Pensées: Clothes and Other People

This post isn’t going to be in an Ashley Tries format, which can get a bit dangerous.  Without my “this is what I wore Monday and here’s a little bit about it” template to lean on, I tend to wander.  So I’ve labeled it as Pensées – fragments of thoughts, internal conversations, little brainstorm dust devils twisting across an idea field.  This way, I don’t have to worry about format and the wandering is the point.  The French don’t apologize about it, why should I?



“Do you dress for yourself or for others?” is a very common clothes question.  But is it a trick question?  Should it be “Do you dress for a) yourself, b) others, or c) all of the above?”

At a purely practical level, I clothe myself for protection against the elements.  Even if there wasn’t another person around for miles, there’s still the small matter of freezing coldness.  And pricker bushes.  Rogue raccoons.  The odd hedgehog.  Dancing around outside in the altogether isn’t something I necessarily want to do.  Nature is full of things that I don’t want to encounter without protective layers.  That’s one element of dressing that is for myself, I suppose.  I also like clothes and enjoy the wearing of them.  But I do want to dress for others.  Don’t want to be a selfish clothes-wearer.



I think the point of that question about wearing clothes for yourself or for other people comes down to respect.  Do I wear clothes because I want other people respect and honor me?  Or do I wear clothes to respect and honor other people?  It’s a matter of motive.  The problem is that Motive is hard to judge, even with insider information.  I have a hard time judging my own motives, but does that stop me from turning around and assuming somebody else’s motive?  Nope.  I live within a flurry of assumptions and some of them are correct and some are incorrect.  The incorrect assumptions aren’t usually on purpose.  Incorrect on purpose falls under the category of Delusion.  I’ve had my delusional moments, for sure (especially about my own motivations).  But for the most part, my incorrect assumptions are mistakes that I’ve never thought enough about to correct.

So if other people assume my motivation is X, but it is (in fact) Y, I don’t get too worried.  Unless I realize that they are reading my motivation better than I am.  In that case, it’s time to revisit my motivation.


Okay, I wandered and I forgot what I was talking about..  Yeah.  I was thinking about Dressing To Get Respect vs. Dressing To Give Respect.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting respect, but dressing to give respect is actually a more reliable way to get respect.  When you dress trying to get respect, it is easy to get a quick respect substitute and stop there.  Attention, acceptance, attraction – these responses feel like honor, but they don’t actually mean much.  Give honor to other people and don’t worry about getting attention. Fools get attention, but never respect.


You know when you record your voice and you don’t recognize your voice?  I always feel like Yzma when she turns into a cat in The Emperor’s New Groove: “Is that my voice? Is that MY voice?”  That’s because I am the only person on the planet that hears my voice from the inside.  I have a unique and warped perspective, because I hear it in the echo chamber of my skull.  It sounds different to everybody else.

It’s the same with my clothes.  Everybody else can see my outfit better than I can.  I have that unique and warped perspective again.  I know what my clothes feel like, but everybody else knows what they look like.  The only way we can see ourselves is through eyes of others.




I’m stubborn and independent and I don’t like asking for help.  I like getting dressed.  It’s a solitary activity in which I have control over every aspect.

But I really love people.  They make life worth it.  Sometimes they make life hard.  But they are still worth it.

When it comes down to it, I care more about my relationships than I do about my clothes.  I want to make my mom and dad happy by the way I look.  It’s as simple as that.



Ashley Tries Hard, Ashley Fails Hard

I got a new razor for the first time in forever and now my left leg is bleeding profusely from three tiny wounds.  The nicks themselves are nearly invisible, but you’d never know that from the blood rivulets that came waterfalling out of them.  It’s just overly dramatic and I wish my leg would stop it already.  It’s like those soccer players who assume the fetal position and howl whenever another player bumps into them by accident.  Just stop it already.  You’re not gonna die, legs.  STOP BLEEDING SO MUCH.

So I’m sitting here in shorts, waiting for my leg to scab up enough to put on jeans and not have gratuitously graphic blood stains spread all over them.  It feels pretty Capital-L-On-The-Forehead Loser.  But my whole week felt pretty Loserly, so it’s par for the course.

I’ve been doing Ashley Tries for a while now and my main discovery during the process is that one of the common side effects of trying is failing.  I’ve also realized I hate failing.  I hate failing so much that sometimes I don’t want to try, just in case I fail at it.  But the irony is that failing to try is way more loserly than trying and failing.  I know that.  I still don’t like it.

This week’s Ashley Tries was supposed to be featuring accessories and I don’t think I did it well at all, so I’m going to try again next week.  Take 2 on Accessorizing.  It’s not that I failed at putting on accessories, I just lacked focus and intention and, to be completely honest, I lost interest in my Try this week.  That’s what made it a fail for me.  This week just happened to me.  I prefer to happen to the week.  I want the week to look back at me and think WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

That’s not to say I didn’t learn anything this week.  I learned a ton this week.  But most of what I learned wasn’t about accessorizing.

Things I learned this week:

  • In order to get more done, I need to wake up earlier.  I learn this lesson every week, without ever really absorbing it.  There are many lessons that fall into this category, including: If I don’t make a list, I’ll forget things at the grocery store and I won’t have clean clothes until I actually clean my clothes.  The Vicious Cycle kind of lessons.  The lessons that are solved through self discipline and a good solid routine.  I fail so much, guys.  I FAIL ALL THE TIME.
  • I’m way more likely to cry-laugh when I’m tired.  I laughed until I cried a lot this week.  Over random stuff.  Over that mouse in Cinderella who is sitting on the edge of his bed, trying to untie his tail.  Over not-that-funny jokes that in the moment WERE that funny.  Cry-laughing tends to derail work meetings, by the way.  Lesson learned.

