Ashley Tries Dressing Like Flowers

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The beginning of summer is one of my favorite times of the year.  Cool mornings, strong sunshine, the occasional thunderstorm.  Delightful.

I took a stroll around my neighborhood on Memorial Day and got bombarded by flowers.  Big flowers, tiny flowers, tightly furled buds, full-blown ruffle explosions…  It was such a riot of colors and textures.  Inspiration hit hard and I decided to let my flower photos be the direct inspiration for my outfits this week.

Tuesday: Hawthorn Blossoms

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Every time the hawthorn trees bloom, I’m surprised by how beautiful these flowers are.  They look like tiny rose bouquets.  And they are all over the place up here.  There’s exquisite detail everywhere I look.  I think the surprise comes from my subconsciously equating exquisite detail and craftsmanship with rarity.  Finding so many tiny perfect rosettes on so many trees in so many front yards seems like coming across a huge pile of Fabergé eggs.  We are ridiculously blessed to be surrounded by beauty.  Fabergé probably wished he could rival the form and detail of a single flower or a single snowflake.  Each blade of grass is a marvel of engineering – strong, flexible, very complicated at the cellular and system level, but outwardly simple and very beautiful in its simplicity.  Don’t take all that beauty for granted.  Take the time to really look at the plants this time of year – they don’t stick around for very long, so enjoy them while they last!

The hawthorn blossoms reminded me of this little floral sundress.  The tiny pink flowers on this print are almost the exact size and color of real hawthorn blossoms, so I started off the week in a very literal fashion.  To make the dress look a little more casual and tone down the print a bit, I threw on a denim shirt.  Soft, thin denim shirts are my preferred summer layer, because they give the look of a jean jacket, but with less warmth.  Cool and comfy and covered is my goal in the summertime.

This dress is simple, but the pink print is so feminine and the shape is so nice that I could definitely wear it to a summer wedding.  But for work on Tuesday, a pair of flats and a jean shirt kept it casual.  If I wore this dress to a friend’s wedding, I’d style it with a pair of wedges (because summer weddings usually involve lawns), some pearl earrings, and I would attempt some kind of updo with my hair.  Then this dress would look all fancy and glamorous.

The problem was that this dress lured me into a false sense of security, because the print matched the hawthorn blossom photo so well.  I thought the rest of the week would be just as simple as this.  I was wrong about that.

Wednesday: Poppy

Take a look at this masterpiece!  This poppy is bigger than my hand, so the scale is automatically impressive.  The petals are more delicate than tissue paper.  The stem seems far too tall and thin to support any bloom of this magnitude, so it must be made of metal or something.  Also, look at that color scheme – orange, red, yellow, and pink on the petals, purple, brown, and black in the center, green and gray on the stem and leaves.

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That color scheme is pure crazy.  Look at how many watercolor pencils I had to use to even get close to those poppy colors!  If I tried to put all those colors into one outfit, people would think I had lost my mind.  Truth is stranger than fiction and nature’s color schemes make our craziest prints seem tame and safe.  Have you ever looked at a candle flame until you see all the layers of color?  White on the very edge, yellow fading into orange inside, and then at the base, deep electric blue and purple, sometimes even a light green.  It’s worth at staring at.  This poppy looks like flame.

Once I started really looking at the photo, I struggled to put an outfit together.  How could I assemble a look that would even come close to this amazing flower?  Eventually, I realized that I couldn’t recreate the poppy, but I could choose individual elements as inspiration and go from there.  Simplification was the way forward on this one.  From a distance, the main petal color is this bright coral red, so I pulled out a bright orange-red top and made it the star of the show.  I also drew inspiration from the stark contrast between the bright petals and the dark center, so I made everything else in the outfit dark – dark jeans, black heels, big black earrings.  (The fringe earrings also reminded me of the fluffy texture in the center of the flower.)

