Monday, February 28, 2011

If I had been going somewhere I would have tired harder.

I'm home sick today. I thought getting up and dressed might help me to feel better. It doesn't really. I had this outfit in my head last night when I promised to show off this skirt today. It was better in my imagination. If I were planning to leave the house I'd find something a bit more exciting to wear with this skirt. As it is, I guess this outfit is fine for someone who is nursing a bug and working from home.

Of course, I say that, and then I get all upset that I look miserable in these photos. Maybe it's not a such a great idea to do outfit posts on sick days? Perhaps I should have just stayed in bed after all.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thrift Haul.

This installment of "Thrift Haul" actually qualifies as a bona fide haul:

Black cotton 8 gore skirt.

This skirt reaches my knees and is a perfect weight for the summer. Apologies for the crappy picture and the lack of pressing.

Full skirt with yoke.

This mid-calf length skirt has great movement and is perfect to wear right now. You'll see it in action tomorrow.

Green A-line skirt.
Pocket detail.

I love the sort of seventies vibe of the A-line paired with the cut-away pockets.

Red, white and black knit top.

I'm still a bit conflicted about this top. My mom picked it up and I only tried it on to humor her, but then I thought that it actually looked pretty good- in spite of all the things which would seem to work against it:
1. It's a very busy, very colorful print. I usually avoid printed tops. I do not have a logical reason for this.
2. The fabric is a terrible slinky synthetic knit.
3. It's originally from Dress Barn. I don't mean to offend any Dress Barn shoppers, and maybe I'm completely wrong because I don't think I've ever actually been inside a Dress Barn but, I have the impression that Dress Barn is a sad, strip mall discount store stocked with sack dresses for ladies who toil in cubicles for inadequate compensation. I might have to revise my previous impression of Dress Barn because when I put this top on it does everything I would hope a shirt would do for me but few ever do. It fits, it flatters, it makes my chest look nice, even normal. I have a very difficult time finding tops that fit me well- even sweaters often end up being too short in the front and too long in the back. This shirt just seems made for me. I hope I can get over my prejudices.

Sky blue V-neck T-shirt.

Nothing particularly special but a pretty color.

Denim jacket with snap closures and 3/4 length sleeves.
Belt detail at back.

Simple, with cute back detailing.

Stretchy, cropped, uncut corduroy jacket.

I couldn't resist the color.

Navy and white polka-dot robe.

This looks terrible here because I washed it but still haven't pressed it, but once pressed it should be perfect for lounging on the sofa sipping mimosas. (I actually do this more often than you might think, so special mimosa sipping outfits aren't completely impractical.)

Two wooden bracelets.

I'm trying to collect two armfuls of wooden bracelets to wear over the sleeves of a slim black scoop-neck with cropped black pants and brown shoes and accessories. Who knows if I'll ever manage to bring this outfit into reality? Thus far, I've acquired just three wooden bracelets- it may take a while!

Vintage shoes.

These were purely a decorative purchase. They are possibly the tiniest shoes ever. But oh so pretty. They say they are from Salon Shoes, Marshall Field & Company. I used to work at The Art Institute of Chicago, right up the street from Marshall Field (when it was still Marshall Field; not Macy's) and I thought the store was just about the pinnacle of old retail sophistication. They are sparkling away in their new home on top of the dresser in my work room.

Since none of this stuff is going to undergo any alteration or creative transformation I did have to get rid of a whopping 55 items to stick with my minimizing plan. Eliminating my small (and not valuable) twenty year old comic book collection offset these purchases. I was feeling so good about purging stuff that I no longer want or need, and frankly, don't know why I was still keeping, that I even willingly eliminated five more items to allow for the purchase of a set of red wine glasses. These were a shared purchase between Chris and me, and something we both agreed we needed, so technically I did not have to get rid of anything but I did anyway. I have to remember that it is only the end of February. If I get too gung-ho now I'm going to be hurting come September!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I swear, this jacket looks fantastic in real life.

