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

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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.

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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.

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Ashley Tries to Start the New Year Right

Hello and a very happy new year to you!  I hope you all had a very merry Christmas, because I sure did.  There was family and snow and food and twinkle lights and food and fireplaces and cozy socks and food.

After such a wonderful Christmas, I really can’t be anything except grateful.  Not even my day-after-Christmas stomach virus couldn’t shake that gratitude off of me.  During the stomach bug, I was grateful for hot showers and sleep and disinfecting wipes and my warm little house, and the biggest blessing of all was that it held off until after Christmas!  Now that I’m well again, I’m so grateful to be healthy!

I’m trying to start this year off right.  I even bought a calendar planner thing – look!

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I don’t do grand resolutions at the beginning of each year, but I did write down some things I want to in 2018:

  • Get into a good rhythm for cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping.  Be a good steward of the house and enjoy everything about it!
  • Plan a trip for the autumn of 2018.
  • Have people over for dinner.
  • Learn how to dance salsa and get good at it!  (Why not?)
  • Go on walks and explore.
  • Invest in the blog and figure out ways to make it more helpful/applicable/encouraging.
  • Make new friends.
  • Learn and record some songs and learn more ukulele chords.  (At the moment, I only know about six chords.  That’s perfectly adequate for most folk songs, but I think E major would really come in handy.)  Bonus points if I record Dire Straits’ Romeo and Juliet and send it to Mark Knopfler and he decides that I should sing backup vocals for him.  Why not?  Dreams can come true.
  • Find or make art for my house.
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour.
  • Use up my art supplies.

I thought those sounded like good things, but I decided to approach them without any sense of panic or neediness, just gratitude for what I already have.  These are things that will help me love what I’ve already got!

I have a house to clean and care for and decorate however I want.  It’s such a blessing to rent this cozy little place and I want practice sharing it.

I have functioning legs for walking and dancing and a whole world outside to explore.

I have this blog and readers who constantly encourage me.  I just hope that I can encourage YOU as much as you encourage me.  All my love to you.

I have the time and independence to travel right now, so it’s the perfect time to go have adventures.

I love singing and I love doing art, but I don’t practice them enough to get excellent at either of them.  It’s time to invest and improve on them.  If I come to the end of 2018 and I’ve used up all my art supplies, I’ll be thrilled.  Those oil pastels aren’t supposed to sit in the box.  They’re supposed to become something.

I’m just going to go for it this year.  My sister gave me this for Christmas:

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Change doesn’t come through bemoaning what you don’t have, it’s building on what you already have!  Do you want to lose ten pounds?  (You probably do.  I haven’t met anybody who doesn’t want to lose at least five pounds.)  Start with what you have.  Do you have legs?  Give God thanks for the legs He gave you and go for a walk or a jog or a run.  Don’t bemoan.  Give thanks and go for the gusto!  That’s my goal this year.

 

Ashley Tries To Dress How Her 16-year-old Self Thought 30-year-olds Dress

I’ve been 30 for a couple of months now, and I highly approve.  30 is pretty nice.  Teenage years fill up with a torturous amount of FEELINGS and the twenties tend toward pressure and hard decisions and confusion.  But at 30, you’re expected to have some of your life figured out, I guess.

The theme for this week came from getting dressed in all black separates for a choir concert last week.  As I put on black trousers and a black shirt and black shoes and lots of black eyeliner, it reminded me of high school, because I did all black a whole lot more when I was around 16 or 17.  And when I had my look all together I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “Wow.  This is what I was going for in high school, but I didn’t know how to do it.  This is what I was TRYING to achieve.”  It’s kind of a nice thought.  That made me laugh, but it also made think about my teenage aspirations.  At 16, what did I assume about my life at 30?

I’m kind of weird in this aspect, but I don’t tend to dwell on the past or do much planning for the future.  A lot of people talk about living in the present, but that’s my default.  I live in the future and I have a bad memory and pretty terrible planning skills.  I don’t do much comparison at all, which is why the idea of taking stock of where I am and measuring that against my teenage ideals seemed like an interesting experiment.