  • If I want something, I have to ask for it.  Nobody is able to read my mind.  I’m not able to decipher my own mind a lot of time and I really shouldn’t expect other people to do what I don’t want to do.  It’s easy to think, “If they really love me, they should know what is up with me.”  But sometimes I don’t know what’s up with me, so how could they possibly know?  Asking is not admitting defeat.  It’s just something I have to do.
  • If it was possible to fidget to myself death, I’d already be dead.  I wore a ring for the first time in forever this week and I am SUCH A FIDGETY PERSON.  That ring was twisted every which way, taken on and off, and thought about way too much throughout the day.  I’m going to have to try again next week, just to see if I can get better at wearing a ring.  Accessory fail.

  • I tend to rely heavily on the things that I’m good at and avoid the things I’m not good at.  I stay well within my comfort zone on most things.  And since my comfort zone doesn’t necessarily look like anybody else’s comfort zone, I can get an undue reputation for boldness/confidence/bravery.  I wear weird outfits and post the outfit results every day and I’m a scaredy cat.  My fears aren’t obvious from the outward facade that I’m pretty good at presenting to the world.  My fears involve me not being respected, being a failure, and being a flaky person who doesn’t fulfill any of her obligations.  Sometimes my drive comes from trying to prove myself wrong about myself.  It’s stupid, but it’s true.
  • Not feeling pretty isn’t the same as being ugly.  That seems obvious, but when I’m tired and I don’t feel pretty, it seems like a safe assumption that I’m just a hideous person.  Intellectually, I know that I looked perfectly normal this week.  But I felt like a troll.  A fat ugly troll who lives under a bridge and gets annoyed at how loudly goats walk.
  • My job is great, but difficult to explain.  I emailed the US Department of Labor last week and didn’t even think that it was weird until I thought about it afterwards.  I really like my job and one of the reasons things fell through the cracks this week was a major project that I was trying to finish.  Most weeks aren’t entirely fails.  Usually it’s a mix.  This week was a work-win-week, but not a life-win-week.
  • Razors are one of the things I always forget to buy at the grocery store, because I stupidly decide not to write grocery lists (see Lesson 1), so I finally ended up ordering razors from Amazon and when I used one of the new razors, I cut myself in multiple places and then I realized that bandaids are the other thing that I always forget to buy at the grocery store.  Please excuse me while I sit here covered in the gory reminder of my failure.
  • Failing isn’t fun.  I know there are tons of TED talks featuring tech magnates with square glasses calmly talking about how failure is so good for you.  I always want to slap the square glasses right off of their overly calm faces, because they make it sound so easy to analyze everything.  My initial reaction to failing is laughing.  Or crying.  Or laughing until I cry.  It definitely is not gleaning the important lesson that I should be learning from my failure.  It takes me a while to calm down enough to acknowledge the moral of the story that just happened. And that is okay.  As long as you get to the point eventually, you don’t have to be okay immediately.  I’m a little teapot (short and stout) and like most teapots, I get steamed sometimes.  And I keep everything bottled up inside until everything comes out with a shrieking whistle noise.  My first reactions are emotional, but I don’t always let them out right then.  They do come out at some point, but usually they come out after building up for while.
  • Humility is a good thing.  I can present the image of having everything under control, but I don’t.  I’m good at some things, but I’m bad at so many things.  So. Many. Things.  The good news is that I don’t have to be good at everything.  Thank goodness.

This wasn’t a terrible week.  It was just a long week and I was tired for the majority of it.  There was a lot of cry-laughing in it, but that’s way better than a lot of crying.  My life is pretty darn funny.  I’m listening to a Roger Miller record while writing this and if you’re having a long week, I’d highly recommend listening to Roger Miller songs.  Hilarious.  This is the comic genius who wrote You Can’t Rollerskate In A Buffalo Herd and other such classics.  Take this lyric:

Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage
Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage
Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage
But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to –
All ya gotta do is put your mind to it
Knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, do it.
Yeah!  You said it, Roger Miller!  I’m going to try again next week. (Knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, do it.)  If I fail next week, which is a possibility, because accessorizing isn’t one of my strengths, I’ll try again the next week.  It’s not a big deal.  Not trying guarantees failure.  If you try, there’s a possibly of failure, but there’s also a possibility of success.  So I’ll be back next week and I’ll try again and we’ll see how it goes!  Thanks for putting up with me, friends.  I’m know I can be a drama queen and a little steamed-up teapot and a loserly mess, but I really like all you of you guys.  You’re pretty great.  If you feel like a loser this week, join the club.  It’s no fun, but it isn’t the end of the world.  Have a good laugh.  Learn something from it (eventually).  Go ahead and try again.  And then try again.
I’ll be back next week with something to say about accessories.  Hopefully.

Waiting Around On Valentine’s Day: A Study In Metaphors

[An important preface to this post:  I wrote this on February 15th while on airplanes.  Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I tend to get pretty philosophical on flights.  Maybe it’s something about hurtling through the air, being a little sleep-deprived, being very aware that my fate is NOT in my own hands, whatever.  If it doesn’t make sense, I apologize.  It’s probably the just the flight talking.  Alternate titles I thought of:  Singleness 2:  Even More Single?  / Does Hope Hurt?  / A Bad Day to Fly / Why Am I Still Here?…..  Yeah.  It was a long day.  Here goes!]

On Valentine’s Day, I spent a good chunk of the day in a tiny rural fog-bound airport.  I was waiting for a plane.  (As one does.)  The irony of sitting around waiting alone on Valentine’s Day didn’t escape me.

Trying to keep the boring part of the story short, I was dropped off for a mid-morning flight.  The weather didn’t look promising – snow flurries and freezing fog between the flurries.  The airport is so small that it only flies to one destination and the plane wasn’t at the airport yet.  It hadn’t even left the other airport yet.  That plane kept delaying and delaying and delaying.  Then finally, the news was announced that the plane was wheels up and on its way to us.  (Rejoicing!  Hope!  Hurrah!)  We had been in the airport for around 4 or 5 hours by that point.

