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?


  1. Absolutely! I find I have a smaller but much more efficient wardrobe than I did a year ago, and I am ready for most any occasion (save perhaps a Royal Wedding : >)

    I like your reference to the "non-fashion" guy who nevertheless has the right clothing for his work and play, and just the right amount of it. Sounds like a man who lives in my house . . . : >

    Thanks for linking up today!

  2. I also am beginning to have a more efficient, smaller wardrobe. Blogging has helped me so much in doing this. I just did another big purge!! I really like your whole look, and especially the style of the cream colored jacket!

  3. Hey, now, I'm doing a full month of nothin' but neutrals and I've had a lot of comments about my outfits from people on the street! Neutrals don't equal boring! :)

    I've been blogging for over 4 years now and I've gone all over the map around my wardrobe, from doing a "one in, one out," to shopping only second-hand, and now to doing a full year of 30-day/30-item capsule wardrobes. I feel like each of these challenges has been good for me to hone my style, and reduce the amount of impulse buying, as well as buying better-quality items; however, I don't know that I've necessarily gotten all that more practical.

    Within the capsules that I'm doing now, I'm getting more wear out of individual items, and I'm stretching my creative muscle. I'm also weeding out items that I don't really love or that just don't work for me. I do find myself wondering what will happen at the end of January when the challenge is over; will I go back to my old ways? I can't see myself paring my wardrobe down that drastically.

  4. I do like your outfit- it is visibly chic and says to me: You know how to dress your body. I'm saying you have great gams. Show off those awesome calves more.

    I love to costume- play dress up but I do appreciate function. As a pedestrian I must wear outfits that can go mobile and fit well in all sorts of circumstances. My blogging has changed my style somewhat- before blogging I wore loads more solids, more black and greys. I was noting today that I now wear clothes that photograph well, which is basically prints on prints and bright colors. I'll have days that I love my outfit but know it won't photograph well, black is a color that looks great in real life but is hard to share nuances in digital images. Today it's a triple threat of stripes, and I was laughing as I thought to myself- you are only doing this because you're a style blogger and you can get away with it.

  5. I like how you compare an interest in fashion/style to keeping a car. You could compare it to an interest in one's diet in this era of manufactured food as well. I've read a couple of Jensen's books...did you enjoy his talk?

  6. Such a well written post! I couldn't agree more with your outlook regarding the benefit of an intellectual and creative approach to organizing and styling one's wardrobe.

    I got into personal blogging as a way to find my 'what's next'....after spending the last 2 decades raising my children. Working on my wardrobe has been a tangible road back to uncovering parts of myself that had been shrouded in the focus of motherhood.

    I so enjoyed this post as I believe there is more to clothing than the mere utilitarian need to cover. Thank you for your thought provoking post!

  7. Hi Patti! it's so fun to hear from you and Pam both that you're wardrobes have become much more effecient and practical over the 'blogging' time period. Especially because both of you are so stylish, then you've gotten somehow even More So while blogging - it's so easy to overlook the practical side of things.

    ha! one of 'those guys', huh? heehee! it's fun talking to some really non-style looking dude and find he'll happily talk about his clothing for an hour!

    Hi Pam! that is just great to hear. And so contrary to the stereotype - which makes me love it even more :) thank you - the jacket is from an Anne Klein for Vogue Patterns design. i like the way it turned out.

    Hullo Sheila! i love me some neutrals, your month is 'exhibit a' on how they are anything but boring!

    i have to say that your challenge this year is one of the most interesting things happening in the style blogosphere, to me at least. And the way you're presenting it, your writing about your preconceptions, your analysis, what you've learned is integral to that interest.

    frankly, i've always thought your wardrobe was pretty practical. You have plenty of shoes that don't bug your feet, you have clothes that work for work, travel, and your casual life. you don't lack for warm coats, or rain protection, or clothes for when it's hot. it all fits tidily in your closet, and you're not declaring bankruptcy or getting in fights with your family over how much you shop or whatever.

    works for me! i know i'm personally all about the small closet, but it's not for everyone. wardrobe size is very individual. looks like you've been honing in on the perfect size for you! :)


  8. Thank you Bella! i do love my legs, they've taken me all types of awesome places. I love to walk, and for the most part they cooperate!

