Ashley Tries Nerd

This week, I tried nerd style.  There were few reasons I wanted to give it a go.  1)  I wanted a contrast from the fiercer styles I tried last week.  2)  A friend said, “You know what would be hilarious?  If you did nerd style!”  (…challenge accepted…)  3)  Got some new glasses and wanted to try them out!  4)  I’m a nerd already, so why not?

Why does the world malign the fashion sense of the nerds, the geeks, the dweebs?  Is it because nerds (by the definitions set for us by movies and TV shows) are outsiders and can’t shape the mainstream?  Is it because nerds have a reputation for not caring about their clothes and prefer to spend their mental energy on other things?  I think all those thoughts are pretty funny, especially since I’m a nerd about clothes and costumes and fashion history and OH MY GOSH IT’S SO COOL CAN I TELL YOU ABOUT IT.  Is there something you love so much that you can’t be cool about it?  Is there anything you geek out about?  I think being a nerd is a combination of being unable to keep your enthusiasm to yourself (plus some social awkwardness sprinkled on top of that enthusiasm).  Being a nerd doesn’t mean that you don’t care about clothes!

Outfit 1:  The Mom Homage

I wanted to do a throwback to early high school, when I basically dressed like a mom.  High-waisted jeans?  Check.  Tucking the t-shirt into those jeans?  Check.  A braided belt to tie the whole look together?  Check.  Glasses?  Heck yes.  I’ve been wearing glasses or contacts since early childhood.  I even had an eye patch that I had to wear to help with my amblyopia, a muscle weakness in my left eye that caused it to drift.  The eye patches definitely helped – I don’t have a lazy eye at all now – now I’m just near-sighted (and I don’t have depth perception).  All that to say, glasses have never been a voluntary fashion accessory thing for me – they are very much functional and necessary.

15-year-old Ashley was definitely a nerd, but definitely happy and blissfully unaware about most things (especially pop culture).  I wasn’t trying to look like anybody in particular.  Trying to recreate that look, I realized the main difference is that my clothes FIT now.  If I wear something oversized, it’s designed to be oversized.  All my shirts used to be huge.  And I know I didn’t wear the correct jean size, because I remember having a WHOA HOLD ON WHAT IS HAPPENING moment when I tried on my first pair of jeans that actually fit.

Thinking back, my clothes showed that I wasn’t too concerned what people thought about me.  Still not very concerned.  I have a fondness for that little nerd with the oversized shirts, who checked all the fashion history books out of the library, who put on plays in the backyard, who didn’t worry about much at all…. This outfit reminded me that it’s all right to not being wearing the most flattering thing all the time.  You don’t have to wear your best look every day.  What you do always trumps what you wear.  Personality and confidence and enthusiasm will carry an outfit, but I needed a LOT of confidence to carry off the printed mom jeans + tucked-in tee + braided belt + cardigan vest + glasses.

Outfit 2:  Japanese Inspired

Nerd style has a ton of different subcultures.  When you don’t fit in with mainstream fashion, sometimes you just run off and try on different subcultures until you find one that you like.  Nerds are observers and researchers – if we find something we love, we try to find out all about it.  In this regard, nerdy fashion can be some of the most out-there, risk-taking, distinctive fashion you will ever see.  It is fashion based on an entirely different frame of reference.

I picked a style inspired by Japanese animation – cute, but also a little strange and kooky.  The outfit was pretty straightforward, because I just wanted things that were little and cute.  Cute little skirt.  Cute little top.  Flats, because cute little skirts work better with short legs…..  I kept the outfit fairly simple, because the hair was going to be the star of this show.  I’ve been wanting to revisit the two-little-buns-on-top-of-the-head look, but I wasn’t sure how it would end up looking and how if they would stay up all day.  I shouldn’t have worried – it was a blast.  I loved it and the Sailor Moon buns will probably be coming back around again, because they were so darn fun.

Outfit 3:  A Little Retro/Bookish

This is the kind of outfit that I would wear anyway – it’s a bit retro, a bit librarian, a bit scholarly looking.  Especially with the glasses.

This is my brand of nerdity.  My job involves researching and trying to organize messy information into meaningful systems.  I love precision.  My dream job is Archivist.  I sometimes get sad thinking about the Library of Alexandria burning down and it burned down thousands of years ago.  Give me a pair of oxford shoes and a tie-neck shirt and I’m a happy woman.

Outfit 4:  The Weird

Sometimes I find clothes and I think, “This is so weird.  I love it.”  This skirt is super strange.  It has a slanty inside-out pocket on the front, a tag in the front, the length is all over the place, and this beautifully random pocket in the middle of the back:

I chose most of this outfit based on the It’s Weird I Love It principle.  The cardigan is a weird yellow green color that is unlikely and awesome.  The shirt has a contrasting front and back – it’s like two different shirts in one.