As we scurried through The TSA Security Pageant (the most common form of interactive live theater in the United States), hope was running through our blood.  And as we sat in that post-security lockdown area, we heard the plane.  And then there was silence.  And then we heard the plane again.  That plane circled the airport three times, couldn’t find an opening in the fog, then went back to its original airport.


Went back through the line, got rebooked for an afternoon flight (which was about an hour away at that point), went back through The TSA Security Show and got patted down that time.  Why be MORE thorough the second time through security?  It’s a mystery.  Sat back down in post-security lockdown, and heard the plane.  And heard the plane.  And heard the plane.  Then heard the announcement that the plane circled three times and went back to its original airport.

You know the hardest part of waiting?  The hope of imminent change.  In this case, it was hearing both of the planes.  It was going through the motions and getting packed and getting prepped and getting patted down, then sitting there with a suitcase and going nowhere.  It felt like a Buster Keaton movie and I’ve never felt more for that sad-face little figure who was funny just because he didn’t know when to give up.

T.S. Eliot has a line in the Four Quartets:

I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope / For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love / For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith / But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. / Wait without thought thought, for you are not ready for thought…

Are you ever afraid of hope, because it seems so tied to disappointment and hurt?  I know that I’ve made hope into the enemy, because I’ve tried to fool myself into thinking that if I don’t hope for anything, I can’t be disappointed.  Making waiting and wanting into a problem and trying to solve them by ignoring them.

HOPE IS NEVER THE PROBLEM.  Hope is hope.  It is good.  How can we even pretend to be fine without it?

Today, I’m writing this on an airplane.  The weather is absolutely gorgeous.  The snow hills look like sleeping swans with their heads tucked under their wings.  From the air, school buses look like chopped up No. 2 pencils.  The world was blue and white and brightness.  My prayers have been answered.  Not that they weren’t answered yesterday, but yesterday’s answer was Wait.  Not gonna lie, I never like that answer.

But the truth is that yesterday was a terrible day for flying.  Today is a good flying day.  Today is everything that I hoped yesterday would be.  It’s obviously the right day to go.  I woke up knowing that it would work this time.

I spent a lot of the stuck-in-the-airport time reading, but also browsing social media.  A lot of single people kinda lost their minds over Valentine’s Day.  Reactions ranged from the ambivalent (Well, the day after Valentine’s Day, all the chocolate goes on sale) to pure reaction (Well, I’m going throw a party for myself and celebrate singleness!  Yeah!) to offended, wounded, and in despair.  Like waiting for a plane, this despair over a reminder of romantic love has everything to do with unfulfilled hope.  Being single on Valentine’s Day can be like hearing that your long-awaited flight has finally been canceled.  It’s a symbol of love and you feel excluded and alone.  But hope isn’t the problem.  You know the most important time to have hope?  When it is hard.

It’s the same with all virtues.  Fellas, love is easy when she’s looking beautiful in that black dress and her smile is stopping your heart.  A stranger could fall in love with her when she looks that beautiful.  Love is hard when the baby’s crying in the middle of the night and you’re deciding whether or not to acknowledge it or not.

Hope is a gift from the Holy Spirit.  We can’t cultivate it on our own.  Without God’s grace, love, hope, and peace are just words and words we can’t possibly understand, let alone carry out their actions.  We want hope without any need for hope.  We want love without any trials to refine our love.  We want peace to mean there is never any conflict for us to resolve or any anxiety to make us doubt.  We want to be great without trying.  Without difficult people or difficult circumstances messing our hair up.

Show love while waiting for love.  Have hope when it’s hard to wait.  Have peace when you start to doubt whether you even want hope.  Peace.  Be still.  I’m frustrated and illogical.  Peace  This is the most important time to have hope.  Hope comforts, disappointment hurts.  Don’t confuse them.

I was shown so much love on Valentine’s Day.  My family loves me so well.  I love them and I like them.  I’m spoiled and I know it.

My dad expresses his love in a lot of ways, but they fall under the general category of Caring.  He takes really good care of me.  He helps me with paperwork and booking flights and talks through car problems and taxes.  All the stuff that intimidates me.  We were on the phone so many times during the no-fly day, thinking through everything.

My oldest brother drove me to the airport, because he wanted me to be safe on the icy roads.  My second-oldest brother gave me a ride back to my house once everything got canceled and after finding out there wasn’t food in the airport, he made a detour to buy me chicken nuggets and sweet’n’sour sauce.  My sister fed me dinner and we made snow ice cream.  I’m so thoroughly blessed.  Saturated with blessings.

Waiting and hope are two different things.  Sometimes waiting feels like the airport.  Sitting.  Nothing to do except wait.  A defined timeline.  Between things.  Between what you have and what you want.  But I don’t think it is a good metaphor for hope.

Hope is like anticipating a really good dinner.  You have your work to do, but you have friends working alongside you, and you remember throughout the day that dinner is going to be amazing.  It isn’t static or wistful.  It’s a certain knowledge that God loves His children and He is going to give us exactly what we need.  Even if the work is hard, even if there are times you have to work alone, remember that there’s blessing ahead and it’s going to be exactly what you need and it’s going to taste even better after all that work.  Don’t JUST wait.  Work.

I’m saved by the blood of Jesus, so I can work in peace, knowing that He’s always taking care of me.  You know the only thing I have to do before I die?  Live.  That’s it.  Live in the delight of my Lord.  Do the work I’ve been given and give thanks for it.  Will that someday take the form of a house and a husband and some adorable fat babies?  I sure hope so.  But I’m not just going to sit and wait, because my life isn’t defined by what I don’t have right now.  I have so much to be grateful for and so much to do!  Time to get busy.  Keep praying, keep desiring good things, strong in faith that God gives His children everything they need and blesses far beyond.

