Thursday, April 28, 2011

Topic Heist!

That's right, today's topic is a blatant rip-off of the beautiful Angie's 'Team' posts. Ironically, the great bulk of the time i can't commit to either of Angie's chosen teams (rolls eyes at self). But i can choose teams in a heartbeat on today's question: When it comes to your wardrobe, do you bat on Team Perfection or Team Unlimited Variety? Would you rather have a limited number, say around a dozen, of outfits which suit you perfectly in every way - incredibly flattering, the finest materials, impeccable cut, just the thing for coping with your weather, project the ideal sense of yourself - but you only have that dozen outfits for a year.

Or, would you go for an unlimited closet - something new everyday, be it shoes, scarves, jackets, skirts, on and on. As much as you can wear every day, except nothing is absolutely perfect - there may be a snag on the sweater, color is a bit off on that designer coat, the beautifully aged jeans bag in the butt, the sheath is uncomfortably tight under the arms. And you may be missing one or two key items that would be useful workhorses, like a great white tee or denim straight skirt. But there's new stuff all the time!

I'm sure it's obvious i bat for Team Perfection. And i think a lot of us have ideas about who's on what team. But i've been really curious about your true preferences the last while, and wondering just how well i actually know my fellow bloggers..........per Angie's rules, you can only choose one team. No need to explain (although you're perfectly welcome so to do). One word comments encouraged - this is a Perfect opportunity for de-lurking!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Intro to my Outfit Analysis Checklist

When i took my hiatus from this blog, one of the things i wanted to focus on was how i would present to you some of the ideas and concepts which have helped me find and hone my personal style and wardrobe. This is especially important to me because i've yet to run across most of these ideas on the internet, and i've found them so useful that i want to get them out there to you!

Today i'm introducing my 'outfit analysis checklist' ('checklist' for short). I use this checklist for many purposes - to discover what i like and don't like style-wise, to discover likely ways to expand on my style or adapt it to different situations, to pinpoint my shopping lists, to hone in on what will work for me while shopping (since i've nailed my own style & know how to enlarge upon it), to figure out what i need to learn more about style-wise (color, line, etc.)

I also have used this checklist many times to create a 'formula', 'rule', or 'recipe' that i can use to shop my own closet for new outfits. I analyze a look of mine that i really like, and come up with my 'rule' from the results. Then i use this 'recipe' to shop my closet for new looks that have a similar underlying structure to the original inspiration.  In addition, looking at my wardrobe in a new way often results in new, great looks which have nothing to do with my 'recipe' - this process sparks creativity.

I used this checklist to analyze one of Cynthia's outfits - the one in this post. Her first line in this post reads, 'I totally enjoyed what i was wearing today.' That's the type of look that's worth putting this kind of work into! My hope was that i would discover enough about Cynthia's personal style that i could suggest new outfits to her that she liked and truly enjoyed - that felt like her. As it turned out, i found that Cynthia had put together outfits that fit my 'rule' with no information from me - this casual look contains a large scale print, a small scale print, and the pants are a solid color. All three garments are blues. But did Cynthia like it? She says, 'This is one of those swishy, happy outfits that derives some of its awesomeness from movement and does not show up as well in stills."  Here's another all-blue ensemble with a medium-scale print (the tee), small scale striped cardi, and solid color jeans. Cynthia doesn't say much about the clothes, she was having a rotten weekend. But she looks great! And here's the link to our first outfit collaboration.

Interestingly, as i studied Cynthia's wardrobe i realized that she could do more with detail than she has until now. I thought she could take any garment with nice detailing, label it as larger or smaller scale, and then just plug it into the 'pattern' part of the formula. She beat me to it. This look contains a large scale print on the (completely achingly fabulous, by the way - looking at Cynthia's wardrobe in depth was no pain at all) red/white/blue skirt, a small scale ruffle detail on the dark blue blouse, and a solid black cardi. Here Cynthia pairs a military/safari style olive drab jacket (large scale details) with a medium scale detail/pattern tee and solid color neutral dark browny-green pants.

These examples gave me confidence that i'd actually discovered something about Cynthia's style, instead of just imposing my ideas on her. I hope she feels the same! In fact, this post will be the first time i've shared my methods with her - she's just received a list of possible outfits to try. In the video i recorded for you, i give an overview of this checklist, some definitions of the checklist items, and explain more about the process of using this list to create more outfits. I plan to publish at least one post on each checklist item, with definitions, vocabulary words, examples, and resources where you can find out more.

