Ashley Tries Tee and Jeans

This was a busy week, so I wanted to simplify all my fashion decisions.  What could be simpler than starting every outfit with a t-shirt and jeans?  It’s a great blank canvas.

Day 1:  Fancy

I like to dress up a little bit on Mondays – it helps jumpstart the week.  I started off with an embellished black tee with some gather details and scattered embroidery.  It’s a swing shape, which means it fits through the shoulders then floats out from there.  Since the t-shirt was on the looser end, I picked out jeans in a fitted shape (to contrast with the looseness of the top) and in a dark wash (to keep the whole outfit feeling fancy).

I was much more aware of my shoe choices this week.  I tend to spend more time picking out my clothes, then grab shoes on my way out the door.  Since I themed my clothes with simplicity in mind this week, it gave me a little more time to think about shoes and accessories.

I went with some of my very fanciest shoes – black, gold, and cream heels that can easily overpower an outfit.  With jeans and a nice t-shirt, the shoes got to stand out in a good way.  Along with a simple gold chain necklace, that was the extent of my accessorizing, but the shoes pack a punch.  The complete outfit pleased me, because everything worked together and balanced out.  The shape of the jeans balanced out the shape of the top, the colors in the shoes mimicked the colors in the top.  It felt polished without any layering required.

Day 2:  Faded and Soft

Since I went for a more polished look on Monday, I wanted to focus on a soft, lived-in look for Tuesday.  The top has a breezy soft feel and a gray-and-white stripe woven into it.  It’s one of those rare, beautiful, and elusive creatures, the well-designed neutral tee.  If you see one of these creatures, capture it.

I picked soft, faded jeans and layered on a white jersey cardigan.  I wanted the outfit to feel like a flower that’s starting to fade, when the edges start curling and the petals soften.  My scuffy brown Oxford shoes and pale brown glasses kept everything in that same light neutral color palette.

The outfit was nice on its own, but it was an especially lovely background to highlight my favorite summer scarf.  There are a lot of colors on the scarf – the background is peachy pink and the foreground pattern is a bright blue and orangey red floral.  It was from a sidewalk sale in France and it’s one of my favorite things.  If there’s something you love to wear, create an outfit around it!

Day 3:  Pattern Mixing


A simple starting point doesn’t rule out a bold statement.  A green-based geometric print t-shirt and dark skinny jeans became the starting point for this outfit.  

The weather was chilly and rainy, so I needed another layer.  I love blazers – they take the same amount of effort as sweatshirts, but look way cooler.  So instead of a sweatshirt or a plain sweater or a jean jacket, I went for a print blazer.  

The print combination dazzled and disoriented the eye.  Pretty prismatic.  Bold to the point of foolhardy.  The only reason it kind of worked was the dark jeans and shoes.  I went for a bolder shape on the shoes- they have cutouts and peep toes, but they are black, so they didn’t add to the pattern craziness.  

I enjoyed this outfit – it didn’t feel like a typical t-shirt and jeans outfit, but it didn’t require extra effort.  It just required extra confidence.  It is easy to equate simple with safe or boring, but it doesn’t have to be either one!

Day 4:  Smiling Sushi


I found this smiling sushi shirt at the Salvation Army and I immediately loved it.  It has probably become obvious that I like some eccentric clothes… this one is pretty out there. But it fits great, it seems brand new, and it feels nice.  

Since the shirt was so different, I decided to opt out of the typical blue jeans, and go for a burgundy skinny jean.  They’ve actually been a very versatile pair of jeans for me.  I highly recommend a non-blue pair of jeans.  

This outfit was just a tee and jeans, but it lots of personality, thanks to the details and color.  Smiling sushi can make any day happier!

Day 5:  Layering on the happiness!


The aforementioned Salvation Army visit resulted in a lot of prints, including a button down shirt in a super-bright / bird-of-paradise / tropical print.  I adore a tropical print and they are very on trend right now – Dolce and Gabbana released a haute couture resort collection based around a custom tropical leaf print last year, etc.  

It’s a lot of print, so I kept it open and layered it over a black tee.  That breaks up the print and the black grounds all the bright colors. 