I feel like it’s nerdy to enjoy weirdness.  I stick to conventional clothing for the most part, but some pieces stand out to me, because they don’t look normal.  Every once in a while, I like to go a little past the edge of normality.

Day 5:  Star Wars!

This week was the 40th anniversary of Star Wars coming out.  Wahooo!

I wanted to end this Try with a nod to the geekiness that can’t keep its enthusiasm to itself.  Literally wearing your heart on your sleeve.  I don’t usually wear shirts that have writing on them, but it is the easiest way to show you like something.  What we like defines us.  One thing I love about nerds – nerds don’t pretend to like things in order to look cool.  They already know they aren’t cool.  It is freeing.

Go ahead.  Geek out a little.

To continue the party, I have a special Ashley Tries next week – fandom dressing!  I’m going to be joining forces with my friend Sara to create outfits that reference our favorite fictional characters.  We’re going to be Tandem Fandoming it next week and it’s going to be so much fun!


Ashley Tries Fierceness

When you skirt around the edges of the fashion world like I do, it is good to have a contrarian streak.  Fashion People are really good at telling you what you’re supposed to wear.  Some of their pitches are more convincing than others – I personally don’t think they are succeeding with the “culottes are the best” trend that they trying to push right now, but they’re really going for it.  My first reaction to most things is an immediate NO, followed by a grudging I’ll Think About It (if it is really something I should think about).  Anyway, the point is this:  as a 29-year-old single woman who works in a male-dominated field, there are assumptions and suggestions and outright commands that the fashion industry feeds me all the time.  I am supposed to be asserting myself, being (hashtag) Fierce, commanding attention, being unafraid of my own sexiness (like Beyoncé), and generally being (hashtag) Like A Boss.  That’s a whole lot for a woman to impose on a woman who just wants to do good work and get along with people.


Day 1:  Punchy Professional

I started off the day with a pretty simple outfit – professional, but with some eye-catching color.  Red isn’t easily ignored – definitely not a color that you wear if you want to be ignored.  The high heels also helped with making my presence known.  Those heels make me look people in the eye that I’m not usually at eye-level with.  They are also loud.  I prefer flats, so I can run silent and run deep, like a submarine.

The most time-consuming part of this week was the hair and makeup, because I think that an aspect of fierceness is looking like you are in control and exercising an intimidating amount of control over your own look – like Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.  So I put on more makeup than I usually do and tried to look flawless and sharp and defined.  I don’t know how to do makeup, so my execution let me down a bit, but effort counts, right?  Doing hair is even more problematic than putting on makeup.  In the end, I straightened my hair, because straightening isn’t too hard.  It definitely gave me some mean girl in an early 2000s high school movie vibes.  But I guess that works, because who is in more control of her image and appearance than an apparently flawless high school mean girl?

The good thing about this ensemble is that it helped jump-start my Monday morning.  It felt business-like and kind of powerful.  Ready to go, ready to dive in.  The extra time spent getting ready also translated into being a little more awake by the time I got to work and I looked even more awake than I felt.  The overall outfit didn’t look that different to other people, except that people complimented me on my makeup, but it felt very different to me, because it was more calculated and more controlled than my usual look.

Day 2:  Bigger and Wider

Another aspect of fierceness that I’m fascinated by is fierceness as a defense mechanism.  It’s like moths – not the ones who blend in to protect themselves, but the ones whose patterns mimic eyes, so birds think it is a larger animal and stay away.  I felt a little like those moths this week.  I shall make myself taller.  I shall make myself appear confident.  Do I look like I have all the answers?  Because I really don’t, but maybe if I look like I do, people will assume that I know all the right things to say.  Even if I look fierce, I don’t feel that fierce, but the high heels definitely make me feel more confident.  I think it mostly has to do with the improved posture and the additional height that comes from the improved posture, plus however many extra inches the heels give me.

I pulled out my wide-leg black pants for this outfit, because they look so businessy that I usually don’t wear them.  I work in an informal office, so I sometimes shy away from really professional clothes.  A suit definitely isn’t on my list of clothes that I should own.  So after beginning with the wide-leg trousers, I added a horizontal stripe shirt and a slightly oversized white moto jacket.  Basically all the things that make you appear bigger.  It was an overwhelming outfit, but I wanted to make it work.  First thing I did was tuck in the shirt (something I don’t like doing) and wore a skinny black belt.  That lessened the stripe factor and made my legs look longer, because the trousers hit slightly lower than my natural waist.  The pink high heels were multi-taskers for making this outfit work – they continued the long legs illusion and added some color to an otherwise neutral look.

