Ashley Tries 2017 Fall Fashion Trends

This week was all about the challenge of translating high fashion trends to wearable fashion.  Most of the time, I’m not very concerned about whether I’m on trend on not, so this week pushed me out of my comfort zone.  I decided to take each trend as far as I felt like I could go, while still maintaining some level of dignity and professionalism.  So if you see something I’m trying and think, “That’s cool, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable in that outfit,” remember that you can take individual elements and make them work for you.  I’m pushing each outfit to its limit (and past some of my limits), but you don’t have to.

Magnificent Western

The first trend I took on was this year’s take on the Old West.  I think Maria Grazia Chiuri’s resort collection for Dior (on location in the high desert) was the year’s best example of mythic western meets haute couture.  It has elements of spaghetti westerns, Victoriana, a whole lot of The Magnificent Seven, even a little steampunk.  Epic.

2017 Trends: Magnificent Western

I tried not to go too literal with it, because I didn’t want people to look at me and think Rodeo.  I didn’t wear jeans or a bandana or fringe – it was more about the feeling that it gave me and the image it gave off to other people.

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The base layer is a black dress that I don’t wear that often, but I should.  It’s my go-to choir concert dress.  It has long sleeves, a hem that hits below the knee, and a collar.  On its own, it ages me.  Combined with a tailored tweed vest and boots, the older-looking elements of the dress become features.  I tied on a scarf to give a little bit of color and pattern and give the idea of a bandana without being that literal.  The leather jacket added another tough element to an already tough ensemble, but the scarf and dress kept it from being armor.  It’s a mix of soft, worn material and tough, worn leather.  The important thing is that it all looks functional and lived-in.

The whole ensemble pleased me.  It turned out better than I thought it would.  This is my favorite style that I tried this week.  If you want to incorporate a few western elements into your fall wardrobe, here are a few things that would look great:

The Warm Fuzzies

It’s all about fleecy-furry-fuzzy things this fall.  I’m always happy to hear that comfy things are in style, because I LOVE COMFY.  I borrowed my sister’s vest for this one, because I actually don’t own much faux fur (or I do, but it hasn’t come out of the winter box yet and I can’t remember it).

This style is fun and meant to be playful.  A faux fur jacket can make an entire outfit look more glam.  If it is bright pink, all the better!  I went with muted tones for this look, but bright faux fur is really popular right now.

SO COMFY.  I want to steal my sister’s vest now.  I should just get my own.

Fuzziness doesn’t always have to be in a vest or a jacket form.  A furry scarf or hat always looks great.  I’ve seen sweaters with faux fur elements (sleeves or panels or collars) and those are super fun.  Here are a few more ways to bring fur into your life:

Textiles and Proportion

This look ticked quite a few trend boxes and it definitely felt a little over the top.  But I’m here to go big or go home.  Here are some of the trends:

Oversized jacket, strong shoulders, belted at the waist.  CHECK.

Velvet.  CHECK.

Plaid / check patterns.  CHECK.

Earthy browns and grays.  CHECK.

This look started with the brown check shirt that I borrowed from a friend.  Plaids and checks are back in a big way.  This is good news for the Pacific Northwest, where plaid is a way of life.  If you don’t own plaid already, be on the lookout for plaid and check material in muted colors and earth tones.  Think 1970s, because that’s another huge trend right now.

Wool and tweed and velvet and fur continue to hold our attention (very luxurious).  Be on the lookout for wool coats and sweaters at thrift stores.  Look in the men’s and women’s section and if you find a coat in a larger size, belt it at the waist to give it some shape and visual interest.  Wide belts are back.  I used to wear wide belts all the time, but I dragged them out and all my wide belts look like they belong to women who run pirate cruises.  Pretty hideous.  TIME TO UPGRADE.  I’m going to invest in a belt this fall.  A grown up belt.

I threw on knee socks and oxfords, because they went with the vibe, but I think it was a mistake.  They kept me warm, so I’ll wear knee socks again, but not with such a busy outfit.

Silver and Fall Florals

Silver is the new metallic in town.  I love metallics.  I have a pair of dull silver oxford shoes that I wear with everything, but I don’t have any silver clothes, so I borrowed a sweater from my sister for this day.  It’s gray with metallic threads running through it, so it’s pretty subtle.

I wear florals all year round anyway, so I’m delighted that floral prints are trending this season.  If you don’t usually wear florals, start small.  Try a scarf or a pair of shoes.  In the fall and winter, I usually stick to prints with darker backgrounds and richer colors.  If I go for a pastel print in the fall, I’ll pair it with brown or navy to give it some depth.

Silver adds a great spark.  Here are some ideas for how to add it in:

And here are some retro floral prints that would look great going into fall:

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Fashion Activism

Fashion is always politically charged, but this year has been pouring out high voltage. Culturally, there have been two collections that defined this year.  When we look back at 2017, I think we’re going to remember Gucci’s spring show and Dior’s statement t-shirt.

2017 Trends: Gucci Eccentricity

 

2017 Trends: Fashion Activism

2017 Trends: Fashion Activism by beetlescarab on Polyvore

Gucci has been having quite the year.  Instead of having separate runway shows for men and women, they had a co-ed show with men and women walking together.  The whole aesthetic was very feminine, including the men’s looks.  There was a persistent butterfly theme that represented transfiguration.  The message was pretty clear – their future is female and men will become more feminine, until they are almost indistinguishable from women.  The worship of women has begun.  Dior’s “We Should All Be Feminists” t-shirt is saying the same thing, but in a more straightforward way.