Here’s that black on black on black on black outfit.  The main reason I don’t usually do all black separates is that most blacks do not match each other and unless you go for black separates with radically different textures, the ensemble can be off-putting.  The other reason is that I love color.  But in high school, I hadn’t realized either of those things yet.  I wore black because I wanted everybody to see that I was serious and very into fashion and super mature and mysterious and DESERVING OF RESPECT AND ADORATION.  I was also going through an extended Audrey Hepburn phase and Audrey wore all black, so I had to wear all black.

At 16, I was sure that future me would be a serious fashion designer (with emphasis on the serious part).  If I had watched The Devil Wears Prada at the point, I would have related to Miranda Priestly, which is NOT the preferred takeaway from that movie.  Looking back, I would have told little me to talk to more people, to be less serious, and to loosen up.  I was a little too good at being mysterious.  At my graduation, probably less than ten people in my class actually knew me as a person.  My “mysterious” persona was just a way to avoid opening up to people, so I wish I had pushed myself to talk more.

16-year-old Ashley would have really liked this all black outfit, but she would be shocked at how tight my jeans are and she would be disappointed that I was a data analyst and not a fashion designer or at least a costume designer.

I was trying to remember one of my favorite outfits from high school…. then I remembered and immediately started laughing.  I’ll talk you through the elements:

  • Nondescript baggy jeans.  I didn’t know jeans were supposed to fit at that point.  I didn’t anticipate skinny jeans in my future.  Or in ANYBODY’S future, for that matter.
  • A bright white canvas jacket that I called my “Luke Skywalker Jacket”, because it had those square military-style pockets on the front.
  • A neon orange, oversized, long-sleeved t-shirt that I found in the boys section of a Gap Kids store.  Since the neon orange probably wasn’t garish enough to make sure that people could see me from space, it also had GAP in giant reflective letters across the chest.
  • Some sort of shoes.  Maybe clogs.  Maybe bulky tennis shoes.  Maybe Birkenstocks.  Don’t remember much about my shoes at that point.  I have a bad memory and that can be a mercy.

I can look back on that crazy outfit with fondness, because I really loved it.  Nobody else would have worn it.  I was brave to the point of foolhardy.

In an homage to my neon t-shirt, I wore my brightest neon jacket.  It’s so orange that everybody feels free to comment on it.  People have said that I look like a convict, like I’m going hunting, or that I fly an x-wing.  X-wing pilot is my personal favorite.  It’s a bold look, but Fortune Favors The Bold.  It’s hard to be as bold as a teenager who doesn’t know anything, because the more you build, the harder it is to risk.  Nobody cared what I wore when I was 16.  Nobody cares that much now, but it feels more important.  I just need to go for it.  Be bold and happy.

My style references during high school were all from old movies.  Those movies shaped me.  My style icons were Audrey Hepburn and Lauren Bacall and Natalie Wood and Katharine Hepburn.  I didn’t have any current pop culture knowledge at that point (current here being early-2000s), so I think it’s pretty adorable that 16-year-old me was absolutely convinced that that a fashion design career was not only likely, but inevitable.  While it’s good to have some fashion history, knowing what’s going on currently is kind of important for a fashion designer.

I think it’s pretty fascinating how influential Audrey Hepburn was and continues to be.  I don’t think she was necessarily the best fashion role model for me, because I not only went through an all black separates stage, I went through a boatneck top stage.  Boatneck tops look wonderful on Audrey Hepburn.  They make me look top-heavy and matronly.  At that point, the fact that Audrey and I have VERY different body types didn’t even occur to me.

When I do throwback styles now, I don’t go for Audrey.  I go for Lauren Bacall or Katharine Hepburn or Rosalind Russell, because their style was more based around their personality and not around a specific clothing style.  I want to own my style, rather than having the style own me.

I think 16-year-old Ashley would be confused if I went back and told her what I’m doing now.  The plan was to grow up to be a cool, fierce, respected, serious fashion designer.  A woman who has everything together.  A woman who could give anyone a run for their money.  A woman who always stands out, but stands apart.

