Sunday, June 24, 2012

Stop Me Before I Alliterate Again!

 I'm joining in with Patti of Not Dead Yet Style's Visible Monday again this week, and it feels quite apropos when featuring this outfit. I've always felt very 'visible' in tank tops, as they really showcase my bust.For much of my life this issue was moot, as i ran cold and who wants to wear a tank top in the fog, anyways?

But moving inland meant climbing summer temps, as the landscape disrobed herself of her modestly veiling fog. At first my own eyes were shocked to see the women of this part of the world divesting themselves of cumbersome vestments as well. Until the heat hit, at which point the wisdom of baring flesh became as apparent as........well, as the feminine charms with which each individual lady was blessed.

Yet i still feel a bit awkward in tanks. This one possesses a bit more thickness than average, which helps. The ribbing, thicker edging, and higher armholes all combine to ease my uncomfortable feelings. I still have to deal with the lack of any 'third layer', such as a jacket, cardigan, vest, etc. Reaching for a third layer has been second nature for me since i was in junior high! But it's just too hot sometimes, besides there's nothing stylish about mindless habits.

Which is why i like to have a couple of other tricks up my sleeve. Metaphorically speaking. In this look i relied heavily on 'the law of threes' (self-imposed). I find that repeating any motif three times in an outfit gives the look structure. Basically, it looks like you did it on purpose. In this look, i have two threes. (I don't know what is up with this post, but i'm making less and less sense the farther in i get!) The first: yummy coral tones in the tank, socks, and scarf.  The second: floral motifs in the belt embroidery, necklace, earrings, and scarf. As a rule i prefer to keep my threes to a maximum of three, seeing as it is a law and all. And i want to look pulled together, rather than obsessively compelled. However, in this case the necklace and earrings are both quite delicate, and the floral motifs on the belt and scarf take a little attention to discern. So i gave myself a waiver.

I also relied on another fashion fundamental - fabulous feet. Any look improves immensely with the addition of one or two to die for shoes. My philosophy? Pull out your most outrageously scrumptious shoes at the slightest provocation. None of us lives forever. What are we waiting for!

I, for one, am waiting for any outfit tricks you have up your sleeves - whether you happen to be wearing any or not.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Public Persona

Just a nice, springy feeling outfit for going to visit the optometrist (she's an opthamologist as well). I'm glad i wore this when i did, we've had cool, breezy cloudy days since.  I will be ordering my wonderful new prescriptions sunnies next week! I have blue, dry, cataract-ridden eyes. That's the trifecta for sun sensitivity as far as eyeballs are concerned. I cannot wait to have my peepers enveloped in tinted, breeze-blocking goodness.

Not much to say on the outfit, but am having a weird experience. I just found out what an ex-boyfriend of mine is up to, after almost 30 years.  Now, i haven't been carrying a torch or evaluating everything my husband does in terms of how 'bunnyface' behaved towards me when i was so young. I hadn't really thought of him in years - until his name started being mentioned prominently in certain media outlets. Of course, three or four (?) years ago when i first came across his name, i thought "That's strange, the same name as bunnyface .....but what are the odds it's him......". Nowadays, with the internet, it's easy as pie to track down any number of people, even those with fairly low profiles. But it had other things to do.

Then last night, i thought "What the hell!" I blame it on my week-long obsession with Andrea Zuill's art and embroidery patterns, which prominently feature rabbits. Whatever the cause, first result had a picture and there he was.

***Can i just say that i wish i was as good-looking as my ex-boyfriends? Honestly! This includes the boyfriend who became an ex- through marriage. Not only is he tremendously handsome, he has a much better wardrobe than i. Certainly in the shoe department.***

Now, it turns out 'bunnyface' is quite successful in his field, awards, prominent job, etc. And it's a serious, establishment type job. Objectivity and neutrality are important, creativity and pushing the envelope are not.  The weird part is what came into my mind next. It occurred to me that, to someone in his position, knowing me would not necessarily be to his advantage, and could even be seen as a disadvantage.

I'd like to qualify the last part. I don't have a felony record or engage in scandalous behaviour. But at the same time, i have nothing to offer a person in his professional arena. And people at his professional level often need to focus exclusively on their professional life in order to maintain it.  Also, my attitudes towards societal norms would be considered suspect in certain arenas of the powerful.