I tried to mimic the Gucci aesthetic on Friday.  This was the most difficult day, because I fundamentally disagreed with the whole idea they were working with.  It’s like they took all the stereotypical feminine elements of clothes and put them into a blender.  Flowers and butterflies and embroidery and lace and pink and bows and bright colors all over the place.  Some of the pieces are gorgeous, but they are swallowed by the chaos.  This look was hard to pull off, because I didn’t feel like myself.  The outfit felt chaotic and forced.

There are some beautiful elements in Gucci’s style, so it has a strange draw for me (strange being the operative word).  But I don’t want to be drawn in by it.  I’m a woman and I don’t want to be worshiped or put on a pedestal or lifted up as some shining example.  That’s a good way to get a warped perspective or get destroyed.  I don’t want other people forced to be like just like me.  That’s crazy.  I don’t want society to be so scared of masculinity that we remove all trace of it and replace it with femininity.  We need true masculinity and true femininity, which is so far beyond throwing bows and lace and makeup all together.

If you don’t think about fashion, start thinking about it.  What is it saying about you?  What is it saying about the culture you live in?  Don’t write it off as unimportant.  If we keep letting other people dress us, our clothes will keep saying whatever they want to say.  So make sure you understand what they are saying.

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Ashley Tries 30!

I turned 30 this Monday.  I’ve successfully made it from October 1987 to October 2017.  YAY!  It’s good so far.  I like it.

I didn’t have a clothing theme this week – I thought I’d do a list of things I’ve learned, things I’m grateful for, and things I want to do by next October!

1. First of all, I’m grateful for everyone who reads this blog!  I started it in July 2016 and I still get intimidated every time I write a post and send it off into the ether.  You have been such an encouragement to me and I hope I’m an encouragement to you as well!

2.  I learned this a while ago, but it’s been steadily reinforced throughout this past year:  we are our own worst critics.  Most of us don’t have an arch-nemesis whose only goal is to ruin our day in subtle ways.  We don’t outsource that job, because we do it ourselves.  The best plan is just to confess our sins and move on.  Be happy and don’t ruin your own life.  (By the way, I’m really good at ruining my own day.  It’s easy to do.)

3.  I love colors.  Bright colors make life happier.  Dark colors make life richer.  But of all the colors, red is the most important to me.  When I wear red, it is because I decided that I needed some red in my life that day.  It’s intentional and important.  Red lipstick, a red top, a pair of red shoes that I used to wear when I had to speak in public…. What color makes your day?

4.  I’m scared of writing.  I’ve learned that every week for a year now.  I’m scared NOW.  But I also know that being scared isn’t a good reason for doing something good.  So if you know something is good and part of you wants to do it and part of you seizes up in terror just thinking about it, you should probably do it.

5.  I’m grateful to my friends Sara and Lindsey, who have been my photographers in this venture.  We’ve had a lot of two-minute photo shoots since I started my Ashley Tries series and I can’t thank them enough, because I’m bad at face selfies and mirror selfies or any kind of selfies, really….

6.  Over this coming year, I’d love to get better at alterations.  My mom is bringing up my little sewing machine within the month, so I’ll be able to give it a try.  I fully expect to be bad at it, but I want to work on it, because I’ll have to hem trousers all my life.  My legs are super short.

7.  Building on that thought, to the short women of the world – there are ways to work with your proportions.  Even for a short person, my legs are proportionally short.  I have to hem petite trousers.  I sometimes wear capris and just call them ankle jeans.  If you ever have specific questions about what works and what doesn’t, ask away.  Odds are good that I’ve had to deal with the same clothing problems you are having!

8.  If you worry about what people think about what you’re wearing, remember that most people like it when OTHER people make bold fashion decisions.  Whenever I wear a hat, I hear this multiple times during the day – “I love hats!  I can’t wear them, but you look so cute in it!”  There are lots of different kinds of hats.  There’s probably a hat shape that suits you, so give it a try!  (The same principle goes for anything that’s out of your comfort zone.)

9.  It’s easy to make clothes a scapegoat.  If you are unsatisfied with yourself and your life and how you look, clothes will constantly be a problem.  If clothes NEVER work, that’s probably a sign of something deeper.

10.  Building on that last one, it’s hard to be content if you constantly compare yourself to other people and how they look.  We don’t even have to know these people.  Some of them are strangers, walking blithely through the carefully landscaped gardens of Instagram and Pinterest.

11.  Speaking of Pinterest, I don’t like millennial pink.  I’ve arrived at that conclusion and I’m okay with it.

12.  One of my biggest fears is fading into the background and disappearing.  And nobody noticing.  On the flip side, what I want most is to have somebody look at me and really see me.

13.  Smiles are beautiful.  They are like the sunrise.

14.  I want to sing Romeo and Juliet with Mark Knopfler this coming year.  Just want to put that out there.  I don’t know how that would work, but I REALLY WANT TO.

15.  The days when I want to give up are the most important days not to give up on.

16.  My favorite Ashley Tries series was the week that I got to try out fandom dressing with Sara.  That week made me so very happy.  Here are a few highlights!

Princess Leia:

Princess Nausicaa:

Miss Frizzle:

Agent Peggy Carter:

17.  If you are going through a rough time, use it.  Use it as a reminder to encourage others.  Use it to sharpen your mind and focus your walk with the Lord.  Use it as a opportunity to change.  Hard times are when growth happens.

