Monday, March 31, 2014

Day Thirty: Hokey Parisian.

This exchange happened today:
Chris: Did you get any compliments on your outfit today?
Me: No
Chris: Oh, I'm sorry. (Notice that that is also not a compliment.)
Me: Well, I think it might be a bit hokey.
Chris: Hokey?
Me: Yeah, like corny.
Chris: Like a small town girl in the sixties who gets dressed up and goes to Paris, but when she gets there she learns that real Parisians don't really dress like that?
Me: (jaw dropping) Yeah, pretty much exactly like that.

The man totally gets me. 

So, it's Day Thirty (here in TFB world at least) and I'm so done wearing these clothes. But, I have to admit that it's mostly due to the weather having changed, and not as much due to the fact that I've grown tired of the clothes themselves. Which I think is actually pretty awesome. However, I'm not sure if it is quite awesome enough to make me want to do it again right away. I'm trying to decide whether I want to pick out another 30 or so items for a spring capsule to wear for the next three months. I can tell that I should do this because although I just got done saying that wearing these clothes for a little over three months was not particularly difficult, I am feeling very resistant to trying out the warm weather version of this challenge. Resistance to my own ideas is one of those sneaky little psychic clues that usually means if I push through all the doubts, discomfort and fear I have surrounding a course of action, I stand to achieve much more than if I take the- much more appealing- easy road. I should do this precisely because it will be hard for me. (And now that I've said that I can hardly show up tomorrow and tell you I've decided to start posting with my full wardrobe at my disposal again, can I?)

Warm weather dressing is kind of a bugaboo of mine. I used to be the kind of kid who'd sulk about a tropical vacation paradise in a black turtleneck and combat boots. I've improved by leaps and bounds since then- both in my general attitude and my ability to find things to wear in the summer that I don't hate and won't cause me to sweat to death- but I'm still much more adept at fall and winter dressing. Summer togs do not leave much leeway for camouflaging and concealing and I find it difficult to balance my desire for a lean looking silhouette with my need for my clothes to touch my skin as little as humanly possible. Summer and I have a difficult relationship.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I finally finished posting 30 outfits in just over three months. I could get all self-judgy and harp on the fact that I sure wasn't planning on taking that long when I started out but the fact is, I wore these clothes for way, way, way longer than I originally planned and I think that made a huge difference in what I got out of this undertaking. And other than adhering to the time frame, and the daily posting, I met pretty much all my expectations: I'm blogging more regularly, I've developed some strategic guidelines that are helping me to zero in on how I want to look most of the time, I've tried some new things (lipstick, belts, such a daredevil aren't I?) And I've learned a lot about not just how I'd like to look, but also about how I want to relate to my wardrobe (ie. what I'd like it to do for me versus what I'm willing to do for it.) I'm planning a 'wrap up' post for this 30 item winter wardrobe so I'll stop philosophising now and return to the outfit at hand.

I liked: 

  • If I'm honest I like the slightly cornball, phony French feel of this one. There is no great need for serious attire in my life right now so I'm indulging my whimsical side right now.
  • My new red beret. How did I do without a red one for so long?
  • The adorable polka-dot scarf that I am wearing like a grown up and totally pulling it off!

I'd change:

  • The black skirt plus black top combo. The hat and scarf add some much needed color but I think I can safely say that I just don't like the black on black outfits I've worn nearly as much as the black and white or black and grey combinations and this one is no exception. I'm really trying to avoid making rules for myself that include the words 'always' or 'never' but I'm going to say that as a general rule I should never wear just black apparel. The accessories help but I think if one of these black items was grey or white it would look chicer. 
  • I'm on the fence about the lace tights. I don't dislike them, I just don't think they really add anything. Perhaps I'm getting too nit-picky?

The verdict:

  • I'm going with 8.5 out of 10. No perfect but pretty solid. A little quirky but good-humored. Like that small town girl on her way to Paris.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Day Twenty-nine: And just like that- I feel like myself again!

I've decided that just about any combination of black and white prints or patterns get along like a house on fire. I was concerned when I pulled these pieces together that they would be too different, or too much, or too something. But I liked it, and I got more compliments on this outfit than I've gotten in a long time. Now, I also saw way more people that would be inclined to comment than I have in a long time so I can hardly call it scientific evidence, but I guess I can say, "I liked my outfit and my people did too."

I liked:

  • Pretty much everything. The mix of jewelry. The playful pattern mixing. The sleeve layering. The slim silhouette. 

