Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Walking The Talk

 I been holdin' out on you. I've squirreled away a change of style habit, a mini-conceptual breakthrough, and a number of outfits over the last month. Today i start sharing all this with you.

You may not be that excited about all this, as it regards a very casual aspect of style. Throughout my life, my main exercise has been walking. On a weekday i like to walk between half an hour to an hour, just around the neighborhood. On the weekends, out and about with mr. e, we may cover up to eight or ten miles on city streets or hiking in parks.  Here i'm concerning myself with the daily constitutional. For decades my habit has been to dress once for the day. I would either walk in that look or, more usually, fudge it a bit to accomodate the walk (shoes, socks, sun protection).  More often than not, both looks would suffer as a result.

The obvious solution? Come up with a couple of great-looking walking looks, wear those for walking, then dress for the rest of the day according to what it holds. Alarmingly obvious this solution may be, but it did not occur to me until about a month ago. At times like this i can't help but wonder what other stupid, mindless habits i'm adhering to which are bugging the heck out of me, unawares. Aiee!

Happily, once this idea made it's way up from the archaen abyss, it didn't take me decades to act on it. I began to dress in strictly walking-appropriate outfits first thing in the am, then change into a different look if i felt like it or the day warranted. I snapped a couple of pix of each outfit with the idea of coming up with one or three nice repeaters. These looks were two of the first ones i attempted. They turned out physically comfortable, pulled together, a little boring for my tastes. As usual in these really pared down looks one great accessory makes a big difference.

This is still a work in progress. I haven't managed to nail down 'the one look' and start repeating it. We have had some really cold days, so i got some experience creating toasty ensembles. But we have yet to veer into the hot hot hot weather of true Contra Costa summers. This will throw a spanner in the works, as i've spotted one trend in these looks - i use a little jacket as a 'third layer' to pull things together. In 92F, not so great. But from past travails i know that a structured blouse will make a smashing replacement.

a perfect structured blouse - i still have the pattern

I do have some blouses in this category which would work well for this purpose - structured, light colored, short of sleeve. The trouble is i've known for a while that i could use some serious refreshing in this category. The pieces in the best condition are still several years old. Two blouses are old on top of being made of very thin fabric. The Kay Unger blouse is gorgeous, but it is silk and has some staining. Seeing how much use structured blouses could get for 'walking' looks has highlighted the urgency of this need.

The obvious next step is for me to buy some nice fabric and get crackin'! But i'm usually out shopping with mr. e, and he has no taste buds for cotton fabric in lighter, plainer shades. The man is all about frosting, no cake for him! I love him for it, and i love the beautiful, special pieces he has picked out for me over the years. But even when i can see the finished garment in my mind's eye, it's no fun shopping for basics when your companion is so tremendously unimpressed. We share a car, and with the nerve damage in my legs driving to and from Berkeley, picking mr. e up in Walnut Creek, etc. causes a fair amount of pain. Combined with the difficulty i have in picking out fabrics in a limited time is just easier to not.

Except when summer rolls around and i kick myself for not getting off of my butt! I tell you, this is one of the areas which really stymies me. I can see real holes, and real ways to fill them, but the amount of energy, time, hassle it will take to make it happen puts me off. It is plainly easier to not do it. The project doesn't feel overwhelming, just like a lot of tedious hassle. The crux of the matter: how much of a stink do i want to make, how much energy to i want to devote bring my ideas to fruition. And in many cases, such as this one, it's not in order to get a hold of some luxury item like my Cascades.I just want to dress in the way i see fit on a day to day basis.

I don't want to get all dressed up to walk in the dust and heat, to swab my deck and clean the tub. I don't want to wear a cocktail dress to a gallery opening on Solano Avenue, or hike in heels and a flirty floral dress. I have done all these things in the past, when i enjoyed them thoroughly. But now, i want more variety. We all know how women in this society are discouraged from making their wants and needs too well known.  I am not exempt. In fact, i'm well known as the type of person who irritates beyond measure by her lack of preference - is it too much for a person to come up with a restaurant suggestion on a Saturday night, for heaven's sake?

The truth is that a lot of times i really don't care. Now, i'm finding that i do indeed care about certain things. Not only that, but i have particular ideas about what it is that i want. I've come to the conclusion that my task going forward is to devote the time and guts commensurate to my desires in order to bring them about.

Much style advice restricts itself to practical concerns, with good reason. But i find the stickiest of problems reside in these emotional/psychological areas. Do you struggle with these issues in your own life? In your wardrobe? What have you found is helpful, and have you had any breakthroughs?


  1. No insights here at the moment. Do want to say how your "boring" light jeans with the dark edges are aMAZing. I'm not such a jeans person but this is just the kind of thing I always have half an eye out for. Did you make them?