Dark ankle-length jeans and pointy black flats gave it a little 1960s vibe to me.  Like Gidget Goes Hawaiian or something.  

This week was a great palate cleanser – getting ready made easy!  I found myself focusing on one thing in the outfit (shoes or a scarf or a print).  The framework was all set up, then it was easy to infuse personality into the outfit.

Ashley Tries a Decade-a-Day

Vintage-inspired dressing generates a few questions and assumptions that I hear a lot:  “How do you wear vintage styles without looking like you’re wearing a costume?”  “Clothes were so much better back then, weren’t they?”  “I love the 1930s and 1960s styles, but I can only channel the 1940s and 1950s, because I’m curvy.”  “Retro clothes are so feminine and ladylike.”  “Those were the good old days.  Why can’t we go back to that?”  “I just can’t pull off retro.”

My goal this week was to be inspired by a different decade every day, put together a real outfit (not a costume) by figuring out signature elements from each decade.  Right up front I’ll admit that I’m not a stickler for complete authenticity.  I’m not going to wear gloves.  Brooches confuse me (WHERE DO I PIN THIS PIN).  I will not be wearing a girdle.  I don’t need total authenticity, because I’m not costuming Mad Men.  I’m just getting dressed in the year 2017.

The Year 2017.  That sounds so futuristic.  We’re only three years away from 2020.  I hope we have flying cars by then.  Actually, I hope we have personal-sized dirigibles to float around in, but I don’t know if anybody besides me is aiming for that goal.

We live in the present.  Not the future, not the past.  Why do we look back?  Why do we reference the past?  Is it because the past feels safe?  I don’t know the answers to all of those questions, but I do know that clothing comes in cycles.  The 1960s referenced the 1920s, the 1970s drew on the 1930s, the 1980s brought back trends from the 1940s… we never break away entirely.  Live in the past and plan for the future, but don’t forget the past.

1920s

Truth be told, this week came out of my research for a play I’m costuming.  I love historical research, but when it’s fashion history, that’s an additional delight.  The play is set in 1927, a very interesting time period for clothes.  It was social upheaval on display.  It’s one of the reasons I chuckle when women say that vintage clothes are so ladylike.  The 1920s weren’t ladylike – exposed ankles shocked the world, women went around wearing sacks as dresses (or even worse, trousers).  In contrast to the hyper-feminine Edwardian period, the abbreviated 1920s dresses looked like lingerie.  These women were running around in their underwear.  In public.  Black, formerly reserved for mourning, became the color of elegance.  The world changed after World War I and clothes changed along with it.

I didn’t go too shocking with my 1920s inspiration, because I still have to work and everything.  The elements and details that come to mind are dropped waists, bob haircuts, red lipstick, knee-length skirts, heels, and long strings of beads.  The dress is proof that curvy girls CAN wear a dress with a dropped waist – just keep proportions in mind.  The waist isn’t too exaggerated, hitting just around mid-hip, and the whole look is pretty and floaty.  Loose dresses are really comfortable – I can understand the movement away from corsets.  Even without a corset, I get tired of wearing fitted dresses.  Have you ever worn a dress that fits really really really well and breathing becomes a much bigger deal than normal?  No such problems with this kind of dress.  It feels like freedom.

I wore some comfy shoes with low heels, threw my hair into a low bun (because a fashionable 1920s girl either had a bob, or mimicked a bob with a loose low bun), and put on red lipstick.  I would have considered a long string of beads, if I owned a long string of beads…have kind of a love-hate relationship with strings of beads.  I deeply sympathize with Thoroughly Modern Millie and her bead problems.

Other ways to infuse some Roaring Twenties style into your outfit:

  • Layer a top over a skirt that hits around the knee and don’t tuck it in – this will mimic a drop waist.
  • Layer on necklaces (the longer the better).
  • A pleated skirt paired with a longer cardigan or blazer (add a brooch or a flower pin to the lapel for extra vintage points).
  • Ankle-strap pumps automatically add a little retro feel to a simple dress.
  • A loose-fitting Little Black Dress that hits around the knee.  Beading, fringe, sheer sleeves, or low back details all add to the glamour factor for evening.  Matte fabric and severe simplicity for daytime.