If you’re waiting and struggling, maybe despairing, whether it’s for waiting for marriage, a job, reconciling with your family, or healing, I understand how hard it is.  I’m a 30-year-old virgin.  I know what waiting is like.  I look back on some of my life’s rough patches and just see darkness.  But I also know that those are my growth rings.  The hard times are the times when I’ve grown the most.  Those are my book of Psalms.  Seek out wise counselors, invest in friends, invest in family.  Don’t be embarrassed to cry in front of other people.  Let other people help you.  You don’t have to go it all by yourself.  You really don’t.  If you find that you’re stuck in airport mode, always sitting and waiting for that one thing that is out of reach, leave the airport.

Elements of Style: Personality

All the other elements of style (texture, fit, color, etc.) feed into personality.  What do your clothes say about you as a person?  This goes beyond clothes.  It’s all about how you wear things and what you’re comfortable in and what you like.

What do my clothes say about me?  I’m hardly impartial, but I’ll try breaking these photos down and running through some of the elements.  (For purposes of illustration, Ashley shall be referring to herself in the third person.)

Drama and Eccentricity

There’s some drama in this woman’s soul.  She’s combined a bright blue, an abstract print, and shoes covered in spikes.  It’s a weird combination, but she’s obviously leaning into the weirdness, because she put them all together.  Each piece could have been toned down – the sweater could be paired with jeans and a t-shirt and the dress could be paired with a structured black blazer.  (The shoes could also go with jeans and a t-shirt, but since they are covered in spikes, they’ll still be funky.  They’re just naturally a little weird.)

The length of the skirt and the length of the dress are both exaggerated, and that larger-than-life attitude translates to drama.  It’s more dramatic than it is flattering, because a shorter hemline would highlight her legs more and a shorter jacket would highlight her waist more.  So she’s not too concerned with how people see her, but she’s definitely not hiding.

She’s not taking this photo session very seriously.  It looks like she’s trying to do the YMCA dance and misspelling it.

High Powered Nerd

She’s got more tailored separates going on for this look, juxtaposed against the informality and nerdiness of her Star Wars tee.  It’s like she wanted to wear the t-shirt, but realized she need to go to work, so she threw on a blazer to make it seem more business-appropriate.  The blazer and fitted trousers just draw more attention to her t-shirt, because it’s the only colorful aspect of the outfit.

It looks like she likes sci-fi and wants to let everybody know that about her.  The outfit and her stance in this photo make her look confident.  The blazer gives the impression of competence and the heels improve her posture.  The whole look says, “I may be a geek, but don’t underestimate me.”


This outfit looks happy, cute, and relaxed.  But what gives us those impressions?  The happiness factor mainly comes from the bright splash of sunshine yellow.  Colors are emotional and yellow signals HAPPY to our brains.  The hat and dotted shirt almost have a childlike look to them, which reads cute.  The jeans and flat boots look comfortable and the pose looks natural, which gives the whole outfit a relaxed feeling.  If the person wearing the clothes looks uncomfortable, it’s almost impossible to think of those clothes as comfortable.

The wearer sells the outfit.  Cool girls make the uncoolest of clothes look cool.  You know the kind of girl I’m talking about – they walk into a room wearing culotte overalls over a baggy sweater and you start thinking about where to find some culotte overalls.  Relaxed girls make their clothes look comfortable, beautiful women make their clothes look gorgeous, funny girls make their clothes look quirky.  The more personality you have, the more personality your clothes have.


This is a simple look, but it gives the feeling of somebody who’s ready to go.  Maybe on a road trip, maybe on a hike, maybe on a small and spontaneous adventure.  That plaid flannel lulls you into a sense of outdoorsiness, whether real or imaginary.  The boots have a weathered patina, but did they come from the store that way?  Or did the wearer earn that distressed finish?  It’s hard to know.

You know those guys in airports?  The ones wearing charcoal suits and black leather shoes, wheeling tiny luggage, and speaking importantly into headsets?  Sometimes you hear snippets of the conversation.  Things like “Brian is still getting up to speed, so I’m having to pick up the slack” and “When I get back, let’s go over the paperwork.”  Wouldn’t you be shocked if those guys WEREN’T going on business trips?  It’s hard for my brain to imagine any other situation for them to be in.  It’s not just the suit and the leather shoes.  It’s the aura of busy-busy-business that they carry around with them.

Some clothes act as a uniform for particular situations.  Like gym clothes.  Or yoga pants.  They are literally NAMED for the situation they are normally found in.  If you’re walking around in gym clothes, you have the air of I’m-just-on-the-way-to-the-gym.  Little Black Dresses are uniforms for any occasion that’s dressy, but not TOO dressy.  Buttondowns and slacks are interview outfits.

People project intention.  Clothes have a ton to do with that.  Want to look responsible?  Dress like a responsible person.  Wear a blazer and slacks and pumps and a blouse and look that interviewer in the eye and speak with good diction.  Are you scared inside?  Absolutely.  But that doesn’t matter right now.  What matters is trying your best to get a job.  Want everybody to leave you alone?  You can wear a shirt that has GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE printed on the front.  Or you can wear facial expression that says that same thing, but with a couple expletives thrown in.  You’ll get the same results.

Personality Personified

When people say that I’m a character, I take that as a high compliment.  I want to be a character.  I want to be interesting and unique and I want my clothes to reflect that.  When I put together my outfits, I don’t copy anybody.  They’re an expression of my intention, my situation, my faith, my finances, my taste, what I love, and what I don’t.

Wherever I go, there I am, but that doesn’t mean I stay the same.  I don’t have to uncritically accept myself as a finished product.  There’s room for improvement and there’s time to improve.  I’m a different person than I was ten years ago and my clothes definitely reflect that.  What will I look like in another ten years?