It was raining that day and I knew that my hair wouldn’t stay straight, so I curled it and tried to make it big.  I love big hair.  I just don’t know quite how to make my hair look big or how to make it stay big.  My hunch is that it would involve hairspray, which always seems like a big deal to me.  Hairspray reminds me of ballet recitals and plays, not real life.  Red lipstick also reminds me of recitals and plays, but I’m trying it more in real life these days.  The pink shoes were providing some color, but they weren’t near my face, so I added some red lipstick.  ALL THE THINGS.

I enjoyed this outfit.  Since it was neutral, the drama came from the volume and the proportions.  The outfit that doesn’t seem like it should work and then unexpectedly works is a happy thing.  I live for tiny victories.

Day 3:  Drama on Drama

I was given this dress and I LOVE IT.  It gives a nod to the 1940s with the fit and flare silhouette and the sleeve length.  It reminds me of Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday – she’s a force of nature, speaks more words in one minute than most people can speak in 15, and stands up to anyone and everyone.

Usually I’d dress down something this bold and pair it with a jean jacket or a navy cardigan, maybe wear flats with it.  But dressing things down wasn’t part of this week’s agenda, so I wore this red cardigan with it.  I don’t think this was my most successful outfit this week.  A little too Hildy Goes Fox Hunting or something, but great fun.

One thing that felt strange about dressing fiercely was the timing, because my family was in town this week and I was happily surrounded by nieces and nephews.  My heart melts around babies and I just go into Auntie Ashley mode, which usually involves monster voices and this kind of thing:

It’s hard to be intimidating with such a furry hat on and it feels funny to wear nice clothes and then be wandering around in the fuzzy ear hat.  Fierceness is about having some hard edges and when I’m around my family, I don’t have them.  A baby smiles at me and I melt into a puddle.  Hard on the outside and soft on the inside – the clothing becomes unnecessary armor.

It’s a similar situation with work.  I don’t have to compete.  I know what I’m good at and what I’m not good at.  I don’t have to defend myself and I don’t work with jerks.  I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not.  I trust the people I work with and they trust me.  I don’t need armor there either.

Day 4:  Time to Rock and Roll

After a few days of drama, I wanted to take it down a notch.  There were a lot of different plans on Thursday and since I was going to be going from place to place, I just wanted something simple.  Truth be told, I love a little rock and roll in an outfit.  If I had a band t-shirt, this would be the kind of styling I would do – skinny jeans, boots, jacket.  I love this jacket, because it has structure through the shoulders and has the classic tilted moto zippers going on, but it’s also super soft and drapey.  The combination doesn’t scream rock and roll, but all together, it just feels cool.

I wore more eyeliner than usual and straightened my hair again.  That also felt cool.  It wasn’t a ton of eyeliner, it was just more than I’m used to.  (Story of this week:  I felt different, but didn’t LOOK all that different.  A possible moral is that I should probably do my hair more.)

Day 5:  Is this like Beyoncé?

The last day, I opened up my closet and thought, “What would Beyoncé pick out of this closet?”  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think of Fierce and Beyoncé as fairly synonymous.  Whatever she wears is hailed as the New Fierce Thing.  It’s hard to keep up, because her styling changes constantly, but the two common factors are Sexiness and Drama.

It’s not that I can’t do the sexiness one, but I’d probably get an email from the human resources department and my baby nieces would be very confused.  So I went for the drama option – something that is a lot of look and needs attitude to pull off.  I have this tiered maxi dress with a beautiful and tons of volume.  I own it, but I’m a little scared of it, just because it’s big.  But Friday is go big or go home day, so it had to be that dress.  To cover up the spaghetti straps and make it more work friendly, I layered and knotted a black t-shirt over it.

High ponytail, black eyeliner, light lips.  Still more makeup than I’m used to, but not enough to worry other people.

This week was a lot of work.  It felt labor intensive, because I for the most part, I don’t worry about looking like I’m in control or looking perfect.  Defensive dressing is putting on armor, but wearing unnecessary armor just weighs you down.  I’m confident without it.  I don’t need to force fierce.  I don’t need to make people respect me, because I’m already respected.  I thank God for that, because I know that isn’t always the case.  So all the single ladies (all the single ladies), you don’t have to be fierce if you don’t want to be.  It’s okay to just do good work and get along with people.  Hashtag LikeANormalPerson.

What I’ve learned from my mom

I love my mom.  She is visiting this week and Mother’s Day is tomorrow, so I thought this was a good time to talk about a few things she has taught me on the subjects of clothes and beauty and generally keeping oneself presentable.

Thinking back to tiny childhood, the first gift she gave me was not worrying.  I played in the dirt all the time and I never worried about my clothes and I knew mom didn’t worry either.  When I say I played in the dirt, I don’t mean drawing on the ground with a stick, but still staying fairly clean.  One of my my favorite pastimes was smearing things in mud (my tricycle, the family dog, my sister, myself, anything handy really….).  If/when necessary, my mom hosed me off before I came in the house, but I never had to worry about keeping my play clothes nice.  It translates to a peaceful easy feeling about clothes.  That is a gift that I take for granted, but one that I love so much!