1940s

I skipped the 1930s, even though it is one of my favorite periods for clothes.  It was just a little more elaborate than I wanted to go for this week.

So I skipped to the 1940s.  Skirts got longer during the 1930s, then went back to short during World War II, because of material rationing.  The clothes were more simple and streamlined and business-like.  There was a strength to the clothing that reflected how strong women had to be during that time.  Clothing can be an armor and it can help you step up and do your job.  Strong lines, strong shoulders, sturdy fabrics, simplicity – these are things I love about clothing in the 1940s.  When I think about 1940s references, I think about Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, Katharine Hepburn and Ruth Hussey in The Philadelphia Story, Lauren Bacall in To Have or Have Not.

The day I wore this outfit was blazing hot, so I wanted something cool and simple.  The skirt isn’t too full or too fitted – a simple a-line.  The neckline is high, the sleeves come to the elbow, the waist fits at the natural waist.  The shoes feel vintage to me – thick heel, peep toe, cut-outs on the sides.  Curled hair, red lips.  The dress is very modern looking, but the overall vibe was retro and it made me feel like I could take on anything the day threw at me.

How to channel the 1940s:

  • A tailored blazer.  Make sure it fits through the shoulders and buttons all the way.  It must FIT.
  • A-line dresses that fit at the natural waist, then hit a little below the knee.
  • Details like sweetheart necklines, keyhole necklines, gathered shoulders, elbow-length sleeves, peep toe shoes.
  • Red lipstick.

1950s

1950s style is bright, colorful, exuberant, and feminine.  Use all the colors!  Use yards of fabric!  No more fabric rationing and everything seemed to be looking up.  Kids didn’t have to grow up as fast, so a whole teenage culture started up and began a divide between adult fashion and teenage fashion.  That hadn’t really happened before.

I love the design of this dress – the placement of the white stripes draws the eye right to the waist.  The skirt is full enough to put a petticoat under (which I don’t plan on doing, unless I’m in Guys and Dolls someday), but it’s still plenty full without looking like a costume.  I wanted to keep piling on the color, so I added pink heels and pink lipstick.  Threw on a striped cardigan, but it was too hot for a cardigan.  Sandra Dee inspired curly ponytail.  This look was really cute.  It felt a little TOO cute to me, but that’s my preference.  The whole thing felt 1950s to me, so I was happy with it.

How to add some 1950s style to your life:

  • Full skirt plus a tucked-in shirt.  Plus a cardigan, if you want to go that far.  The general silhouette is full on the bottom, fitted on the top, with focus on the waist.
  • Rolling up the sleeves on short sleeve shirts – it improves the fit and adds visual interest.
  • Heels.  And pearls.
  • A cropped jacket or cardigan draws the eye up to the natural waist.  (For those days when tucking your shirt in sounds like the worst thing in the world…)

1960s

When I think of 1960s, I think about Nancy Drew.  There are obviously other (nonfictional) examples of this era’s style, but Miss Drew’s elaborately flipped hair, perfectly matched separates, and penny loafers scream sixties to me.

Less ladylike than the 1950s, but just as elaborate (or more) in styling, the 1960s took hemlines to dizzying new heights.  Flats replaced heels as the new norm. If the fifties were all about the waist, the sixties were all about the legs, with skinny cigarette trousers and mini skirts to put them on display.

I wanted to go for separates for this day, since I had done dresses for the other days and because trousers became more commonplace during this time.  Going for kind of a Mary Tyler Moore vibe – you know when she dances in a turtleneck, pants, and flats and looks ADORABLE while doing so?  It’s iconic.  I don’t usually wear turtlenecks, so I wore a  light sleeveless sweater with a high cowl neck to mimic the look without being too literal with it.  It also has a trapeze shape, which is pretty true to the period.

Skinny jeans that hit right at the ankle, pointy flats, cat eye eyeliner, pale lips.  Swingin’ sixties, baby.  It looks modern, but that’s because the 1960s informed so much of what we consider modern.

