Ashley Tries Pin Curls and a Play

This week has been dress rehearsal, soft open, and full performances for the play!  I have one more performance to go and I’m already missing everybody.  That’s what makes plays so amazing – it’s the camaraderie, playing off each other’s reactions, feeding off everybody’s energy.  It’s the joy that comes with creating art with other people.  I’m tired and happy.

This week, I had to keep all the normal life stuff going (especially work) and prep for the play as well.  Curly hair felt right for my character – curly hair has tons of personality and energy.  It feels spunky and bouncy and individual.  That kind of sums up my character, so I felt like I needed to do pin curls.  This is a disclaimer up front to say that I brought this on myself – nobody made me do my hair in pin curls this week.  I volunteered.  I’m so glad I did, because the curly hair helped me get into character and it takes my costumes and makeup to the next level.  It added a little bit of complexity to getting ready in the morning, but it was worth it!

img_1406

Monday was full dress rehearsal – hair and makeup.  So I woke up, washed my hair, started pinning down hair spirals.  It’s not done until my head looks like a satellite photograph of hurricane season.  The finished product looks a little strange, so the challenge this week has been making the bristling-with-pins porcupine stage look okay.

img_1394img_1399

Method 1:  Hat.

The truth?  I really like hats, but I feel a little self-conscious about them.  I probably shouldn’t be.  Most people really like seeing other people wear hats.  Unless everybody is lying.  That’s a possibility.  I wore my little bowler hat, my new favorite black pants, black flats, and a tie-front cropped top over a camisole.  One theme that ran through this week – earrings.  I tend to forget to wear earrings most of the time, but with all my hair up, my ears felt exposed and bare without a bold pair of earrings.

I included the second picture, because I want to show you what Sara (my long-suffering photographer) has to put up with.  Lest you think I’ve got things together.  Lest you think I am naturally photogenic and all the pictures look decent.  NOBODY’S PICTURES ARE DECENT ALL THE TIME.  Most of the time, Posing plus Ashley equals Disaster.

img_1409img_1411

Came home, took out the pins.  This happened.  I looked like Moss from The IT Crowd.  Slightly shocking, but it softened up as the evening went on.  Like stage makeup, this hair is exaggerated.  Perfect for stage, a little crazy in normal circumstances.

img_1416

This is the same hair after a long, hot, sweaty rehearsal.  It looks very 1920s and that’s exactly what I was going for, so I’m pretty happy with those results!

img_1428img_1436

Tuesday was a dress rehearsal, but no hair or makeup, so I just got to enjoy the leftover curl in my hair.  Waking up with my hair big made me want curly hair.  I loved it.  Threw on one of my happy little summer dresses and black flats (because they were already out from the day before).  No makeup, because I ran out of foundation the day before.  Happy day.

Note to my friends with naturally curly hair:  I love your hair.  I wish I had it.  Some of my friends in high school straightened their hair all the time and I didn’t even know they had curls.  That’s crazy!  Reshaping your hair every day is an enormous amount of work!  Just know that I love your big hair.  It’s like hats – people love hats on other people, but they are self-conscious when it comes to wearing hats themselves.  It takes a little bit of boldness, especially if you aren’t used to it.  But you should give it a try, especially during the summer.

img_1440img_1447

Method 2:  Headwrap

Do I think this is the best look ever?  Nope.  But it worked.  I pinned those curls up until my head looked like typhoon season over the Indian Ocean, then wrapped a black satin belt around my head.  It didn’t cover the pin spirals, but it did make them look more intentional.  Ever wonder what the difference between Fashion and Throwing On Random Stuff is?  Intention.  Or the impression of Intention.  Intention and confidence are very closely connected.  The confident person makes everything that they wear look planned, under control, intentional, even when nothing is planned, nothing is in control, and the intention got painted on after the fact.