When I wasn’t outside smearing my face with the Dirt of a Hundred Gopher Holes, mom let me play dress up and draw dresses and choose my own clothes a lot of the time.  We also watched a ton of black and white movies growing up.     I think that is where my fashion love comes from – dress ups and old movies.  By the time I got to high school, some of my outfits were pretty strange looking, but mom let me try things and let me fail sometimes.  She gave me freedom to get messy and to figure things out, but she was there for advice when I needed her.

But rules and being allowed to do this or that are only a fraction of what you learn from your mom.  Rules are a tiny part – they are easily overwhelmed by learning through what your mom says and does and how she acts toward people and what she loves.

My mom doesn’t give up comfort or function in her clothes.  She chooses practical clothes in happy colors and never wears anything itchy or constricting.  Since she feels comfortable, she looks comfortable.  She likes clothes, but she mainly likes being able to forget them and get on to what she’s doing.

Simplicity can be very beautiful.  Don’t hide behind artifice.  Mom always looks genuine – she doesn’t change faces when she puts on makeup.  Her beauty is her own and it is linked directly to her kindness.  Kindness is beautiful.  My mom’s smile is like solar power – a powerful sunshine magic that warms you up inside.  My mom gives herself away through those smiles and she gives so herself so freely and sincerely.

My mom rejoices in what makes other people beautiful.  Do you ever look at a friend and see something beautiful about them and sigh inwardly, because it doesn’t belong to you?  It’s pretty instinctive for most of us.  My mom doesn’t do that.  I think it is one of the most beautiful things about her.  My mom is really competitive, but it is the healthy kind of competition that makes every game more fun.  It’s never about having better hair or better makeup or better clothes than somebody else.  Her competitive spirit isn’t tinged with envy.  It doesn’t involve one-upmanship.  She builds people up and focuses on their strengths, even when they aren’t the same as her strengths.

I’m so blessed by my mom.  If you haven’t met her, I’m sorry.  If you do meet her, you’ll understand all this.

Thank you, mom.  This one’s for you.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Ashley Tries: Pattern Mixing

This week, I tried out pattern mixing.  I didn’t think that putting together outfits would be too difficult this week, because I have a lot of prints in my closet.  The funny thing is that only have print in certain kinds of clothes – tops and dresses.  I don’t tend to go for pattern for skirts or trousers.  That being said, there are ways to get creative and mix things up, no matter what you have!

Outfit 1:  Subtle Pattern + Bold Print

You may be thinking, “Um, that top doesn’t have a pattern…”  Here’s a closer look:

See?  The top’s not a solid color – it’s got that tiny gray stripe going on.  This is a good baby steps version of pattern mixing for anybody who gets a little intimidated by the idea.  I went for this skirt, because it has a print (yay!).  It’s also a skirt I don’t wear all that often, because most of my tops have a print or a pattern, so it’s harder to make it work in an outfit.  Once the skirt was established, it determined the color scheme.  It was Monday, so I didn’t want an intense outfit – I wanted something pretty chill and simple.

Keeping to a color scheme can help unify a look – pattern mixing doesn’t haven’t to look super busy.  It was also nice to have a long blue cardigan to pull the outfit together, but even without the cardigan, the top/skirt combo works.

It was nice to start off the week with something subtle, because the success gave me something to build on.  Like they say – don’t despise the day of small beginnings.

Outfit 2:  Stripe + Abstract Print

I went bolder on the second day, because print dresses are definitely my comfort zone.  For this outfit, the stripes take on the role of a neutral and the more abstract print takes center stage.  Usually when mixing patterns, choose one dominant pattern and one supporting pattern.  The dominant print will usually be more eye-catching – usually it’s more artistic or more brightly colored or just larger than the other print.  The supporting pattern will be something simple for the eye to process – stripes, dots, checks, etc.

This dress is a great mix, because it has cool bold pattern, but in a subdued color palette.  Blue, white, and black all function as neutrals, so it’s easy to throw any kind of jacket or sweater over this dress.  By matching part of the dress’s color scheme, the stripes don’t take away from the print.

Outfit 3:  Floral + Leopard

I found this happy dress for a steal, and I was so excited about that I wanted to wear it immediately.  The day was pretty warm, so I decided to pattern mix with an accessory, not layers.  Pattern mixing doesn’t have to be purely a cold weather sport.  Here’s a close up on the belt/dress combo:

Leopard is a fun print to use for the supporting role, because it is simple, repetitive, and combines two neutrals.  Animal prints can be hard workers for your closet.  Stripes are usually my go-to neutral print, but leopard is running a close second right now!