Do you ever need a reminder to not be paralyzed by comparisons?  Those comparisons sneak in.  I was comparing myself to a poppy and it paralyzed me for a while.  It’s so beautiful – I don’t have anything that comes close.  It won’t be good.  I just shouldn’t attempt this one.  Now imagine how much easier it is let people comparisons sneak in.  She’s so beautiful – I wish I could look like that, but I just can’t.  That would look good on me if I was skinnier and taller and had a different face and different hair.  It looks better on her – I just shouldn’t attempt it.  The realization that I was intimidated by a flower made me realize that I needed to nip those envious comparisons in the bud.  Pull out those doubt weeds when they are tiny.  Take inspiration from other people, but don’t try to replicate them.

Did you think there would be life lessons in this blog post about flower styling?  At the beginning of the week, I didn’t think there would be.  But everywhere I look, I see God’s grace at work.  Jesus used flowers to teach us about worry and (even more specifically) about clothes worry.  “And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?  Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Luke 12:25-28)

Why would God “waste” so much beauty on flowers?  They don’t last long.  This poppy’s flame petals might already be scattered all over the sidewalk.  But God cared so much about this particular poppy that He gave it colors that the richest queen WISHES she could replicate.  God cares more about you than He does about that flower and He put so much care into that flower.  Keep that in mind next time you start to worry.

Thursday: Peony

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This was the flower that gave me the idea for this week’s theme.  I want a dress that looks like this peony.  I don’t know how that would work exactly, but I’m ready to figure it out.  The gradient color, the ruffles, the volume, the slightly curled edges – there are so many beautiful elements that can translate directly to clothing.  In some ways, my tastes haven’t changed much from when I first started drawing dresses when I was five years old.  I love a big fluffy voluminous skirt.  I love ruffles.  I love pretty colors.  I love princessy clothes.  A dress inspired by this peony would tick all those boxes.

The peony outfit didn’t turn out super fluffy or ruffled, but the colors were pretty spot on, which pleased me.  I wouldn’t have though to pair these orange-yellow fringe earrings with this bright pink dress, but the center of the peony is a saturated pollen yellow and it looks stunning against the pink and white.  The contrast is so punchy and cool that I would definitely wear this color combination again.

I drew a few sketches of a peony dress.  It’s too literal right now, but I love the idea of the faded color gradient and overlapping petal layers, so I’ll keep playing with it.

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Friday: Daisy

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Daisies remind me of that line from You’ve Got Mail, when Meg Ryan asks, “Don’t you think daisies are the friendliest flower?”  Yup.  They look like summer and happy sunshine. At first glance, daisies look uncomplicated, but they are far from it.  Each tiny section in that central yellow disc is an individual flower, so this seemingly simple flower is actually hundreds of flowers all growing together.  Isn’t that cool?  Again, it warrants a closer look.

Simple-looking flower, pretty simple outfit: yellow cotton sweater, green chino shorts, metallic flats, and glasses.  I wanted a more casual look for Friday, so I saved the simplest outfit for last.  My goal for the day was to remember to be friendly.  Not that I’m actively unfriendly most of the time, but sometimes I don’t make the time to say hello to people or start up a conversation or arrange a time to meet up for coffee.  I usually chalk it up to being busy and not having time, but it’s usually me being afraid to put myself out there and initiate.  So any reminder to be friendly is a good thing.

This week was great.  My takeaway from this week is this:  if I feel burnt out, uninspired, and un-creative, I need to stop looking for inspiration inside myself.  I usually don’t realize I’m looking inward for inspiration until I’m scraping the bottom of the idea barrel and the ideas are all stale and uninteresting.  Being inward-facing is the very definition of self-centered and that’s bad news.  So open up all the windows and look out.  Take walks and admire everything.  Admire the bugs.  (Just watch – there will be a future blog post where I draw inspiration from different bugs.)  Talk to people and be genuinely interested.  Interested people are interesting people.

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