Recreating 7 Pinterest Outfits Using Items I Already Own

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I don’t know about y’all, but I often struggle with impulse shopping…especially when it comes to clothes and shoes. At this point, I *know* I have more than enough clothes, and I can’t really afford to keep adding to my wardrobe. In the past, I’ve often looked to Pinterest as a source of inspiration for items I want, but this week I turned to Pinterest to help me make the most of items I already have. Over the course of the week, I re-created 7 outfits from Pinterest using clothing items I already had.

Initially, I wasn’t planning to write a blog post about this. I ended up changing my mind for a couple of reasons: 1) my science-oriented content takes me a while to research. I’m currently working on several posts (including accutane, teeth whitening products, hormonal IUDs vs “the pill”, and more), but I wanted to post something in the meantime. 2) This challenge ended up being a surprising amount of fun, but also helped me grow a bit as a person (so I wanted to take some time to reflect on it).

My Style & Wardrobe

Up until last year, my wardrobe was pretty simple and unsophisticated (lots of t-shirts, v necks, and leggings). Since I was going to be teaching a college course (and wanted to dress the part), I made a very deliberate effort to rebuild and rebrand my wardrobe.

Generally, I like to ask myself 2 questions before adding any new item to my wardrobe:

  • Is this significantly different from something I already own?
  • Can I picture at least 3 different outfits this item could be a part of?

If I could answer “yes” to both questions, then I would consider buying it. Based on that, my wardrobe is dominated by a lot of versatile staples and neutral colors- things which are mutually compatible with one another. More or less I have a capsule wardrobe, just with a lot more items than you might see in a “traditional” capsule wardrobe. I would say my style is pretty minimalist and casual or chic (depending on the day), and I tend to avoid bold colors and prints.

Here’s a good example of what I might wear on a typical day:

Given the nature of 2020, I ordered most of these items online over the past year. The key to ordering stuff online (in my opinion) is having accurate measurements (in other words, get a tape measure! it will save you a lot of headaches). When possible, also make sure that you read the reviews to see what the material is like, whether it might be see-through, etc.

I’m also a graduate student, which means I don’t make very much money. Inevitably, that means I try and stick to affordable pieces as well. Almost everything I wear costs less than $50 (typically I try to stick below $30, if possible). Occasionally I am willing to splurge on high-quality staples that I know will last me a while, and I’ve had a lot of luck getting those types of items on sale.

The Challenge

Knowing that I have a pretty well-established wardrobe at this point, I wanted to create a challenge for myself: recreate 7 outfits from my Pinterest over the course of 7 days, using items I already own. As an additional challenge, I also wanted to try my best to recreate the images themselves. In other words, for each outfit I had to recreate the outfit, find a similar location/background, and recreate the pose/image as best I could.

The Outfits

For all comparison images, I have the original pin on the left and my recreation on the right. Due to the nature of Pinterest, I’m not sure who the original creators are for many of these pins. If you happen to know, please let me know and I’ll link to their profile/blog. When possible, I’ve tried to include links for the items I used. I’ve also included the particular colors and sizes that I’m wearing. For reference, I typically wear a size 4/S on top, 6/8/M on bottom, and W 9.5 in shoes.

Day 1

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I’ve probably pinned this outfit at least 10 times, so it seemed like a good place to start. I went with a top that I got on clearance a few years ago at Target, Levi’s mile high super skinny in “on the house” (the stretch on these is pretty forgiving, so I wear a size 4), and this belt from Amazon.

Something you may notice rather quickly is that I’m wearing pretty much the same jewelry in every outfit. There’s a reason for this: long story short, I’m doing a separate challenge where I wanted to test the durability of Ana Luisa jewelry for everyday wear. If you’ve read my blog post about rose gold, you’ll know that I’ve had some issues with the durability of gold-plated jewelry from other brands in the past. Check out the caption on this Instagram post for more details about my Ana Luisa wear test:

In this outfit, I’m wearing the onyx layered necklaces set, double hoop earrings (Scarlett), and the “rope slim” Gold twist ring (I wear size 7 for my middle and index finger). I also have the coin necklace set which you’ll see in some of the other outfits in this series.