Elements of Style: Color and Fit

Color is emotional and evocative.  It’s one of the first things our brains register when we notice clothes.  Each day last week, I dressed in a different color from the visible spectrum.  Monday – Red.  Tuesday – Orange.  Wednesday – Yellow and Green. Thursday – Blue.  Friday – Indigo and Violet.

The color week kicked off with my first adventure in coloring my hair!  It’s auburn now and it just adds a little spark to these outfits.  January and February are the doldrums for me.  It’s dark, it’s dreary, it’s cold, and everything looks a little gray.  I find myself feeling gray inside and out.  So I decided to go out on a limb and grabbed a box of L’Oreal dye at Walgreens and went for it.  If you’re feeling drab, I’d recommend changing your hair color up a little bit!


The bright color brightened my mood in the midst of the doldrum months.  I love all colors, but red is probably my favorite right now.  It’s beautiful and packs a punch.  I probably will never be a pastel pink kind of woman, even though I think pink looks beautiful on other people.  Give me the drama.  Make it bright and bold.

Now, the Roy G. Biv colors were the stars of the week, but the neutrals held these looks together.  Black, cream, gray, navy, tan, and metallics show off bright colors and keep a colorful wardrobe from being a one-note wardrobe.  So you can’t really say that you don’t wear colors, because black is a color and gray is a color.  Even if 90% of your clothes are black, you still have to pay attention to colors and what shades look best on you.  Have you ever tried to match a navy bridesmaid dress to everybody else’s navy bridesmaid dresses?  It’s one of the hardest thing.  There’s a nearly infinite variety of navy shades out there.

To have style, you must have an appreciation of color.  That isn’t to say that you need to wear bright colors, it means that you need to be conscious of what colors you look best in and what colors already exist in your closet.  When you look in your closet do you see all gray, cream, and navy?  That’s a color scheme!  (And it’s a beautiful color scheme.  Don’t feel guilty for liking neutrals.)  If you want to zing up that neutral wardrobe, add a citrus accessory, like yellow shoes or a coral bag or orange earrings.  I really loved how the orange and silver went together this week – it was clean and punchy and sci-fi and COOL.  If all your clothes are bright, you probably need some neutral trousers to balance out the party on top.  Start thinking about your closet as a whole and you’ll have fewer pieces that you’re unsure about wearing.

For the second week, I focused on fit and proportion.  Color is probably the first thing that the eye takes in, but fit is equally important and probably the hardest thing to nail in fashion.  When you find a flawless fit, you want everything to fit that well.  I remember trying on my first pair of jeans that really fit and that was it.  My life changed.  I couldn’t wear mom jeans anymore.  That wasn’t even an option anymore.  ONLY JEANS THAT FIT.

Speaking of jeans, I got questions about how to wear boyfriend jeans, so I went down to Marshall’s and tried on about five different pairs.


Like in most trying-on-lots-of-jeans adventures, some fit SO BADLY that I didn’t even take a picture of them.  It just wasn’t worth it.  My opinion:  boyfriend jeans aren’t for me.  I’ve got hips and a rear, but my calves are toned and pretty small.  The boyfriend jeans didn’t reflect that fact, because they’re meant to look like men’s jeans.  A little oversized, a straight fit, and they’re usually damsel-level distressed (to give the illusion that a boyfriend has, in fact, worn them). I think these jeans look best on thin, boyish figures, because they negate curves. When they fit at my waist, there was excess material around my legs. I found one pair that fit better around the legs, but I could BARRRELY zip them up. If I end up venturing away from skinny jeans, it will probably be for some fabulous wide-leg jeans with a high waist, because drama.  I do like the way boyfriend jeans look on other women – they look especially great paired with a buttondown shirt or with a t-shirt and a blazer, because the tailored separates elevate the deliberately slouchy fit of the jeans.

In the end, I decided to get a black skinny jeans and velvet sweatpants.  I love black jeans and I only have one pair right now, so these are definitely going to pull their weight.  And if I’m going for a slouchy fit, the trousers need to not only look comfy, but be comfy.  And boy are those velvet joggers comfy.  The material is nice enough that I wore them to work, but I prefer more structure in my work clothes, because structure makes me feel sharper and smarter.  So the joggers will mainly be change-into-these-after-work clothes.

Fit changes how you feel in your clothes, so for the wearer, it is more important than color.  Color mainly benefits other people, because they see your clothes.  How clothes fit benefits you, because you WEAR your clothes.  Good fit gives you better posture, makes you look put together, and gives an aura of confidence, even if the wearer doesn’t quite know what makes the outfit work.

Great fit is all about the details.  For tops, the shoulder is the most important place to fit.  If the sleeves are too long, you can roll them up.  If the shirt is too long, you can tuck it in.  But you really can’t disguise shoulder seam placement, so choose tops based on how well they fit through the shoulders and chest.

For my particular body type, tops and dresses are fairly simple to fit.  The trouble comes at the trousers.  I’m just shy of 5 feet 3 inches.  Therefore, I am a short person.  That’s not unusual.  A lot of people are short.  But I also have a long torso, so my legs are comically short.  Short people make fun of how short my legs are.  I sometimes find capris and wear them as regular trousers.  My usual strategy is to get skinny jeans that fit well at the ankles, so when I roll them up, they stay rolled up.  My other strategy is to get my mom to hem my trousers.  But I’m learning to hem my own.  Because I’m an adult.  If I come across jeans that fit perfectly without alterations, that is cause for rejoicing.  Whenever I get frustrated with finding trousers that fit, I take comfort in this exchange between Jeeves and Wooster in P.G. Wodehouse’s The Code of the Woosters:

“Yes, sir. The trousers perhaps a quarter of an inch higher, sir.
One aims at the carelessly graceful break over the instep. It is a
matter of the nicest adjustment.”

“Like that?”

“Admirable, sir.”

I sighed.

“There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself ‘Do
trousers matter?’.”

“The mood will pass, sir.”