For the summer, accessories are a great way to add visual interest to your outfit without dying of heat stroke.  You don’t have to sacrifice comfort for fashion.  Have a striped shirt?  Add a denim skirt and floral shoes.  Have floral jeans?  Throw on a polka dot tank top.  You can be creative with fewer pieces.  Keep cool.  Enjoy summer in style.

Outfit 4:  Dots + Florals

This is my new favorite dress – simple enough to throw on without thinking, but with enough detail to stand alone, without needing accessories to make it interesting.  For those sunny days that start out chilly, add a floral scarf.  Once you don’t need the extra warmth, tie the scarf on your purse strap.  It’ll still add color to your outfit and then your outfit will just be simple, like this:

Man, I’m going to wear this dress so much this summer.  I know it’s already arrived for my California and Texas friends, but in Idaho, summer takes on a legendary quality.  SUMMER IS COMING AND IT WILL BE BEAUTIFUL.  And this dress will become a part of the legend.

Outfit 5:  Dots + Florals

After a couple days of using accessories for pattern-mixing, I felt like it was time to go big.  Since I quickly ran out of print skirts, this is a floral dress with a print t-shirt tied over it.  The great thing about layering a shirt over a dress was that I could wear the shirt at my natural waist without worrying about exposing my midriff.  I could essentially wear a crop top, but without the unwanted skin-baring.  It was really fun to wear.  Especially with those shoes – they are pretty-darn-high wedges with poofy flowers on them.  They make me feel like I should be dancing the cha-cha in a flower-filled courtyard somewhere.

This outfit made me remember the point of mixing prints, which is to HAVE FUN.  Don’t be too analytical about it.  If you try it once and you bomb, give it another try.  Keep trying different combinations until you find one you like.  Enjoy the sunshine and enjoy your clothes!

Ashley Tries: Denim on Denim

I got a request to try wearing denim on denim this week – this one has been great, because this is an area where I make a ton of arbitrary rules for myself.  When I create these fashion barriers for myself, I rule out a lot of outfits from the outset.  When you worry less, suddenly your wardrobe contains a whole lot more potential outfits.  (Funny how that works!)

Outfit 1:  Denim Shirt + Jeans

I only own one denim shirt and I don’t wear it all that much, partly because of all those rules I make up (more about those as we go along), but also because it is a buttondown.  Shirts that button tend to gap on me and I sometimes (okay, most times) don’t want to mess with them.  The reason I bought this particular shirt was that jeans shirts seemed to be all the rage, but I didn’t think you could wear a blue jean shirt with blue jeans.  So I bought a gray one.

This was my most apologetic outfit this week – I wore black jeans with a gray denim top and I felt super boring.  That’s why I added a busy jacket – it has quilting detail, contrast zippers, and a bird print.  I also wore red lipstick, which I don’t usually wear.  There’s something about gray that makes me feel like I fade into the background, like I’m a cement block.  So the outfit didn’t start out promising for me, but it grew on me.

I started out not liking how basic the the black and gray jeans looked, but once I got over that, I saw that it was a great blank canvas.  It provided a backdrop for drama – the jacket and red lipstick were the stars of the show.  Simplicity is not my default, but it can be refreshing.  It was a good start to the week, because it made me loosen up and change my mind.

Outfit 2:  Blue Jeans + Jean Jacket

After easing into the week, I decided to break the first and most important of the Ashley Denim Rules.  Don’t wear a Canadian Tuxedo.  What is a Canadian Tuxedo?  It’s a blue jean jacket and blue jeans and I don’t know why it is called that, but it is.  I don’t mind the look on other people, especially farmers.  Farmers look legit all the time.  That’s because they care more about the functionality of their clothes than how their clothes look.  I care so much about how my clothes look that I sometimes give up functionality altogether.  SOME OF MY JEANS DON’T EVEN HAVE WORKING POCKETS.  Farmers wouldn’t put up with that for a second.  Anyway, I’ve always felt the Denim Squared look is one of those looks that can only be worn successfully if you don’t think about it.  And I think too much.  Obviously.

I made it a bit more girly with a dotted tee, my grandma’s flower necklace, and pointed flats.  I admit the necklace was a distraction maneuver (DON’T LOOK AT THE JEANS, LOOK AT THIS NECKLACE).  But it wasn’t really necessary – apparently nobody but me cares if I wear blue on blue.  Actually, people liked the look, and by the end of the day, I liked it too.  The nice upshot of all of this is that I won’t worry about throwing on a jean jacket over jeans.  Denim jackets are the perfect weight for spring and I probably will be wearing this one a lot in the near future!

Outfit 3:  Polished Denim

By day 3, I’d already exhausted my denim top options, so I asked my friend Sara to lend me some chambray.  What are friends for?