18.  Singing can get me out of a deep blue funk faster than anything else can.

19.  I probably have too many dresses.

20.  In the immediate future, I will consign some of my dresses.

21.  Women are beautiful.  I’m surrounded by beautiful women.  A lot of times, women don’t see how beautiful they are, but I’m here to say, “Ladies, you are gorgeous.  No lie.”

22.  I’ve loved my trips this year!  Mexico in February and France and Switzerland in September.  I love traveling – I always come back a different person than when I left.

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23.  I have never decorated my own house before, but I’m going to be moving into a place of my own soon and I get to DECORATE HOWEVER I WANT.  I’m scared, but also excited!

24.  One of the past year’s goals was to get better at talking to people.  I think it’s kind of working.  It’s a work in progress.  Being awkward is awkward, everybody.  I want to be un-awkward.  So I’m working on it.  Remember, embarrassment is entirely your own reaction to something, so you can choose not to be embarrassed.  In some situations, it’s really hard to decide not to get embarrassed, but it can be done.

25.  I am thinking about dressing up as Static Cling for Halloween.

26.  Keep sending questions – I want to answer all your questions this year!  This especially applies to the ones that you think are strange to ask.  I love random questions.

27.  Sample question:  “Ashley, how might one properly wear food prints?”

28.  Remember not to take clothes too seriously – they’re here to work for you, not the other way around.  You’re the boss of your clothes.

29.  This year, I want to get better at cooking.  And playing an E chord on the ukulele.  And keeping a plant alive.  And having people over to eat popcorn and drink tea and do artwork.  And talking to people (work in progress).  And blogging.  I want to get better at living.

30.  This has been a great year.  I’ve had my rough patches, but overall, it’s been stellar.  Thanks for making it so.  You are all great.

Here’s to the next 30 years!

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Ashley Tries Not Freezing in a Skirt

Every once in a while, I’ll get a question that pushes me to the limits of my outfit creativity.  This week I’ve tried to answer the question, “How can I wear a skirt without freezing to death in the winter?”

It actually wasn’t the best week to try to solve this problem, because (after a few days of very autumnal weather) it warmed up and got pretty toasty in the afternoons.  But I’m dedicated to answering your burning fashion questions, even when I’m burning like a fashion question.  I stuck with all my layered outfits until I got home from work and changed into something else that was less hot.  So without further ado, here are a few creative suggestions for how to keep warm while wearing a skirt!

Statement Tights

Tights and leggings are an obvious solution to coldness, but why stick to black or tan or bland tights?  Brighten up a neutral outfit with some bright tights.  Truth is, I wear this burgundy color so much during the fall and winter that I count burgundy as a neutral color.  It goes great with black, brown, gray, blues, greens, RED, pink….you get the idea.  I also have bright magenta tights and they really bring the party to a neutral outfit.

I wanted to show off the tights by making them the only colorful element in the outfit.  There’s a wonderful description in The Princess and the Hedge-Pig by E. Nesbit.  A king and queen decide to decorate a basement for a secret christening celebration and they must decide how to handle a conspicuous copper drain.  “Now this copper had been a great trial to the decorators.  If there is anything you don’t like about your house, you can either try to conceal it or ‘make a feature of it’.  And as concealment of the copper was impossible, it was decided to ‘make it a feature’ by covering it with green moss and planting a tree in it… It had been very much admired.”  This is also the case with clothes.  Conceal It or Make A Feature Of It.  Tights can easily fade into the background, but if you make a feature of them, fun tights can add a real kick to an outfit.


Another feature of the tights – they showed off the cool cutout detail on my shoes.  My feet are about the same color as the shoes, so they don’t provide enough color contrast to show off how cool the shoes are.  With a burgundy background, those shoes pop.  This outfit felt basic, but cool.  An oversize denim shirt dress, a long cream sweater with a zigzag pattern on the lapel, burgundy tights, and tan shoes.  I also think I wore bird earrings.  It was Monday and that was a long time ago and I’m honestly not sure.  I have a feeling that bird earrings were involved.

Guess what?  Monday Me knew that Saturday Me wouldn’t remember about the bird earrings, so Monday Me took a picture of them!  I know my memory resembles that of a sand flea, so I usually take that into consideration.  I do sometimes think, “Nah – I won’t write it down.  I can’t possibly forget THAT.”  Let me tell you, that never ends well.  Never.

Wear Pants

This one is might seem like cheating, but if you freeze whenever you wear a skirt, go ahead and wear pants.  Tuesday was a day with lots and lots of meetings and communications and businessy business things, so I wanted to feel like a boss.  I found this pantsuit at a thrift store for less than ten dollars, but it is still a suit.  And a suit signals confidence.  There are drawbacks to it – the jacket is oversized and the pants are pleated and high-waisted.  But once I belted the jacket, both those drawbacks faded into the background.  The bright red short-sleeved sweater under it really made it for me.

I got a lot of “nice suit” comments that day, usually accompanied by a huhI wonder what Ashley is doing kind of look.  I work in a tech department, so if a suit is worn, there must be a definite reason for the suit and it invites comment.  This applies equally to guys.  I’m the first to ask one of my coworkers, “WHY ARE YOU WEARING A SUIT?  DID SOMEBODY DIE?”  Just kidding.  But I definitely comment whenever anybody shows up to work in a suit.

The main problem was how hot I got in this suit.  I won’t wear this one again until there is snow on the ground.  I’m serious.  Way too hot.  But oh-so-fun to wear, because I walked tall in that suit.  And the whole oversize thing is very in right now, so I’m kind of on trend with this one.