(If i seem distracted at moments during the video, it's just the cat.) Please let me know if there's anything you'd like me to expand on or explain further. If you have an outfit you feel great in and you want to 'figure it out' so that you can create more outfits with a similar flare, leave me a comment or send me an e-mail! This material is pretty dense, but it's less so if you just focus on one element at a time, or only on the elements that you're interested in. If you're bopping around style nation, just spend a little time on your favorite blogger outfit of the day - what's the silhouette? how many colors? does she use one pattern or more? Little by little is how you increase your knowledge and experience.  Thank you so much for reading and watching!


Grit and Glamour, Vahni's site

Checklist with Definitions:
Silhouette: how a garment is shaped, including fit and any 'fashion' fullness such as a bustle or gathers at waist or shoulder.this includes neckline, shoulder, and hems (sleeve, top, tunic, skirt, dress, pant leg).

Color: how many colors are in the outfit? are they saturated or pale, a tint or a shade, warm or cool? how do they relate to each other on the color wheel - are they opposites, triads, or...?

Pattern: any design printed on or woven into fabric.

Detail: any three-dimensional embellishments - collars, lapels, epaulets, gathers, pleats, pintucks, cuffs, buttons, zippers, pockets, etc.

Drape: how a fabric hangs and falls. dependent on fibre, weave, weight.

Texture: smooth, shiny, metallic, rough, fuzzy, furry, and so on.

Style References: these can be to an era (1920's, 1940;s), a nation (German lederhosen, French beret, Mexican sombrero), occupation (sailor, cowgirl), to a certain fashion designer (Coco Chanel, Dior's New Look), or to trends of the current day.

Accessories: any jewelry, scarves, handbags, etc. Since barefoot people have no influence in society, i consider shoes as part of the clothes more than as an accessory. Use your best judgement.

Checklist of Cynthia's January 19 Outfit:
Silhouette: classic to classic-relaxed. indicates the contours of the body, but nothing tight or strong waist definition. Natural shoulder. Neckline neither too tight or revealingly low. Sleeve hems between elbow and wrist, skirt hem around knee.

Color: two 'colors' and two 'neutrals'. The 'colors' (red and blue) are both saturated, clear, and warm. The form two 'corners' of a triad on the color wheel. The tee stripe is a warm grey/ivory neutral. The boots are a warm brown cognac, which can be read as a 'neutral' or as the 'third corner' of the color wheel triad (yellow) with the red and blue (due to the strong yellow undertones of the leather).

Pattern: two patterned pieces, the cardi and the boots both are a solid color. The pattern of the skirt is very large scale, colorful, low-to medium-contrast. The stripe of the tee is small scale and low contrast.

Detail: pretty absent. mostly fastenings (buttons on the cardi), tho the boots do have nice decorative buckles.

Drape: not too clingy, not too floaty, not too stiff.....medium.

Texture: The boots have a nice finish to them with a bit of shine, there is almost a hint of shine in the cardigan, but the rest of the outfit is matte. Nothing feels dull, just enough shine to make things come alive (the boots).

Style References: the pieces feel current, nothing is dated or trendy. The cardi, tee, and boots are classic. The skirt has a wonderful ethnic, folkloric, eastern european embroidery feel to the floral pattern.

Accessories: one small, beautiful pendant. There is enough pattern and color in this outfit that accessories are almost superfluous (it is fun to think about what that bee would get up to in those huge flowers!)

The 'Recipe' derived from this outfit:
For a look comprising a top, bottoms, cardi or little jacket, and shoes or boots.

Color: Option A: two pieces will each have a different color, while the rest of the outfit is composed of neutrals (black, white, denim, grey, navy, any color so dark it's hard to tell what color it is).
           Option B: two-three pieces will be variations on the same color (robin's egg blue, denim blue, navy), whilte the remaining pieces will be neutrals (black, white, denim, grey, navy, any color so dark it's hard to tell what color it is).

Pattern: one piece will have a large-scale print, one piece will have a medium-to-small scale print, the remaining pieces will be of a solid color.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What's a "Need" and What's a "Want"?

What's a "need" and what's a "want"? Always a ponder-worthy question in our society, even more so when it comes to women and adornment. "Needs" have a dual face in this conversation. Needs will help us with our daily activities - protection from weather, cold, sun, the odd indecent exposure ticket. Needs have a pocket for our keys, debit card, and grocery list. Needs enable us to make more flexible use of the pieces in our small, well-honed wardrobe. Needs help us catch the eye of a future mate, even earn the respect of colleagues and clients. We may need a reward for a goal achieved, or a rotten work week endured.  Maybe we need to 'fit in' with our more affluent girlfriends, or look the way we think we deserve to at this time in our lives. Or we just need something to do, and shopping gets us out of the house, out of our head.