This blue chambray top had a beautiful tailored fit, so I paired it with dressy pair of jeans – they’re a J. Crew pair I found at a consignment store.  After adding print in the first two outfits, I felt like I should keep everything simple and streamlined.  The fit elevated this outfit.  The darts and shoulder style give the shirt a 1940s feel and very dark wash jeans always feel more dressy to me – the combination felt like a cool mix of conventional and modern.

Black heels were in keeping with this outfit – the peep toes give them a little 1940s vibe, but they are practical and solid.  That’s how this whole ensemble made me feel – professional and put-together, but with a bit a vintage, a bit of attitude, and a killer fit.  Nothing much added, nothing to jazz it up.  I guess good fit is my comfort zone.  If something has a fit that I love, I don’t add distraction pieces.

Outfit 4:  Patterned Denim

This dotted denim shirt also belongs to Sara and it is so comfortable.  I need to keep my eyes open for a chambray shirt, because I see their value now.  The dot pattern and the looser fit of this shirt made it more casual than the last one, so I decided to emphasize the playfulness with some pattern mixing and a light color scheme.  By this point in the week, I was comfortable with denim on denim.  Isn’t that cool?  Four days and my stubborn little opinions changed.

This outfit felt cute, comfy, easy-breezy.  I also want to give a shout-out to my great old Payless shoes.  These babies are workhorses – as it turns out, mushroom color goes with everything.  Who would have thought?

Outfit 5:  Rufflepalooza

On the last day, I returned to my own jean shirt, because I had exhausted my top options.  Since I’d already worn the top, I wanted to style it completely differently.  This denim wrap dress is pretty cool – it was a Ross find from a few years back.  In the summertime, I’d normally wear it over a bright tank top.  In the wintertime, I’d style it with a black turtleneck and boots.  But nothing this week was a normal styling choice for me, so I decided it was time to go big or go home!

The wrap dress gave the gray jean shirt a different vibe – it was reminiscent of a uniform, which I don’t mind at all.  The whole look leaned towards a Dust Bowl / Great Depression aesthetic, so I couldn’t wear ankle boots or oxfords (it would have been too on-the-nose referential).  So I pulled out the spiked wedge sneakers.  These shoes bring a smile to my face and that’s what this outfit needed.  It needed some humor and eccentricity.

I’m really glad I tried this one – it pushed me out of some assumptions that I didn’t even realize were issues.  Why is there such a difference between What Other People Wear and What I Wear?  I never minded when other people wore denim on denim on denim, so it’s hilarious that I had so rules for myself.  It all comes down to self-consciousness.  One major thing I realized this time around is that I’m deep-down afraid of being a Boring Person.  That’s why I wear clothes that make me feel like an Interesting Person.  So when I have a simple outfit on, I’ll put on red lipstick or a crazy necklace or a huge scarf.  Just to feel like I’m seen.  I try so hard not to blend in with the wall, but people see me no matter what I wear.  They notice me more than my outfit.  That’s a big comfort.

Please keep sending try requests!  Thanks to Medora for the denim on denim question.



Ashley Tries: The Fancies

I think we all have those things in our closet that seem too fancy to wear on an ordinary basis.  But are they?  I’ve heard of “dressing down” clothes, but does it actually work?  This week, I tried dressing down some of my harder-to-wear fancies and I was pretty happy with how it worked!

First fancy:  Sequin Top

I found this top at a consignment store and bought it because SPARKLES, but haven’t worn it that much, because sparkles.  But it is a good top – the fit is nice and it’s from Ann Taylor (therefore quality).  It definitely deserves to get worn more.  But how to wear a sparkle shirt to work and not feel overly dressed-up?  In this casual climate, Sparkly Top + Jeans + Heels = the dress code for Going Out For Cocktails With Girlfriends.  I wasn’t going out for cocktails.  I was going to work.  And jeans were still my best option, so I needed Flats.

At that point, I had sparkle top + jeans + flats, all solid colors and all dark.  So I either needed something bright or something print, to set off all the dark colors.  I was in more of a monochromatic mood, so I decided against a bold color and went for a bold print blazer in neutral colors.  So the outfit ended up being sparkle top + jeans + flats + print blazer.

It was a cool outfit – I felt like kinda rock-and-roll, like a bass player in an all girl rock band.  Not the lead singer, who would need a more attention-grabbing outfit, but a casually cool background musician.  Not trying too hard is the essence of cool.  I think the success of the outfit came down to the shoes.  If I had worn heels with this outfit, I would have been self-conscious about being too dressy.

My takeaway from this outfit:  If the outfit looks too much like a Going Out For Cocktails outfit, wear flats.  Also, I really like the mix of sparkles and print.  That’s pretty cool.

