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.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Day Twenty-three: Double duty.

This is my version of the classic day into evening look-only mine is a Costco shopping into tea party look. Out local library has a terrific rose garden and the Library Rose Club hosted a Valentine's Afternoon Tea fundraiser. The dress code was specified- Sunday best, hats encouraged. If you know me at all, you know that I need very little encouragement to wear a hat. I wore the dress with red patent flats for our weekly Costco run and then switched to the red pumps and hat for the tea party.

The tea party was lovely. Our library is the oldest continuously operating Carnegie Library in California and the tea was held in the beautiful entrance rotunda. Vintage hats were available for those that didn't wear their own and I was impressed by the number of ladies who got in the spirit and wore a loaner chapeau. 

I like:

  • The hat. The Valentine's theme of the event kind of called for red accessories.
  • The dress. Although it's a bit shorter and tighter than I'd usually wear, the color and weight of the fabric make it really wearable.

I'd change:

  • Maybe the iteration with the flats could use a belt? 

The verdict:

  • Dare I say that, for me, it's a 10/10? I'm thrilled that I could go from routine shopping to specific special occasion with minimal fuss. Accessories are awesome.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Day Twenty-two: Moving towards a better boring.

I'm quite encouraged by the fact that, by sticking to the limited 30 items I chose for this challenge, even my get-out-the-door-and-go outfits aren't the abject failures they used to be. While this ensemble is a bit boring for the blog it looks and feels like me and was perfectly serviceable for a couple of hours of volunteer work and running some errands. It certainly could have been improved by some exciting accessories but on the day in question I was completely out of time. 

My tights are fishnet. I was hoping they added at least a small dash of sass to the outfit. Otherwise it's incredibly basic but it's so basically me that I have (almost) no complaints at all. An A-line skirt and a somewhat curvy knit top is an easy, practical, and pleasing combination for me. This particular skirt is quickly becoming the most worn item in my wardrobe. I also included a black A-line in my 30-for-30 choices but the much heavier, almost felt-like, fabric of the black skirt makes it less comfortable to wear than this one and somewhat bulky, especially at the waist. (Bulk at the waist has to be something no one wants!)

I like:

  • Seeing an improvement even in the outfits that I don't have time to tinker with.
  • Feeling like myself in my clothes.
  • The neckline of this shirt- it's perfect for showcasing a necklace.
  • The perfect skirt. I could probably wear this everyday and not mind much.

I'd change:

  • Accessories- some color or sparkle are called for here. I've been singing the praises of the outfit but it is a bit dull. It's a nice blank canvas.

The verdict:

  • Even though it's not exciting I'm giving this one an 8/10 rating. I was pleased to find that I could just throw something on and go and not end up hating it and cursing my disorganization all day. 
  • It wouldn't hurt to have a couple of combinations like this one that I can grab in a pinch because, although I'm trying to be more organized, I know I will always have those 'Jeesze, where did the time go?' mornings.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Day Twenty-one: I belt a cardigan and I am not convinced it is a good idea.

This black cardigan is the dark sister of the grey one I wore on days two and ten. I also have a blue one which is not included in the 30 garments I selected for this challenge. These cardigans are fairly boxy in shape which makes them, perhaps, not the best choice for someone with my figure. I attempted the 'add a belt for waist emphasis' maneuver here to try to counter some of the boxy-ness. I have never been the biggest fan of belts. I think they tend to make me look like I'm crimped in the middle like two sausages. I've picked the very best of the photos here (ie the least sausage-y ones) but I don't know if I like the sweater with the belt anymore than I like it without.

My decision making is not being helped much by the fact that I look absolutely exhausted in these photos. Do I look like a woman who needs a vacation or what? These were taken right before we left. My eyes look like they are trying to exit out the back of my skull. But back to the belt. I tried several of varying widths and contrasts before settling on this one. I didn't hate wearing it, even though it was not the most comfortable outfit I've had on, but I'm not convinced the belt improved the look.

I also turned up the sleeves on the cardigan a little. I'm convinced I look wider when my sleeve hem  hits at the same height as the hem of my top. Since the sleeves of this sweater aren't ribbed they turned up nicely and I think that little bit of height difference helps the overall look.

I like:

  • The idea of this outfit- the sweater and skirt combo is usually a very comfortable on for me both physically and psychologically. 
  • That I've attempted something new that I might have otherwise rejected out of hand. Yay me! This is kind of the reason for attempting a challenge with self imposed limitations, right? 
  • The mixed metals heart necklace. I don't wear much/ own much yellow gold. This silver and rose gold heart was a gift from Chris. It's from the jewelry store in my home town in New Zealand where my dad shops for his girlfriend. She has impeccable taste, in my opinion, and she has instructed my father that anything offered by this store would be an acceptable and highly appreciated gift. Chris decided that high endorsement would likely apply to me too, and he was right. I don't wear the necklace often enough, mostly because of the length- it's too long to wear in an open neckline without a good bit of cleavage on display (not my style at all!) And it needs a very unfussy neckline if it's going to sit on top of a garment.

I'd change: 

  • The belt- I'm not sure how, or with what, but this one just didn't do it for me. I'll keep trying. Maybe I need something softer like and obi wrap belt? Or something thinner but not thin-thin?
  • I'm contemplating having a couple links removed from the chain of the necklace to allow it to fall at a more wearable length for me. I often hitch up my necklaces in the back in various ways to shorten them but the design of this one makes that impossible. I think I'd wear it a lot more with one or two links removed from either side of the chain.
  • I still need to re-hem the lining of this skirt so that it doesn't peek out but more than this I need to commit to pressing it before I wear it. It would improve the appearance of the skirt significantly and very likely improve my own mental assessment how much (or little) I am well put together. As it is I spend a few moments every time I don this skirt berating myself for, yet again, wearing it without pressing it and, seriously, how difficult can it be to run an iron over a straight skirt? It's not like it has tricky pleats or huge amounts of volume. And I have a sneaking suspicion that once I do press it I'm going to discover that I don't actually need to alter the hem of the lining. 

The verdict:

  • I guess it's a 7/10. There is room for improvement but there's also lots that I do like about it.
  • I need to make a firm commitment to clothing care: pressing things that need to be pressed before returning them to the closet, making sure sweaters aren't full of pills when I want to wear them, polishing my shoes, stuff of that nature. 
  • I will keep experimenting with belts.
  • I will look into options for shortening the mixed metal heart necklace.