Striped shirt (a happy thrift store find), old jeans, heels (to give the impression that my life is under control…), and earrings that I don’t usually wear.  I don’t usually wear them, because when I turn my head too fast, they slap me in the face.  They are very long earrings.  Handy for distraction and misdirection.  “Yes.  All my hair is pinned to my head in little circles, but LOOK AT THESE EARRINGS.  I CAN SLAP MYSELF IN THE FACE WITH THEM.”  If I get self-conscious, I can just run away while they’re thinking about that statement.

img_1457

I used the headwrap again on Thursday.  This was a half-up, half-down hair day, because I ran out of time that morning.  The curls in the front are the most important part, because I pin the back of my hair up into a faux bob for the play.  Again, not the most successful overall hair look, but the dress is so fun that it distracts from the hair shortcomings.

I think print dresses are wardrobe stars.  One and done.  If I’m in a rush, I reach for a print dress.  This day was great, because we had our soft open on Wednesday, so I still had a little glow from a successful performance and a sparkle from anticipating Opening Night.  Happy day.  Have I mentioned I love performing for an audience?  If you want to see a happy Ashley, come find me after a whole audience laughs at my jokes.  *happy sigh*

img_1516img_1483img_1508

My other hat.  A straw one that I really don’t wear very much, but it’s a lovely hat.  I’ve realized I like classic men’s hat shapes best – bowler, fedora, panama, boater.  I want a silk top hat at some point in my life.  I’m not attracted to floppy brim hats, even though they are all over the place right now.  If you are intimidated by hats, try a few different styles.  You might find one and think, “This is my hat.  Hello, hat.  This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

This outfit went bold, because of the hat.  Hats get noticed.  The shirt dress is subtly bold, because the proportions are interesting.  I like it.  Added a pair of heels for height, because the dress is a bit oversized and having longer legs kept it from overwhelming my short frame.

This week made me appreciate my grandmas – they both used to do their hair in pin curls and they looked beautiful.  Of course, they didn’t have them in during the day – they slept in them, which must have been very uncomfortable.  Some days when I woke up with curl in my hair, it made me think I looked like my Grandma Margaret.  That makes me happy, because she’s gorgeous.  If I grow up to have half of her spunk and gumption, I’ll be happy with that.

This week also made me appreciate my hair.  I don’t do much with it and I usually think of it as very normal and / or boring.  But it’s nice hair.  I like it.  And now I know how to make it curly!  Will I do pin curls all the time?  No.  It’s too much work to do all the time, and I’m not very skilled at it, so the curls are all different sizes and it gets frizzy.  But it’s been a great week.  The last performance is tonight and the curls will bounce again!

img_1523

Ashley Tries Costuming A Play!

Dance Party

 

I have very specific bucket list items, but I also accept generalizations of those items.  For example, my bucket list includes “Design and create costumes for an outdoor production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest” and “Drink limoncello on a balcony overlooking the Adriatic” – that kind of thing.  But I check off aspects of each one as well, because anything included in those items counts for something.  Seeing an outdoor Shakespeare play, drinking limoncello, wearing a linen dress, looking at the ocean from a balcony – those still count.  I think they actually count more for day-to-day life than the detailed and perhaps-perhaps-perhaps items.  But I am checking off a major part of that first one, because I got the opportunity to costume a play!  (Not that I am ruling out costuming The Tempest.  I will never rule it out.)
It was a summer play with a small cast and an accelerated rehearsal timeline – a month and a half from start of rehearsals to performance, and they needed a costume manager.  The thought of being in charge of all the costumes for a production was daunting, but I knew I wanted to costume a play at some point, and this seemed like a good opportunity to give it try!
I didn’t have to design and create any of the costumes from scratch, which was a relief, because my sewing skills are pretty rusty.  I’ve hemmed more trousers and cuffs in this last four weeks than I have for the past four years. There was a good costume collection to draw from, so it was all about compiling and accessorizing and tailoring.  It felt like a mix between a mom planning all the clothes for a multiple day trip with a family of ten and curating a vintage clothing display.
Once I agreed to be in charge of costumes, I had to get to know the story and the characters in it, because the purpose of costumes is to advance the plot by telling you more about each character.  Costumes are character development.  And if the costumes look great, it’s a bonus!
The Play:  Over The Moon (based on a P. G. Wodehouse novel)
Where:  New York City
When:  Springtime of 1927
Cast:  6 men, 4 women (all adults)
With that in mind (especially the time period), I started marking up my script.  As each character entered the story, I tried to imagine what they would be wearing.  What time of day is it?  Are they staying at home or going out?  Are they young or old?  Is this character concerned about money and position?  What is his job?  What does she want out of life?
Started with ideas, then went on to the specifics.  Does the character move around a lot?  (If so, focus on looser costumes.)  Do they have quick costume changes?  (If so, keep the outfit simple to take on and off.  Ditch the buckled shoes and button-back dresses.)  Once the cast is in place, you have to keep each cast member’s size and coloring in mind as well.
Once I had a vision (and a 1927-centric Pinterest board), I went to explore the costume collection.  I had a couple of afternoons where I just got to putter around and look at everything and pull whatever I wanted.  SO MUCH FUN.  I know that doesn’t sound super fun to most people, but I love details and colors and fabric.  Spending hours on my own looking at costumes is never a hardship.  What I had available shaped my general vision into a more specific vision.
Some things I learned:  Some details are for the audience and some are for the actors.  Audience details are obvious – sleeve lengths, bold prints, sparkles, contrasting colors, glasses, suspenders, hats, SPARKLES.  Some details are for the actors – the subtle details that you don’t see unless you are up close.  Back in the days of black and white movies, costume designers were asked why they used colors in the design, when the colors didn’t show up in the movie.  They said it was for the actors – an actress will act differently in a red dress than in a black dress.  Costumes inform performances.
Here are some of my favorite details from this show:

 

 

 

 

Another thing I learned is that there’s a difference between what you like and what’s right for the show.  News flash, I know.  But it’s really tempting to fall in love with a vision and stick with it, even if it doesn’t match up with a character or with the story.
When it comes down to it, choose the piece that has the most personality.  Like these hats – I loved this little cream number with the bow, because it’s cute and tiny and simple.  The straw hat is big and loud and covered in holes, but it has so much more personality.  It took me more time to like it, but now I love it.

 

I learned a ton through this experience.  I learned that it’s a ton of work to work through the entire process from vision to execution.  It requires a lot of organization and communication and more bossiness than I have.  I also learned that I’m bad at men’s sizing – I can generally tell a woman’s size, but men’s sizes are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.  If I costume another play, I am just going to take detailed measurements at the beginning of the process.
Come see the play!  Sweat, tears, planning, painting, lighting, accessorizing, and MUCH hemming has gone into this play.  The actors have memorized an entire play just for you! Welcome to New York City, circa 1927.

Ashley Tries Closet Evaluation 

Every so often, I think “WHY DO I HAVE ALL THESE CLOTHES?”  It’s usually in the summer, because wearing clothes isn’t as fun in the summer.  Too hot.  The WHY CLOTHES WHY stage is a good time to do some closet evaluation, but I usually advise taking it slow.  Some clothes are obvious donation material – the clothes that don’t fit you and that you didn’t like even when they did fit.  But I tend to like all the clothes I buy, so sometimes it’s hard to let them go.  This week for Ashley Tries, I evaluated some pieces that I haven’t worn for a while.  Should I keep it?  Should I give it away?  Should I rip it into pieces and make it into rags?  (There are a few t-shirts from high school that should probably be made into rags soon….)

Day 1:  Oversize shirt that shrank in the wash

Like I said, I tend to like all my clothes.  This shirt is no exception to that.  I love the floral print and I like the drape and movement it has.  The problem is the length – it’s shorter in the front and longer in the back.  That’s not automatically a problem, but the shirt did shrink when I washed it, so the front has inched up into an awkwardly short length.

I can always wear it over high-waisted jeans, but that puts everything from my waist down on display and my tummy is not my favorite part of my body.  If I’m going to do a short top or a tucked-in top, I want a skirt fits at my waist and then floats away from the body.  All is Illusion.

To style this little challenge, I chose a simple black skirt that has a pretty high waist and doesn’t add too much extra volume.  Not a pencil skirt, but not an a-line.  Even with the higher waist, I still had to be careful if I reached up for anything (and that included adjusting my ponytail).  I wanted my hair up and out of my face, and I decided to wear my glasses.  Pretty simple.