    And I love the hide and seek of the belt detail on the shirt you made. It was around 70 and sunny here today and immediately I regretted wearing an unlined cotton jacket layer. This gives me pause. Obviously, no more jackets should be on the horizon. I was doing what you did last year, wearing a shirt as a sunblock. But the wrong shirt can look beefy.

    Have you looked into very fitted slightly longer shirts (an untucked length) that would
    caress the curves and would not (and could not!)be buttoned all the way up - 50's cheesecake style. The mister might not like the fabric but he would the fit.

    And... could he be right about the fabrics? How about brainstorming over fabric with more oomph, impact? A color that makes your eyes more soulful... Brings out russet in your hair...

  2. also, this works for me: there was recently a mainstream "cool" designer who explained that he cut out s vee in the back neck of his jackets because the hip[ster] folks were wearing them pulled forward like that.

    Without cutting the vee in your collar, if you take even a camp type shirt and yank it so that it streams away behind you a bit, and arrange the front sides so they are kind of behind the bust, it has almost a shawl effect. I have a woman's cut hawaiian shirt that is black and a glowing sunset coral and lends itself very well to this. This method is good with all kinds of "icing" clothes.

  3. When I was walking on the bike paths, I wore shorts and a loose fitting tee. I never concerned myself of how I looked. Comfort was far more important to me. In the summer, it can be hot at 7 am and at 7pm the heat from the pavement is stifling. I's say you look flat out amazing for going for a walk!

  4. Are these daily walks a sort of therapy for the nerve damage? I like your hiking outfits...and know that by nature I would gravitate first to such looks, just because I could climb too if a spot appealed to me that way. My DH and I also travel most places together, and once tried to shop for fabric together. Like your e., DH gravitates towards finer fabrics. I wonder if it is possible to order fabric online somehow.

    1. I buy all my fabric online. For consistently high quality fabrics, I recommend,, and (There are many other sources, but the quality isn't always as dependable as in those I've listed above.)

  5. Thank you all for chiming in! this topic isn't super photogenic, no 'words of wisdom' from me....but you are helping me to tease apart a particularly vexing part of my clothing-life, which is so much more valuable :)

    Vildy, those are Target juniors jeggings, believe it or not! i went to try out T's highly rec'd jeggings for women in dark wash, but these ones fit better and the look was so fun! their ultra-stretchiness makes them great for walking and a bit of exercises, too. "...very fitted slightly longer shirts..." sounds nice. i'm rounding up my options on board re: patterns and shirts i could knock off; i'll keep that silhouette in mind.

    :...could he be right about the fabrics? : no doubt he IS! in pondering your comments i've honed in on some of the disconnect. T's idea is to dress great when out and about, but when you're at home just where a sweatshirt - since no one sees you, who cares? it's a perfectly reasonable point of view. i just don't want to live like that because in that case i would only spend 25% of my time in clothing i like!

    how this plays out when shopping is T's pointing out a fabulous silk chiffon while i'm wanting something i can sweat and wear sunblock in without ruining it. we therefore constantly talk past each other. i'm wondering if i hammer home how looooong the week is, between dress-up times, i could appeal to his peacock side ;)

    i love the idea of wearing a hawaiian shirt like an ermine shawl! practical, swank, and leaves the little weasels free to romp in the forest :)

    Thank you Debbi! boy, you do a great job of describing how bad the hot can get - it's awful when it doesn't cool off even at night. It is funny during heat waves to see all the dedicated walkers up at an early hour to walk before it becomes impossible!

    hi Terri! nah, just general exercise. if i overdo, it makes teh nerves worse, but if you don't get exercise you lose function. i've been a walker long before i had this nerve trouble. That's an unexpected bit of trivia about DH!! i wouldn't have thought it, it's fun to know :)

    Hi Ms. M! i have yet to order fabric online. i used to order some through the mail, back in the 1980's. from Thai Silks in Los Altos, CA. you could get 1"x1" swatches for a dollar or so. It was awesome as you could see the colors, textures, get a feel for the hand, etc. Thank you for the info on your experiences with online vendors!!

    Happy Day! steph

  6. Oh absolutely! Constraints about what is 'acceptable' for work is a tremendous source of irritation to me. I mentioned to you yesterday that my company has a no-denim policy that excludes a very cute straight skirt I own in a flattering cut that doesn't display my ass in inappropriate ways. Strict rules are simply stupid.

    But deeper than that, too, are the expectations others have about what is appropriate in a given situation. I struggle between the need to conform in some ways as a means of survival (i.e., the freaky looking lady doesn't get the promotion, raise, etc), and that of expressing myself through clothing. And like anyone in a relationship, I want my SO to find me pleasing to look at.

  7. I enjoy your insights, Steph. And i think the beautiful Kaffe Fassett shot cottons would suit you wonderfully: light weight, interesting texture, and a pair of colors combined in each fabric, one for the warp, one for the weft. I first spotted them on Handmade by Carolyn's blog--and they're available online from various places. Inspiration for structured-blouse summer sewing perhaps? Elle