I'd change:

  • I'd like to upgrade these shoes at some point. I have four pairs of these patent ballet flats from Nordstrom (BP shoes)  in red, green, purple and blue but I wear the red ones about 10 times as often as I wear any of the other colors. I kind of wish now I'd gotten four pairs of the red. They are about four years old now and they don't look anywhere near as nice as they did when they were new. I'd replace them in a heartbeat but I haven't been able to find a pair that I like as much. They are a beautiful shiny scarlet color and (most important) they do not have any bows. I can not abide bows on ballet flats. Why? I can not explain it. I don't mind bows on hats. Bow shaped pins? No problem. Bows on dresses? Don't mind those. But ballet shoe bows are out of the question. And yes, something like 99.95% of all ballet style flat shoes do have bows. Such is life for those of us with unreasonable fashion foibles. I'm sure you know who you are.

The verdict:

  • Its a ten. A home run with bases loaded (if I may belabor my last post's metaphor.) It was just right for the weather, (springy but not yet hot) and the stuff on my agenda, (meeting a friend for lunch and attending a performance of Annie featuring a young family member) and for my sense of self.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Day Twenty-eight: A swing- and a miss.

In my mind's eye I saw this outfit as a fun mix of disparate, funky elements. Elegant equestrian meets dime store princess. Or something like that. In these photos I can see that the only thing funky about it is that it pretty much stinks. The 'shrunken' jacket just looks too small, not charmingly undersized, when paired with this A-line skirt. Even the multiple rhinestone necklaces can't alleviate the dull matronly effect of this combination. I look like a prison warden who only gets invited somewhere nice once every ten years so it's hardly worth investing in a jacket that fits. I look like the blogger that time forgot. And am I wrong in thinking that this outfit adds 20 pounds AND 20 years?

I like: (surely there must be something?)

  • The copious amounts of rhinestones. I was recently admiring a woman at the Phoenix Art Museum wearing a T-shirt and jeans and a GIANT yellow rhinestone necklace. Nothing else about her was particularly striking, and her outfit without the necklace wouldn't have caused me to look twice, but with the over the top necklace it was kind of awesome. Casual, cool, special with out being too precious, absolutely not 'trying too hard'. Totally the effect I am usually going for. I did not manage to achieve that effect here myself but I did like this combo of necklaces. The long necklace is actually a belt. From the Gap, years ago. I've had it for probably ten years and never worn it. It's a bit useless as a belt, in all honesty, because you can't really make it snug, and it slips a lot, and it also has quite a high snag factor. I put the buckle at the back of my neck and left the tongue? tail? what do you call that that end of a belt? hanging down the side. I thought it was pretty neato-creative. 

I'd change:

  • I think where I went wrong is that the funkier elements (rhinestone belt and its sparkly friends, and intentionally ill fitting jacket) need a much more modern silhouette to make them seem deliberate and calculated and interesting rather than merely sad. Changing the A-line skirt with the black knit and leather pencil skirt in my capsule would make a world of difference. Even jeans would work better than this skirt. Jeans do tend to help play up the ironic notes of an outfit. They say, "an overdose of costume jewelry and a teensy jacket? Don't worry, its all in fun."

The verdict:

  • Epic Fail.
  • I've decided to get rid of this skirt. It's a bit loose in the waist and I don't like it enough to alter it. It's hard to tell from the photos but it is made of a very heavy, almost felt like, Melton. The waist facing is made of this same thick fabric so the waist is SUPER bulky. I need a black A-line that is a bit lighter in weight, a bit slimmer, dare I say, a bit sexier? As soon as my thirtieth outfit gets posted this skirt is O-U-T out. For now I'm going to fill its place with something more summery, and I will be on the lookout to replace it for Fall with a much sassier black A-line.
  • I will wear the necklaces again with something a bit hipper and see if I can't actually achieve the cool effect of the woman at the art museum. People watching at the museum is one of my favorite pastimes. I can get overwhelmed and burned out looking at the actual art pretty quickly but I never seem to tire of people watching.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day Twenty-seven: A big push to the finish.

It seems a bit ridiculous to still be labeling these posts 'Day whatever number is the next in line' when I am the only person in the history of blogging to take four freaking months to post 30 outfits, but for the sake of consistency I'm not going to change it now. Four months is a bit of an exaggeration but these 30-for-30 (if I can even still use that moniker) posts began in December and will finish in March. I've been wearing the same clothes for all that time (with the exception of the vacation time I spent in Maui and Arizona) and I haven't felt at all deprived. Some of the unposted outfits have even been pretty good. Some have been exact replicas of posted outfits. And some have been terribly boring. But I've kept to the plan getting dressed, if not the original plan of blogging every outfit every day, and I haven't felt badly dressed and no one has wondered (at least, aloud) if I don't have any other clothes. There are still two items that as yet remain unworn or undocumented. I just need to make the final push to the end. It was a good challenge for me. In spite of not really fulfilling it in the manner it's supposed to be executed I have learned a good deal about how I want to clothe myself in the future. But I'll wait 'till the end to sum all that up.