Day 2

With this outfit, I’m wearing WearMe Pro women’s oversized full mirrored sunglasses in tortoise/black, A New Day women’s elbow sleeve high neck rib t-shirt in black (size: S), Levi’s women’s 721 high rise skinny jeans in “soft clean white” (size: 28/US 6), and A New Day women’s Rebecca ballet flats in cognac (size 9). If you’re in the market for white jeans, I highly recommend these. They’re closer to true denim than jeggings and in my experience are not see-through. I wear a larger size because they don’t have as much give as the mile-high super skinny jeans I have from Levi’s (which are more like jeggings). As for the rest of the outfit, I’m holding my A New Day women’s bi-stretch twill blazer in black (size 4), my Ello 16 oz ceramic Aspen travel mug in white, and my Universal Thread zip closure crossbody bag in cognac.

Day 3

With this outfit I wanted to go for something a little comfier and cozier. I’m wearing a hat my mother-in-law made for me, my “Scientist” sweatshirt from StemBabe (I’m wearing a size M but could have gotten a S), Amazon Essential Women’s mid-weight puffer vest in black (size S), these high-waisted leggings in black (size S), and these canvas sneakers from Target in white (size 10). I’ll note that these shoes don’t have a lot of arch support, so I usually wear them with insoles.

Day 4

I really liked this outfit. I’ve had this turtleneck literally since I was in high school, so I honestly couldn’t tell you where I got it. I’m wearing Levi’s mile high super skinny jeans (in “new moon”) and these women’s Bessie wedge bootie from Target in black (size 10). The coat was a gift from my mother-in-law, so I’m not *exactly* sure where she got it. I know that it’s Calvin Klein, and it looks similar to this Cashmere wool blend coat on Amazon. (Side note, I’ve decided that the Minnesotans show love by trying to keep you warm, since she gave me a hat, scarf, and coat for Christmas this year.)

Day 5

This was *probably* my favorite outfit. Both my blazer and shirt are from Target, but I was really disappointed to learn they’d been discontinued. I’m wearing Levi’s mile high super skinny jeans in “Quebec Storm” and these sunglasses in gold frame/grey lens. The shoes are Nine West women’s flax dress pump (size 9.5). These are my favorite pair of heels I own- aside from being cute, they’re surprisingly comfortable. I’m also wearing the Ana Luisa coin layered necklace in this photo (whereas most of my other outfits feature the onyx necklace set).

Day 6

This outfit has a few repeats from previous days, so I’ll just highlight the new items: this hat in color A-khaki and these Nine West women’s loafer flats (in size 9.5). Yes, I have multiple pairs of snakeskin shoes- remember that I study lizards (so I get pretty excited about anything related to reptiles).

Day 7

Like the outfit on day 6, there are several elements of this outfit that are repeated from previous days. The new pieces here are my Levi’s womens Original Trucker Jacket in “Jeanie” (size M) and Jockey women’s cowl neck sweatshirt in “heather oatmeal” (size M). If you’re looking for an outfit that is both comfy and cute- this is the one for you.

Bonus Outfit

When I initially planned out my week, I chose 8 outfits instead of 7. Apparently I can’t count, but I still wanted to recreate the image anyways.

I’ve had most of these items for a while. I’m wearing a tunic top I got several years ago from Old Navy (this is probably the most similar item they carry now). The SiiZU shawl was part of my Winter Causebox a couple of years ago, and you already know the details of the jeans and jewelry. I just liked the picture and thought it would be fun to share!