I’m not that superwoman.  I’m a 30-year-old data analyst who spends a lot of time working with spreadsheets.  I live alone.  I’m definitely not serious, because serious people don’t laugh so hard that their noses run.  I think I’m hilarious, even when I’m not.  I’m a total nerd.  There is so much stuff I’m bad at.  If I need to do something that is out of my comfort zone, I freak out.

But even though I grew up to be a happy nerd, I still found myself breaking into the fashion world through a side door.  I’ve been making Polyvore boards for a few years now and my boards have been viewed over 400,000 times!  I have Polyvore contacts and followers all over the globe, including a small (but dedicated) band of followers from Bosnia.  Who would have guessed?

The fashion game has changed and I’m in it.  In a small way, but I’m still still in it.  Living the dream!

The point is this –  life doesn’t go according to our plans, but that’s not a reason for disappointment.  In high school, I mainly thought about myself, because I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have to support myself or my family.  It was easy to be self-absorbed.  My plans were as small as my vision and my vision was as small as myself.  Thank goodness we don’t have to write our own stories.  We’d leave out all the good parts.  I didn’t know that I’d go through times that left me in tears and drove me to my knees. I didn’t know that I’d cry at good news.  My world has gotten so much bigger since then, but my world is still small.  Imagine how much more I’ll learn in the next 30 years.

Here are a few things I took away from this week:

  • I thank the Lord I am no longer in high school.
  • I have gotten less serious as I’ve gotten older.
  • Talking to people is hard, but it is great.  It’s true that people are sometimes the worst, but people can also be the best.  So be brave and get to know more people. (That’s the one piece of advice I wish I could have given to myself during high school.)
  • Comparisons can be odious, especially when you compare between What You Wished For and What Actually Has Happened.  Remember that only one of them is real.  Give thanks for the real one.
  • When expectations meet reality, give yourself a break.  The things we wished for can hurt us if we let them.  I thought I’d be married by now / I thought I would have a house by now / I thought my career would be steady by now / I though my fashion creations would be on the cover of Vogue by nowI thought I would have lost that weight by now.  Give thanks for what you have NOW.  And work from there.  Make a plan and work on it.  But don’t give your expectations the same weight as reality.
  • Keep learning.  Don’t let yourself stay in the same place forever.  Keep developing your mind and your soul.  Our desires should change as we grow up.  Be honest with yourself and surround yourself with honest friends who love you.
  • I know I’ve said this before, but the hardest times of our life are also the times where we grow the most.  We would never plan on the trials, but we need them.  Without them, our vision would stay small forever.
  • I’m not where I imagined that I’d be by now, but I’m so glad.  I’m grateful for where I am at right now.

Ashley Tries Doing Her Own Hair and Ponders Gift Giving

This week has been a departure from my standard Ashley Tries format.  I did try to do my hair a different way every day, but that really wasn’t anything to write home about.  I’m still really bad at doing hair.  The main thing I learned was that I had to decide the night before that I was going to try to do something different, so I was mentally prepared to try something new the next morning.  The first day was the highlight – I tried that I’m-a-millennial-so-I-don’t-curl-the-ends-of-my-hair hair and that worked out pretty nicely.  I also tried to put together my best millennial outfit and break out the instagram pose, just for consistency’s sake.
The only problem with having a win early in the week was that it lulled me into a false sense of security.  Tuesday I tried to do a french braid.  WHY?  I never learned how to do a french braid and I have very little dexterity when I’m trying to knot hair on the back of my own head.  I didn’t have Sara get a picture of back of my head, because I didn’t even want to know what it looked like.  This picture was taken an hour or so after I twisted my hair into what I hoped looked like a braid and it was already falling out.  Fortunately, I was wearing a turtleneck and pumps to prove that I am in fact an adult and a professional.  I wore red lipstick to try to salvage the hair and face situation, but my hat is off to those women who can somehow knit together a masterpiece on the back of their own head.
By Friday, I had definitely run out of ideas, so I went with a ponytail.  I realized that I use clothes as way to control things that I’m not great at.  Mainly hair.  “Well, my hair is kind of boring, but I’ve got a red shirt on.”  “My hair is mess, but I WILL DISTRACT YOU WITH MY BLAZER.”  And it works.  People assume that I’m a put-together person most of the time.  I’m really not.  I have a million ideas sleeting through my head and a stubborn streak, but discipline doesn’t come easily to me.  But if a blazer makes people think that I’ve got it all together, you’d better believe I’m going to wear that blazer.
The main thing I focused on this week was creating gift guides and thinking about presents!  I love Christmas and I especially love the tradition of gift giving.  The only reason I object to the idea of Santa is that sometimes he’s used as a works righteousness threat.  (Be good or Santa won’t bring you any presents!)  NO.  The whole point of Christmas is that God gave us everything when we least deserved it.  This world was a planet of Grinches and Scrooges and we deserved worse than nothing.  Then God sent His Son and saved us.  He gave us everything.
When we give, we give ourselves.  Love who you give presents to and love what you give.  Watching kids open Christmas presents is the absolute best.  They haven’t gotten to the stage where they don’t know what they want.  They ask for what they want and when they unwrap the thing they really want, there is pure joy.  Adults are trickier to shop for and sometimes we just need some inspiration.  So I made a few themed gift guides to help get your giving going!
Gift Guide: Geek/Nerd/Fan
 