It is true.  The mood will pass.  Excellent fit is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

Great style starts and ends with how your clothes fit.  Texture and color and personality (which we’ll be covering next week) are important, but the first question you should ask is always, “DOES THIS FIT ME?”  If the answer is no, then try a different size.  If you have to go up to an extra large to get the correct fit, who cares?  If it fits correctly, it will look better than a medium.  If you are uncomfortable in the size 10, go up to a size 12.  If it turns out that the style doesn’t fit you, try a different style.

Some women look beautiful in pencil skirts, but if you try on a pencil skirt and it doesn’t look good on you, don’t feel sorry for yourself and stop trying on clothes.  Put the pencil skirt away and try on an A-line skirt.  It’s all about being smart and knowing where to put your effort.  It it never wasting time to try on different styles, even when they don’t work.  Just keep on trying different shapes until you find the ones that work on you.  Then brush off any disappointment and keep track of what you’ve learned.  Be smart in your decisions and start with what looks best on you.  If you look best in flowy tunic dresses and leggings, go find some beautiful tunics!  If you know you look best in a fitted top and a flared skirt, you can skip those pencil skirts and focus on those cute printed shirts.  If you put in the initial time investment and try on a ton of different things, then the next shopping trip won’t be as hard, because you’ll be able to make decisions based on what you know works for you.



Elements of Style: Texture

Some people collect paintings or coins or comic books or mugs.  I collect clothes.  The nice thing about collecting clothes is that I constantly get to use my collection, not just look at it.  It doesn’t sit around getting dusty.

Putting together an outfit is a skill.  It takes work and practice, but when you put together a great outfit, it’s a great feeling.  Like finishing a puzzle.  Or putting together a beautiful flower arrangement.  Or cooking meat to a perfect medium rare.  The work that you put into it makes it more rewarding.

There’s a difference between wearing clothes (which almost all humans do) and having style.  So let’s break it down and start from the basics – what are the elements of style?  One easily overlooked, but oh-so-important element is texture.

Here are some definitions of texture from the Oxford Dictionary:

“The feel, appearance, or consistency of a surface or a substance.”

“The character or appearance of a textile fabric as determined by the arrangement and thickness of its threads.”

“The tactile quality of the surface of a work of art.”

 “The quality created by the combination of the different elements in a work of music or literature.”

Without a variety of textures, clothes can get very monotone.  Now there’s a difference between monochrome and monotone.  An outfit can be all black, but still full of visual interest.  What makes an outfit interesting is how well it is put together and how all the different elements work as a whole.  The world is full of mediocre pasta, because as long as you can boil water and open a jar, you can make pasta.  But every once in a while, you have truly amazing pasta, where the noodles are al dente and the combination of ingredients in the sauce create something entirely new, but still comforting and familiar.  Yum.  Why not work towards making something delightful, rather than mediocre?  What I usually try to achieve in an outfit is a sense of balance and a glimpse into who I am.  Do I always succeed in that?  NOPE.  But that’s what I aim for.

Day 1: Tweed, Knit, Denim

Tweed is one of my favorite materials.  It’s warm, solid, easy to wear, and a very handsome fabric, but the best thing about it is the rough woven texture.  It’s completely distinctive.  A tweed jacket gives character to a t-shirt, jeans, and flats.  It grounds a floral dress and heels.  It’s an effortless way to add texture to an outfit.

Another iconic textural detail is cable knit.  Knitting is a beautiful mystery to me.  I know the basic idea.  You use sticks to knot string into things.  But the result of great knitting is nothing short of art.  Pure and simple.  The process of creating a cable may be a mystery to me, but I deeply appreciate cables and how much coolness they add to my sweaters.

Tweed + Cable Knit = Match Made In Heaven.  Two of my favorite textures together.  That’s like cheesecake filling and graham cracker crust.  Toast and jam.  I think I’m hungry, because all my metaphors are turning into food metaphors.  But I swear it applies.  Texture is one of the elements that’s necessary to make great food great.  Take tacos, for example.  (Dangit.  Now I want tacos.)

Day 2:  The Kimono

This burnt orange kimono thing has so much going on that I usually let it upstage the whole outfit.  Jeans are the unsung heroes of my closet.  They win Best Supporting Actress every week.  They add texture in their own right, but the texture is subtle enough to be considered neutral.  A black turtleneck, mid-tone jeans, and tan boots are about as neutral as an outfit can be.  I can wear that combination on its own, but it provides a great blank canvas for accessories or a really busy piece (i.e. this floaty-orange-chiffony-velvety-kimono).

One of the coolest things about this kimono is the branch pattern that runs all over it.  Usually we associate patterns with prints, but this pattern isn’t printed on. The branches are actually velvet woven into the sheer matte material.  The velvet branches have dimension, texture, and shine.  Beautiful.  That’s the kind of detail that gets me excited, because it’s surprising and unusual.

Day 3: Lace, Denim, Tweed

This outfit is proof that some outfits require more work than others.  I liked the idea of pairing the lace top with a tweed skirt and playing with texture mixing, but when I tried it on, I really didn’t like it.  I felt like a square.  In every sense.  The lace top’s proportions threw everything off, because it’s long, loose, and a little stiff.  My solution was to tuck the gray denim shirt into the skirt.  Then I used a hair tie to gather up the excess material at the bottom of the lace shirt and make it a better length for the skirt.  I also rolled up the sleeves, because that made everything seem a little less bulky.

I still wasn’t sure about this outfit when I left the house, but I’m a firm believer in the Just Pick An Outfit And Stick With It plan of action, especially when I have to leave the house in a hurry.  I didn’t actually like it until I saw the picture.  As a whole, the results are kind of cool.  It’s a little funky and bookish and I like those kinds of vibes.  One element that really ties everything together are the wingtip oxfords.  I found them at a thrift store and was immediately attracted to the detailed leatherwork on them.  They make this look make sense.

