Thursday, January 30, 2014

Day Twenty: In which I explain my absence and vow to keep going.

This outfit seemed to be destined not to be photographed. The first time I put these pieces together it was one of those days when everything conspires against you and it's already too dark for pictures by the time you have a moment to stand around posing. What you see here is the second time out for this particular combination of denim skirt, white shirt and black jacket. Photos taken late in the day, skirt and shirt a bit rumpled, probably a significant amount of cat hair clinging to the jacket (although it doesn't seem to show here,) what little makeup I had managed to apply all but worn off. And for all the trouble it took to get this ensemble on the blog it is rather underwhelming. 

These pictures were taken a few days before we left for vacation. I'd planned a weeks absence from the blog to accommodate the fact that I wasn't going to be wearing these same clothes and I wasn't going to be near a computer. One week of vacation morphed into two weeks without posting- there was much to be done before we left and I did not exactly hit the ground running when we got back. I have been wearing the clothes I selected for my challenge, I just haven't been organized enough to photograph or blog about them. I know that this sort of breaks all the rules of doing a 30-for-30 challenge online. The whole point is to show 30 consecutive days utilizing the same garments. However, I do feel that I am reaping some real benefits from limiting myself to these 30 garments and I have enjoyed posting when I've been able. So I'm going to keep plugging away with these same garments until I get 30 days worth posted. If that means that I end up wearing these same clothes in real life for 60 days so be it. 

I like:

  • The silhouette and proportions.
  • The layered sleeves. I can't get enough of this short over long sleeved look. The jacket sleeves could be a smidge shorter here.

I'd change:

  • The shirt- the collars of the jacket and the shirt don't play well together. The shirt collar isn't big/open enough to be on the outside of the jacket collar but it doesn't look right stuck inside the neck of the jacket.
  • Or maybe it's the jacket that needs to change? To something with a slightly shorter sleeve and a collar that accommodates a standard shirt collar. Because I am having trouble imagining what shirt would work well with the neckline of the jacket.
  • The skirt- a plain grey or denim pencil would look better with the jacket and stay withing the color parameters I've set for the challenge. I have a hounds-tooth pencil skirt that would probably look great too.

The verdict:

  • It's a 6, may be a 6.5 at a stretch.
  • Even these outfits that don't thrill me have not been (in my opinion) total failures. This capsule wardrobe is serving me well- well enough that I'm willing to keep wearing it for longer than 30 real life days in order to get 30 entries on the blog. I think that says something pretty significant about its utility.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Day Nineteen: With thanks to Shelia and Adrienne.

When last I wore this dress, I questioned whether I should shake things up by trying to make it look different, or whether I should leave it well enough alone being as I really loved it the way I always styled it. Well, naturally, my blogger-commenters (Shelia and Adrienne) said "Yes. Of course you should shake things up! Do you even have to ask?" So, spurred by their encouragement, I tried some of their suggestions and this is the result. It's pretty good. Thank you ladies for your excellent suggestions.

I like:

  • The dress. That was a given.
  • Having another option for wearing an easy practical garment I really love.
  • The black and white graphic print layered under a basic solid. I have two black and white print blouses and I think my wardrobe could accommodate a few more. They feel very me, especially when layered.
  • These caramel color leather accessories. I love this color of leather with black. To my eye it looks very rich and sophisticated. A pair of boots in this color have been on my wish list for at least 3 winters but I have yet to find the prefect pair at a moment when I'm feeling flush enough to splurge on them.

I'd change:

  • The shoes. These are rather summery with their open toes but they are the only shoes I have in that caramel color. (I see this leather color called whiskey too but I'm a sucker for sweets!)
  • The sleeve roll. I'm not sure there's any way to do this differently, but the rolling I've done here seems really bulky to me. It looks okay in the pictures, though, and I got used to the feel of it during the day so maybe it doesn't really need to change?



