Monday, December 30, 2013

Day six: Navigating the fine line between an outfit and a get-up.

Today I'm wearing item #8 (grey A-line skirt) and item #26 (black vintage cardigan.) Let me say right away that I think this is a 10/10. I love this look. I also have to admit that for me this combination is sailing perilously close to being what my family would call a get-up. As in, "Wouldja get a loada that get-up." Or, "What in the sam heck are you got-up for?" The only person in my family who actually sounds like this is my 93 year old Gram-pop, but we tend to employ his vernacular for making these kinds of scathing sideways fashion indictments. As if the hokey accent might mitigate the critique- "Whadda I know from fashion? I'm just a kid from the sticks."

It seems that whenever I question if something I'm wearing on the blog might be just a teensy bit too much- too costumey, too vintagey, too jeune fille, or just trying too hard and slipping across that line into get-up territory- I get comments that exhort me to "Wear it if you love it!" or "Rock it with confidence!" or "Just let your freak flag fly!"

I'm guessing that most of these commenters aren't over 40. Not looking like a nutcase wasn't something I gave much thought to before I turned 40. Suddenly, when I'm summing up what I'd like my style to be, it pops right up. "I'd like to have a look that is striking, eye catching, a bit different, edgy even, but, you know, not like a nutcase." I want to look spectacular with out being a spectacle. I want people to see me and think "Wow!" not "What the heck?" And I find it's hard to push the envelope now I'm in my forties; hard to try for fear of trying too hard, because erring too far on the safe side of the line is boring, but erring too far on the outre side is horrifying. At least to me.

I know there are lots of women my age and older, in blogland and in the real world, who still embrace a bit (or a bunch) of envelope pushing, who don't feel properly done up unless they're getting the side eye from every passerby, for whom too much is not enough. I don't want to give the impression that I'm not all for that, if that's your thing. Frankly, I'm not sure why it isn't my thing anymore. I wore bone fide get-ups all through my teens and my twenties and I could not have cared less about what anyone else might have thought. I do care now. Quite a lot. But I might be my own harshest critic where this is concerned. I'm willing to admit that most people must spend far less time worrying about what I'm wearing than I do. And plenty of people will probably look at this outfit and wonder what I'm on about because it is so far away from their idea of being too much of anything ("It's a black sweater and a grey skirt for gosh sakes, yawn.")

For me, getting older has narrowed the intersection between fun and appropriate to a knife edge. Today I'm dancing along that knife edge with aplomb. You don't have to agree. I feel that I've gotten it exactly right today. Exactly right for me. But I do hope you like it.

Late Edit! Crap. I forgot that I today was Monday and it's a Visible Monday at Not Dead Yet Style. The holidays have me all out of whack. I hate to link as an afterthought but I guess it's less rude than failing to do so at all. Sorry, Patty, I meant no offense.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Day Five: A mystery before teatime.

I hope I haven't given you the impression that that my husband often says things that can be interpreted as critical. He's awfully sweet and he doesn't complain (very much) about taking my photos. And today he kindly noted that my outfit looked as if I were "off to solve a mystery before teatime." In the grand tradition of British Lady Sleuths I hope he meant more Miss Fisher and less Miss Marple. (I adore Miss Marple but I'm not in a hurry to adopt her style. And I think Miss Fisher might be Australian?) Anyway, I took it as a great compliment.

I've always considered this a coat-dress although I think it might actually have been intended as a coat. It's made of French terry so it's like a cozy sweatshirt dress. It needs to be taken in a bit to be really flattering. You can see the difference in the photo above, with hands on hips, and the photo below, which did not make my first edit but which I decided to publish to illustrate the profound difference nipping in the waist would make. The photo below is definitely skewed towards the Miss Marple end of the spectrum, no?

With the dress in its current state this outfit earns a 7/10 from me. Altered, I think it could be a 9 or a 10. In its current state it was just fine for investigating the farmer's market and the public library.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Day Four: Looks like the 'nineties?