Takeaways & Reflections

There’s several things that I noticed over the course of the week:

  1. Almost every Pinterest outfit features a coffee cup and/or sunglasses. Don’t believe me? Go to Pinterest and check.
  2. My wardrobe has definitely grown and evolved a lot over the last year, and this challenge helped me look at a lot of my wardrobe staples with new eyes. In a couple of cases, I rediscovered clothing items I had completely forgotten about.
  3. I ACHIEVED MY GOAL. Forcing myself to wear clothes I already had helped me realize the massive potential my wardrobe already has, and I’m no longer finding myself obsessively wanting new clothing items.
  4. This challenge was a lot of fun, but it also helped push me out of my comfort zone. I have no previous experience doing any kind of modelling, so going and taking pictures of myself with a tripod in public is not something I felt terribly comfortable doing. I had to work through my anxieties about what people would think about me or if they would judge me for what I was doing. At a certain point, I had to accept the reality that it didn’t really matter what those people might think.
  5. Recreating pictures like this is NOT easy. I didn’t have anyone taking photos of me, so there was no one to tell me where to put my hands, where to look, what to do with my hair, etc. Recreating these photos involved a lot of running back and forth to my phone, but the payoff was sooooo worth it.
  6. I was absolutely blown away by the amount of support I got throughout this series. I honestly had *no* idea if people would be interested in this content. I just figured since I was doing it, I might as well generate content from it. I received SO MANY comments and messages on Instagram from people saying how much they loved the series (so you can guarantee it will be back sometime in the spring or summer).

What did y’all think? Are there any specific outfits you’d like to see me recreate in the future? Drop a comment, send me an email, or shoot me a message on Instagram at @missalenius_science!

Why I Chose TCU for 3 Degrees and 9+ Years

For today’s post, I wanted to talk about something a little different: my journey through college and graduate school at TCU. I started at TCU (short for Texas Christian University) in August of 2012, and am still here 9 years later. I’m working on my third degree, and thought it might be good to outline my thoughts and rationale for why I’ve stayed for each degree.

The Initial Decision

I’ll be up front: when it came to my undergrad, I only applied to 2 universities (TCU and Texas A&M). This isn’t necessarily something I would recommend- but it made sense to me at the time. (It’s worth noting that I was pretty much guaranteed to be admitted to both based on my academics).

I grew up in a household of Aggies. Both of my parents went to Texas A&M, and my brother went there for a couple of years before I applied to college. If you know anything about A&M, you probably know that there is a cult-like obsession with college football there. Growing up with that, I never intended to go anywhere without a D1 football team (because I knew I wanted that to be part of my college experience). That ruled out a lot of universities very quickly.

So what made me choose TCU?

Marching Band: If you’re not from Texas, you may not be familiar with the insanely competitive world of high school marching band. A huge portion of my identity in high school was centered around marching band, so it was something I wanted to potentially continue into college. However, if I went to A&M, that would require joining the Corps (their ROTC), which wasn’t something that I was particularly interested in.

Class size and research opportunities: generally speaking, classes tend to be smaller at TCU than A&M, and are more likely to be taught by professors than graduate students. Also, I had been accepted to TCU’s Honors College, and knew I would have an opportunity to do research as an undergraduate (something I was very excited about).

Money: TCU is a private university- which means it isn’t cheap. When I was applying to TCU, it cost around $40,000 a year to go there. Even though A&M (a public university) was theoretically cheaper, I ended up getting a full academic scholarship to TCU. In the end, it was cheaper for me to attend TCU, so at that point it was really a no-brainer.

My Undergraduate Experience

Student Life

Even though my family lived in Fort Worth, we made the collective decision that it would be best for me to live in the dorm. Personally, I think that living in the dorm is a invaluable part of the college experience, and would recommend it to anyone that can do it (financially and otherwise).

Like high school, marching band was an important part of my undergraduate experience at TCU- but for different reasons. In college, marching band served as a recreational outlet for me. It was an opportunity to hang out with my friends and get excited about football. I was a member of Tau Beta Sigma (a band service sorority), served as President of the Horned Frog Marching Band, and went to almost every TCU football game between August 2012 and January 2016. Looking back, most of my most cherished memories of undergrad either involve marching band or the friends I made there.