I'm disappointed with how today's photos turned out. This faux Persian lamb jacket is one of the things I almost always think I look great in. It's one of the few things I've ever paid full price for at Anthropologie and it's been worth every penny I paid for it. In fact, I've always planned to make a couple of similarly styled jackets in a variety of fabrics when I have time to sew again. It's a great jacket with jeans, or with a skirt. I've worn it over simple dresses and thought it looked fantastic. But in the photographs it looks pretty ho-hum.

Every time I wear a black top (often) Chris complains when he's taking my photos. He says that my top half looks like a big black blob. It's very difficult to see any detail in these photos and they really aren't doing my beautiful jacket justice. You'll just have to take my word about how great it is because it certainly doesn't look like anything special here.

I think if I'd worn a colored shirt underneath the jacket, instead of this black one, the outfit would have looked better. What if there were just a few inches of leopard print (to match my shoes) peeking out beneath from beneath the hem of the jacket? I'm pretty wary of leopard print, in general. It can go bad so easily. But I think when judiciously applied it can be fantastic.

I did receive a number of compliments on these leopard wedges today. They are a bit worn out. They're missing hair in a few spots (you can see a shiny spot on the heel in the picture below) and in one place both the hair and the pattern are gone. I'm going to be sad when I finally have to lay these to rest.

One of the reasons I'm already mourning the eventual loss of these shoes is that they epitomize a type of shoe that it seems is becoming increasingly hard to find lately- the pretty, feminine shoe that could be worn by a regular person in real life. More and more, what I find when I'm shopping are shoes that are either unappealingly orthopedic or ridiculously impractical for anyone who might have to walk more than thirty feet in the course of her day. There doesn't seem to be much in between. I like heels. I like them a lot. But heels of upwards of four inches? And with platforms? On almost every pretty shoe out there? I'm convinced that all of these shoes would be every bit as beautiful with two or three inch heels, and (as an added bonus) a woman would stand a chance of being able to wear them for more than a half an hour with out being reduced to hobbling in pain.

I'm featuring my purse with pride today because I actually took the trouble to take my stuff out of the bag it was in and put it into a bag that coordinated with my other accessories. I've been carrying the small burgundy patent clutch I posted here, for weeks now. Sometimes it has worked really well with what I've happened to be wearing and sometimes it has clashed horribly. I'd like to believe that I'm going to make the effort to switch out my purses to go with my outfits from here on out, but I'm afraid that it's more likely that I'm going to be carrying this one, regardless of whether it looks good with what I'm wearing, for the next month. At least this clutch is more neutral than the purple one- I have an increased chance of it being appropriate for any given outfit than I did with the purple.

Amber and silver ring

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Suck it ! (in)

I love the way I look in this dress when I have my stomach sucked in so hard that I can only breathe in tiny little sips of air. I suck in my gut, and stand up as straight as I can, and I give myself a big fat smile in the mirror. And then I let it all hang out and get over it. I wish I could maintain the great posture firm abs facade for more than a minute or two but I can't. Still, sucking it in makes me feel hopeful. I'm not completely happy with my weight at it's current level but I believe that if I had more muscle tone in my middle I could be content. And I think if you can suck it in to the point where you like it, then you should be able to tone it up to that point too. Basically, I believe that sucking it in shows you what's possible. Seeing is believing.

Chris and I have been walking together a couple nights a week to increase our fitness level. Walking is supposed to be good for your core but I think I'd like to add some other exercises to firm my tummy and improve my posture. I have a bit of a sway back and I have a tendency to slouch. If I could begin to overcome these things I know I'd look much better in my clothes.

I may never again be as thin as I used to be but I know I can be healthier and happier.

The black enamel heart necklace is another gift from Chris. This came from the same store in Seattle where I got the necklace I wore in this post. I'm amused by the visual reference to black hearts. Chris doesn't really think that I have a black heart- this necklace came in both red and black and I picked the black.

A more realistic side view.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mediocre outfit: Number two in a series.

Here's a  major conundrum of *What I Wore* blogging: I wanted to wear something today that I hadn't yet posted. And I ended up in another outfit I'm not happy in. I rejected several options that would have looked better and that I would have been happier wearing because I was going to wear them in precisely the same way as I did the last time I wore them and I'd already posted them here. So, I'm essentially trying to keep my blog interesting by wearing crappy outfits.