Boots and Slips


Knee-high boots keep half of your legs warm.  For those of you who hate tights (and I know there are some of you), this is a good option.  I could also have worn a longer skirt, which would have kept the knee region warmer.

While we’re on the subject, not all skirts are created equal.  Some skirts will keep you warmer than others.  Longer lengths help, thicker material helps.  Stating the obvious, a wool skirt that comes down to mid-calf is going to keep you warmer than a linen skirt that hits above the knee.  The fit also changes the warmth.  A skirt that fits at the waistband and then goes out will allow free airflow all up and down your legs.  A straight skirt or a pencil skirt will at least provide a little insulation.

So I had the boots to make half my legs warm and I had a half slip on.  Slips actually help a lot.  Slips are unsung heroes.  They help with static.  And especially with layering, static gets REAL.  If you have on a slip, you don’t have to worry about how your skirt handles daylight.  Slips keep you a little bit warmer and every little bit helps.  If you don’t have a half slip, buy one.  Direct recommendation.

Dress Over Jeans (And A Sweater)


I wanted to revisit the Dress Over Jeans thing, because that was my very first Ashley Tries post.  These are great jeans to wear under dresses, because they are very slim fit – like leggings, but without so much stretch.  They even have a side zipper, so they don’t add bulk under the dress.  The dress is stretchy and flowy, the jeans were fitted and tailored.  A good partnership.

Not one to leave well enough alone, I thought, “What if I also wore a sweater under this dress?”  What was I thinking?  I’m now basically wearing an outfit under an outfit.  I was too busy thinking about other things, I guess.  Like how my birthday is coming up next week.  Or what to eat for breakfast.  Or how I need to clean my room.  Or whether I should brush my hair.  All of those things are flitting through my head at any given moment and occasionally my outfit reflects this lack of focus.

It wasn’t too bad, because it was a thin sweater, but I was overly hot by mid-morning.  Should have seen it coming, but I lose focus for one minute and I’m wearing two outfits at once…. That being said, I would wear a shirt under this dress.  Just not a sweater.  This is another outfit that will come back once there is snow on the ground.

Long Sweater and Boots


I really like these boots.  They remind me of spats and armor and Nausicaa.  They give me some steampunk vibes and I’m a big fan of that whole oeuvre.  The boots kept my calves covered and the long sweater kept my rear warm.  What more could I ask for, really?  Halfway through the day, I took off the sweater and I was in the short-sleeved dress and boots and I still liked the look.

If you wonder whether it’s okay to wear florals in the fall, I say go for it.  I wear my clothes all year round, just with different layers.  If you think of other solutions to this problem, comment with your solutions!  I love hearing from you.  If you have other questions for me to tackle, let me know.  I like having a fresh challenge.  Thanks for reading – I appreciate all of you.

Ashley Tries: Travel and Transfiguration

At the beginning of this month, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to France and Switzerland.  This trip was all about a lovely group of people, delicious food, complex wine, sun-warmed castle walls, cows with bells around their necks (and other scenic wonders), and coming back with a fresh perspective.  I loved it.  It gave me fresh eyes and new courage.

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A lot of people have asked me about packing, because I decided to only take a purse and a carry-on duffel bag.  Kind of an ambitious choice for a 13 day trip, but I made that choice because I didn’t want to worry about collecting bags before going through border security in France.  This was the first time I was traveling out of the country by myself, so I wanted to simplify the traveling process as much as possible.  It really helped – my flight to Paris CDG airport got delayed for about half an hour and my connection (with border security and passport checks and everything) was already pretty tight.  If I had to claim checked baggage from that flight, I probably wouldn’t have made my flight to Marseille.  So a win for packing light!

This is the space I had to work with:

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Not very much room, but that also necessitated packing light.  Nature abhors a vacuum and when I have space to fill, I tend to fill it.  Before I went on the trip, I had a plan to find the perfect duffel bag.

1) It had to fit in an overhead bin.

2) It had to be flexible and squashable.

3) It had to have handles and wheels.  Handles for when I wanted to carry it.  When I travel, I assume lots and lots of stairs.  From past trips, I have learned never to assume there will be elevators!  But I also wanted wheels, so I had the option of NOT carrying it.  Wheels are great for airports.

So I looked on Amazon and got overwhelmed with choices.  Then I went to Ross (just in case there were duffel bags there) and found this pretty little blue-and-white number by Chaps.  I measured it to make sure it would fit in an overhead bin (CHECK), it was squashable (CHECK), it had handles and wheels (DOUBLE CHECK), and it was cute!  Added bonus.  This bag was great.  The print made it easy to spot, because most baggage is black – this bag stood out like a bluebird in the middle of a flock of ravens.

Once I had my bag, I needed to figure out what to put in it.  My packing style is idiosyncratic, so don’t feel like you need to follow my example.  When I pack, I assume everything about the trip will go right.  I don’t have backup plans when it comes to packing.  The way I figure it, if there’s an emergency, I won’t be caring about my clothes anyways.  If worst comes to worst (i.e. I get cold), I’ll buy a jacket while I’m there.  Or I’ll borrow a blanket from the hotel and walk around with that wrapped around me.  It’s a foreign country and I probably don’t need to impress anybody.

I had lists all over my house and they all looked something like this:

  • Passport
  • Underwear
  • PJs
  • Phone Charger
  • 1 or 2 pants?
  • Watercolor Pencils (and the list goes on….)

(Spoiler: I only ended up taking one pants.)