I was showing my husband an outfit I admired on another (over 40) blogger the other day. I thought her striped oxford shirt under a short sleeved sweater combo looked fab. My husband kind of took the wind out of my sails when he asked, "Wasn't that shirt and sweater thing a thing in the 'nineties?" He's probably right. I guess the kids aren't doing this these days, but I'll be damned if it doesn't still look sharp to me! Which is probably the beginning of the end and I've already started down the road to becoming one of those ladies still rocking the styles that were popular when they were in their twenties.

For today's offering we have item  #7 (black and white embroidered skirt) item #13 (white shirt) and item #17 (black boat neck top). Let me begin by saying that if I could upgrade anything in this outfit it would be the pearl necklace. If this triple strand of black pearls were real I swear I would wear it everyday, morning, noon and night. It would be "mah signahture". I would say it with a drawl as I stroked them gently and thoughtfully with my fingertips. Yep, I'd be Blanche Dubois with these pearls. Oh, I know a triple strand aint exactly modern either. But I do so love 'em. Could we agree to call them classic?

More realistic upgrades would include replacing this polyester boat neck top (which I've owned for more than 15 years) with one in a nice wool double knit. (I've got a running sewing list along with my running wish list.) The skirt needs a bit of attention before I wear it again. Although I swear that I've laundered it the same way several times, suddenly today the cotton skirt seems to have shrunk so that it is shorter than the synthetic lining. I have it pulled up into my waistband today but the lining will have to be hemmed so that I don't have to be worried that I look like my slip is showing.

For me this outfit is a 9/10. I'd be happy to look like this everyday.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day Three: Denim & stripes.

Today's outfit is composed of item #16 (black icebreaker long sleeved T-shirt)  #19 (black & white striped jacket and #29 (dark denim jeans.) It was just fine for completing the major business of the day- Costco shopping. I give it a 7/10. There's plenty of room for improvement.

The jacket was one of those can't-live-without-it-to-the-point-I'll-pay-full-reatil-at-Anthropologie purchases. I like it but find it difficult to wear. The exaggerated shoulder line and short-ish length make me feel like I'm channeling a cruise ship maitre'd. The Disney pin lives on the lapel permanently which illustrates the fact that I see the jacket as more silly than sophisticated. I don't know that I've ever tried this jacket with anything other than jeans but I guess that's going to have to happen this month. Looking at the photos I'm wishing I owned a plain black V-neck dress with which to pair the jacket. Another thing to add to my steadily growing wish list.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Day Two: Red & green & sparkle.

I attempted to inject a festive holiday feel into this outfit by adding red and green accessories and some rhinestones. I'm happy with the accessorizing, but I wasn't sure that I liked the proportions of the skirt and sweater together and seeing the pictures confirms my suspicions. This combination looks frumpy to me. I'm wearing item # 9 (grey and black A-line skirt with front pleat) and item # 25 (grey 3/4 sleeve cardigan) from my 30 chosen items. I don't hate this outfit but I'm not wild about it either.

It seems that I might need more emphasis on my waist to keep me from looking so blocky. I did try tucking in my sweater, but the result was bulky and even more unflattering. It's not really that kind of sweater. Additionally, I think my undergarments can share some of the blame on this one. This bra was never my favorite shape-wise and now it's also old. Must put new bras on my list of wardrobe essentials.

I keep trying to come up with more to say about the failures of this outfit but I'm at a loss when it comes to analyzing why exactly I don't like it. I give this outfit a 6/10 rating. It would be a five but I think the accessories do elevate it a bit. I certainly wouldn't be embarrassed to run into an old flame at the market while wearing this, but I don't imagine that this imaginary old flame would be eating his heart out after seeing me in this ensemble either. I think this is what you might refer to as "perfectly serviceable."  Let's finish on a high note. I leave you with just the sparkle. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Day One: I am back.

I’ve wanted to come back to the blog for ages but I’ve managed to come up with some sort of (mostly valid) excuse for not doing so every time I plan to start again. I’ve also wanted to try some sort of 30-for-30 type challenge since they were all the rage a few years ago. I’m hoping that coming back to the blog with a 30 day plan in place will help keep me on track.

However, if I wait until what should be THE perfect start date- January 1st- I run the very serious risk of not starting again at all.

Item 1: The grey knit dress.