I liked wearing this outfit but it wasn't a great choice functionally for the activities I performed today and I did not find that out until I was in the process of performing those activities. I volunteer a few hours a week shelf reading at our local library. When I'm working on the bottom two shelves of a section I have to crouch. I used to sit on the floor, but it turns out the industrial grade carpeting irreparably scuffs the finish off of my shoes so I don't do that anymore. Crouching with these boots, jeans and the cuffs of my knee high socks wedged in the back of my knee was awfully uncomfortable.

I like:

  • The boots. The make me feel ten feet tall and bulletproof. The are also spectacularly comfortable as long as I'm not crouching in them. 

I'd change:

  • I need to rethink my 'bare minimum amount' of makeup. Concealer, mascara and lip balm used to be my acceptable bare minimum. I don't think I can reasonably exclude brow, cheek, and lip color from that list anymore. I appear to have no innate color of my own.
  • While I really like the combination of these two shirts when I've paired them with a skirt, I'm not crazy about how they look with these jeans. The untucked shirt looks too puffy at the waist to my eye. I'd tuck in the black and white shirt and push the sleeves of the black shirt up to expose the black and white cuffs next time.

The verdict:

  • I'm giving this one an 8/10. I felt really very good wearing it and I was a bit surprised when I didn't love it as much in pictures as I did in real life. I think some of that is due to having had the photos taken at the end of the day rather than right after I got dressed. I'm not sure why that should make such a huge difference but it really does seem to for me.
  • Photos also really help to point up the transformative powers of accessories. When I compare an outfit like this one to some of the previous outfits that I think look great, I find that it's really the accessories that make the difference. There's nothing wrong with this outfit but it needs something to make it really shine.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Day Twenty-six: It looks like me, but it's not *really* me.

To my eye this combination looks really consistent with my age, location, education level, social status, politics, and proclivities. I mean, you can just tell by looking at me that I live in a Northern California university town, support recycling and alternative fuels, and go to the farmers market and the library regularly. I feel like this outfit says a lot of things about me- and those things happen to be true- but I don't really like this look for myself. I look fine, but I look like every other 40 something woman sampling produce at the local farmers market. Actually, I wore this to see a movie at our local art house theater and it was perfectly appropriate for that pursuit, and there were at least 3 other women in the audience wearing a version of this outfit.

I like:

  • That almost every item was obtained from the thrift store. The cardigan was a gift but the shoes, jeans, sweater and 'scarf' were bought used.
  • The fact that the 'scarf' is actually a seasonal table runner. This fact allows me to entertain the fantasy that I am so stylish that I can make an accessory out of anything. I have learned that it is much better to keep this fact to myself instead of excitedly exclaiming, "It's a table runner!!!" when someone compliments it. Other people really don't know what to make of this information.
  • You can't see them but the Smartwool Hide and Seek socks make me very happy. They are the only socks I've ever tried that aren't visible outside of shoes AND don't end up in a wad under my instep after slipping off my heels the minute I take a step.

I'd change:

  • The long sweater and voluminous scarf combination. I think this is what makes it look like such a typical example of the local uniform. Individually I like all the pieces here, but together they seem so predictably "Yes, I do have a moment to sign your petition for clean energy.' (They have those "Do you have a moment for...[insert worthy cause here]" kids everywhere, right?)
  • I wish my hair was not sticking up on top of my head in every single full length photo taken in this outfit but that has already been taken care of IRL.

The verdict:

  • Sometimes outfits look just fine- nice even- but they just don't do it for me. If I saw someone who looked like me at the movies I would have probably appreciated how much her table runner scarf complimented her hair, I might have admired her cuffed jeans with her cap toe mens oxfords, but I wouldn't have thought 'I need to copy that outfit.'
  • This is a 6/10 for me. I don't think it looks bad. I just don't think it looks like me, even though, somehow, it looks like lots of people who are very much like me. (And whom I would probably like very much.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Day Twenty-five: Some realizations, more jewelry from New Zealand, and a new acquisition.