This is counter to every reason I wanted to have a blog. I wanted this blog to help me be more objective about how I look and how I dress. I thought that posting pictures of what I wore would help me identify what I really like to wear so I could wear things I really like more often. So how did I end up in this unbecoming outfit today? This morning I passed up several things I really like to wear and left the house in something I don't feel good wearing. I certainly did not want to have a blog where I show pictures of me feeling unhappy in my clothes and complain about how I look. With my minimizing plan I've been trying to work towards a wardrobe model where I'll have fewer things to wear but I'll wear the things I love more often. I wonder if I wouldn't be happiest with a closet full of identical, perfectly fitted, sheath dresses in a variety of fabrics. (In my imagination I've made all these perfectly fitted sheaths myself, and I also have very toned arms.) But would this imaginary wardrobe make for an interesting blog? Can you say- "accessories"?!?!

I usually enjoy wearing this skirt. I especially like to wear it when I'm doing something with Chris and he is wearing his army green cargo shorts. His and hers outfits are unforgivably dorky, I know, but I've always thought of this as my Chris-skirt since Chris wears cargo shorts pretty much every day that it is warm enough to do so. You might say they were his signature- if they weren't also the signature of every other guy in California between the ages of three and 103.

I've been trying out leggings. They're something I like on other people but I never seem to be happy with the way they look on me. It just seems that whatever I try to pair leggings with, I'm always convinced that tights would have looked better. Leggings just might become a minimizing plan casualty. I've already learned two important things by blogging: 1. I look about a billion times better when I'm smiling. And 2. Leggings are not for me.

Sadly, this was actually the most flattering of the side views. Aaargh!

At least I can safely say that this is one outfit that you won't be seeing here again! And tomorrow brings another opportunity to get myself dressed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

High C.

After racing around picking up the house and cleaning our downstairs bathroom in preparation for having a friend over I left myself only twenty minutes to shower and get dressed today. I wasn't thrilled with my choice but since today was a very relaxed day my clothes didn't cause me too much consternation. My friend and I lounged on my sofa and watched an old movie courtesy of TCM while eating fruit and brie and drinking tea. For my friend this qualifies as research- the movie part, not the tea and brie part- for her dissertation. For me this just qualifies as great fun. The movie was only okay, but the brie and the conversation were fantastic.

I don't mean to seem overly negative but I want to examine what I don't think worked here: 1. Seasonal inappropriateness- I like the skirt but its still a bit cool here for summery linen and sandals. 2. Deadly boring basics- the ubiquitous square black top returns. I need a better fitting, more flattering, go-to black top. 3. No attention to detail- call me critical but I think sandals really require painted toenails. Otherwise I'd say it was a solid C+. It fulfills the basic requirements of the assignment but it doesn't demonstrate mastery of the materials or reveal any original thought.

I try a little can-can dancer flair to liven up a boring outfit.

Even better with a pedicure.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Brave new wardrobe declarations.

If this skirt had come from a regular retail store I'd probably have bought one in every colorway by now. It fills a wardrobe gap I had identified long ago. I tend to prefer my skirts to cover my knees or at least come close. But I've been wearing boots more often lately and I think the shorter (above the knee, not mini) skirt length looks better with tights and boots. So I knew I wanted a skirt like this one but it took me a while to find it. I sort of imagined that skirts of this nature would just start flying into my basket at the thrift store but that didn't happen. My thrift store mojo seemed to be broken. I just wasn't experiencing the thrift store magic anymore.

I was getting a bit concerned when I began this blog, that it seemed as if a huge percentage of my clothing came from the Gap. I've got nothing against the Gap. I shop there quite a bit. I have their store credit card. They have awesome sales. Their jeans seem to fit me pretty well. And I worked for them for a number of years. Oh- and the credit card rewards that I can spend at their online shoe store don't hurt either. But I like to imagine myself, and my style, as more creative, original, quirky, even- dare I of a kind? And that's hardly what the Gap is known for.

I try to always include a side shot for documentation but I hardly ever like them.

I'm aware that much of the creativity and one-of-a-kind-ness in any given wardrobe comes more from the way items are combined than it does from the individual items themselves but there's also only so much you can do with a wardrobe that has Gap basics as a foundation. I long to be a thrift store/vintage shop/local boutique shopper but I'm more of a Gap/Macy's/Anthropologie shopper when it comes right down to it. And I'm not pleased about it.