Second fancy:  Major Shoes

These shoes are a lot of shoe.  They have black and white and gold and straps and buckles and the things.  They are beautiful and intimidating, so I usually find myself going for another pair.  It’s like if you’re recording an album and you have to decide between a diva who is notoriously difficult and doesn’t play well with others, and a singer who is almost as good, takes direction well, and gets along with all the musicians.  It’s tempting to pick the solid singer and not deal with the diva.  Sometimes you don’t want the drama.

That’s how I feel about these shoes.  But they have so much going for them, I really should wear them more.  I didn’t want anything too matchy, so I tried to limit the black in this outfit.  That ruled out black pants, so I went for a pair of maroon skinny jeans.  That way I also didn’t have the blue jean problem of trying to figure out whether to go for a light, medium, or dark wash.  Because there are codes and standards and self-imposed rules that we believe about jeans.  Sometimes it is easier to bypass the blue jeans and all the arbitrary denim rules by choosing jeans in a completely different color.

I wanted some print, because that made the first outfit look pretty cool, so I grabbed a dark floral top.  Because everything was leaning towards dark colors, I decided against a black jacket (and a black jacket would have made it look more formal than I wanted).  A light grayish/tannish tweed jacket lightened up the whole look.  I really enjoyed this outfit and it reminded me of all the things I love about those crazy shoes.  I’m going to be more relaxed about what I wear them with and just use them the way I wear black pumps.  Don’t be afraid of the diva shoes – learn to enjoy the drama and don’t worry about it!

My takeaway from this outfit:  Your statement shoes probably go with more than you think!  Do you have fancy shoes left over from a wedding?  Give them another try.  Heels can literally (and figuratively) elevate an outfit.  Life is too short to afraid of your own shoes.

Third fancy: Velvet Skirt

Between the cranberry velvet and the satin cummerbund belt, this skirt falls squarely into the Christmas Party realm (especially if I paired it with the sequin top from that first outfit).  It looks so christmassy, it seems a little wrong to wear it in the springtime, but there isn’t any real reason not to wear it and velvet is very in right now.

The first decision I had to make was whether to tuck the shirt in.  NO.  It was a pretty easy decision, because I think the skirt waistband looks a little fussy and cummerbundish.  Also, there’s a random button.  Also, it is satin.  So it’s a hard no on the tucking in – the added benefit of untucked shirts is that it kicks the formality down a few notches.  I went for a black and white buttondown shirt that is loose and long, then added a green jacket a bit shorter than the shirt.  A shorter jacket cheats the eye into seeing a longer leg line and draws some attention to your waist.  I needed all the leg help I could get, because I wore flats with this one.

My takeaway from this outfit:  If you don’t like one aspect of a piece, cover it up.  Nobody needs to know that shirt has weird sleeves – wear a jacket.  Nobody needs to know how low the neckline is on that dress – wear a sweater on over it and pretend it’s a skirt.  Nobody knows and nobody cares.  It’s a comforting thought.

Bonus outfit:  Easter Shoes!

This one came before I set the challenge, but I loved pulling out the crazy bridesmaid shoes for Easter.  I hesitated, because I wasn’t sure whether they would match the tone of the dress and the jean jacket.  But I COULDN’T RESIST BECAUSE THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL.  That is all.  Check out all the crazy sparkles!

I enjoyed this week – it made me realize that I put some clothes into an arbitrary Wear Only For Special Occasions category.  And they don’t have to be off limits – it’s not like they are beaded ball gowns.  I feel like I got some of my clothes back.

Live boldly!  Wear your pretty things!  Enjoy the things you have while you have them.

Thanks for reading my blog – if you have anything you want me to try, let me know!

Ashley Tries: Volume & Oversize

After the last post and my rash offer to try anything fashiony, I got one request for overalls.  Maybe later.  If I find a great pair of overalls, I guarantee I will post about it.

Another question that came was how to style pieces that are either oversized or have a lot of material and volume.  Oversize Everything was one of the defining trends to come out of New York Fashion Week this year (big trench coats, wide-leg trousers, volume-on-volume-on-volume), so voluminous clothing will be in our fashion futures.

For this episode of Ashley Tries, I set myself a mini challenge:  choose a different voluminous piece every day and style it up.  I didn’t realize this challenge would lead to the entirely different challenge of photographing those outfits.  This is my first outfit photography attempt, so forgive me in advance for the messiness.  Here goes!

Monday, First (Failed) Attempt:

The first morning, I decided to style my wide-leg trousers from Loft.  They are great trousers – soft, a nice neutral green color, good fit, good length.  The only problem is that they require the right styling, because they have a lot of volume in the leg.  I usually go for looser on top and skinnier through the leg, so I have to reverse my formula to style with wide leg trousers.  The first attempt was with a boatneck navy t-shirt and a striped blazer.  It was a complete fail – the color scheme was nice, but the fit was all wrong. The blazer is a little boxy, so it looked like I was wide through the leg, wide through waist, wide through the bust, wide through the shoulder.  Wide all over.  Then the high neck on the tee just smothered me in fabric.  I was covered cloth from my clavicles to my toes. First lesson:  Proportion is everything.  