This doesn't mean that 'bunnyface' would react in an unkind or dismissive way were we to meet again. (Which is highly unlikely.) But i don't often have that type of perspective on myself. Not just from outside of me, but outside my entire social circle. I am, and have been for most of my life, a very private person. I've spent literally years bed- and or house-ridden. Hard to get more private than that, especially since most of that time was pre-intenet. My jobs have all been with very small companies. If the world finds out that i make my own clothing out of my mom's old turtlenecks, and that i was one of many women harassed in the dream world by the rinpoche at the Tibetan Meditation Centre where i lived, well really no one gives a hoot. Partly because 'the world', in my case, i snot that many people at all. It's a strange feeling to run up against that part of humanity where these things can be tremendously important.

I can't say my thoughts on this are well-formulated at this point. But it was on my mind and it relates to having a public presence.  And my most public presence is here on this blog. What do you all think? Have any of you had a similar experience, where you saw yourself through very different eyes? How did this make you feel?

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Practical Side Of Style Blogging

 I'm participating in Patti's wonderful Visible Monday with this post. I encourage all of you to go check out the great variety of stylish women who join in - one of my favorite ways to find new bloggers adn keep up with 'the classics'.

In the past, while i have so enjoyed being part of Visible Monday, most of my outfits don't make me feel extra visible. Maybe it's my love of neutrals - really, how outrageous can wearing grey or black or beige be? And to just look at this outfit, it's hard to see what would make me stand out all that much.

But this outfit did make me feel pretty out of the norm - because of the context. Mr. E and i were attending a lecture by Derrick Jensen, radical environmentalist activist and writer, in Berkeley. Wearing a jacket, straight skirt, and heels in a sea of fleece, sweatpants, and running shoes is swimming against the style current (even if the heels are vegan). Happily, the audience lived up to it's tolerant ideal and i got no rude comments or even sideways looks. I even spotted one particular lovely straw hat in a light apricot shade, with matching grosgrain ribbon tied in a big bow center front. Beautiful!

I also spotted a man sporting a burgundy/grape velour track suit that, eerily, appeared to have been transported direct from 1973. Truly, this track suit was so pristine and so dated i was forced to wonder how this man happened to posses it at this late date. Had he run across some dead stock disco-era stash? Perhaps he purchased two dozen when they were fresh on the scene, since they fit all of his criteria to perfection and could never go out of style...?  Who knows, i didn't have the nerve to ask him. I did manage to retroactively petrify myself, remembering with horror every urge to 'stock up on this great basic' i've ever had!

 On the way back to the car, we faced a typical Berkeley summer evening. Stiff-ish wind full of chilly fog. Anticipating this circumstance, i'd taken my black hoody along. I was very happy for it's warmth as, without realizing it, we managed to come out of the building complex in a different way than we had entered. We spent a good twenty minutes hunting for our car until Mr. E realized our mistake. 

It's been two years now since i committed to upgrading my wardrobe. I'm thoroughly enjoying my nicer fabrics and fit, the tighter style focus of my closet, the splurged-upon 'frosting' pieces. But i hadn't anticipated the aggravation-reducing aspect of wardrobe planning. On this occasion, it meant having a warm piece that fit my bod, the climate, and my outfit. For most of my life i had significant wardrobe holes, in this type of area as well as in others. Without really thinking it through, i 'blamed' this on lack of money. Money helps, but the real reason was lack of observation,analysis, planning, and follow through.

Putting intellectual and creative energy into thinking through your clothing wants and needs, then committing to bringing these goals into reality is generally considered to be, well, not a serious pursuit. But we all have to get dressed everyday. It's just like eating, or commuting, or exercise. Most people accept as obvious that if you need a car it is critical to perform due diligence in order to protect your future peace of mind, pocketbook, and the reliability of the vehicle. It would be ridiculous to avoid serious research, analysis and follow-through and then expect to realize a good outcome Most people would predict a long line of hassles. 