The thing is, I know why I end up at the Gap and it's not just because there's one walking distance from campus. It's because at the Gap I know that I can find something that will fit me- and it probably won't even be the largest size they carry. As my weight has climbed upwards my level of shopping enjoyment has decreased significantly. It's heartbreaking to find something at the thrift store which is perfect for you in every way but for the fact that you don't have a hope of zipping it up. It's crushing to find something you love in the adorable boutique that only stocks sizes up to twelve, and a slim twelve at that.  At the Gap I usually wear a medium, maybe a large. I swim in the extra large. It's comforting. And it's not emotionally challenging. But it's also not really stylish.

To be truly stylish is to seek out clothing which makes you feel special. Not to default to the easiest choice available because you don't have the emotional fortitude not to crumble when something doesn't fit you.
To be truly stylish is to expect clothes to flatter you, and to be able to reject them dispassionately if they fail to do so. It's hard to remember that a fantastic jacket (or skirt, or pair of pants, or whatever) is only really fantastic if it makes you look and feel fantastic (even if it's a mint condition forties crepe number with decorative bound buttonholes and hip pockets- my holy grail of thrift/vintage shopping.)

Another great hat from Deanna Gibbons via Fino Fino- the feather beret.

I promise to be a bit braver from now on when I'm shopping. If something doesn't fit me it doesn't have to be a crushing blow to my self esteem. I am the size that I am. And the garment is the size that it is. And that's that.

The elimination project has helped. It's a question of mindset. I went to the thrift store last week half hoping I wouldn't find anything I wanted. When I tried things on and found that they didn't fit, I was able to say- "Good. That's one less thing I have to make a decision about purchasing." Since my goal is to have fewer things, and have them all be really terrific, it is easier to just move on from the things that aren't perfect.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

After the thrird try, you just have to go with what you've got on.

I had some trouble getting dressed this morning. I woke up with this grand idea of having a reoccurring weekly blog post where I would wear an item I wasn't sure I wanted to keep in my wardrobe and then decide based on the photos and comments whether to hold onto it, alter it, wear it a different way, or just let it go. I had a garment in mind- a perfect candidate to begin this process: an over-sized army green tunic top with kimono style sleeves. Don't bother looking for the photos of the aforementioned garment. There aren't any. I couldn't bring myself to wear it today. My second attempt at getting dressed and out the door also failed. This is my third attempt. At some point you just have to decide enough is enough and get out of the house.

The garment that inspired the, now rejected, weekly post idea is one of those pieces of clothing that in principle should work but in reality, just doesn't. I like the color. I'm a big fan of knit tops in general. It ties under the bust which usually flatters me. But wearing it makes me feel like I'm a refugee from Sherwood Forest. This, honestly, is probably unnecessarily enhanced by the fact that I always seem to try to pair the top with the same boots I'm wearing in today's outfit photos. Together these items acquire a very *merry men* flavor. My failed attempt at creating a workable outfit with the green tunic did have an upside. I have decided that it will be much more flattering hemmed at the low hip. So the tunic has left my wardrobe and now waits in the workroom for a remodel. I will post before and after photos when this is done. Probably not any time soon, I warn you, in case you were on the edge of your seat waiting to see how this turns out.

Just add a tunic and its men in tights time!

You'll notice the reappearance of my glass heart necklace. New jewelry gets an unfair amount of attention. I tend to favor the new stuff. And it doesn't hurt to reinforce the jewelry gift giving behavior by showing how pleased I am with Chris's choice. The other necklace is also one of my favorites. It's a pencil in a sterling silver case. I had been coveting the pen necklace often worn by Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks) on Mad Men:

Image from FashionBinge

This sterling silver pencil belonged to my great aunt by marriage and is engraved with her initials. My mother kept it in her jewelry box with out a chain for some time and, when I expressed an interest in it (begged for it) she graciously passed it down to me. I added the chain and I wear it often. I like to think that Elsie would be pleased that I try to tell what little I know of her story whenever anyone asks me about her necklace. I'm told Elsie was very stylish and modern. I met her once when she was already in a nursing home but I remember her as being beautifully put together and impeccably dressed, especially in comparison to my slovenly teenage style.