Religious Requirements

The name “Texas Christian University” might lead some to believe that TCU has rigorous religion requirements. I can assure you this is not the case. When I was a student, we were required to take a single religion course of our choosing. I chose to take “world religion,” which outlined the foundation and governing philosophies of most of the world’s major religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism). What I’m trying to say is that you do not need to be a practicing Christian to go to TCU.


When I started my undergraduate, I had a very vague idea of what I wanted to do- possibly something along the lines of chemical engineering? Maybe biochemical engineering? But those weren’t degrees that TCU offered, so I spent the first couple of years at TCU as a double major in either math, biology, and/or chemistry. (To be clear, I never wanted to be a medical doctor, which is what most students in TCU’s biology department are typically aiming for. Nevertheless, I ended up with a strong foundation in molecular biology.)

I struggled a lot with depression during my sophomore year of college, and found myself questioning what I really wanted to do with life. I’ve always loved animals. For most of my life, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but abandoned that idea when I realized I have issues with needles (and passing out). For some reason, it didn’t occur to me until this time of my life that I could study them in an academic context.

At that time, I switched to major in Environmental Science (focusing mainly on ecology-based biology classes). In essence, I spent my junior and senior years taking nothing but upper-division environmental science and biology courses. I ultimately ended up switching my degree back to biology, since it would be easier to meet the degree requirements based on the courses I had already taken.

I graduated with a B.S. in Biology with Honors and Chemistry and Math Minors in May 2016.

Study Abroad & Research Experience

It wasn’t until the summer of 2015 (between my junior and senior year) that I really set upon the path I find myself today. That summer, I had the opportunity to take two study abroad courses: Environmental Issues in Costa Rica and Biodiversity & Human Development in South Africa.

I could write an entire post about how these two courses changed my outlook on research and our relationship with the natural world. One of the big takeaways was that successful wildlife conservation often requires policy changes. But in order to change policy, we need researchers to define the problem and communicate it with data. Simply put, we can’t protect something we don’t know needs protecting. In that sense, I understood that scientific research is critical to conservation efforts. (On a less serious note, I also learned how much universities love pictures of students in university hats and clothing for promotional materials.)

After being primed to pursue science in the name of conservation, I serendipitously found myself in south Texas working with Texas horned lizards.

For those of you who may be familiar with horned lizards: they are an iconic, beloved lizard species found in the southwestern United States and Mexico. One of the things that makes horned lizards so unique is their diets. Horned lizards are considered dietary specialists- e.g. an animal that eats a very specific set of prey items. In the case of horned lizards, their diets consist primarily of ants, especially harvester ants (which are much larger than most other ants). Unfortunately, because their diets are so specialized, these lizards are highly vulnerable to habitat changes, especially those that impact the availability of harvester ants, such as pesticide use, the spread of invasive fire ants, and agricultural and urban development. The Texas horned lizard isn’t doing great- it’s disappeared from large portions of Texas and Oklahoma over the last 75 years, and is considered a species of conservation concern in both states.

Where I found myself that August was Karnes County, Texas, where populations of horned lizards managed to persist in small towns, despite low availability of harvester ants (their preferred food source). My undergraduate thesis was aimed at figuring what on earth they were eating by dissecting their fecal pellets.

I’ve always been a rather inquisitive person, so I found that I LOVED this research. My results found that these lizards were eating large quantities of termites- something that had never been previously documented for horned lizards. It seemed like the more data I collected, the more questions my advisor and I had.

Doubling Down: My Master’s Degree

Applying for Graduate School in STEM

Before I dive into my decision making process, it’s probably important to explain a little of how this process normally works.

In the US, starting a research-based graduate degree in the in STEM typically starts with reaching out to a professor whose lab you would be interested in working in. Basically, you email them, and if they’re interested, you might get an interview, and you eventually apply to the program/university (but only after getting the go-ahead from the professor).

It wasn’t initially my goal to stay at TCU- I reached out to a handful of professors for a combination of MS an PhD positions during my senior year. In every case, I never heard back (likely because I wasn’t a good fit or wasn’t qualified) or the position had already been filled. That left me with the option either to stay at TCU or to take some time off.