Here’s what I’ve decided to do. Since the month-equals-30-days formula  already seems a bit arbitrary in a 31 day month like January, and since there will be a week in January during which I’m already planning not to post, I’m just going to start now, skip the aforementioned week, pick up where I leave off, and wrap up the challenge shortly before the end of January. This is approximately when I would have been wrapping up if I’d started on January first and posted 30 days steadily through.

I’m aware that taking a break in the middle of a 30-for-30-challenge makes it, well, less challenging, but I can’t see any other way of making it work as I will not be able to wear my regularly selected clothing during that time. And I want to get back to blogging right away before I talk myself out of it again. And, heck, my challenge- my rules, right?
So, speaking of rules… here are my rules for this challenge:
  • 30 garments.
  • Underwear, shoes, socks and tights, accessories, jewelry and outerwear do not count.
  • The clothing I wear to work out also does not count (and will not be featured.)
  • These 30 garments will have a unifying color them, like all good clothing capsules. This theme will be black, grey, black and white, or denim.
  • Any of the preselected 30 items can be replaced in the lineup by another item that supports the color theme if a) the selected item is determined not to fit properly and is removed for alterations or b) the selected item is determined to be something I just don’t like wearing and is removed to the donation pile.
  • 5 additional items that support the color scheme can be added during the 30 days if these items meet one of the following criteria: a) the item was previously unwearable and has been altered to make it wearable, or b) the item was made by me.
With these rather loosey goosey rules, and the week long break, I can just about face this challenge without my chest constricting in panic. With the switch out option and the 5 additional pieces I’ll have a pressure valve built in to deal with the possibility that I’ve selected all of the wrong things and will be miserable wearing what I’ve chosen for a month. The goal, really, is to train oneself to function with a core wardrobe that fits and flatters and really serves ones everyday needs, rather than to spend a month suffering for ones lack of forethought. I think my rules allow me to move towards that goal over the course of the 30 days. 

Items 2 through 30.

I'm starting out easy. Both in terms of the blog itself, and the 30-for-30 challenge. The grey knit dress is kind of a cop out in this kind of exercise (no pattern or print mixing, no interesting layering, no thoughtfully juxtaposed textures) but frankly, I wish I consistently liked all of my clothes as much as I do this dress. I purchased it at a local thrift store at the height of summer and I was forced to break my self imposed rule of only buying things that I can wear right away. Since it has gotten cold enough to wear it I've worn it at least once a week.

I like: 
  • It's a really stable knit so it skims rather than clings.
  • It doesn't have a back vent. I have a kind of pathological hatred of back vents and slits in skirts and coats. I understand the function- no one wants to be hobbled by their clothing, least of all me- and I do own a few items that have them, but I vastly prefer garments that have enough flare or stretch to make them unnecessary, or some other treatment to provide appropriate walking ease (a small pleat, for example.)
  • The cool open neckline and the decorative darts at the neck. Both of these details seem ideal for short hair.
  • 3/4 sleeves. My preferred sleeve length. Why? Who knows. I just really dig them.
  • The color. Grey is the neutral I'd choose if I was forced to choose only one. Its softer than black but just as sophisticated and (IMO) better for separates because a bunch of greys that don't exactly match look quite nice together while non-matching blacks look terrible.
I'd change:
  • The fabric composition. It's machine washable, which is great since I wear it all the time, but in a perfect world it would be made in a luxurious wool double knit instead of an unappealing synthetic blend.
  • The zipper. I think the fashion moment for the exposed zipper has passed, but I must admit that the large ring on the zipper pull makes it easy to grab so I don't need assistance getting in and out of the thing.
The verdict:
  • I give this outfit a 9/10. I feel comfortable, attractive, and reasonably stylish.
  • I like the outfit and I like the dress. I have an old Stretch and Sew pattern for a similar style knit dress that I could use to make an upgraded copy of this dress in wool someday.

And as far as blogging goes I've got big plans- I want to improve my photography and photo editing. I hope to take my own photos soon, rather than relying on my husband. I'd love to improve the overall appearance of the blog and do a better job of editing for typos and grammatical errors. My dream is to have it become something I'm so proud of I'd be willing to use it as a professional marketing tool. But for right now I'm taking it slow, as I said, until I get back into the habit of posting regularly. I've missed this.