I'm happy that my necklace captures the feeling of the Joan Holloway necklace I admire, without being exactly the same, and that it has a personal story I am doing my best to keep alive. I wish I knew more about Elsie.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Glass heart.

Knowing that I was going to get something special from Chris for Valentine's day I *pre-eliminated* five items last week to offset the gift and stick with my minimizing plan. Chris is the best gift giver I've known. And he knows that I love Valentine's Day- I'm a heart shaped jewelry aficionado. This glass heart locket from Archaic Design is perfect. It seems both solidly chunky and delicate at the same time.  I appreciate the metaphoric nature of this necklace; hearts are simultaneously strong and fragile. The locket unscrews to allow a photograph to be placed between the glass but I'm not sure I will do this. I think the antique glass is gorgeous as it is.

My Valentine

I'm especially thrilled that Chris ordered this necklace from an Etsy seller. I have a couple of pieces of silver jewelry from Tiffany, which I do enjoy, but which I feel a bit conflicted about. First, anything from Tiffany is, by nature, highly overpriced. What one pays for is the name, which I don't care about particularly, so it's not money well spent in my case. Second, anything from Tiffany is completely identifiable as such, to everyone. I don't have any of the pieces which visibly bear the Tiffany name but even so, one doesn't have to be a jewelry expert to be able to identify these pieces. Three, there's not sport in obtaining Tiffany heart jewelry. As long as you don't mind paying too much for a silver heart necklace or bracelet you can take your pick of several styles at any time of year. They certainly aren't inherently special, in and of themselves. I'm not saying that I don't appreciate the pieces I've received- I do. They were heartfelt gifts, given and received as a token of love. And I wear them often. In fact, I never remove my Tiffany wire heart bracelet unless I'm going through airport security. But I'd truly rather have more things like this locket. Something hand made by someone who is trying to make a living making art. Something with a little mystery, that had to be searched for, that cannot be easily identified. Something special.

The hounds-tooth check skirt form the thrift store gets its first outing today. Unfortunately after taking these photos I noticed that the heel tip was broken off one of my shoes, leaving the metal screw exposed. I had to switch out the shoes at the last minute before leaving the house. I'd have tried to snap a quick picture of the shoes I did end up wearing but they are in desperate need of a polish. I'd be too embarrassed to feature them here in that condition. And they don't look as good with the skirt as my first choice.

Ready for the rain.

It's supposed to rain here all week, and perhaps longer- I only checked the seven day outlook. These red rain boots will be a fixture on my feet this week. The first day it rained last spring I saw dozens of girls in colored rain boots on my drive in to campus. The whole time I was thinking- "I don't know if I'm really the rain boot type." One short walk across a wind and rain swept campus later and I'd decided I'm definitely not the put up with wet feet all day type. Turns out I am the rain boot type after all. I've been wanting to get a red umbrella to match my boots but my boring black umbrella is holding up maddeningly well. If only it would get blown inside out a few times so I could justify replacing it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thrift Haul.

Chris and I spent the weekend cleaning our house. That means I spent the weekend wearing horrible sweats and sporting fright wig hair. That means no outfit pictures. I make this decision for your own good, dear readers. What I have to offer you instead are pictures of my haul from Friday's thrift store shopping spree. Perhaps one can't properly call four items a haul, but remember, I'm supposed to be getting rid of stuff- not gathering it. I cannot resist the lure of the thrift store for long though, despite my good intentions.

Black and white hounds-tooth check skirt.

When I was young my mother gave me a skirt very much like this one. She had made hers herself as part of her going away to college wardrobe. I hemmed my mom's skirt to micro mini length (it was the eighties) and wore the hell out of it. I'm going to keep this one at a more demure knee length like my mother's original. This is the only one of the items I purchased that I intend to keep in its natural state.

Black and white polka dot halter dress.