How to do 1960s:

  • Trapeze dresses that fit around the neck, then float out from there.  Sheath and shift dresses also give that mod shape.
  • Crazy prints (especially floral or paisley or plaid)
  • Eyeliner, pale lips
  • Matchy-matchy (skirt suits, match your earrings to your dress, etc.)
  • Pointy-toe flats or loafers or elastic-sided boots

1970s

For the 1970s, I got inspired by pictures of my mom’s college days.  There was a glam side to seventies style, but I am more familiar with the California natural earthy side.  I don’t own REAL flares, the engulf-your-foot elephant flare bell bottoms, so I just went with straight leg jeans with a good faded wash.

Embroidery was a big trend, along with comfy oversized tunics, so I used this opportunity to bring out my embroidered Mexican top.  I love it very much.  It was super comfy, because I wore my loosest jeans and a loose top.  SO comfy.

I really should have had Birkenstocks, because those were my mom’s only shoes in college.  I used to have a pair, but they wore out.  So I wore brown platform heels, because those are super seventies.

I have a great fondness for the tunic tops, flares, maxi dresses, and crazy color combinations of my mom’s college days.  It is the summer Friday of decades.

To get some seventies sunshine in your style:

  • Flares are having a fashion moment – pull those wide leg jeans back out.  We don’t need to wear tight jeans all the time!  Be as comfy as you want this summer.
  • Breezy tunics and caftans
  • Maxi dresses
  • Platform shoes
  • Wavy hair – free those curls!

It was a fun week, but it made me start thinking about what I want the future of fashion to be.  We shouldn’t just retreat to the past and be reactive.  We need to start thinking about the future and be proactive about it.  Clothes shape us.  We need to start designing, start making, start figuring out what’s really important in clothes.  Make conscious decisions about what clothes we wear and what those clothes mean.  It’s easy to go back to something familiar – it’s harder to make things.  The past is a good reference, but we shouldn’t retreat to the past if we don’t like the present or if we don’t like the way our immediate future looks.  The present is where we live and where we can change things, so we need to focus on the present.

Ashley Tries Fandom Style

It’s Fandom Week and it has been one of my very favorites, mostly because I was joined by Sara, my good friend and fellow fashion enthusiast!  If you ever have something fashiony that you want to try, but are self-conscious or nervous about it, ask a friend to try it with you.  It’s twice as much fun and if the outfit totally doesn’t work, you can laugh about it together.  Having Sara along for the ride gave me the confidence to push my own ideas a little farther and enjoy the whole process even more.

For all of you wondering what “fandom dressing” is all about, it’s creating an outfit inspired by a fictional character.  These are real outfits that you can wear all day – not costumes.  It’s a creative outlet, a cool way to get clothes inspiration, and a way to show that you are a fan!  I’ve been wanting to try it for a while and I’m so glad I got the chance this week.

Day 1:  Mortimer Dalrymple

This was kind of a bonus day, because it was Memorial Day.  The sun was shining, the pace slowed down, and this sleepy little town reminded me of one of my favorite books – The Mad Scientists’ Club by Bertrand R. Brinley.  It’s set in a tiny town in the late 1950s / early 1960s and stars a bunch of middle-school boys who love science (and mainly use their brainpower to cause some mayhem).

Mortimer Dalrymple is in charge of electronics and making sarcastic comments.  One of my very favorites is when the club has rigged up an old house to make it seem haunted and then they hear that the sheriff is coming out to check it out.  “”I don’t wanna do my ghost act,” said Mortimer Dalrymple. “I might get arrested for having no visible means of support.””

Genius.

So with the air smelling like summer adventures, I wore rolled-up jeans, beat up sneakers, a plaid button down shirt, and a straw fedora with the brim flipped up.  It made me want to make a sea monster or figure out how to make a mannequin fly or haunt a house (and it really made me want to read all of those stories again).  When life slows down in the summer, it’s time to get busy!

Day 2:  Tiffany Aching and Kiki

Day 2:  Tiffany Aching (from The Wee Free Men)

Here’s a description of Tiffany Aching’s clothes from Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men:  “Start with the boots.  They are big and heavy boots, much repaired by her father, and they belonged to various sisters before her; she wears several pairs of socks to keep them on.  They are big.  Tiffany sometimes feels she is nothing more than a way of moving boots around.  Then there is the dress.  It has been owned by many sisters as well and has been taken up, taken out, taken down, and taken in by her mother so many times that it really out to have been taken away.  But Tiffany rather likes it.  It comes down to her ankles and, whatever color it had been to start with, is now a milky blue that is, incidentally, exactly the same color as the butterflies skittering beside the path.”

