style.

My style started crystallizing in college, sort of a mix of unusual textures/cuts, color, and distinctive pieces. I have the most fondness for my oddball items: a black silk blazer that’s split at the shoulders like a football player’s shoulder pads, a necklace of climbing rope and hex nuts, an oversized wool coat lined in marigold. Now that work from home, I wear pants and flats more than dresses and heels. And though some days I wear a good amount of black, denim and leather, New York still hasn’t silenced my love of color and kook. 

I started writing my book in 2009, and wrote the entire thing while I had a full-time job. But five months prior to Food Whore’s launch, I decided to leave to leave my day job. There was (and still is) a lot going on. It changes week to week, but it could be copy-editing, strategizing press and business development angles, participating in interviews, creating blog and social media content, planning events … not to mention thinking about my second book.

I didn’t want to look back and say, wow your book was your dream but you didn’t give it everything you had. If I had a full-time job, I’d be thinking about my book all the time. Both my book and job performance would suffer. What good does that do? So while it’s definitely scary to leave a steady paycheck behind, I also know that being an author is my dream and if I didn’t see that through to the fullest of my ability, I’d regret it.

Right after college, I worked at a pretty conservative office, but since then I’ve always had jobs that had lenient dress codes where I also put it on myself to “look the part.” I’d go to sample sales a lot and would do the occasional binge at Zara or Madewell.

But now that I’m older, I value higher-quality goods. I don’t feel the need to chase trends and I’m overall more comfortable with my look. I tend to buy designer consignment with some new designer pieces if I really love it and know it’ll get a lot of mileage (shoes, bags, coats) or that it’s so special that I know it’ll become an heirloom (my Issey Miyake Pleats Please skirt, an Hermes scarf, a Missoni dress).

I’m more selective with sales now. When I was younger, I’d love a good deal and the thrill of the chase. But unbridled shopping adds a lot of unnecessary clutter (not to mention, is a waste of money). I still love to browse stores, just to see what’s new. Now when I purchase something, it’s because I set out to get it in particular, or because the piece is so striking that I know it’ll bring me joy for years to come. I try to be mindful with my shopping, with some openness to surprise and delight. Restraint can be tough though!


My Marni sandals aren’t doing so hot. But I still wear them all the time, even though I’ve bought other sandals that have that same art-teacher-y look. I love how they’re so sturdy and pure, like they were made in Geppetto’s workshop. I’ve never been able to retire them because I just think they’re the perfect sandal. Flat, with a slight heel. Slightly goofy, but in neutral colors. Suitably sandal-like, but solid and almost boot-like. I’ve already repaired them once and I plan on doing so indefinitely so I can wear them forever.

I’m a bit of a hoarder. But! When my closet and dressers are about to burst, I throw out/donate the disposable, generic items or items of poor quality. I’ll give nice pieces to my younger cousins.

I wear a large percentage of my wardrobe and don’t abide by the “if you haven’t worn this in a year, throw it away” rule. I’ll wear something I haven’t worn in three years, then I might wear it again in five years. My look is by its nature eclectic and unexpected, so I like to have options.

I like The Laundress for gentle cleaning supplies. I also rarely use the dryer and air-dry almost everything -- lingerie, jeans, workout clothes. I really only use the dryer for pajamas and socks. And finally, when it's winter, it's so important to wipe your boots when you get home! Salt will really do a number on them.

Author Jessica Tom's debut novel FOOD WHORE: A Novel of Dining and Deceit was published by William Morrow/Harper Collins in 2015 and has now been translated into 6 languages and optioned for film adaptation by Dreamworks.
You can purchase Food Whore at Amazon in Paperback, Kindle, and at your local bookseller. 

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in Notebook

Women in UNIFORME: Heather Andersen
Women in UNIFORME: Heather Andersen

"I am very particular about certain things in my wardrobe: the perfect jacket, the perfect rise on a pant. I have also found myself much more willing to work in a piece that is wacky. I try and wear these like a staple, so the wacky piece becomes the everyday piece. I like to really live in it."

Read More

Women in UNIFORME: Felicity Sargent
Women in UNIFORME: Felicity Sargent

"I have found myself shopping less over the last couple of years. I don’t know if it’s because of a larger paradigmatic cultural shift towards sustainability, or because I think my wardrobe is in a pretty good place."

Read More

Women in UNIFORME: Alyssa Reeder
Women in UNIFORME: Alyssa Reeder

"I used to be really sentimental about all my clothes, but now I'd rather own as little as possible."

Read More