Well, in my experience it's the same thing with any area of daily life. Why many people consider clothing to be exempt from this principle is beyond me. Maybe because they can't separate clothing from 'frivolous fashion'? Over the years i've been tickled to notice that some of the people who seem to be the least interested in style or fashion have very well thought out clothing systems.You'd be surprised the number of nerdy, techy guys who have systems for getting dressed - they know what different types of items they need in order to dress for all their life roles and activities and how many of each items they need in order to accommodate a certain amount of variety in dress and laundry preferences. They also have their shopping schedule and sources nailed.

Now, i doubt many of us could tolerate the strict uniformity of these techies. At the same time,think about the benefits. Knowing that you have enough clothing to get through the work week without scrambling to do a load of wash late Thursday night and not looking at orphans every morning means a much nicer start and end to your day. Having suitable outfits on hand for unexpected events like funerals means you can focus on being with family and friends instead of worrying about finding something to wear and running around shopping. You'll even be more physically comfortable with proper undies, nice socks, and whatever warm and cool clothing you need.

I know that many people get into style blogging in order to find and or hone their personal style.  Edited to add: all style blog readers please comment as well! I apologize for my dunderheadedness. And thank you Louise!  But today i'm curious to find out if any of you have realized any of these more practical wardrobe improvements since you began to blog?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mending a Deal Breaker

 As far as i can tell, we all have them. Those items that are so perfect in almost every way - except for that awful deal breaker! The buttons hit at the wrong spot or won't stay buttoned, the fabric gets itchy when you sweat, the dye bleeds onto your purse, whatever. This top used to be one of those pieces. I adore the eyelet fabric (just the right combo of frou frou with minimalist), love the tee-shirt-like cut, love the hook and eye closure in front and the laces up the back. I based it on a J. Peterman cami from a few years back.

The hooks and eyes were my favorite part, and always get favorable comments when i wear this top. But they were a hassle. In order to keep the hooks from snagging other delicates when in the washing machine, i had to safety pin them under the placket. And then undo all eleven safety pins before i could wear the top. Every time i washed it. Which i could live with, except for the other problem - that the hooks and eyes never stayed closed. The only way i could keep them in place was to draw the laces up extra tight (click here for a view). The super-tight waist emphasized the bust to an alarming degree. I have to admit i prefer the 'just right' amount of ease you see in these pictures.

So, after maybe four or five years of frustration, i decided it was do or die. I fix this thing or out it goes! The mind flexed under pressure and squirted out an idea - i realized i could just sew up the front. I tried it, i can still get the top on and off, you can see the hooks and eyes just peeking at the edge, et voila! The blouse i wanted to make in the first place. Let's pretend i only started making it last week.

In other less successful wardrobe developments, i gave this free-to-me skort a trial run. In theory there should be a place in my closet for the skort. I mean, they are expressly designed for freedom of movement plus modesty in the hottest of weather. (hmm - that's a darn good summary of my complete summer wardrobe needs right there!) I don't think this look is an absolute flop. On the other hand, i wasn't all that into wearing it. In my mind, the skort is just too associated with "running errands after a morning of tennis and mimosas". And as it happens, skorts aren't all that comfortable for me either. The inner shorts kind of pull against the fabric of the skirt and it really bothers my leg. Who'd have thunk?

So i'm closing the chapter on the skort. One less thing to clog up the brain, another experience crossed off the old bucket list. Speaking of once in a lifetime experiences........i woke up early this morning, made my tea and oatmeal and sat in front of the computer. After a bit, i hear scampering in the duff outside the window. We've been watching a doe and her two spotted fawns around our place the last few weeks, so i looked out. Sure enough little fawn was bouncing around the hillside, about 15' away. I couldn't resist whispering to him, so enchanting to see his eyes and huge ears zero in on my face. He headed out back and i went to our bedroom window - to get a view of mama heading to meet him.