Tiffany Aching is a great character – she reads through the dictionary (because nobody tells her that you aren’t supposed to), she is overly precise, makes excellent cheese, and invades Fairyland armed only with a frying pan.  And she leads an army of 6-inch-high blue warriors.  Tiffany is a force to be reckoned with.

I was able to keep it simple for this one – when I read the description, it reminded me so much of my faded blue maxi dress that the dress was basically all I needed.  I just had to add boots!

Day 2:  Kiki (from Kiki’s Delivery Service)

[Note:  I didn’t have to write descriptions for Sara’s outfits, because Sara kindly wrote down some notes on her outfit-picking process.]

Sara:  “I love the look, feel, and storytelling style of any Studio Ghibli film. I chose Kiki because she has a very simple, but iconic look: swing dress, orange flats, big red bow (and a broom, which I left out for practical reasons).

I started with a simple navy swing dress, then chose a nautically-patterned red scarf (a nod to the seaside town she lives in) and tied it in a giant bow on my head. This is something that I did *all the time* in college, but it’s been a few years and I did feel very young and a little self-conscious at first.

I debated about what shoes to finish the outfit with. I have a pair of red flats that would have worked, but the silhouette of the dress paired with the giant bow felt very young and I work in an office. I opted instead for this great pair of orange wedge sandals I thrifted brand new for 50 cents last week. They stay true to the color of Kiki’s shoes while elevating (literally) the outfit a bit.”

Day 3:  Princess Leia and Peggy Carter

Day 3:  Princess Leia

Sara:  “I quite enjoy Leia. She’s a strong woman without falling into the trap of being a Strong Female Character (the type where you can just hear the capital letters thunking into place). Yes, she’s a princess. Yes, she needs rescuing. But once she is rescued she’s resourceful and brave without feeling the need to prove that she’s as good as a boy. She’s secure in who she is.

I knew that this outfit was going to be a little less on the nose than Kiki’s outfit as I do not own a flowy white space dress, and was not planning on putting cinnamon buns on my ears. Day 1 was almost a costume, day 2 was an homage. The heart of Leia’s style (at least in A New Hope) is that she wears all white and space buns. I chose a white dress and knotted a slightly oversized button-up over it.

Leia is a combination of hard and soft and the lace dress with the slightly masculine sleeves-rolled-up shirt struck that balance. I paired it with white leather oxfords with a platform that makes them feel future-y/space-y, and finished off the outfit with space buns and teensy planet earrings.”

Day 3:  Peggy Carter (from Marvel’s Captain America and Agent Carter)

She’s tough, kind, beautiful, funny – it’s no wonder Peggy Carter got her own spin off show after the first Captain America movie.  In the movie, she mainly wears a uniform, but in the show, she fights evil in beautifully bright dresses and tailored separates.  She makes running in heels look easy.  I’m not just a fan of Peggy – I’m a fan of the whole look of the show and the costume design in particular.  She takes on Captain America’s fight after he’s gone and she takes on his superhero colors as well – she starts wearing blue and red, and it’s such a cool visual storytelling move.

The blue and red are iconic, so I wanted to go for it, but I didn’t want to go too bold and primary.  Bright blue and bright red run into costume territory really fast.  I went for navy blue with a dark red belt, then topped it with a tailored blazer and peep toe shoes in neutral colors.  I loved this outfit.  Put-together, feminine, bold, and classic all at the same time.

Curled my hair a little bit, pinned up one side, and added red lipstick for a low maintenance version of a classic 1940s look.  It’s an everyday glamour – we’ve lost a bit of that in our very casual culture.  It was fun to bring it back in a modern way!