The verdict:

  • Even if I love the way an outfit comes together I should not stop experimenting with it altogether. Especially as my goal is to have a wardrobe that excites me and doesn't contain a lot of crap that I don't wear.
  • I enjoy the layered print sleeve so much it makes me think I should not dismiss the similar dresses I sometimes find that have short sleeves.
  • Damn, I really want those perfect caramel colored boots now but since I'm currently unemployed, and have decided to enroll in yet more school I'm not going to have them this year. They stay on the wish list for more secure financial times.
  • I'll be on the look out for other caramel/whiskey leather items. The color looks stellar with my hair (if I do say so myself!)
  • I give this combination an 8/10. If I were happier with the shoes it might be a 10.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Day Eighteen: The first switcheroo.

I've stumbled a bit on the daily posting. The post previous to this one is Saturday's outfit. This is what I am wearing today. (It's Tuesday.) Sunday was another lost day- the last day of trying to get our home into a condition that might be considered welcoming to guests- and I did not manage to shower or put on real clothes. Monday I did get dressed, and even got dressed in garments from the 30 for 30 challenge that I had every intention of photographing. Somehow, between the last minute prep for our guest, getting him situated and then taking him out for dinner the pictures never got taken. I was planning to have Chris photograph Monday's outfit for me today, and then change into this and get pics for today too. Let's just say that, although my photographer is very sweet, this was just not the day to ask him to provide two photo shoots. Perhaps tomorrow will be better and I can get caught up.

I built a couple of what you might call 'pressure valves' into my challenge when I started to make it less scary for me. One of those was the option to swap out an item I'd placed in the challenge for something else if it didn't fit well. I had planned to wear another grey dress today but that dress was just too snug for comfort. It was a summer dress I was planning to winterize by layering it over a shirt and tights, but the addition of those layering pieces compromised the fit. So, that dress has been removed from the challenge because either it doesn't fit or, it isn't seasonally appropriate, depending on how you look at it. My excuse for making the change really doesn't matter much- the dress is out of my closet for the time being and this long merino cardigan is in.

The cardigan is a gift from my father. (He's the guest that inspired the cleaning marathon.) It's from Untouched World, which is a seriously awesome New Zealand company. They call it the fling on cardi, meaning, presumably, you can just throw it on over anything. It's going to be  a great basic for me as I am nearly always cold. I love, love, love wool products from NZ. Fine, machine washable, eco-frendly merino wool- I don't think you can beat that.

Day Seventeen: Same sweater and jeans as before.

It was such an overcast day today we despaired of getting any clear photos inside. So, welcome to my neighborhood! Of course, there were people just across the street unloading groceries from their car so I felt like a goofball. I don't know if I could ever be one of those bloggers who goes 'out on location' for her photos. Maybe the self consciousness dissipates with time and experience? I predict I would always feel like a goofball, even with practice.

I belted my jeans here and I think I've made them just a smidge too high. I wanted to highlight the green tights and burgundy shoes but I also gave myself a bit of the ole' turkey drumstick leg as well. Furthermore, I never think this kind of funky casual look really works for me despite my insistence on attempting it over and over. I need to figure out a way to wear mens shoes (which I love) with something other than jeans (which I don't love but keep trying to wear for some reason.) I just don't think I can pull of the shoes with a skirt without looking ungainly. I've got fairly large feet and the shoes are quite clunky. Perhaps I just need to get used to the look of giant feet with a skirt? I think I'm going to have to try it and take photos. My feet don't look as humongous here as I feel they do when I'm looking down on them. Photos provide a much better gestalt view for self critique than a mirror seems to, at least for me.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Day Sixteen: What I wore to lunch when I wasn't cleaning carpets.

Today was almost one of those days when I didn't get dressed. I was deep cleaning the carpets in preparation for hosting a house guest next week. Chris wanted to go to lunch. So I threw on some clothes and jammed a hat over my greasy hair and called it an outfit. No shower. No makeup. (No closeup shot either!)