At some point in the paragraph above, most people will judge that the meaning of the word 'need' has changed, possibly to a definition closer to 'want'. That point will vary for different people, in different times and circumstances. Why do we use 'need' instead of 'want'?  'Needs' are much easier to justify, more practical and rational. We're not supposed to have 'wants', especially as more mature women. The old women we want to be(come) are wise, sophisticated, self-contained, elegant - not frowsy, loud, frumpy dumpy bats in need of glasses, hearing aids, medical attention. Not old biddies who craves visits from family, friends, who desperately need someone to see them. Will we be happier if we can distinguish our needs from our wants? Will we be happier if we try to fill our needs or if we try for our unspoken wants? Could it be there exists a golden mean between the two, some chalkboard-scrawled formula for satisfaction as well as bliss?

Musings about the purpose and practice of life, and it comes down to a little cotton jacket. It seemed every time i got dressed the last 3 months this Royal Robbins jacket fit my day. Comfy, warm without heaviness, practical also lent a casual-yet-pulled-together finish to so many looks. Seeing as it's over five years old (clothes don't last forever) and how i'd enjoy a bit more variety (especially come summer, when this jacket will get even MORE use), i decided a handful of similar jackets were in order.

I mulled it's features and watched how i wore and used this piece until i felt i had a good feel for what appealed to me - cropped, collar, in my color scheme, ligtweight but durable fabric, useable pockets for small items, flattering cut, details which echo my Amelia Earhardt/Isak Dinesen aesthetic. I could have looked strictly for another khaki jean jacket (and won't refuse one if it pops up somewhere). But developing a list of qualities allows me to acquire items which fulfill their practical purpose while at the same time allowing a much wider aesthetic field from which to choose. To illustrate, here are the two jackets i thrifted last weekend which fit my checklist:

So, dear reader, was it 'want' or 'need'?  Most likely a bit of both. Would i have pushed it more into the 'need' camp if i waited to replace this wardrobe staple until it was stained, ripped, or otherwise ruined? Very possibly.

But who needs the hassle.

Further reading: posts which inspired/influenced this post:

Allie's very frank, practical, helpful post on developing and sticking to a shopping budget. This post is part of an ongoing series - check back or subscribe to make sure you see them all! Part one here.

It seems that Ari Cohen's NOWness video has sparked quite the controversy around the appropriate way for 'the mature woman' to present herself.  Alarmingly, some people seem to feel that veering towards eccentricity is a danger to be avoided! (Heavens to murgatroyd!) I do feel that watching a person becoming a caricature of themselves can be painful. However if you are eccentric i don't see how getting older will do much besides......encourage your eccentricities. That said, if people take joy in their appearance, however that may be, it just makes me happy! (great post, Ms. Pesu!) I'm a 'variety is the spice of life' type of gal, and greatly admire many many styles, colors, silhouettes, and trends on others that i would never wear myself. Others do carry them off to perfection, and i am so very glad that they do.

Advanced Style on NOWness
more Advanced Style videos
Passage de Perles on "50+ style: the eccentric, the elegant, and the space in between"
Passage de Perles 'Is this outfit too Jung on me?' thoughts on invisibility and eccentrics
Deja Pesu on joyful dressing - what does it mean to you? "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution. --Emma Goldman"
 there are very lively discussions in the comments of all three posts - worth your time to take a look!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spookily Came The Postman

beautiful package! i love Teri's little card - it's living in my jewelry box

 As you may know, Terri of RAGS Against The MACHINE had a giveaway recently in celebration of her reaching 125 followers. Meg of The Sewing Pixie brought this milestone to Terri's attention, and this, combined with Terri's fabulous and iconic use of  Meg's 'Skelly' cameo, made the choice of giveaway prize clear. (At least to me!)

I'm not much for entering giveaways. I know that they are great tools for driving readership and commenting, and i support this goal. But, as you all know, i'm so frikkin' picky about what i wear. I'd hate to win a prize that would just sit in the closet while someone else would wear it week in and week out. As i put it in my entry comment:

"hee hee, i never enter giveaways because 9 times out of ten, the prize doesn't suit me anyways, so why not let it go to someone it will.


 As luck would have it, i won!  It came at just the right time, too. I'd been feeling horrible for weeks with a sinus infection. Round one of antibiotics didn't do the trick. Round two caused a severe reaction (102F fever, joint pain and swelling). Round three didn't do diddly either since my regular doc was on vacation and the front desk decided i didn't deserve to speak to the doc on call and i got prescribed the same antibiotic that didn't work the first time......on top of all this i have a horrible history of asthma (multiple hospitalizations, etc.) and sinus troubles are notorious for triggering asthma. So i was constantly anticipating worse days ahead. One day it just hit me, how awful i'd felt and how i was making no progress at all - and then two wonderful things happened. First, my amazing prize came in the mail!