And then, baby decided it was breakfast time! I only watched for about 30 seconds, as they both could see me and i could tell it made mom a little edgy. We were only about twelve feet away from each other. I'd never seen this before, and the fawns are very rambunctious at bumping mom to get the milk to come down! This video i found shows their rowdiness very well. I guess there are advantages to having weak and helpless young ;)

Have you been able to save any deal breakers recently, or managed to cross something that seems 'so obviously for you' off of your list? I know that many fashionistas feel bad when they find some trend, style, or clothing item that they can't wear. But i feel relieved - one less hassle to deal with! How about you?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why You Should Dress Your Age

 Mr. E took this pic a couple of nights ago, after i'd finished cutting his hair out on the patio. This day was a scorcher and i didn't want to be trying to concentrate in the heat, so we waited until 8:30pm to get started, when the mercury had dropped to a mere 88F. I wanted to take advantage of the light to cut Mr. E's hair, and waited until that was done to request a photo or two. When Mr. E started getting close to the ground in order to capture a 'monumental' vibe, it was fun to play along and channel a different me.  Plus, and i know this goes against the common wisdom that all style bloggers are narcissicists who love nothing more than the mirror, it gets a bit wearying looking at the same mug day after day. At the same time, it keeps me on my toes trying to mix up the photos a bit!

This top is another Sorbetto, which i actually finished before the 'dandelion' one.  Truthfully, i was making this one more along the lines of a muslin and didn't have high hopes about loving it overmuch. But the fabric was paid for and it had been sitting in the laundry basket for a year - nothing ventured, nothing gained. Happily, in addition to getting the fit just where i want it, i also got a top i love! It is great belted, gives a 'mod '60's' vibe when worn out and loose, the print is wonderful and flattering, and the silk bias trim adds a nice contrast and pinch of luxe to your basic tank.

Here's how i wore it earlier in the day for my walk. I enjoyed the echoes of the sleek but practical lines of 1950's women's sportswear. Just a step up from wearing a plain black knit cotton tank, but much more 'me'. I enjoyed wearing it much more with the black skirt, though, as i've had a 'thing' for wearing all-black sleeveless + skirt ensembles during the summer since i was twenty. I remember a look i wore quite a bit around age 23, 24. I'd cut the sleeves off of a ribbed black mercerized cotton sweater to make a tank, and wore it with a wool knit just below the knee straight skirt. Accessories? Black leather pumps with low pointy heels and almond toes, round green lens moutaineering sunglasses (with little leather temple shields grommeted onto the frames), head full of curls and chains chains chains! I wore a similar look to Oakland International Airport back in the day (early 1980's) and set off the metal detector.  The security lady took a look at me and gave a little smile and shake of her head. Then she patted me down and waved me on through. I got a LOT of stares - this was definitely pre-9/11.

Which brings us back to the question of whether your age should inform your manner of dress.  There's a discussion on just this question right now on the You Look Fab forum, and as usual many ladies say that age shouldn't be a factor in how you dress at all. Now, on an intellectual level i completely understand why they make this argument. Over the decades there has been a load of utter hoo-ha dumped on the 40+ woman consisting of ridiculous 'rules' as to how you should dress. These rules are nasty, and sexist and ageist and no fun and don't even make any sense. In rejecting this flim flam people understandably embrace it's opposite.

But i don't see why your age should not inform your style. Charmingly, my thoughts on this topic are nicely expressed by rae, the youngest contributor to the thread:

"The one thing I would add is that everyone should always be evolving. Most of us don't dress like we did in high school because we are not the same people mentally as we were back then - different priorities, different jobs, different goals, different inspirations. It's not so much breaking "rules" about what age can wear a mini, for example, but becoming out of touch with yourself that can make something look too young."

Exactly. How old you are is part of who you are. Everything in this universe is subject to change, including each of us. I occasionally run across the person who is determined not to change and they scare me. Frankly, the concept of the 'uncanny valley' comes to mind. Changes you make don't have to be drastic or strictly according to Mr. Blackwell's taste, on the contrary i feel that they should have everything to do with you. But if nothing is changing, something's wrong.

I do have a couple of pieces of advice or topics worth considering as a person approaches midlife. Keep an eye out for body changes that may affect how you'd like to dress. Many women find that somewhere in the 40-55 age range their body shape changes (usually the waist thickens a bit, you may find your bust increases, hair may thin, and so on). Less well known, your coloring may shift as well (beyond just more grey hair). Around 40 i found that all of my 'failsafe' makeup colors and products were doing less than nothing for me. I panicked, but i needn't have. I just found new 'failsafe' colors (warmer, clearer tones with less brown) and switched to liquid foundation instead of powder. In the process, i discovered tubing mascara and can now wear mascara daily for the first time in my life - something i'd wanted to do for years.