I don’t remember where this came from, but I remembered hearing that rolling clothes saved space, so I decided to take that one further.  Behold, the roll of rolls:

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This is the majority of my packing.  This bundle of joy has two pairs of shorts and five shirts, tied with a scarf so they didn’t come apart and dance around the duffle.  One pair of shorts formed the outer shell and then everything else got rolled up separately and then rolled up into it.  I ended up wearing the scarf as well, so this was an efficient little bundle.  In retrospect, I would have only taken one pair of shorts and I didn’t need ALL those shirts.  3 or 4 would have worked fine.  The nice thing about this system (besides saving space) was knowing exactly where my shirts were when I got there.

I had the Shorts-and-Shirts bundle, the Dresses bundle, and the Pajamas-and-Underwear bundle.  Here’s my lemon dress to demonstrate the bundling:

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It’s a cute form of packing.  And that lemon print just slays me.  I love it so much.

As is my habit, I wore all my bulkiest items on the plane (so they didn’t take up room in the suitcase).  My travel outfit included a black cardigan (the closest I came to packing a jacket), black jeans (my only pants), and black Nike sneakers.  The other shoes I took were metallic lace-up flats and strappy metallic sandals.  I didn’t pack heels, because I didn’t have the room and I didn’t want to wear heels anyways.  I only packed shoes that I knew I could walk well in, because nothing can ruin a trip faster than hurt feet.  These metallic flats got MVP for this trip, because I wore them almost every day and they were comfy the whole time:

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We spent most of the time in Provence and it was glorious.  We stayed in two different Chateaus and this is the view from my first room:

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Happy sigh.  It was harvest season, the sun warmed the stone, and the sun and the stone warmed my spirit.  Most of my ideas about Provence come from pictures on wall calendars.  But guess what?  IT IS JUST AS BEAUTIFUL AS THOSE PICTURES.

 

I can’t list what my favorite was.  It was all my favorite.  It felt like I had somehow stumbled onto the set of Much Ado About Nothing and I got to play Beatrice.  (“Thus goes every one to the world but I, and I am sunburnt”)  I know that the colors are going to stick with me.  Yellow stone, light blue shutters, light green doors, dusty rose walls, orange dirt in the vineyards, dark green trees, white roads, strong blue skies, then all these colors turning sudden gold as the sun goes down and tries to drag all the colors past the horizon with it.  Everything turning white and blue in the moonlight.  The sun hitting my face in the morning.  All of it.

I did buy some clothes while I was over there.

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That pink top is definitely the girliest thing I have ever owned.  Maybe that I’ve ever SEEN.  Bows and lace and pink pink pink.  I bought the panama hat out of necessity, because I needed sun protection, but it also added some adventure to each outfit.  I really enjoyed that hat.  I’ve realized that I love hats, but most of the hat shapes I love are traditionally men’s hat shapes.  I will choose a panama over a floppy brim hat and I will choose a boater over a cloche.  If you don’t think you can wear hats, make sure you try a few different kinds of hats!

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The white lace jacket is a lot of fun.  It was inexpensive and not made to last, but I’m going to wear it a lot.  Here are a couple of ways I’ve styled it already:

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I bought this gray top, which is probably the most typically French thing I bought.  Light gray is very popular during the summertime in France and it has cool little stitching details and an interesting shape.

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Most of the women I saw in France looked put together, but not ostentatious.  They favor light neutrals in the summer (cream, gray, tan, light blue).  A lot of French women wear jeans + neutral top + nice shoes as a daily uniform.  But it really depends on what they are doing – it was harvest season at the vineyards while we there, so everybody was pitching in.  There was one winemaker who was wearing her Spiderman t-shirt and jeans and most of the winemakers were wearing rubber boots, because it was time to work in the vineyards and harvest the grapes.  Clothes always depends on the context – it’s easy to have an idealized image of eternally glamorous French women, but everything depends on what’s going on!

Then I came back home filled with so much joy and energy and inspiration.  I feel beautiful and transfigured, like Sabrina Fairchild.  But most of the transfiguration happened internally.  I don’t look that different, but I feel that different.

I crossed continents and oceans.  I packed everything I needed into a carry-on and a purse.  I stayed in a castle.  I saw swans and flamingos.  I saw cowboys herding bulls and cows try to climb down a cliff face.  I sat and sketched the places I stayed.  I witnessed the beginnings of running jokes.  I ate some of the finest figs and pears and plums I have ever eaten, and my heart melted into a puddle of happy whenever I ate a croissant.

I came home changed.  Changed by traveling, changed by new friends, changed by observing another culture, changed by having to be braver.

If you have the opportunity to take a trip, take it.  It doesn’t have to be big.  Try going somewhere you’ve never been before, even if it just one state away, one county over.  It changes you.  I came back ready to take on new challenges and make big decisions.  After living with roommates for my whole life, I am moving into a little house on my own and I couldn’t be more excited for what happens next.

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Guest Post: Sara Tries Refashioning

Hi, everybody!  This is Ashley and I’d like to introduce this guest post from a good friend.  She refashions thrift store finds into wearable (and pretty) clothes.  I admire her vision and her drive and her ability to take a dumpster fire of a dress and make it look like it came from Anthropologie.  TELL ME ALL YOUR SECRETS, SARA!  So without further ado, welcome Sara to talk about her impressive refashion projects.  [Important Note:  Besides this introduction, Sara wrote this whole post – I just want to make sure to give credit where credit is due.]

I get asked a lot how I refashion clothes.  Where do my ideas come from? Do they just leap into my brain fully-formed? Was I BORN with these skills? The answers, in order, are: through lots of practice, not usually, and absolutely not.

