Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"That" Look

 I wore this outfit to tromp about the neighborhoods of Berkeley with Mr. E last Sunday. As much as people love to catch liberal northern Californians in various hypocrisies, in my experience it is in truth quite a tolerant place. Frankly, most people seem to have plenty to think about without needing to be scandalized by the neighbors.

However, i did receive a few down the nose, disapproving looks towards my feet during the day. They all came from ladies looking to be in their late fifties - early sixties, with varying amounts of interest in comfort vs. style (to judge by their outfits and grooming). As i had plenty to think about without needing to be scandalized by the neighbors, i didn't engage any of the 'look-givers' in a conversation to determine if i read them right and if so what their problem was.

Was i 'too old' to be wearing such high heels (even if they're uber-chunkay)? They didn't care for cropped cargos in winter? Too many strings hanging around? Really, sometimes it's difficult to figure what will get up people's collective nostril. Not that i care, which doesn't help.

I made this jacket out of cotton/poly sweatshirt material. It's a copy of this Free People hoodie, with longer sleeves and hem. It's very warm but boring to wear. I do like it better in pictures, though, and it's coming in mighty handy when it's cold and i don't want to look like i'm free of all stylish considerations.

To make up for a lack of sartorial, sociological, or even common-sensical insight in this post, and to highlight the major ankle action of this look (another candidate for the intemittent disapproval), i took a couple of videos of the look in movement. Speaking of looking stylish, you may want to avoid extended gawking at your own feet. When my ranch-grown grandfather would go to town , his mother would admonish her sons "Stop looking at your feet! You look like a bunch of hicks, watching out for snakes!" And they were, since they didn't have shoes most of the time.

We do have snakes here, but they tend to be little racers, gophers, and the incredible California King Snake - so named for it's immunity to rattlesnake poison, allowing it to kill rattlers and eat them. King snakes were always a welcome sight around grandpa's ranch, and they are around here as well. But the snakes around here have more to fear from my stomp-a-delic heels than i do from them!

I do love taking these videos - it is delightfully easy for me to imagine all of you reading this blog and my getting a chance to say 'hi!'. I really enjoy thinking of all of you there in the camera - heaven knows why. At least it's only a minute or two of wasted life if you decide to watch!

Any of you get these judgmental looks from other people? Have you come up with any insight about possible motivations, or discerned some rhyme or reason as to who or when? If so i'm curious to hear your thoughts!


  1. Great look! Don't think your jacket looks boring in the least - not to me as onlooker.

    Just read something about men classically looking down and women looking ahead, head up. No idea what it could mean.

    A generation or so back, that kind of shoe could be the kind of English walking oxford that Miss Marple might wear. Doubt the Berkleyites remember that and they might remember the young girls with print dresses and nun shoes/doc martens. And, as we know, you've got a slinky walk. :)

    My guess is that the glarers have intuited that you care what you wear - beyond fair trade - and that's an occasion of disapproval for them.

    I'm not aware of disapproving looks that I get and I get a lot of positive comments from men and women and even little girls. "She's got cowgirl boots!" Though I'm getting rid of those cowgirl boots (Isabel Marant knockoffs in rich denim blue suede) because I don't want such a closely defined look as to elicit comment from a kid.

    One thing I do notice, though, is that people, not just women, check out shoes regularly. It still surprises me. I had a man pass me on the street and compliment my boots. I was puzzled because I had them under my pants - though it could have been somewhat cropped pants. Looking down, they just looked like camel suede. But they do have a perfed shaft and he could see some of that, I guess.

    I'm caught in the middle because I like a certain emphasis on the feet/ankles yet I don't want everyone's eyes drawn to my feet and I think an outfit is a failure when someone calls out to me from across the street about my shoes, which could be a muted pale olive. I'm thinking, Is your eyesight that good?

  2. I really liked the videos. I think you can lose a lot in the flatness of still photographs, because at least half the time, I think my ensembles look so much better in motion than they do in my blog.

    And, oh, do I get that look. I expect it's my penchant for short skirts and brightly coloured tights that earn it for me. I grow ever more immune with age, I think.

    I like how you've got the hoodie layered over the denim jacket. I've often wanted to layer one of my more fitted denim jackets like that, and it's very nice to see it can work really well.