Other changes i made were more individual. I found that straight up black felt too harsh, which led to a thoroughly enjoyable and productive exploration of prints and colors. My relationship to myself and my goals changed with age as well. This led to my commitment to developing the 'dream wardrobe' i'd fantasized about the whole time i was growing up. I now choose nicer fabrics, splurge on a few dressier pieces, commit to fit and detail, and spend time planning and dreaming about where i want my wardrobe and style to go. In addition to showing myself and others that i value myself enough to make this happen, i find that it's helping me to move forward with other projects in my life as well. What was i waiting for?

I realize that body and philosophical changes take place at various times in life. But certain of these changes are indeed tied to age. And i don't see what the trouble is in acknowledging this. I personally would feel very awkward trying to dress as if my age played no role in my life and who i am. (Not to mention how boring it would be to never change!) Sometimes i wonder if the extreme commitment to 'age doesn't matter!' reflects a bit of the desire to stay young. Or at least to not get 'old'.

But the big reason why i think age matters is the skill and experience i've earned in the style realm and which has come with age. Practicing and studying and making mistakes over decades leads to improvement in any endeavor. Truly, my approach to and appreciation of clothing and style is so much richer and subtler than when i was in my twenties and thirties. It's not like i'm some genius, it's that anyone who puts in years and years studying any subject will achieve a more profound understanding of it. You can get better at it.

Style is so much more fun and satisfying when you're not just fussing with trying to look halfway decent or worrying over what colors you like and how they go together.  Knowing what silhouettes will look great on you, what style references will delight you for years, the colors which intrigue you makes shopping much easier, it is true. It also allows you to focus on the details that take your style to another level - how can you use fibre and texture to enhance the color story of a particular outfit? What jewelers make pieces that magically convey your own message? What are the little alterations you can make to clothing (even tees and undies!) that absolutely finesse the fit?

To me, this is the wonderful gift of being older. It is quite possible to become expert at dressing your body, to have developed a great closet, to hone your own style in exquisite detail. I love how this influences my style, even more the style of many other older people i've known through my life. I say let this secret of age out of the closet, and say 'yes!' to dressing your age!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fairly Expedient Gratification

I finished my second Sorbetto, the 'free and instant' top pattern. I'd been eyeballing this cotton voile at Stone Mountain and Daughter for a couple of months, but hadn't hit on the perfect pattern. As soon as i saw the Sorbetto, it seemed a perfect match. And it is! I made wider bias tape for this version than for the first one (scroll down), and like the almost funnel neckline effect it has. I'm thinking of making bias tape twice or two and a half times as wide and trying that on a variation of this neckline that's a bit more open.

I started with Sew Weekly's version of a Sorbetto sleeve as formatted by Sew Incidentally. I slashed the pattern from cap to hem seamline in eight places, adding 3/8" width along the armscye at each slash. This top took about 3, 3 and a half hours to sew (i finished the bias tape neckline and sleeve hems by hand on the inside, all the rest was done by machine). Quick and easy, plus it just pulls on! Perfect for those days when buttons and zips are just incomprehensible.

As you may guess from the photos' setting, i'm housesitting for my dad and bonus mom. There are a few copy shops within walking distance, which has inspired yet another fit of inspiration (huh?!?! i confuse even myself....). I've often thought a nice list of 'Tried aNd True' (TNT) patterns would be so helpful to have on hand while fabric shopping and wardrobe plotting generally. It occurred to me a couple of days ago that i could copy the line drawings off the pattern sleeves (sizing them all to the optimum scale), tape them on a piece of paper, and write or type up the pertinent notes. So i lugged a big bag of blouse patterns along to accomplish this project. I'm stoked!

As soon as i started putting this top together it brought this skirt to mind. I made it two and a half, three years ago and didn't wear it much at all last summer - maybe once? It is getting towards threadbare and has a couple of tiny bleached spots. But it's great in the heat, i loved wearing it with this top, and i thought it was a good idea to try it out to see if i wanted to make another one along these lines. I'm thinking yes.