Obviously, I have yet to get to the carpet in this room. There are bits of Minnie all over the floor.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Day Fifteen: Revisiting a failed outfit.

I wasn't keen on this combination of denim skirt and black shirt when I first wore it on day eight of the challenge. I like it a lot better with brighter accessories but I think that the fact that these are much brighter photos goes a long way towards improving my rating of this outfit. Also, here I am recently showered and I have not spent a couple of hours in the car. With my level of photographic skill and the amount of effort I'm willing to put into photo editing right now (none) it is impossible to show the detail of this shirt. You'll just have to take it on faith that it is more interesting than it appears in these photos. These is a center front seam and some dart manipulations that result in the creation of unusual triangular shaped pieces and a curvy fit.

I really like the skirt but it irks me that, while the vertical striped stitching appears on the front and back of the skirt, the horizontal striped stitching on the band at the hem is only on the front of the skirt. The brand is not an especially cheap one and the skirt is otherwise well constructed so I'm not sure why they cheapened the overall look of the skirt by making this design choice. Since I paid $2.99 for the skirt and, as I said, I really do like it, I can't really complain. And I'm not really complaining, except to say that given the choice I'd prefer to have the stitching go all of the way around. When I bought the skirt I did not think I would be as bothered by this detail as it turns out I am. It's another lesson learned. I recently passed over a jacket that I liked, but noticed had similar cheap detailing- contrasting trim on the front that stopped at the side seams and did not continue on the back of the garment. It's a pet peeve that I never knew I had. 

The little silk kerchief is literally disintegrating but I will keep it until turns to dust probably. I found it at a thrift store when I was in high school and it wasn't in pristine condition even then, but it has watering cans and flower pots and window boxes with hearts on them. Love. I will be sad when I have to retire it.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Day Fourteen: The state of things so far.

A reasonably solid outfit today. Not a raging success. Not a total failure. Functional. Looks like me. Felt pretty okay. It's a 7/10. No complaints. 

At almost the halfway point in my challenge I'm surprised at how well it's going. I was really scared going in that I would have some days when I just couldn't put together something I'd want to wear. That hasn't happened yet and I haven't even had to fall back on the options I left myself for swapping out garments or adding extra garments. So, in some ways this has been easier than I imagined it might be. However, I also imagined that I'd be able to get dressed really quickly having so few options to chose from. Not so- I select my basic garments for the day fairly quickly but then I linger over which shoes, jewelry, scarf, hat, etc. I need to perk up those basic garments. I'm not saving any time at all, and sometimes I go thorough several accessory changes before I either find something I like or give up and go with what I've got on.

I'd also hoped that having fewer clothing items in the current rotation would mean that I'd be more attentive to keeping each item in the best possible condition. Again, not so. My shirt still needs ironing. I still need to let down the hem of the skirt I wore on day two and decided was too short. I've created a running list of  'to do's' to spruce up several of the garments I've been wearing the past two weeks but I've yet to move towards doing any of them. And that running list of things I want to sew? Let's not even get into that!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Day Thirteen: Necessity- Mother of invention or just a mother?

Today's outfit is brought to you by the fact that I don't have any black tights. I didn't make not purchasing anything new during the month a requirement for this challenge when I started but I haven't felt a particular urge to add anything new yet so I'm going to try to make it to the end of the month without shopping. So I'm wearing blue grey tights here. They look pretty dark in the pictures but in real life they are the kind of blue grey color that could lead to lengthy arguments over whether your tights were grey, blue, or bluish grey or greyish blue.
My husband and I frequently have this type of argument over teal. For example:
"The lady in the blue sweater over there, see her?"
"Blue sweater?"
"With the jeans, holding the little dog?"
"With the dog? Short hair and glasses?"
"Yeah, in the blue sweater, by the door."
"You think that's a blue sweater? No wonder I couldn't see her. That looks green to me."
"Teal, whatever. You see her though?"
"Teal green. Yeah I see her. What about her?"
"Teal blue. I like her boots."
"Her boots? I didn't notice her boots. Where did she go?"
"Never mind she's gone now."
"I wouldn't have missed her if you'd told me she was wearing a green sweater."