Chris and I have been taking a social dance class together, twice a week, for about a year. I try to wear a skirt on the days that we dance because I think it feels more romantic to dance in a skirt. I especially like to dance in skirts that have lots of swing and motion. However, I don't own a ton of skirts that fit the bill and sometimes it's not practical for me to be wearing a swishy skirt all day. This halter is made of a slinky, shiny, stretchy knit that I would never wear in *real life* but seems acceptable as a costume. I'm planning to turn the dress into a skirt that I can stuff in my back pack and pull on before class. The Lycra knit is absolutely impossible to wrinkle so it should should be perfectly portable.

Sea foam green maxi skirt.

I adore this color. I'm planning to shorten this skirt to hit just below the knee, and probably narrow it a little. It should be perfect, for our sweltering summers, with a t-shirt and sandals. I'm picturing a casual, Saturday morning, cruising the farmers' market kind of vibe.

Sea foam green maxi dress.

Did I mention that I adore this color? I'm tearing this one apart to use the knit fabric to make a t-shirt. I've had this Jalie t-shirt pattern for over a year. It's hard to find good knit fabric yardage, and when found, it can be expensive. Since I haven't made this pattern before and (as you might imagine) I sometimes have fitting issues with the upper half of my body (enormous front, fairly small back) I don't want to use something I'm going to be sick over if my first attempt isn't successful. The six dollars I spent on this dress makes it a perfect way for me to try out the pattern anxiety free. If it works well, great- I'll have a sea foam t-shirt. If it doesn't I'm only out six bucks.

Friday, February 11, 2011

*What Not to Wear*: some do's and some don'ts.

Chris loves the top I wore today. He picked it out. We were a Kohl's because I needed something to wear, last minute, for an event at school. We were pressed for time so we employed a divide and conquer tactical approach at the sale rack. When we regrouped Chris began to extol the merits of this garment- " It fits under the chest, emphasizing your narrowest part...and this ruching here provides fullness which spreads out to disguise your tummy." As soon as he'd said the words Chris looked at me wide eyed and bewildered as if he'd just noticed he'd been speaking in tongues- "I cannot believe that just came out of my mouth," he laughed. I'd recently been working on a project where I was watching several episodes of TLC's What Not to Wear a day, searching for instances where Stacy and Clinton told the makeover participants that they would be become better people if they dressed better. Chris had apparently absorbed some of the "rules."

Stacey and Clinton would approve of the top, but not the jeans.

He was right. The top seems to be pretty much exactly what the shows hosts would recommend for someone with my shape. It does flatter my chest and fall nicely over my stomach. I know that they would take issue with my skinny jeans, however. They always advocate for a straight or slight boot cut for women with wider hips and thighs. I understand their logic about balancing out the leg and all- but I kind of don't mind looking like I have a big ass. I feel that I look a bit dated in boot cut jeans.

Worn with a jacket from Anthropologie.

And while they would approve of the idea of this jacket they wouldn't be impressed by the fact that I can't button it. Well, to be honest- it is physically possible- I tried it when I was getting dressed this morning, but when buttoned it looks as if the top button might at any moment launch itself, weaponized projectile style, across the room. I don't think that's quite what they mean when they say- "Locked and loaded."

Would boot cut jeans balance my butt better?
So what if I like my trunk a little "junky."

I got this crown ring years ago during my semester in Florence. It has four colored stones (red, blue, green and white) and four crystals. I like the way it looks, but it's not the most comfortable ring to wear so I don't wear it often.  When I was in Florence as a student we were warned several times that if we purchased anything we must be absolutely certain to get a receipt that showed that we had paid the required sales tax. Apparently, at least at that time, there were special sales tax police who could demand to see your receipt and you could get in BIG TROUBLE if you could not produce a receipt on demand. I don't know if I ever knew the exact nature of this trouble but I don't remember it now. This ring was the only thing I bought while I was there for which a shopkeeper didn't give me a receipt. I was too scared to demand a receipt and then terrified of being apprehended by the special police. Nothing at all happened.

I'm normally not a fan of white top stitching on shoes, or on anything, really. But somehow it gives these red flats a summery, nautical feel that I appreciate. I bought these at Goodwill last year and I love them, except for the fact that their black rubber soles leave black scuff marks on my kitchen floor and I always forget this until I see the floor covered with black marks that I have to clean.