I refashion clothes because I love making things – it’s thrifty, it’s satisfying, and living in a small town being able to thrift shop and change clothes gives me lots more options than our local Ross.  It helps to enjoy and have an eye for clothes, but I honestly believe that learning how to refashion clothes is like anything else.  It can be learned and people who do it with any skill have practiced and trained their eye.  The purpose of this post is to give you a jump start.  Here (in order) are the questions that I’ve learned to ask when I’m shopping for clothes to refashion.

1. Do I like this Fabric?

When refashioning clothes you have the ability to change almost anything about a garment.  One of the few things you can’t do much about is the fabric.  If the print is ugly or the fabric is pilly and stained, you’re out of luck.  On the other hand, keep an open mind.  A fabric that might look very dated because of the cut or shape of the garment might be modern and beautiful in a different style or silhouette.  Find a garment with a fabric that you like the look and feel of.  Once you’re there ask yourself the practical questions.  Will I able to work with this fabric?  Will it wash well? I occasionally find dresses made with beautiful silk, but I know that I don’t have the skill or patience to work with a fabric that slippery and delicate.  Find good workable cottons and jerseys, especially as you’re starting out.  Make sure it’s fabric that you can iron so the seams will look crisp and professional.

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2. Do I have enough to work with?

This one is simple.  It’s always easier to work with a dress that’s too big than to try to eke fabric out of a dress that’s too small.  The more fabric you have to work with the more options you have. I have broken this rule, but only if there’s enough fabric in another part of the dress (e.g. it’s a maxi dress, so I make it knee-length and use the extra skirt fabric).  Some people might go out and buy other coordinating fabrics to add to the dress, I generally don’t do this for a number of reasons:

1) I am too lazy.

2) Finding fabrics that work with the color, weight, drape, shape, and feel of the dress is difficult.  It’s always better if you can just work with what you have.

3) I don’t want to spend more money on something that might not work out.

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3. What’s making this dated?

This question is the one that helps me see potential in clothes the most.  A lot of people get hung up one what a garment looks like now.  I grab a dress and the friend I’m shopping with pulls a face because it just looks soooooo 80s and not in a good way.  Yes, but the reason it looks so 80s is because it has shoulder pads, a bodice that’s too boxy, and a v-shaped waistband.  Fix those things, and you’ve got a totally modern dress. Start asking why a garment looks outdated and you’re well on your way to knowing the if  and how to fix it.

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4. Is it okay if I totally destroy this?

Here’s the truth about refashioning: sometimes it will not work out.  Sometimes you will make a cut in the wrong place or you’ll realize that you didn’t have enough fabric to work with, or that ambitious dye job just did not work out.  This is okay if it’s a dress you found at Goodwill for $5.  If it’s a gorgeous hand-embroidered dress you bought at Anthropologie for $250 that’s never fit quite right, find a tailor.  It’s worth it.  Make sure that you’ll be okay if it doesn’t work out.

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5.  Can I handle this?

Start small. Know your limits.  If you don’t know how to sew and don’t have a sewing machine, you too can refashion! Find a skirt that would be super cute if only it were knee-length and hem it by hand, or grab a dress that has crazy shoulder pads and snip them out. Small things make big differences. The internet is your friend.  There are so many tutorials, tips, and tricks available.  If you’re more advanced and have made dresses from patterns and have a sewing machine, the breadth of what you are going to be able to do is much wider.  Whatever skill level you’re at, start with something you think you can pull off.  The sense of accomplishment and confidence you’ll gain from a finished project will give you the push you need to keep going and keep trying harder things.  I started small, and continue to push myself to try new thing and learn new skills. Now go make ugly things awesome!

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Ashley Plans to Go Adventuring

The air has gotten cooler and clearer.  The sunshine is no longer oppressive.  The sky has darkened slightly.  Summer is scootching over and making room for autumn.

I love Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows always, but certain chapters stick out to me at different times.  The chapter for this time of year is called “Wayfarers All”, when all the birds are getting ready to migrate for the winter.  This is the beginning:  “The Water Rat was restless, and he did not exactly know why.  To all appearances the summer’s pomp was still at fullest height, and rowans were reddening, and the woods were dashed here and there with a tawny fierceness, yet light and warmth and colour were still present in undiminished measure, clean of any chilly premonition of the passing year.  But the constant chorus of the orchards and hedges had shrunk to a casual evensong from a few yet unwearied performers; the robin was beginning to assert himself once more; and there was a feeling in the air of change and departure.”

That’s it.  Nothing looks very different, but everything feels different.  Summer is beautiful, but summer doesn’t make me want to run away and explore and change and have adventures.  To use another Wind in the Willows quote, autumn fills me with a “spirit of divine discontent” and that’s where I am right now.  Ready to drop everything and run away.

Monday

This week started with an eclipse – how amazing is THAT?  I didn’t experience the total eclipse, but the moon covered around 94% of the sun.  The light dimmed darker and darker and the air went cold and the ambient noise died down.  I don’t pay attention to the tiny insect clicks and bird coughs until they stop.  It moved me.  Our planet relies on a fireball that is 93,000,000 miles away.  We are so fragile, yet so self-important.  That’s what I loved about the eclipse.  We aren’t awestruck as often as we should be.  It’s good to feel very small and very finite.  Pride does not become us.  Humility makes mankind more beautiful.