Anyway, my tights are blue (or grey) depending on how you look at it. So I threw on the blue hat to make it look intentional. And added a necklace with a bit of blue in it. And I ended up pretty happy with the outfit, which was good because I wouldn't have had any time to change if I'd wanted to. Which leads me to wonder, why do I still get dressed this way? Why am I driven by necessity to trial and error moments before I'm due to head out the door?

Sure, I think the ultimate result of the missing black tights is an outfit that looks a teeny bit punchier than what I'd have ended up with if I'd had the black tights. I like the combination. I can see that it's a better outfit with the addition of a little color. If I'd had black tights I'd have put them on and called it a day without adding any accessories. It's a good thing that I didn't have any black tights; this is a better outfit without them. But what bugs me is that I did not know that. I don't want to keep endlessly going through this in the moment trial and error process. I want to know what works and have a fully stocked closet to work with. I want to have a supply of black tights on hand but still know that the blue (or grey) will be the better choice. I think I'm learning. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Day Twelve: Would I change it? Should I change it?

Getting dressed should always be this easy. Item # 6 (black knit shirt dress) has been a fixture in my wardrobe for more than 10 years. It goes on just about every trip I take. It's comfortable, washable, practical. It's the perfect length. It might be the only button up garment I own that doesn't gap in the front. (Most of my button front shirts have been stitched closed to avoid the dreaded gap-osis, or I'll only wear them under another shirt or sweater.) I picked this dress up off of a Banana Republic sale rack back in the early days of this century. I was working for the Gap at the time so, with my employee brand 30% discount, I wouldn't have paid more than about twenty bucks for it. (I don't remember exactly but $20 was about my upper limit in those days because markdowns were so prevalent and I could watch and wait for things to slip below my price cap.) I've worn this dress so much in the past decade that it must be down around two cents cost-per-wear at this point and still going strong.

Given that it is such a basic dress you'd think I would have come up with several ways of accessorizing to create different looks. It seems like an ideal canvas for this type of experimentation but I've always worn it with this belt. No joke, every single time for the last ten years. Sometimes I wear tights with it, and my shoes change, but otherwise it looks exactly like this. I'm not sure why I keep the belt in the drawer with my other belts- I should just hang the dress and the belt together as I never wear one without the other. Back in the early days I rocked the belt in a more hip slung fashion (as it was intended) but raising the belt position is the only change this outfit has seen. 

I feel I should try to shake up this dress. Especially in the spirit of this 30-for-30 challenge but I can't imagine liking it any better than I do in this tried and true combination. And if I had a closet full of choices that I liked this well and found this easy I'd be very satisfied. Where do you guys stand on this? If it ain't broke don't fix it? Or is change always good?

p.s. You may have noticed that I'm missing a few days- not that I imagine that you are policing me or anything sinister like that. There have been two days that I didn't get dressed. Yesterday I ended up spending the day cleaning the house in the gear I wore for my morning walk and by the time I stopped cleaning the opportunity for real clothes was gone, along with the light for taking photos. Last week I spent a day in bed trying (successfully) to head off a cold by taking it easy. So, while I'm a bit behind in my (completely arbitrary) schedule, when I've gotten dressed it has been in the 30 items I originally chose, and I've shared it with the world. If you were wondering.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Day eleven: Proof that this is a science of fractions and increments.

We have five cats but Minnie is the only aspiring model. She always has to be in on the action. Everyone else is like "whatever" unless it's time to eat or crowd us out of bed. 

This combination of item #22 (black boiled wool jacket) item #28 (black almost mock turtleneck) and item #30 ('skinny' jeans) prioritized warmth over flattery for the farmers' market. I wore a dress last week and I was very cold. Cold enough to not really enjoy myself. I will say this for jeans: they are warmer than many other options. Not really a ringing endorsement but there you have it.