Monday, Second (More Successful) Attempt:

I kept the green trousers (because they were the reason for the outfit), but ditched everything else.  After being smothered by that boatneck, I wanted a fitted top with a v-neck.  I picked out a black and white print top in a wrap style.  Some great things about the wrap top fit are the deep-v neckline, cinched waist, and fitted shoulders.  This is one of those shirts that requires a camisole, but it’s totally worth it.  Showing more skin at the neck made the whole outfit seem lighter and drew attention up to my face.  Since the shirt had a defined waist, I didn’t have to tuck the shirt in, but that’s another option for getting the right proportions.  The print added visual interest, but the print wasn’t as important as the fit for this outfit.  I topped it with a black blazer that fit well at the shoulders and waist, to keep the top half streamlined.  When I wear wide-leg trousers, I want all the height I can get, so I wore heels with this outfit.  Actually, wearing heels became a steady theme throughout the week.  I’m 5′ 3″, so getting overwhelmed is my biggest danger with oversized clothes.  A Public Service Announcement to all you short women out there – don’t assume you can’t wear stuff.  It’s all about the fit.  Don’t be afraid to try shapes that are unfamiliar to you.  Switching one thing out can add some Oomph to your closet.


This is a very poofy skirt.  The picture doesn’t show you just how poofy this skirt is.  It’s a heavy-duty little number I picked up at a Goodwill a while back.  Made from rows of embroidered elastic fabric all stitched together, this baby can stand up on its own.  The shape makes it tricky to put together an outfit.  I started off with a black v-neck tee that I could tuck in, because having a defined waist is really important to pulling off this look.  But I don’t like just having a tucked in shirt, because it tugs and scroonches and works its way up and twists around.  So I tuck in the tee, but layer a light and bright cardigan over it.  That way it’s obvious that the shirt is tucked in, but you can’t see much of it.  It was cold that day, so I chose a jean jacket that hit at the waist.  Any longer and the skirt would have been poofing the jacket out like an umbrella.  Because cold, I wore black tights and black heels – matching tights and heels is a great way to give the legs a little more length.  Second lesson:  Where things hit is just as important as how they fit.  This outfit works because the layers hit at the waist and the skirt ends just above the knee, so my waist and legs are highlighted.  This is why I like three-quarter sleeves (I like my forearms), knee-length skirts (I like my calves), and dresses that hit at my natural waist (showing that I’m curvy while still leaving so much to the imagination).


I bought this shirt in Mexico and it is one of my favorite things – I’ve included a close-up on the embroidery, because IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL AND I LOVE IT.  Also, these colors give me life.  They remind me that there sunshine somewhere on this planet.  It’s a beautiful one-size-fits-all tent.  To balance out the volume, I paired it with skinny jeans and heels.  The black cardigan has some nice weight to it and fits well through the shoulders, so it slimmed down the shoulders and was a nice frame for the embroidered top.  Third Lesson:  If you love something, make it the focus.  It’s okay for everything else to be in supporting roles.  You can balance out bright colors with neutrals, but be conscious of the neutrals – if I wear white jeans with this top, it would look like a summer beach party.  Darker colors help ground it.


For the last official day, I decided to go big – a maxi dress with a big old sweater.  I found this dress at Ross a few years ago and it just made me happy.  It’s a subtle ombré – the top is pale blue and it fades out into white – putting it on is like traveling through a cloud layer into a clear sky.  A loose maxi dress only has to fit through the shoulders.  If the shoulders fit, everything else can float away from the body.  The cardigan has been a favorite as well – it also has an ombré effect from the different mixes of yarn and a fantastic drape.  The shoulders fit and everything else drapes.  Fourth lesson:  Volume is dramatic.  Wearing oversized clothes does not deflect attention – it attracts attention.  It’s possible to do volume on volume as long as you don’t get swallowed up by the clothes.  Height helps with not disappearing into a sea of fabric, so heels are your friend if you are short (like me).  I felt cool all day in this outfit, because it was a statement.  It was immediately noticeable, without trying too hard.

I wore an oversize t-shirt and jeans and flats on Friday, but I spilled coffee on the shirt and it is in the laundry.  Imagine that it looked cute and effortless, okay?  Maybe it didn’t, but it felt easy and comfortable.  A nice outfit for a busy day.

I enjoyed the week, because I got to wear some clothes that take a bit more effort to style. Challenges help me be creative and conscious of what I wear.  It also introduced me to outfit photography.  I am such a newbie, but I’m going to keep working on it and challenge myself in that way as well!  Is there something you want me to try?  Comment and let me know.  Thanks for reading.  I appreciate all of you!