Why I Decided to Stay

There were a handful of reasons that I decided to stay. For one, this gave me the opportunity to answer some of the research questions that were raised by my undergraduate research (such as, do these lizards normally eat this many termites? How are they finding so many termites?, etc.)

I also knew my advisor, who I developed a good rapport with during my senior year of college. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a good working relationship with your advisor.

Lastly (but importantly), there was funding available for me to stay. When it comes to STEM, most graduate students get some form of funding which helps cover their tuition and living expenses. Usually, this comes from working as a research assistant (RA), teaching assistant (TA), or from an external funding source (such as an NSF fellowship). In my case, there was an available position as a TA which included a full tuition waiver and a roughly $1400/month stipend. In other words: I would get paid to go to grad school at TCU.

My Research

My Master’s research was effectively a direct follow-up to my undergraduate research. I wanted to do a more thorough dive into the diets of these horned lizard populations to understand how they varied over time, space, and related to prey availability.

Without going into too much detail (I’ll save that for another post), my research as a graduate student was able to answer some of the most compelling questions that I initially found as an undergraduate.

Something important began to happen during my graduate experience: I got connected to the world of Texas horned lizard conservation. There are considerable ongoing efforts to conserve and reintroduce Texas horned lizards back into the wild. My advisor has been working with institutions like Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and several zoos (including the Fort Worth, Dallas, and San Antonio Zoos) to evaluate the genetics of Texas horned lizards in the wild and captivity. Being a member of his lab, I was fortunate enough to start building relationships with many of the people working in horned lizard conservation.


In general, my department greatly emphasizes the teacher-scholar model of education. In practice, this means that the importance of teaching is considered on par with research. This means that both our graduate students and faculty dabble as both teachers and researchers.

Nearly every graduate student in our department is a teaching assistant (TA). Subsequently, I had the opportunity to teach several labs as a master’s student (including conservation genetics, comparative vertebrate anatomy, introductory biology I, and more. It turns out that I really like teaching (which I may not have discovered in a more research-focused program).

I finished my M.S. in Biology in May 2018. It was not without challenges (I struggled a lot with my mental health and managing my new diagnosis of ADHD, but I’ll save that for a different blog post). Bonus: I also met my husband during this time (and that alone made staying in the Biology Department at TCU worth it).

I graduated with my Biology MS in May 2018.

Round 3: Ph.D.

Considerations for Getting a Ph.D.

If you’re thinking about a Ph.D in STEM. I would not recommend pursuing a Ph.D. if it is based on the following reasons:

  • Because “you’re smart”
  • Because it seems like the next logical step

Simply put, you don’t get a Ph.D. by being smart. It’s a herculean effort that you complete through lots of hard work and dedication. To that end, I would only recommend pursuing a Ph.D. if you are confident it will help you achieve your career goals. The amount of effort that goes into completing a dissertation can be really difficult to do if you don’t have a clear picture of why you’re doing it. If you aren’t sure, you can always take some time off to figure it out.

My decision to pursue a Ph.D. was influenced significantly by my interest in teaching at a college level (which can often require a Ph.D., but not always).

Cons of Staying at the Same University

It’s typically frowned upon to get three degrees at the same college or university, and not without reason.

When you join a new lab, you have to learn how to work with new people, learn new research techniques, and adjust to other changes which can help make you a more well-rounded scientist and employee.

On paper, someone may see that I’ve been in the same lab, working with the same species for 5+ years and then question my ability to adapt to new environments, work with new people, learn new skills, etc. This was something that we discussed at length during my interview for the Ph.D. program. Additionally, the decision to stay at a smaller R2 institution meant that I might not have the same access to funding and resources that I might have at a large R1 institution.

Why I decided to Stay


A major part of my decision to stay at TCU had to do with teaching.

Remember how I said my department focuses a lot on teaching? Part of the requirements for my Ph.D. program are taking courses in teaching pedagogy (e.g. learning how to be a good instructor) and serving as a graduate instructor for a course (teaching a lecture, not just a lab). This is NOT the norm for most Ph.D. programs, which typically put an emphasis on research over all things. As someone who is considering teaching as a career path, this made the program an especially good fit for me.