Gift Guide: Organized vs. Crazy
A few parting thoughts about giving fun presents:
  • Figure out a budget for presents and stick with it, so that your giving isn’t grudging or tinged with guilt.  Antique stores and consignment stores and thrift stores are great places to look for inexpensive presents with a lot of personality.
  • Some people get very burdened by physical possessions.  If you’re trying to figure out a present for somebody who already has too much stuff, give them a gift card to a coffee shop and plan a time to hang out together, or buy them a movie pass and plan a movie night together.
  • Food is a great present.  I adore food presents.  I’m a farmer’s daughter and one amazing thing about farmers is that they give what they grow.  It’s so personal and wonderful.  Growing up, the other farmers would give us tangerines and oranges and almonds and pistachios.  They didn’t grow chocolate, but they also gave us a lot of chocolate and it was the BEST EVER.
  • Don’t shy away from practical presents.  The older I get, the more I appreciate nice socks in my stocking.  I wear socks all the time and nice socks are such a delight!  I was given a little pocket knife one year and that was fantastic.  But I lost it somewhere along the way and I am living a knifeless life.   I should ask for a little Swiss Army Knife for my stocking!
  • Give music!  I signed up for Pandora Plus (because I got sick of listening to ads) and I love it.
  • Give presents that foster a sense of adventure – if they want to travel to Iceland, give them a travel guide to Iceland!  Give them a map of hiking trails in your area.  Give them trail mix and a compass.  Give them a globe.  I loved our globe growing up.

The main thing is to just love your people and give out of gratitude.  Start Christmas off right by having a happy heart!

Ashley Tries Vintage

I actually don’t have a lot of vintage pieces in my wardrobe and I don’t usually go for vintage styling, so this week was an interesting challenge for me!  That might come as a surprise to some of you, because I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I have a retro / vintage vibe going on.  I think this is because I like wearing clothes that having interesting details, good fit, and funky colors, plus lots of femininity.  Those are all things that we associate with vintage clothing.

Last weekend, I went to an antique store to get framing supplies for some artwork that I wanted to put up in my house, and the antique store turned out to be full of beautiful vintage clothes as well.  Since I automatically make up rules for myself, I made a few rules, because everything was cool and beautiful and I wanted IT ALL.

  • If it doesn’t fit, don’t buy it.  (Don’t do the “if I lose five pounds, this will look great!” thing.  That ruins the fun of buying and having clothes.  This is a life rule for me, not just a vintage-clothes-shopping rule.  If it doesn’t fit right now, it’s not the right thing.  Period.)
  • If needs major work, don’t buy it.  (This applies to stains, holes, bad zippers, etc.  Hemming is okay, major structural alteration is not.)
  • If you don’t have an occasion to wear it, don’t buy it.  (It has to work for MY life, not somebody else’s life.
  • If it looks like a costume, don’t buy it.