That being said, I don’t think this is a very successful outfit.  But I enjoyed the sequins on the shirt, because I’m like a magpie.  I like shiny things.  The cardigan and oxford shoes made me feel like a character in a steampunk adventure.  Am I a drama queen?  Maybe a tad…

Monday Night

I spent that evening with friends.  We sat on top of a dry hill, surrounded by insect hums and dry grass cracklings.  The sun went down and sucked all the color towards itself, until it sputtered on the skyline like a barely functional neon sign.  The air smelled like change and movement.  The neon sun eventually went out entirely and the colors dispersed.  Stars pricked through the fabric of the sky.  Quietness and an open sky are good for me.  It’s easy to lose perspective and get caught up in my tiny comings and goings and my own story.

Tuesday

I like this outfit.  These pants are simple black jeans, but some kind designer added a tuxedo stripe to the side.  That makes them so much cooler.  They’re like dressy Han Solo pants now.  Black ballet flats and a tweedy top layered over a longer black t-shirt.  It looked dressy without trying too hard.

Since I’ve been in Change Everything mode, I made a haircut appointment.  I love haircuts.  I’ve never had a haircut I didn’t like.  It’s possible that OTHER people didn’t like them, but I liked all of them….

I like to feel cute BEFORE I get the haircut (makeup done, a good outfit, etc.), because that really makes the haircut look even better.  I never want to leave the salon still feeling like the Before in a Before and After comparison in an advertisement.  I want to look like the After picture.

Have you noticed how EVERYTHING changes in the After picture?  There’s always the thing the ad wants to highlight (usually dramatic weight loss), but the Before picture is taken in the least flattering clothes and the least flattering light, from the absolute worst angle.  The After picture has the same woman at a great angle, immaculate hair and makeup and a killer outfit, standing in the glow of perfect lighting.  It’s usually because we want everything to change when we change one thing about ourselves.  Sometimes we want a change, but we have remember that one change doesn’t change everything.  This isn’t Roman Holiday.  But haircuts are lovely.  I highly recommend them.

Wednesday

This is the happy smile of a woman with a new haircut.  New hair is the ultimate accessory.  Especially for a woman who struggles to remember to wear earrings.

I love the day after a haircut – my hair still smells amazing, because of the magic potions that the hairstylist puts on my hairs.  It also still has a little bit of styling left, so I don’t even brush it.

Jean and a t-shirt and metallic shoes.  No need to complicate things.


Thursday

I wanted to see how the hair reacted to air-drying.  The results pleased me – it has a lot of personality and movement.

This outfit is very-much-so Me.  It’s kooky, but still practical.  It’s a mix of a little old lady and little kid.  Really bright, but grounded with neutrals.  It’s an outfit that doesn’t really care about what other people think.  Who doesn’t love a Hawaiian shirt?

Friday

This is my favorite outfit from this week.  I think of it as genteel rock and roll, like those rock songs with random flute, cello, or harpsichord solos in the middle.  Wild Thing comes to mind, as does Stairway to Heaven.

Pattern mixing, skinny jeans, some happy messiness to the hair – that’s all this takes.

I’m off on an adventure next week, because I’m flying to Provence!  I may post next week, but I’ll be gone for a while.  Don’t worry – I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.  See you later, folks!  I’m in the mood to fly away.

 

Guest Post: Mommy Style!

I put together a few mommy style boards together for this post – if you see anything you like, click on the link and it will take you to my Polyvore sets.
I’m very excited about this blog post, because since I started my blog, these have been my top three questions:
  • What should I wear when I’m nursing a baby?
  • I just had a baby and my body has changed – how do I dress this new postpartum body?
  • How do I dress for my job when my full time job is being a mom?

Since I’ve never had a baby, I don’t feel qualified to answer the first two.  The last question I will address later on in the post.  There are clothing principles that apply to every role we have through our lives (student, employee, parent, entrepreneur, leader, follower) and I can handle the principles of clothing fairly well.  I try to keep my blog fairly principle-based, so whoever reads it can apply the ideas to their own clothes.

Honest confession – sometimes it is hard to handle mom-specific questions as a single woman.  If the question comes at an emotional moment, it is easy to hear the question as a subtle rebuke (i.e. Fashion is easy for you, because you don’t have to worry about nursing / a constantly changing body / children) or it can feel like a defense or explanation disguised as a question (i.e. I exclusively wear leggings and t-shirts, because I’m chasing kids all the time and you don’t understand that, because you have an office job and don’t have to chase kids around all day).  I’ll admit that every time I get a question that I can’t really answer, I feel insufficient and stupid.  BUT I KNOW IT IS JUST IN MY HEAD.

Truth is, I sometimes envy moms, because I’d love to have a husband and kids.  But I can still want a family without envying the women who already have them.  So whenever I start imagining that moms are judging me and my “easy” single life, I need to stop it.  Even if moms do think that my life is easy, I can’t control what they think – my attitude is the only thing I can control.  Envy is never the answer.  Envy makes everybody miserable.  If you give envy any opportunities, you open the door to bitterness.  I love you, moms.  And I’m in awe of you.  All the time.  So this one is for you.

If you have ever asked me a question about how to dress when you’re nursing or about post-baby dressing and I didn’t answer you, I was too intimidated.  I never feel like I have the ethos to answer those questions.  So I brought in two women with all the ethos.  They are my sisters and between the two of them, they have seven children under the age of seven.  Laura has four children (her oldest is 7, her youngest is 2 1/2 months) and Steph has a 4-year-old and 2-year-old twins.   We had a great conversation last week and here is an incomplete and stream-of-consciousness record of that conversation, divided up into categories.  I’m pretty slow at taking notes, so some of these things are either from Steph or Laura, but I can’t remember which.