Part of my decision to stay was that I knew my PhD research would be going in a different direction than my master’s research. Rather than focusing on diets of horned lizards in suburban habitats, I knew that I wanted to shift gears to the captive breeding and reintroduction efforts of Texas horned lizards.

In essence, although I’ve continued to study the same species, my focus is completely different. During my Ph.D., I’ve spent a significant amount of time studying captive breeding and conservation, the acquisition of foraging behaviors, and other concepts that my previous research had never explored. I’ve also gained new technical skills, including experience radio tracking hatchlings post-reintroduction. Although I’ve been working in the same lab, I’ve been able to develop working relationships with individuals at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and zoos (including the Fort Worth and San Antonio Zoos).

For my Ph.D. research, I’ve gotten a lot of experience using harmonic radar to radio track reintroduced Texas horned lizards- a skill I had no previous experience with.
Here’s a short video highlighting some of the research I’ve been a part of (as well as several of the wonderful people I’ve gotten to work with so far during my Ph.D.)

I’ve also deliberately sought out additional experience from side projects. For example, I spent 3 years volunteering with the Trinity River Turtle Survey– a 3 year long capture-mark-recapture project run by a local high school science teacher to monitor turtles living in the Trinity River in Fort Worth. Working on this project helped me establish professional connections, gain experience working with turtles, and expose high school students and the public to scientific research. I also volunteer to help other graduate students with their field work whenever possible (especially because I know many would do the same for me).

In other words, although I’ve stayed at the same school, lab, and study species, I’ve deliberately worked to diversify my experiences during my Ph.D. I’m confident that I could walk into an interview and make the case that staying at TCU for a third degree hasn’t pigeon-holed me professionally.

Final Thoughts

Looking back on my journey, I don’t have any regrets about the path I’ve chosen, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to other people. Everyone’s journey through academia is different. What may work out well for some may not be a good fit for others.

For example, it is absolutely possible to go straight into a Ph.D. program after finishing an undergraduate degree. Looking back, I can say that I definitely wasn’t ready for that. For me, a Master’s degree gave me the experience I needed as a writer, scientist, and teacher to be successful as a Ph.D. student. It’s important to take the time to carefully weigh the pros and cons of any program before committing to it.

If you have any specific questions about my experience, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Why I’m here

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows one thing: I love science, and I love talking about science even more.

Not just I love to do science (because I do)- I love seeing and understanding the science in everyday things- why is the sky blue? What is rose gold, and how is it different from yellow gold? What is fermentation, and how can you use it to make naturally carbonated soda?

I am a firm believer that understanding the science of our bodies and the world around us makes life a little easier. In this blog, I hope to share various aspects of life- skincare, my houseplants, making bread, my struggles with ADHD- and the science behind them.

I’m not sure where this journey will take me, but I hope you’ll be along for the ride (and maybe learn a thing or two!)

Get to Know Me

Who exactly am I, and what makes me qualified to talk about science?

My name is Rachel Alenius-Thalhuber. My maiden name (Alenius) is pronounced like the word “miscellaneous”- hence the name of the blog. I am a 26-year old woman living in Fort Worth, Texas and working on her Ph.D. in biology. I study the reintroduction and conservation of Texas horned lizards, but I’ve dabbled in a lot of different scientific fields. My background spans a pretty wide field of computer programming, genetics, chemistry, math, physics- it’s a lot.

That being said, I plan to use this blog to explore the science of a wide variety of topics, including:

  • How to care for orchids (based on their ecology)
  • My holy grail skincare products and the science behind them
  • I have ADHD. What does that mean?
  • Why science says you should walk more
  • How to make naturally carbonated soda using the science of fermentation
  • What you need to know about antibacterial products
  • And so, so much more.

Like life in general, I’m not sure where this blog will take me, but I hope you’ll join me for the ride!