    I've always thought you have a strong practical influence on your clothing style, which i really like. Being able to go where you want, do what you want is so important!

    "I was noting today that I now wear clothes that photograph well, which is basically prints on prints and bright colors. " i knew this would be a hurdle for me, as my personal style (and physique) doesn't lend itself to photography at all. But it's my style because i love it! So early on i made the choice to dress to look good in my real life, and do my best to hone my photographic skills in order to convey my style to my readers.

    I've been very happy with that choice, and i have learned a lot about photography (as well as seeing there's plenty more to learn!). But it's a real choice for all of us as bloggers, as well as in real life to a lesser degree. Do i dress to please my spouse/best friend/boss, or me? and so on.

    Hi Terri! i did think of food! another area of great daily practical import.

    Derrick Jensen is a funny, engaging, very smart and energetic speaker. What was funny is that i don't think he tailored his thoughts to his very left/eco-radical audience. He had a # of zingers meant to kind of knock the listener off their paradigm that met with a big '' from the audience.

    like: "how many of you have participated in an actual conversation with a member of a non-human species?" 1/2 of audience hands go up. "okay, how many of you have spoken about this interactions publicly?" most hands stay up. "okay, well, this is Berkeley....."

    yes it is! during the Q & A, virtually all of the questions were 'yeah, we know, what do we do about it??" Unfortunately he didn't get there, really that man could use 6-7 hours for a decent talk plus Q & A.

    i like his book Dreams. But his 'let's not discount violence' is just a red herring. The SF Bay is beautiful and cleaner today (and not paved over by the army corps of engineers) because of a lot of meetings and bureaucracy and building public support - bombs had nothing to do with it. In fact, war and violence has a 100% record of consistently and massively screwing up the environment, and DJ should know that.

    so much for my review. I'd say go see him if you get a chance - he's very smart and passionate and likeable.

    Happy Day!! steph

  9. Welcome Tamera! looks like we posted at the same time - that's always fun, tho i don't know why! thank you :) blogging is a great vehicle for sorting yourself out, and there's definitely times in life when that's whats called for.

    "Working on my wardrobe has been a tangible road back to uncovering parts of myself that had been shrouded in the focus of motherhood." that's a wise observation. interesting how clothing deal with how we present ourselves to others but also how *we* view ourselves. As you point out, clothing provides an intersection between idea and reality so it's a potent place to work on this.

    Happy Day! steph

  10. Re: paving over the Bay. That whole Save the Bay movement was started by three middle aged ladies. They just didn't want the Bay destroyed, and started writing letters.... 8-)

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  12. My style blogging has evolved over the year because I have had some major life changes. I have just spent my first year in retirement and it has not been at all what I had expected. I find my clothing needs are drastically different from when I worked. I have realized from blogging that I am still a work in progress. Dressing my body type has been difficult for me to figure out. I have also realized that I have fit issues with the clothing I already own.Photographing my outfits has made me realize this. I can sew but haven't had the time to sew much this year. Helping my elderly mother move out of my home into assisted living and going through her stuff has been so time consuming. Then six weeks later she fell and broke her hip and shoulder. The rehab center is located nearby but she needs someone there on a daily basis. Soooooo not much time for blogging. At some point I will be able to sew and spend time blogging. O yea I forgot to mention my new knee joint I received on May 30. The nurse told me I will be able to wear high heels again occasionally when all is rehabilitated. So while laying down I have had a lot of time to ponder my first moves
    1. closet purge if it doesn't fit it goes into a renovation pile or Goodwill.
    2. color sorting if it is not my color out it goes I love colors so I am only going to wear my most flattering.
    3. accessories purge I have way too much junk jewelery not flattering on me.
    3.Shoes I am going to wear the beauties in my closet that have been waiting for me.
    4. I need to make a lifestyle pie. So I know what clothing I really need. I don't have a weeding outfit. Just old shirts and torn up shorts that used to be my husbands UGH.
    5. I have some outfits I want to sew I have the patterns and the sloper fitted to me just need the time to make it.
    So as I lie here dreaming of my next year of retirement I am hoping to be a sleeker, sorted out dresser, with self made clothing that fits like a dream... Thanks for asking such a thought provoking questions.