Day 4: The Subtle

Texture doesn’t have to draw attention to itself.  It doesn’t have to be showy.  This black cardigan is a simple as it gets, but it has ribbing on the sleeves and at the neck.  That’s the kind of detail you might only notice if you’re the one wearing it.  Flannel also has texture, but I can’t really describe it, besides calling it soft.  But it all counts towards the outfit.  Subtlety can be lovely.  It requires being thoughtful about the little details.

These black jeans fit perfectly and have the unnecessary, but delightful, detail of a grosgrain tuxedo stripe.  It’s not a contrast stripe, because it’s not in a different color.  It’s just a texture change, but it adds so much.  It reminds me of tuxedo trousers and Han Solo’s iconic look.  That combination is very hard to beat.

If you love black, texture is your best friend.  An outfit of all-black separates works best when each piece has a distinct texture.  If you don’t like experimenting with color, experiment with different materials.  Pair a black satin camisole with a black tweed jacket, black jeans, and black leather heels.  Wowza.

Day 5:  Wool and Lace

Black wool with a navy lace overlay is a quietly bold choice.  It’s very neutral, but very different.  This jacket is like a quietly confident person.  Not necessarily the person you automatically notice at a party, but once you start talking to them, you get more and more impressed.  When texture is used well, it draws the viewer in.  It catches the light.  It adds depth.  It can be subtle and quiet and interesting.  It can be bold and surprising.  It can be the supporting actor or the lead.  It enhances neutral colors and makes bright colors stand out even more.  It isn’t added on to clothes, like buttons, it is woven into the fabric.  It’s unavoidable and, when used well, very powerful.

Ashley Tries to Write About Singleness Without Coming Across As Whiny or Delusional


As a perpetually single Christian woman, I’ve read a lot of blog posts on singleness.  I don’t seek them out.  They mysteriously appear on my Facebook wall.  Who knows where they come from originally, but they end up in my feed, like dust bunnies under a couch.  They have titles like “How the Church Fails Singles” or “37 Things Never To Say To Single People” or “Singleness and Contentment” or “Using Your Singleness” or things like that.  I usually read through them, but none of them really captured my attention.  Probably because all of them were so SERIOUS.  I’ve been putting off writing The Dreaded Singleness Post since I started this blog, but it’s time.  The Time Is Now.  My target audience is post-college single women in the 25-45 age range, but please, stick around.

I’m 30 and haven’t been asked out on a date since I started my job, and I’ve had my job for about 6 years now. Not that I think my job has anything to do with it.  I just tell time by landmarks. I don’t remember specific years when things happen.  Now, I don’t really know why I haven’t been asked out.  In my lower moments, I can think of all sorts of reasons why guys wouldn’t be interested in getting to know me.  Maybe I don’t talk enough.  Maybe I’m uninteresting.  Maybe I don’t seem interested.  Maybe I seem too independent.  Maybe I can’t cook.  Maybe I’m not attractive.  Maybe I’m mean without realizing it. Maybe it’s because I’m either overdressed or I look like one of the Lost Boys fro Hook.  Maybe it’s because my eyebrows are constantly trying to take over my face.

Let me exhort you not to fall down that rabbit hole.  If you have a specific concern, ask your family or a close friend in honesty and humility.  “Am I careless with my words?  Do I hurt people?”  Don’t ask yourself.  If you are asking the question, you either you don’t know the answer or you are ignoring the answer.  So stop asking yourself questions that you don’t know the answer to and move on to something else!

Have you ever auditioned for anything?  It’s a vulnerable, nerve-wracking, competitive experience, because you have to stand up on your own and perform to a room full of people who are there to judge you.  Sometimes the cast list comes out and your name isn’t on it.  The best advice I ever received about auditioning: Don’t try to figure out why you didn’t get the role.  That’s a fast way to go mad or get bitter.  Either you blame yourself and start obsessing about what you could have done differently, or you blame your competition.  Either way, you can start thinking “I didn’t get it because I didn’t have enough breath control for that low note.” “I should have had more confidence coming in.  “I’m too ugly for that role.” “She only got the role because she’s blonde – typical.” “Why did SHE get the role? My audition was so much better.”  DON’T DO IT.  The same thing applies to unwanted singleness.  If you like a guy and he starts dating your best friend, how do you respond?  It’s ridiculously easy to automatically blame your friend or blame yourself or blame the guy you liked.  DON’T DO IT.

But like I said, those are the low moments.  Most of the time, I’m happy and fine and enjoying life.  But I do run into some hilarious singleness problems.  Like people being concerned about me and offering me advice and comfort.  It’s amazing how uncomfortable comforting can be sometimes.  This is where all those “37 Things Never To Say To Singles” posts come from.  But OH COME ON.  How pretentious would it be to walk up with a scroll, dramatically unfurl it, and announce All The Thinges Which Maye Not Be Uttered In My Presence.  That’s what those posts are like.  Are people always going to say the right thing?  No.  Will they always be sensitive to the issue you’re handling right now?  Nope.  When people try to comfort you and do it clumsily, recognize their intention.  Remember all the times that you clumsily tried to comfort a friend.

I have a little collection of singleness sayings at this point. One of my personal favorites: “Don’t worry, it’ll happen when you least expect it.” At this point, I don’t know how I can expect it any less.  But the winner of the most uncomfortable (and unintentionally hilarious) comforting was a lady who came up to me at my Grandaddy’s funeral. Here’s the scene – I’m in the receiving line and a kind stranger comes up to me and starts this gem of a conversation:

Lady: “Do you have kids?”

Me: “No, I don’t have kids.”

Lady: “But you have a husband, right?”

Me: “No.”

Lady (patting my hand): “Aww. It’s still just you and Jesus.” (Lady walks away, while I struggle to keep a straight face during all of this, because this was at a FUNERAL.)