Even though my wardrobe is on the small side, i've done this often - put a loved piece away for a year or two, then find it's fresh and fun when i return to it. Taking an extended hiatus seems to keep my relationship with individual items from getting stale, and somehow makes my clothing selection seem bigger. Do any of you rotate pieces in and out like this, or using some system of your own devising? Please share if you do, and if you don't, consider it! This strategy has the possibility of adding some spice to your wardrobe with very little fuss.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

My Version Of Sewing Plum's Personal Wardrobe Plan

Vildy's comments on my last post inspired me to post my versions of Sewing Plums' Personal Minimum Wardrobe Plan - i planned to 'get to it' anyhow, plus it seemed the easiest way to get the point across. The first picture is her original .pdf file printed out with no edits.

Version two.

This last one looks pretty useful (i have only filled in a few items to give you a feel for where i'm going). As you can see it is heavily based on Sewing Plum's original idea, but tailored to meet my own specific lifestyle, sartorial style and climate. What i appreciate most about this draft is that it accommodates season-specific clothing categories (like my cami-tops which i only wear in spring and summer) as well as pieces and categories that float between the seasons such as hoodies and lighter colored jeans.

I was also inspired by a blogger who i haven't bookmarked (@#&*!#$&#%$!). She had a piece of paper with all her clothing pieces written across the four edges and arrows going between the ones which worked together. It was kind of like a flow chart, but not? I loved it and will research to do my best to find her, credit her here and let you all know about her (please please comment if you have an idea of who it is!).

I hope you find this interesting and/or helpful. I'm always curious to see other people's wardrobe plans and lists, and surprisingly (considering all the style bloggers out there) you don't run across a lot. I'll post the list again one i've filled in the various clothing items.

Let us know in the comments if you do these kind of lists, if you have them posted somewhere link away! Or send me a picture pygmyowl at sbcglobal dot com and i'll post them here.

We're off to soak in the glory that is the Walnut Creek Art & Wine Festival. Have a wonderful day!

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Wee Bit Of (Possibly Pathological) Fun

 I just loved wearing this outfit. Easy to wear. Tons of detail and texture without being fussy or overwhelming. Very romantic without being saccharine, twee, or 'too young'. No limitations on any activity whatsoever. It even has sun protection!

And how nice for my readers that i'm not wearing those baggy Faconnables - nothing beats a change of pace, am i right? Do you find that leather reduces the 'sweetness' of an outfit, the way i do? I feel that the leather slides really ground this look from the front.......

....from the back, it's the jute-embroidered belt. Another fave of mine, the outfits which transforms itself when seen from different angles (however slightly).

That's that in terms of this look. But i have been a busy wardrobe-planning bee! I've finished my first Sorbetto blouse (i'm wearing it now). I have coton voile for Sorbetto the Second with Sleeves, it's pre-washed and the grainline rectified. I've transferred my adjustments to the pattern, it's ready to cut.

But mostly, i've been planning and listing like the Tasmanian Devil! i've been working on my Personal Minimum Wardrobe Plan from Sewing Plum's blog. I've decided i need five columns: Summer Categories, Strictly Summer Items, Temperate Items, Strictly Winter Items, Winter Categories (Temperate Items span summer and winter uses). I'm finding that this particular document hits a sweet spot between concrete advice and flexibility to customize the list to your own needs. The PWM bridges the theoretical to the specific material in a clear, sensible way i've not yet found in any other plan. I'm enjoying working with this document as well as getting many very useful, concrete ideas out of this work. If you are interested in wardrobe planning, Sewing Plum's blog is so packed full of excellent resources i cannot begin to say. What are you doing here - go there now!!!  ; )

Here follows a list of the lists i've created in the last month - 'stash' list of fabrics on hand and their planned destinies (with swatches stapled to the list); master list of all clothing items in decent shape that i plan to keep in the coming year (ie, not too worn out or similar); list of blouse and bottoms patterns; list of wardrobe priorities for June 2012 (shopping, sewing, and alterations list); list of interesting fabrics spotted on May 27 visit to Stone Mountain and Daughter and some ideas for using said fabrics; list of socks to buy.

If that sounds a wee bit pathological - well, i can see why. I like to think it's harmless fun. Do any of you go through these type of theoretical/list making/whole hog planning phases in terms of your own wardrobe?