Realization #1: As much as I love an Annie Hall style 'borrowed from the boys' look, my most successful attempts at incorporating menswear into my outfits combine a single masculine element with pieces that are unambiguously feminine. Here, it's guys jeans, with a cashmere cardigan, and pointy flats with bows. I usually go all masculine-to-the-maximum and try to wear these jeans with mens shoes and various other gentlemanly touches. I was beginning to think I just didn't really like actual menswear on me as much as I like it on other people and that was making me sad. I want to be able to emulate everything I admire.

Realization #2:  Although I spend a tremendous amount of psychic energy (and blog space) wondering if about the width of my belt or the appropriateness of  my jewelry or whatnot, there are some items that come into my hands that resonate so strongly with my inner glamor girl (or my inner rock star, or my inner Russian spy...) that I don't give a damn what anyone else might say, think or feel about my choice. Case in point- this vintage fur cape that was waiting for me at the Salvation Army store. There was no question it was mine from the moment it hit my shoulders. It might be a bit much, it might be a bit costumey, it might not be terribly PC, but it is beautiful and I love it and I love how I feel when I wear it. That's a feeling I need to indulge and cultivate.

I like:

  • Having established a formula for incorporating menswear into my wardrobe. It's making me excited to try other items that I haven't been happy with before- like those giant shoes. 
  • This greenstone necklace is a much better match with this outfit.
  • I love love love the cape. I have another vintage fur cape but it is a much fancier style so I find it difficult to wear with everyday clothes. This one is a bit more wearable for daytime so I hope to get it a bit more exposure. And it looks fantastic with my hair, if I do say so myself.

I'd change:

  • I need to get some sort of shoe cream for these nude shoes. They are looking sort of shabby but I don't have anything to clean or polish them with. 
  • And I need to remember to only buy pointy shoes that can be resoled. I am murder on the toes of pointy shoes and I don't think there's anything that can be done for these since they have rubber soles.

The verdict:

  • It's not a fancy outfit, but it is a casual outfit that I'm very happy wearing. Although I like to be a bit fancier in general I don't want to always have to be dressed up in order to feel like myself- and my life lately (sadly) tends more towards sweater and jeans occasions than silk and pearls occasions.
  • I rate this as 8/10. There are certainly more interesting and exciting casual outfits I could come up with if pressed.
  • I need to wear more clothes that make my heart sing.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Day Twenty-four: A pseudo suit.

This jacket seems to work much better without a shirt underneath it than it does with one. At least it doesn't work well when paired with any of the shirts, blouses or tops I currently own. I had been hoping that the sleeve length and proportions would allow for lots of interesting layering options but my attempts thus far have been unsuccessful. I rather suspect this jacket really aspires to be a suit and not a separate. It seems happiest with a straight skirt.

I left the top button of the jacket open to make room for the jewelry. I have a few of these greenstone necklaces from New Zealand. I try to pick up a new piece of greenstone jewelry each time I visit but I don't tend to wear  them very often. Truthfully, I worry that these mark me as a bit of a poseur. Half of my family members were born in New Zealand, but I was not. And then there is the significant difference between being a New Zealander of European descent (my forebears emigrated from Scotland in the late 1800's) and being a Native New Zealander. But on our recent vacation to Maui everybody and their mother were wearing jewelry with Hawaiian motifs and not giving issues of cultural appropriation a second thought. So I decided to get over myself (and my, perhaps, overblown sensitivities) and just wear my own Pacific Island jewelry. (It's not like it wasn't created for the tourist trade anyway. It's not like I'm wearing heritage museum pieces.)

I like:

  • The silhouette. Although it is pretty straight up and down- not a lot of waist emphasis- I think it has a bit of a late sixties feel to it. It's slightly boxy but not overly so. That's a phenomenon I associate with suits from the latter half of the sixties- somehow the suits look boxy but the bodies still look curvy. 
  • I'm giving myself points for finally having pressed the damn skirt.

I'd change:

  • The necklace. After all that going on about the jewelry in this post I think the necklace strung on cord is a little to casual for this pseudo suit. And I'd like something fuller and less angular, something that fills up the neckline more.

The verdict:

  • A pseudo suit- a jacket with a coordinating but not matching straight skirt- is another good basic combination for me. I love the look of a suit but I've never had the kind of job that required one. This mixing and matching separates lends the pulled together feel of a suit without appearing fussy, or stuffy, or way more dressed up than everyone else. It is also much easier to accomplish for a dedicated thrift store shopper like me- actual suits that look stylish, are in good shape, and come close to fitting top and bottom are few and far between.
  • It's a 7/10. A solid basic combo that needs something to make it really sing. Not sure what that something is yet but I'm open to suggestions.