Enough concerned people have asked me if I had tried online dating that I eventually joined OKCupid.  There were a few reasons for this.  Reason 1)  If I tried it, I could just say “Yes. I have tried online dating” and quickly switch to a more interesting subject.  Reason 2)  It was free. 3)  I’ve heard some success stories from OKCupid, so I was interested to see what it was like.

I think the main thing that drove me nuts about it was the inefficiency of the process.  Inefficiency is fine when there is warmth and personality and kindness.  Greece is inefficient, but if there’s blue ocean and delicious food, I don’t care how inefficient it is. But the deadly combo of inefficient AND impersonal eventually made me put the online dating account on ice. If I wanted inefficient and impersonal, I could run down to the DMV or get called involved in some other tedious bureaucratic process.  In my opinion, trying to meet somebody shouldn’t feel like a part time job.  What happened to the original matchmaking services, dinner parties and dances?  I like those.  If nothing came out of the dinner party, at least you got dinner.  If nothing came out of the dance, at least you got to get dressed up and see all your friends.  If nothing comes out of online dating, you’re just home in your pajamas, clicking through photos of strangers, probably holding a glass of white wine.  No wonder we feel isolated sometimes.  Real people are more fun than the ideas of people.

I want Amazon or Netflix to start an online dating service. Sure, it would be icy and impersonal and probably run by evil masterminds, but at least it would be highly efficient. Netflix wouldn’t even need me to fill out a profile – they already know too much about me. They know that on emotional days, I either want to watch Disney movies or the category they have labeled as Emotional East Asian Dramedies.  If dating comes down to algorithms, I want a service with the very finest algorithms.  Amazon’s dating service would come with reviews for each person.  That would drastically simplify the process.

Truth be told, I am picky. Evidence to this fact: I’m 30 and oh so very single.  But I’ve waited this long, so why should I settle NOW?  It seems like bad timing.  I’m holding out for great.  I’m not planning on lowering my standards.  If anything, my standards have gotten higher.

Okay, now I’m going to say some things that I should probably Never Say To Singles, but rest assured, everything I’m going to say to you, I’ve already had to preach to myself.

  1. STOP COMPLAINING THAT ADULTING IS HARD.  Also, we need to stop using the word Adulting.  Sure it’s hard.  It’s real life.  But you’re a real adult, so stop pretending that you’re still a child trying to do adulty things.  You’re an adult doing what you have to do and have every capability of doing.  Do you want to be treated like an adult? Act like one. Commit to things. Don’t have one foot out the door.  As a single person, it’s easy to sit at the kid’s table for a lot longer.  My younger sister feels more like an adult than I am, because she has a husband, three kids, and a household that she has to run.  But that’s a feeling.  The truth is that I’m just as much of an adult, but it’s easier to not see myself that way.  It’s time to put down roots and start building my own household.  If I’m building that household on my own right now, that’s not a problem.

2. GIVE UP THE HYPOTHETICAL TIMELINE AND LIVE IN THE REAL ONE.  It’s easy to sigh and think, “When I was in college, I assumed I’d be married and have kids by this point.”  That’s a hypothetical timeline, but it feels more real the more you dwell on it.  This feeds into a particular smart girl problem of being terrified of falling behind or failing.  Sometimes it feels like I fell behind a long time ago and now I’ll never catch up.  It’s not a race.  Don’t feed the fake timeline.  Give up your disappointment.  Give up the fake competition.  This is the real timeline. Live in it and love it.

3. MAKE GOOD FRIENDS.  If I could have one thing written on my tombstone, I’d want it to be Good Friend.  Cultivate your existing friendships and always be open to new ones.  This probably seems like a no-brainer, but be a good friend to your family.  Sometimes it’s easy to ignore that aspect of family, but being friends with your siblings and your parents is one of the best things in the world.  Spend the time and really invest in people.  Let your focus be external, rather than internal.  Focus less on being interesting to other people and focus more on being truly interested in other people.


4.  BECOME ADMIRABLE.  Keep learning.  Keep improving.  Become an intimidating force of nature.  Do the hard things that you have to do and don’t complain about it.  I find it so easy to complain.  Way too easy.  I don’t want to be a wimp or a whiner.  If an amazing man does come along someday, I want to be standing on my two feet and carrying out a plan, because that’s what I’d expect from him.

5.  USE WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN.  A couple days ago, I was reading The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25.  It’s one of the hardest parables for me to read.  “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.  Look, there you have what is yours.” (Matthew 24:24-25)  I don’t know about you, but it’s very easy to me to feel sorry for that man with one talent, but that is because he uses the same excuse that I do.  LORD, I WAS AFRAID.  I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANTED ME TO DO.  WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?  The answer is anything except nothing.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  If he had put the talent in the bank, he would have at least earned interest on it.  Don’t be afraid, because fear only paralyzes.  Use whatever you have been given.

Love isn’t a feeling.  It’s something that you do.  Don’t sit and wait for love.  Don’t bury it in the ground.  Don’t be afraid.  Love God and love your neighbor.  That’s it.  That’s what we’re told to do.  Loving other people does not require any other person giving love to you.  God has already given you all His love.  More than enough for you to give away every second of every day for as long as you last.  Don’t be afraid.

So whatever I go for this year, I want to go full out.  If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay.  I want to do anything except nothing.  I want to invest in people and build up my friendships.  I want to put down roots and not be afraid that it’s the wrong thing.  It’s not the wrong thing.  The wrong thing would be to bury what I’ve been given in the ground.

To all my single ladies, my amazing friends:  I love you so much.  You’re like those classic actresses in black and white movies – fierce, funny, witty, compassionate, intelligent, and beautiful.  Most people don’t think they make women like that anymore, but I know that’s not true, because I know my friends.  I’m telling you that you are all worth getting to know and it’s my privilege to know all of you.  Are you intimidating?  Absolutely.  Please don’t lower your standards.  You don’t need to settle for mediocre.  You deserve legendary.