Even with those rules, I found two dresses, two coats, and an evening gown.  The evening gown did not make an appearance, but I’m going to a fancy Christmas party soon and I promise I will post a picture when I wear it!

Day 1: Gingham Dress

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This dress is cute, comfy, and practical.  I think it would look better without tights, but I needed tights on Monday.  Because it was cold.  Here are the reasons I bought this dress:

  • It combines two big trends for this year:  western details and gingham.  I could have bought this exact dress at a funky boutique somewhere.  What goes around comes around!
  • The material is good quality – stretchy, thick, and soft.
  • While it is a shirt dress, only the top actually buttons and unbuttons.  The skirt does not unbutton and this prevents gapping and other wardrobe malfunctions.  I appreciate that kind of concern for my wellbeing.
  • It fit beautifully.  It was made with curves in mind.
  • It was eight dollars.  SCORE.

I don’t think this is the best styling for it.  I picture this as a standalone spring / summer dress with some flats or chunky heels.  This dress is pure fun and it definitely looks better on than it does on the hanger.  That’s why it’s important to try things on!

Tuesday: Western Jacket

This jacket is my new favorite thing.  According to the tag it comes from Pam Layne’s Sage In Bloom – apparel wear – Ft. Worth Texas.  This thing is legit.  It’s quality wool, a fantastic cut, plus it has BIRDS ALL OVER IT.  I could find this jacket at Anthropologie right now, but I wouldn’t be able to afford it.  This jacket was around twenty dollars, but to buy something comparable new would probably be around two hundred dollars.  That’s why I was over the moon to find this one.  Even if nobody else loves it as much as I love it, I feel like I won a treasure hunt.

I did modify this one slightly, because there were beaded tassels coming off the buttons.  It was definitely a look, but it’s easier to wear it without.  Also, the lining fabric is incredible.  Lining fabrics go a long way with me.  I appreciate designers who spend time on a part of the garment that may only be seen by the wearer.

Wednesday: Red Skirt

I was considering wearing the other dress I bought, but it was too summery.  I would have frozen to death.  So I asked my friend Sara to loan me a vintage skirt, so I could try styling it in a modern way.

This is probably my favorite outfit this week, just because there were a lot of moving parts.  Skirt, t-shirt, sweater blazer, necklaces, ankle booties.  A red skirt may seem intimidating and hard to pair with things, but it can be really beautiful.  It just requires some boldness.

The best part of the skirt was the fit and flare shape.  The waist hit right at my narrowest point and then went out from there.  The sweater blazer buttons at the natural waist as well, so it was just a great day for that waist.  I wanted to mix prints and to do an unexpected color scheme (red, white, peachy-pink, and black), because trying to match would be impossible and the mix is what makes the outfit look modern.  Matching makes outfits look more retro/vintage.

Thursday: Necklace

Since Wednesday’s outfit was all about trying to make the mix look modern, I want Thursday’s outfit to look vintage, but with modern clothes.  The only vintage element is the necklace.  My grandma gave it to me and I think it’s the coolest thing.  Very graphic and sleek and modern.

If you want a vintage look, but don’t feel confident hunting down vintage pieces from thrift and antique stores, you can still achieve a vintage look that doesn’t look like a costume.  Look for dresses that fit on the top, flare out at the bottom.  Look for fitted jackets.  Look for unique prints or interesting details.  The main thing to keep in mind if you want a vintage feel is to go for pieces that look ladylike.  Not necessarily super fancy or cutesy, but the clothes need to make you feel like a woman.  Bows and lace and frills may make you feel girly, but a great fit will make you feel womanly, and that’s more important.

Friday: Tan Coat

This wool coat is beautiful in its simplicity.  The lines are good, the wool looks pristine, and the neutral color will never go out of style.  It is a little bit loose, but that allows me to layer sweaters under it, so I’m up for that.

My favorite part of this outfit was the mix of neutrals in the sweater and the coat.  They don’t match, but they go together really well.  The outfit is comprised of basics, but basics with personality and great fit.