The black 'almost mock turtleneck' is the proof mentioned in the title of this post. I don't find turtlenecks or mock turtlenecks flattering. I've got a weak chin which, combined with forward head carriage and admittedly poor posture, results in the appearance of multiple chins if I'm not careful to keep my head up constantly. And, let's face it- I'm not careful to keep my head up constantly. So I avoid turtlenecks and their ilk to keep from exacerbating this effect. Yet this sweater, with it's wrapped V-neck, is essentially a mock turtleneck with a half an inch wide notch cut out of it, and I love it. The slight diagonal lines make all the difference in the world as far as neck flattery is concerned. It's a science really, negotiating these these tiny increments that make a huge difference: hem lengths, amount of fullness, the placement of a pocket or seam. And fractions of an inch can make such a difference.

Far from being tedious, I find studying these incremental adjustments incredibly fascinating. And sort of empowering. Not in a grand political way- I just feel a bit more like I've got a handle on things when I feel like I've got this getting dressed thing down. Being able to identify why something works or it doesn't makes me confident that I'm developing a proficiency in personal style. I mean, I have to get myself dressed practically every day so is it wrong for me to want to be pretty good at it? I think not.

I'm linking to Hat Attack over at Style Crone so I'd better include some hat details. From San Francisco Milliner Deanna Gibbons, the style is called Froggy. (I've no idea why) Deanna is one of my favorite milliners. The feather beret I have on in my profile picture is one of hers too. Her hats just capture the perfect combination of everything I want in a hat (in any garment, actually) by managing to be both modern and a bit retro at the same time. They're often whimsical and always striking. The proportions of her hats seem to work well with my small head and features and they're very easy to wear. That last quality is something sort of indefinable. I love hats and I wear lots of them and some take work to wear and some are very easy. It's something that is not obvious in the trying on stage, you only discover it in the wearing. For me Deanna's hats are always easy- I can put them on and forget about them until the compliments start rolling in.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Day Ten: Date Night (but with Mom)

It wasn't exactly a resolution, but Chris and I decided on New Year's Eve that this year we would have a 'date night' once a week, and try go away somewhere together one weekend each month. We decided on Friday as our official date night but since we've been going out quite a bit lately we elected to make dinner at home this week, watch a DVD, and perhaps indulge a cocktail or two. So I was surprised when I heard Chris inviting my mother over for dinner tonight. Turns out that he remembered that we were making dinner and watching a movie, but not that it was a date.

I adore my mother and I was delighted to have her over for dinner. Her presence did not make our first official date of 2014 any less romantic. Chris and I split a bottle of cider (yep. total party animals. not.) and I wore this: Item #25 (grey 3/4 sleeve cardigan) and item #10 (black knit and leather pencil skirt). If you're keeping track, this is the second wear of the cardigan and I think this is a better pairing than the first. The proportions are better here but I wonder if the slightly boxy shape of the sweater might not be the best look for me. I'm drawn to it because of the vaguely 1960's vibe it has, but that retro shaping isn't kind to my middle. It definitely looks better with the tighter skirt but it's just not the most flattering sweater for me.

This combination earns an 8/10. I'm happy with it. And I'll keep trying to find the perfect partner(s) for the sweater. Feel free to weigh in on what you think might work with it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Day Nine: Small jacket, Big cat.

This is the small jacket. If you're more interested in the big cat scroll down.

Today's outfit brings together item # 20 (grey 'shrunken' blazer) item # 16 (black icebreaker long sleeve) and item # 30 (skinny jeans). I'm almost a third of the way through my challenge and I'm feeling reasonably good about my success so far. The black merino base layer top is my first repeat wear. 