  3. I think you have a very nice casual outfit. Maybe the other people were evnvious. I wish I could wear heels. They make legs look so long. Unfortunately just standing in them makes my feet squeal and not in a good way.
    I have seen people give me a look and I wonder if they think I look like a silly old woman or if they think I look nice. I chose to think they like it.
    As to looking down, if I don't I tend to trip over things, so it is safer to look down. My parents always told me I was clumsy. I guess it is true.

  4. I love the videos. It's so much fun to see people in action.

    And I don't know why anyone would give you a "look" in this outfit. I loved it as soon as I saw it. I think the shoes are fabulous and I love how you styled them. The ties hanging down actually make more sense to me, with the shoes and the stockings, than they would tied.

    I think I get looks sometimes, but I'm not sure if it's because I'm so tall, made taller by high heels, or the bright colors, or the mostly unkempt hair or what. So, I mostly just ignore them. Like you said, most of the time it's just too difficult to figure out what's up someone's nose.

  5. I love the dangling ties, the striped hose and the fun "chunkay" heel of this - and I'm sure that your dandy-ish outfit is what caused the biddies to purse their lips. The dancing of the ties would have done it. "How dare she be so carefree! She should dress her age!"

    Of course, *I* don't think that (says the woman who wears whatever the frick she wants). :) But I get those kinds of looks too, and that's usually what it's about: some busybody who is looking externally for things to disapprove of so she doesn't have to self-examine and figure out why it matters so much what others do and not herself.

    I'll have to watch the vids at home - no speakers at work.

  6. I've always wondered why bloggers don't do more videos like this because it gives you a sense of the clothing in motion. I know I've done it with certain fabrics and then later swiped stills from the videos.

    I like the chunky heels! You're good for those old bags who are too settled in their ways. They're probably home at this very moment going through their wardrobes and trying to remember your look...

  7. I think it's the motion of the strings that caught their eye. Or at least it's what caught my eye. I liked the shoes anyway, but I love them now that I've seen them in motion. It's amazing, the difference between photos and video.

  8. heeheee - these are some fun comments, ladies!

    Thank you Vildy! i'm glad i took pics as i like it more now :) You have some very intriguing thoughts on shoes there. but it makes me sad to think of you getting rid of blue cowboy boots (i do know you have many other groovy shoes!)

    "I'm thinking, Is your eyesight that good?" no kidding - mine hasn't been that good since second grade! pale olive, yum.....

    Hi Ana! "...short skirts and brightly coloured tights..." Lana Turner hair, huge baby blues, Shirley McLaine cheekbone/smile.......you're just doomed to get 'that look'!!! ;)

    i encourage you to give videos a whirl! i use a tripod and just my little still/video camera. You don't have to post it if you don't like it. The first time is a pain, figuring out how to do the tech stuff - just keep good notes and next time it's a breeze. Best to upload during slow times (not weekday evenings, for example).

    Debbi, i am very clumsy as well. i always keep the toilet lid down because of the # of times i have inadvertently knocked things in there!!! (TMI!) I think people are checking out your awe-inspiring jewelry, personally. I know i do!

    Hi Gracey! "The ties hanging down actually make more sense to me..." i love that, so many times i just dress by feel like that. i can analyze looks up the wahzoo, but when i'm putting it together it's just 'oh, this makes sense'. I think you'd be fantastic on video - video tends to love 'hot' people, stills love 'cool'. Your smile is flammably hot!

    ah, Sheila, i love your word 'dandyish'! it does fit the vibe here - knickers, hose and heels with a semi-fitted jacket! How fun!

    I used to feel bad about scandalizing people. Then i realized how much people enjoy the sensation, and continued on! ; ) "busybody" - another great word!

    Hi Terri! i think it's partly because it's a hassle to figure it out (once you do, it's easy). Uploading does take longer than with stills. And i have a feeling that people feel vulnerable or uneasy about putting out even more of themselves online. It is much easier to control your presentation if it's a still than for a video, where posture, mannerisms, odd angles are harder to suppress. But i've liked the way i come across on tape much more than on stills for decades now, so i kind of look forward to it!

    heehee, Terri - i should keep cards and hand them out next time i get that look! "Here you go, i'll have this outfit up on the web by 2PM tomorrow for you....."