Turns out, I really love vintage.  I’m going to keep my eyes open for vintage pieces that mix with the rest of my clothes and add that little extra zing to an outfit.  Raid your grandma’s closet.  Look in thrift stores.  Hunt around.  There are beautiful treasures to find!

 

 

Ashley Sings the Praises of Scarves

Scarves are great and I’ll tell you why.  They are the easiest way to add personality to an outfit and they are the easiest accessory to personalize.  How many ways are there to wear earrings?  Unless you’re into mixing and matching, there’s just one way you can wear a particular pair of earrings.  With scarves, the only limit is your imagination.

This square floral scarf from H&M is about the size of a baby blanket.  It’s got this crazy mix of colors with peach, rust, light orange, navy, and green.  I have a ton of navy in my closet, so when I put on an outfit and realize that I’m wearing a navy sweater with dark wash jeans and I’m suddenly a column of navy blue, this scarf is a great way to break up the monochrome.

Here are a few thoughts on how to work with a large square scarf:

  • You can fold it into a triangle or roll it up to make it less bulky.
  • For a triangle fold, you can leave the point in the front and wrap the corners around until you can tie the ends in the front.  It’s like an oversized bandana look.
  • If you want something smaller, start with the big triangle fold, then start to roll it up until the size is where you want it.  Then wrap it around your neck as many times as it will go.
  • If you know you’re going somewhere windy, go for a Grace Kelly headscarf look.  Start with the triangle fold, then cover your hair, knotting under your chin.  Add sunglasses for additional glamour.
  • Try knotting your scarves at different lengths – that will change the entire look of the scarf.  If you tie the ends together, you can use any scarf as an infinity scarf.

I have three shapes of scarves – square, infinity, and rectangle.  Mostly rectangle.  So most of my scarf ideas apply to classic long scarves.  Harry Potter scarves.  Rugby scarves.  Ebenezer-Scrooge-after-he-repents scarves.

Here are some reasons that I love scarves, along with some tips and techniques.

  • If it’s really cold and you’re worrying about whether your scarf needs to match your hat or your gloves or your coat, don’t worry.  It isn’t worth it.  Usually once you’re inside, you don’t need the hat, coat, or gloves.  So coordinate your scarf with your outfit, because you might want to keep your scarf on all day, but don’t worry about finding a matching beanie.
  • Scarves are practical and beautiful.  When I have a cold, scarves feel absolutely necessary.  They are like little blankets that you get to keep with you all day.
  • I love when people give me scarves as presents.  Most of my scarves have been given to me.  When a friend buys me a scarf, it’s usually something that stands out to them and that they think I would like, so it’s a blend of both of our styles.  So when I see that scarf, I think of that friend.  It’s personal and sweet.
  • My go-to scarf style is to fold the scarf in half, so that if forms a loop.  Pull the ends through the loop and go.  It stays put and keeps your neck really warm.
  • Tie the ends together and use your classic scarves as infinity scarves.  I have one infinity scarf, but there’s really only one way to style an infinity scarf, so squares or triangles or rectangles are more versatile.
  • Scarves are great guinea pigs – if you aren’t quite sure about a new trendy color, try it in a scarf first.  Then if you decide that it isn’t a great color on you, you aren’t stuck with a sweater or a dress.  You have a scarf, which would still be a great present for somebody who looks great in that color.
  • For a textured look, twist your scarf up and then knot it.
  • For some drama, tie your scarf behind your neck and let the ends hang down like a cape.
  • Wear your scarf with attitude.  Scarves shouldn’t be boring.

Scarves are the easiest way to start pattern mixing.  Try wearing a striped scarf with polka dots or a floral scarf with stripes.  This was my Thanksgiving outfit- the loose floaty fit of this dress was no accident…. Also, every outfit looks better with an ADORABLE BABY.  This is my tiniest nephew and he’s such a sweetheart.

I have a couple of cool things for next week.  I’m working on an art project for my house and I found some fantastic vintage clothes at an antique store, so I’m going to be talking about how to wear vintage pieces so they don’t come across as costumes.