Then, my noble camera died in the line of duty (sob). I didn't secure it properly and it fell on it's head and could no longer focus - the neurological damage left if effectively brain dead. We had to pull the plug. This camera came to me from my brother, a retired Air Force man. This little Kodak circled the world not once but twice, documenting the chickens of Diego Garcia and swimming in the Indian Ocean. My point and shoot had led a full life. It was time to let go.

mom feels this bee has had her privacy invaded

As a result, i got a brand new, full of features camera! Wow! It's nowhere near a top of the line DSLR, but i am amazed at what it can do. I took some pictures of my jewelry and it was like using an electron microscope! My favorite feature is the 'dog' and 'cat' face detection feature. That's two different settings - one for dog faces and one for cat faces. You can set your camera for 'cat face' and then program it so that it automatically trips the shutter when a cat face is electronically detected. Wonder if they have cameras with bigfoot detection capabilities?

The necklace is great, and nicely made. The clasp is secure as well as easy to use, and the chain is delicate, interesting, and smooth as silk.  The button earrings are perfect. The oxidized silver wears easily with everything, and the foliage arabesques tie into to all the lines of my wardrobe. Nothing beats a pair of earrings that enhance every look with no thinking necessary! Here's Meg's etsy shop - you know what to do.

I wore this look to go grocery shopping. The butcher who generally helps me seemed to like it, but showed no sign of 'reading' Skelly.  Interestingly, i ran across a comment from Terri of RAGS herself a day or so ago. As i recall, she said she likes wearing subtle items that are a little 'off', partly in order to test people's observation skills.

I've loved to do this myself for years. In fact, i did it last Saturday at ilegirl's Fancy Pants World Tour. ilegirl arrived early  to pick me up for the drive down to Danville. Shortly after getting in the car i noticed my skirt was inside out. Well, putting your clothes on inside out without realising it is supposed to be good luck, plus i wondered if anyone would notice, so i left it. No one noticed, or didn't feel like telling me. Within an hour i was in a dressing room, trying on clothes, so i turned it right side out. And, yes, i was wearing my new Skelly necklace from Meg and Terri....

Wheels within wheels. Just how is our universe arranged, anyways?

Cameo Necklace: Meg's Ragged Edge etsy shop
Dress: Converse One for Target
Jacket: own design
Heels: Clark's Passion
Nude Fishnets: Sock Dreams
Earrings: Tail of the Yak, Berkeley, CA

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Fairy Godmother...

I have a fairy godmother who lives right next door.  As my faithful readers are well aware, i stink at thrifting. I've tried my hand at it time and again, always with the same result. So i just don't.

However, there are those who have 'the touch'. 'D' has 'the touch' for sure, and what's more she keeps an eye out for me when she volunteers at the Cancer Society store.  A few weeks ago she came across this Max Studio dress.....lucky me!

I wore it styled the first way in the evening to run out to a couple of stores. I didn't feel like 'leading with my assets', so a jacket was in line. Buttoning only the top button, along with the empire waist of the dress, creates almost a trapeze silhouette. The dress by itself was great during a day that peaked out close to 80F. I wore these Dansko pumps because i'm trying to figure out how to style them so as to get more use out of them - they really are very cute! Plus, i was having a crummy day and thought i may as well look cute, even if i was just bombing around the house.

Around a month ago the weather was still pretty brisk, but i didn't want to wait to wear my new dress. I layered a tank under the top and a jacket over, and wore over the knee socks as well as a chain belt.

 I've always had trouble wearing any all-polyester knit. I stink and sweat (or is it sweat and stink?) Either way, yuck. I just avoid the fiber. Happily, i can wear nylon (as in this dress) perfectly comfortably, which is nice considering the many easy care benefits. The black with white print of this dress is such an easy fit into my wardrobe, and reminds me of a very special experience i had many years ago.  This experience actually lies at the root of my love of black.

How many of you have 'fairy godmothers'?

Next Up: a package arrives from Kansas.......

Dress: Max Studio
Top Jacket: Royal Robbins
Bottom Jacket: own design
Belt: Betsey Johnson
Boots: Bass Lamont
Pumps: Dansko
Socks: Sock Dreams
Naja: Gathering Tribes
Bracelet: custom order by Justina Leigh