    Welcome STAshworth! I'm thinking the strings too. In fact, that's why i took video of this look - the strings take on a life of their own when you walk! "It's amazing, the difference between photos and video." I could not agree more.

    Well, your response has encouraged me to do more videos and work on better light, locations, etc. Thank you all and have a great day! steph

  9. Hooray for videos! I hope you will actually say hello in the next one. I'd love to hear your voice. Does that make me sound like a weird stalker? I hope not!

  10. Steffi - it's Berkeley. Everyone has an opinion on everything.
    xoxo yrmom

  11. I love anonymous comment "its Berkeley everyone has an opinion" Where I live in the suburbs of Wash DC would also apply. Everyone is very opinionated as well.
    I did some research on your look at "You Look Fab". Angie did a post on 'How to creat a long line with cropped pants' on June 15 2011. according to her guidelines you have met 3/4 of them in this look. 1.Keep the hems tapered. 2. Wear heels with them (CHECK)3. Keep contrast low on the hemline.(check) 4.Keep your top tucked in but this one is optional if you follow the other three guidelines. I think that your hems aren't tapered but I still think they arent real baggy either so I vote that the outfit works.

    I really like the hoodie you made it is really really nice.
    When I get the hairy eyeball from another female I usually wink at them. Most of the time it gets a laugh. Most women need to lighten up about our judgement of others.

  12. No Louise, you just sound naturally curious! i actually tried to make a 'talkie' yesterday but my camera was wonky. I'll keep at it!

    Hi Adrienne - that's my mom, and i think she hit the nail on the head. I was laughing all day thinking of the truth of both of your insight!!!
    I love the way you researched this look - i find that going back and forth between putting looks together 'by feel' and then analyzing them gets both sides of the brain into the action. It really catalyzes the creativity!

    "The hairy eyeball" - oh my goodness!! i'm stealing your strategy this second! now i can't wait to get a skeevy look (and what i plan to wear today i might!)

    Happy Saturday! steph

  13. Do you suppose it was the old-fashioned 'rule' against wearing brown shoes with black? You did mention that they were generally ladies of a certain age range, and I know my mother would have NEVER mixed brown and black!

    I just realized I don't have an account to sign anything I post with, so I'm sorry to be an Anon!

  14. Are you sure the looks are disapproving? I only ask because a couple of times recently I've been absolutely convinced that someone is looking at me unkindly and then, out of the blue, they lay a really sweet compliment on me. I'm wondering if maybe while looking at your lovely shoes these ladies were engaged in a protracted internal monologue to decide whether they should compliment you and whether you would be flattered by their approval, which caused them to appear mean and critical when really they were just deep in thought? I was at a restaurant just this week where a woman was looking me up and down so much I was thinking "what is this b****'s problem?" and then she came over and told me my dress was beautiful and I thought "crap now who's the b**** with the problem?" Apparently it was me. Not saying you have a problem- just that you might be reading disapproval where there is none.

  15. Hi Anon! i don't know - i know about that 'rule', but in Berkeley people don't really don't follow those type of ideas that i can tell. Plus, it was kinda grey and foggy, which makes it harder to tell. But it's possible!

    Hi Margaret! that's the thing - you could be completely right! or, since it happened with a few different ladies, it could be some were disapproving, some were admiring, and one had gas (!).

    "....I thought "crap now who's the b**** with the problem?" " oh, this has made me laugh more than once since i read it, thinking about the ways we catch ourselves at ridiculousness! I have found myself in the exact same position more than once - really all you can do is laugh at yourself.

    Margaret, your experience is just encouraging me in my resolve to take Adrienne's tack and wink at 'em next time.

    Thank you for commenting and have a great evening!! steph

  16. Whatever you wear there will always be someone who is scandalised by something because it's different to what they're used to, that's why I like living in a big city like London - usually the people staring are from outta town. Londoners rarely bat an eyelid at what anyone else is wearing.

  17. Hi Veshoevius! how i would love to visit London! That's the strange thing, most Berkeleyans pride themselves on utter impertubability (is that a werd?)

    i like the thought of scandalizing someone - thank you! Take care, steph