Day 4:  Miss Frizzle and Nausicaa

Day 4:  Miss Frizzle (from The Magic Schoolbus)

Sara:  “Miss Frizzle – it’s difficult to think of a woman more fearless or iconic when it comes to fashion (and taking large groups of children into terrible danger). I am a lady who likes her statement jewelry, statement prints, statements shoes, etc.  I like statements. So I definitely feel Miss Frizzle on a deeper level.

She will take a theme and run with it all the way and I knew I had to do the same. I started with this great red and white striped dress that is covered with hummingbirds, paired it with my camel wool blazer as it was chilly that day, and added red and navy patterned heels (be fearless). I knew the real make or break was going to be the details. I added these great glass earrings I thrifted as well as a thrifted bird brooch and then teased my hair into a big bun at the top of my head for the finishing touch.”

Day 4:  Princess Nausicaa (from Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind)

This was my Miyazaki day and I drew inspiration from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.  Princess Nausicaa flies a glider, tames giant insects, and sacrifices herself for her people after her father, the king, is murdered.  She’s tough.  She has to be.  But even with all she goes through, she never loses her sweet, joyful nature and her love just increases.

When she flies, Nausicaa wears a blue tunic, white leggings, boots (with shin guards), gloves, goggles, and a gas mask.  I went for a less on-the-nose look, because that’s a whole lot of crazy (especially for work).  I went for a blue tunic top, white pants, and ankle boots.  I’ll readily admit that Nausicaa’s boots make me want over the knee boots….and a glider to fly.

I put on some eyeliner for that Japanese anime look, and borrowed some crazy bug earrings from Sara (because Nausicaa can tame giant insects).  This look made me happy.  One of the things I love about fandom dressing is that it really is the thought that counts.  It’s the thrill of having a secret.  Nobody else had to know that my clothes were inspired by Nausicaa, but I knew it, and that knowledge gave me a happy little glow inside.

Day 5:  Jose Carioca and Indiana Jones

Day 5:  Jose Carioca (from The Three Caballeros)

For the last day, I knew I wanted to do a Disney character, because Disney is one of the biggest influences in fandom dressing.  (If you look up Disneybound on Pinterest, you’ll find thousands of outfits that fans have put together.)  It was kind of tough to figure out which character to do, because there are so many options!  I was considering Maid Marion, Peter Pan, Wendy, Miss Bianca, Edna Mode, Lilo, Meg (from Hercules)…..then I remembered one of my very favorite Disney characters.  His name is Jose Carioca.  He’s a very dapper Brazilian parrot from Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.  They are pretty crazy – imagine Fantasia mixed with a travelogue from an epic trip through South and Central America.

Jose speaks Portuguese most of the time, moves to the rhythm of the samba, and teaches Donald Duck about Brazil.  He’s just the coolest.  He’s a green parrot, so I chose green skinny trousers.  He wears a yellow jacket, a white shirt, a bow tie, spats, and a boater hat and he always carries an umbrella.  The overall affect is extremely dapper, so I gave a nod to that with oxford shoes, a black hat, and a mock bow tie.  I wanted the whole outfit to look cool and effortless, so I substituted a striped tee for the collared shirt and then tossed on a chartreuse cardigan instead of a structured jacket.

This one is probably my favorite.  I’ve always loved Jose’s dapper tropical look and his effortlessly cool attitude and his accent and how he lives his life to a samba rhythm.  Some outfits make confidence easy.  This is one of them.

Day 5:  Indiana Jones

Sara:  “I knew for the last day that I wanted to wear pants. Therefore, I chose Indiana Jones (there were other considerations as well, I suppose). This one was super fun to put together, and again, I loved thinking of the details. The base was simple with tan pants and a safari-esque shirt. The hat was a given and I borrowed the leather jacket from Ashley (although full disclosure, I didn’t really wear it much as it was quite hot that day).

To finish off the outfit I added my life-size gold cicada earrings (which Ashley wore for her Nausicaa outfit) and the crowning touch was my snakeskin shoes (“Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?”). All in all it was a super fun week and I haven’t been this excited about getting dressed in a long time. Thanks for having me along, Ash!”

Thanks for joining me, Sara!  You made this week fantastic and you looked fabulous every day.

Thanks for reading, everybody!  If you have any ideas for me to try, please leave me a comment.

 

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.

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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!