The jacket is too small to button.  Well, actually I can button it, but not without it looking like I'm risking a dangerous Looney Tunes style projectile ricocheting button popping incident. I love the feminine shape and curves of the jacket and I think these 'shrunken' proportions look intentional and flattering. I'm discovering lately that a jacket with a single button or closure works well on me. Also, those with a fairly short length. Vintagey styling and built in curves don't hurt either. I don't have a back view to show but I'll be sure to get one on the next wear- the waist is really nipped in. I added the scarf because the collar is a bit scratchy. However, I'm not convinced this particular scarf or this particular tie was the best choice. I think it's too wide and I look a bit pinheaded. Do you see it? Or is it just me?

I have an ambivalent relationship with jeans. When I wear them I always think I should have tried harder and worn a skirt. Yet, I feel that I need them as an option in my wardrobe. I don't think pants in general do much for me. I've got a flat butt and a tendency to carry weight in my stomach and skirts seem to do a much better job of making everything look appealingly proportioned and pants seem to emphasize everything I don't like. And my calves are one of my best features. But I have jeans and I wear jeans fairly regularly even though I'm not always crazy about the way they look (or feel- their comfort factor is vastly over rated IMO.) I suppose I might feel differently if I broke down and spent a whole whack of money on a premium pair but since I don't love to wear jeans I refuse to spend any money at all on them (thrifted, ten bucks max) its a bit of a catch 22.

Here's the promised big cat. Minnie. Because the internet needs more cat pictures, no? And she kind of coordinates! At least, I like to think so. Every outfit is improved by the addition of a kitty.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Day Seven and Day Eight: New Year's Eve and New Years Day.

Item # 2 (black and white jersey dress) was my New Year's Eve outfit. I did not end up looking as festive as I would have liked for several reasons. I would have worn a hat of some sort but we had theater tickets. I would have added some sort of jacket but we had planned to spend at least part of the day walking around the city so I wore a cozy down coat instead. I would have worn fancier shoes but there was the aforementioned walking to consider and we opted to take BART into the city rather than drive so I chose comfort and stability over sparkle. I keep meaning to practice applying false lashes so that I can use them to glam up my evening makeup but I only seem to remember that I want to practice about 20 minutes before I'm supposed to be ready to leave for an event. Needless to say this was another lashless evening. This dress is easy to wear and the cut is pretty flattering- it's a work staple for me really. Or a weeknight dinner date dress. It didn't manage to rise to the occasion of Big Night Out in the Big City the way I'd hoped it would. 

Sadly, most of my fellow theater patrons did not rise to the occasion either. I was really expecting some excellent people watching- New Year's Eve, San Francisco, Orpheum Theater? I was anticipating some pretty awesome SF style and was sorely disappointed. Living in a small town I don't have many people watching/ outfit studying opportunities and had hoped this visit would provide some much missed eye candy. I was, compared to most of the other attendees, very dressed up. There were some bright spots but nothing that really wowed. 

But the show was wonderful. I had a great time. I wasn't cold. And my feet didn't hurt at the end of the night. So good, if not glamorous, choices all around. The outfit earns a 7/10.

Item #18 (black pieced shirt) and item #12 (denim straight skirt with stitching) was worn for New Year's Day brunch and a movie before making the drive back home. I might have been able to make this combination look a bit better if I had been at home with a full wardrobe of accessory options. I didn't give these pieces a trial run together before throwing them in my suitcase so perhaps I'm lucky that they worked together as well as they did. Bear in mind that this is a terrible picture taken with a flash in failing light after the drive home. I'm tired and crumpled from  the drive. None of the cool seaming details on the shirt are visible. And my husband assures me that it is only the flash that makes it look as if you can see right through the shirt. He would have told me if my boobs were on display all day.

It's a 5/10. One of the things I'm hoping to accomplish with this 30 day challenge is to discover some 'go to' outfits for situations like these- combinations that I can throw in a suitcase without thinking because I know they work. This fell short of the mark but I'd like to try the same two pieces together again and see if I can add some spark to this outfit.