They are pretty beautiful.  

On Nursing and Clothes:

Steph:  Nursing twins is like its own THING, though. Nursing camisoles. That’s all I wore.  But I also didn’t leave the house for a while.  Nursing twins makes you REALLY feel like a fertility goddess. And now they feed themselves! It’s a miracle!

Laura:  [she was actually nursing while we had our conversation, which felt very appropriate]  …still nursing my fourth. He’s little and cute and I can’t say no! My other kids say, “Can he have crackers? No! He can just have milk, milk, and milk!”

Laura & Steph:  NURSING CAMISOLES.  You must have nursing camisoles.

Steph: Nursing bra, with a nursing camisole over it, and with a cardigan over that.  Extra layers are helpful. You can pull up the shirt and pull down the nursing cami and not show all of your back or all of your midriff.  Target has a great selection of maternity and nursing-friendly clothes.

Laura:  Don’t wear side-zip dresses.  Besides completely disrobing, there’s no way to nurse in a size-zip dress.  If you really want to wear a sheath or shift dress, get one with a full length zipper in the back.

General nursing clothes advice:

Wrap dresses plus nursing camisoles work really well for the period where you change sizes quickly, because wrap dresses are made to be adjustable.

Go for swing tops that fit at the shoulders, then give plenty of room at the waist.

If you do button-up tops or shirt dresses, you might have to size up to keep them from gapping egregiously, but you can always wear a button-up shirt open over your nursing camisole if it doesn’t fit quite right yet.

Remember that kids get bored and they will unsnap all your snaps and unzip all the zippers and play with all the buttons, so take that into consideration.

On Dressing a Postpartum Body:

Laura:  I think it gets easier after the first baby, because your body changes irrevocably after the first one….but it’s physically and emotionally hard every time.

Steph: With my first, a couple of months afterwards, I could fit back into my pants. But after the twins, it’s been a year to two years before I can fit back into clothes – I’m still not fitting into some things.

Laura: At some point you have to make the decision – I’m tired of my clothes not fitting.  I’m getting NEW CLOTHES.  For a year or two after you have kids, you can be in the position of having tons of clothes and NOTHING that fits.

Steph:  I had to tell myself, “I may never be the same size as I was in college and that’s OK.”  BUT I USED TO BE SKINNY AND NOW I’M NOT.  Hormones don’t help those emotions either.  While there’s a baby in your tummy, there’s a reason for the roundness and now it’s out and you can grab two handfuls of your own stomach.

Laura: Even if you COULD get back into those clothes, they’re out of date now.  The hard thing is that you’re learning to dress a completely different body and you want to dress your OLD body.

General thoughts on post-childbirth dressing:

If you want to spruce up your wardrobe, choose things that are stretchy and versatile.  Your size is changing a lot, so this isn’t the best time to invest in tailored pieces.

Shop for outfits, because it can get frustrating if you have a top that fits, but no pants.  Shop for the size you are, not the size you want to be.  A couple of good outfits can get you through a period of transition.  A pair of pants, a skirt with a stretchy waistband, and three tops – that’s a solid little wardrobe right there.

When you have multiple kids, keeping your clothes clean is almost impossible.  Go for washable fabrics.  [Laura:  When I drop food, it usually falls on the baby.  Baby napkin.]

Kids are more important than clothes.  [Steph:  If my kid spits up on my dress and I get upset, it’s not a kid issue, it’s a heart issue.]

When you go shopping, hire a babysitter or ask your mom or your husband to watch the kids.  It will make the process go much quicker and you can focus on finding clothes.

Both Laura and Steph:  I like having some kind of pattern on my shirt – a plain t-shirt shows all the bra deficiencies and any rolls you have.

Choose tops that have an interesting pattern or texture.  Draping is nice.  Thicker materials are great.

If leggings or yoga pants or athletic shorts are your favorites, wear them! Cute, active “I’m getting things done” clothes can be helpful. If you wear them out of the house, put on a cute top or little dress over the top and then you’ll feel put together.

You can change habits and setting goals can really help with that.  It can be helpful to make a goal to get dressed before your husband leaves the house, so you feel ready for the day.

You can be content where you are, while hoping to go somewhere else.

Remember, you are pouring out your body for other people.  (When you’re nursing, you’re LITERALLY pouring yourself out.)

Be realistic about sizing.  Don’t buy things in the size you want, buy things in the size you are.  If you really want to change sizes, invest in a couple of outfits for now and start working hard towards your future size.

On Motherhood as a Job:

Being a mom is a full time job.  It’s important and difficult and beyond full time.  So it isn’t accurate to say that moms don’t have to dress for a job, but how should moms dress for their job?  Laura and Steph requested that I bring back the four questions for intentional dressing that I wrote for my first blog post.  If you answer these questions, you can start understanding your role and how your clothes will support you in that role.

  • What time is it? [examples:  Daytime / Evening / August / December]
  • Where am I? [examples:  Home / Work / School / Vacation / Jury Duty]
  • Who do I need to respect? [examples:  Kids / Coworkers / Parents / Spouse / Bride]
  • What are my responsibilities? [examples: Playing Duck-Duck-Goose / Computer Programming / Taking Blood Pressure / Teaching Classes]

Once you answer all those questions, answer the last question.  It’s still important, but it rests on all the other questions.  Ready for the last question?

  • DO I LIKE THESE CLOTHES?

Answer those five questions and you’ll be all right.  And if you have trouble working through stuff, I’m here.  Ask away.  I might bring in outside expertise, but I’m here.