  13. I adore your top. It has such pretty details.
    As to the other. Nope, blogging has made me worse because I see so many things I like and that interest me that I want to experience. Maybe someday I will calm down and have a more streamlined wardrobe. I am not there yet.

  14. Hi Mom! EXACTLY. no bombs involved at all and phenomenally effective.

    Adrienne!! how goes it? Sounds like you and mom are both healing up well, which is very very exciting! Really, with all you have had on your plate the last year i am quite impressed that you have accomplished so much. And, having spent considerable amounts of time laid up myself, i know that getting serious thinking done while recuperating is much easier said than done. Brava Adrienne!

    Your list sounds really good. I would only add to maybe do a climate pie as well? unless you already have that sorted, in which case why bother ;) well, than You for providing such thought-inspiring answers!

    pfft - good thing you were retired so you had time to cope with the last year, huh? life can be so different than we expect! take care :)

    Thank you Debbi! i love it! yes, i remember when i first discovered style blogs (a couple of years before i took the plunge and started blogging meself)....i had been really neglecting my style life and saw so many new ideas that looked really really fun! i didn't have much of a budget and have always hated shopping, so i didn't go on any huge shopping sprees or accumulations.

    But i can totally see how it happens. Have fun, if you want a streamlined closet later then you'll have a much better idea of what you want after trying it all out :) or maybe you'll go 'Sheila style'!

    Happy Day, steph

  15. Even though your question was aimed at other style bloggers, I'm going to answer, too! READING style blogs has really helped me focus and refine my own style. I consider myself very picky about which blogs I visit, several of which are represented here by your commenters. The styles they represent are quite different from each other, and from my own, so what draws me to them?

    In the end, I think it is the thoughtful analysis of why an outfit works, not just from a color or fabric perspective, but a lifestyle perspective. Sheila's love of steampunk influences her shoe and jewelry choices. Terri's stature as an educator gives her a critical eye to how her students react to her clothes. Patti discusses comfort and visibility, and how her attitude toward them has evolved as she has aged.

    As each blogger ponders all the facets of fashion, I try to think of those same subjects for myself. How do my clothes reflect my hobbies, my place in the community, my aging process? Fascinating stuff! (It's almost enough to get me to start my own style blog :-)

    That analysis has led me to embrace the simple style I love with enthusiasm. MY answer is less is more: fewer colors and patterns, but all that work together. Higher quality materials, bought used to reduce cost, worn often. Rejecting trends that are fussy, embracing those that please me even if others think they are "too young." From a practical standpoint, that means I'm always wearing my super-comfy yet nice shoes, usually have a scarf around my neck that can double as a shawl if things get chilly, rarely feel either over- or under-dressed because it's always "me," and all my outwear matches everything because my color palette is so consistent.

    It took me a long time to get to this place, and I couldn't have done it without the intelligent fashion bloggers "of a certain age." So thank you for helping me be happy in my skin and the clothing that serves as the skin the world sees. I'm not breaking new ground or turning heads, but I am content.

  16. Thank you Louise! and of course i am interested in other people besides style bloggers, that was thoughtless of me. hullo, where would style bloggers be without all of the readers?

    And your answer is so insightful and just spot. on. You address why blogging is so much more pertinent to the average woman than style magazines, and especially so for anyone not young, quite thin, on the 'paler' side, lotta money and leisure time, etc.

    and my fave part - "MY answer"!! the ability to put in thought and research and experiment put it all together into an individual's own unique solution!

    thank you for your kind words. :) if i've helped anyone at all, i consider my efforts well rewarded. steph

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