I added the pink shoes to give the outfit some color, and since I was in an evaluation mode, I decided it is time for the pink shoes to go.  I bought them from Payless a few years ago and they have served me well, but they weren’t built to last and the heels are all the way worn through.  They have been truly great, so I’m going to keep my eyes open for a pair of brightly colored heels.  Since I know how versatile this inexpensive pair has been, I might invest more money into a replacement pair.  Sometimes clothes surprise you – it’s delightful when something bright or eccentric or funky turns out to be really versatile and adds a lot to your wardrobe.


Day 2:  Black and White Dress

I bought this dress at Ross five or six years ago.  When I first had it, I wore it all the time, but I hadn’t worn it recently.  I decided to check and see if it still fit and if I still liked it.  Good news:  it still fits and I still like it.

One of the tricky parts about the dress is the major ruffle business on the top.  There’s already plenty going on on my top half, so adding volume up there isn’t usually the best plan.  But the deep v-neck makes the ruffle less overwhelming and the waist hits at a great place.  Good posture is a must in this dress.  To draw even more attention to the waist, I might replace the attached belt with a contrasting belt in a bright color.

This dress is coming back into rotation!  (My happiness in this dress was helped by getting to hold my baby nephew.  Happiness is holding a tiny sleeping baby.)

Day 3:  Purple Top

This purple draped shirt is another one that I used to wear all the time, but haven’t worn recently.  This one feels old to me, even if it doesn’t look like it.

Pros:  A great color – rich, regal purple without too much blue, so it contrasts well with jeans.  The asymmetric drape and the length are nice as well.

Cons:  Because of the drape, I have hold the neckline when I lean over.  The material isn’t the nicest, so it is wearing thin in some places.  Ruffle sleeves aren’t my favorite anymore.  (They used to be, though.)  It feels old and worn out to me, just because I know how often I’ve worn it.

It comes down to this:  if I had to choose between one of my other shirts and this shirt, I wouldn’t pick this shirt.  Time for purple top to retire.

I enjoyed the outfit overall – skinny jeans, heels to make the jeans look good, and a lace cardigan.  The cardigan is great because it doesn’t hide the shirt underneath it and it gives great texture to the outfit.  The purple shirt added all the color and I loved having that brightness, so I should probably look for tees that aren’t black or navy…

Day 4:  Striped Shirt

Shirt length has changed since I bought this little striped number.  It is short, but not cropped.  I don’t like the accidental flash of back or midriff, so I have to careful about what jeans I wear with it.

I don’t like having to be careful.  The more I have to fuss with my clothes, the less I like them.  Pulling down and tugging up and adjusting… let’s not.  That’s why I have abandoned strapless dresses (unless they fit really well).  I call the constant tugging up of strapless dresses The Bridesmaid Dance.  We’ve all been there.

The outfit worked because I tucked the shirt into some blousy linen shorts (which almost have a skirt look to them), so the length wasn’t as much of an issue.  It still looked a little plain, so I added a huge necklace I found at the Salvation Army.  Gold sandals helped me hit the balance of nice casual that was aiming for.

It is time for this shirt to retire as well.  I have gotten a ton of use out of it (I think I got it during college) and enjoyed it, so I am happy to let go.

Bonus:  Sara Style!

img_1221

Sara’s outfit was so cute that I just had to share.  One cool aspect of this outfit is that the top isn’t a blouse – it’s a sundress.  Just goes to prove you can work with whatever you’ve got!

A big shout out to Sara, who takes my outfit pictures in random two-minute photo shoots most days.  Thank you!

Day 5:  Linen Wide-Leg Trousers

Okay.  These trousers are epic.  They are just SO epic that they intimidate me and they are hard to pair with stuff.  I love them, but I don’t end up wearing them very often.

I decided to wear them how linen trousers are meant to be worn – very casually and simply.  It all comes down to the proportions, because the legs are so wide.  The t-shirt is slim fit and has a print that stands up to the bold color of the trousers.  I also wore wedges to give the appearance of a longer leg line.

The important thing for wide-leg trousers is balance – keep the top more streamlined and embrace the breeze around your ankles.  I love these pants.  I am definitely wearing them more this summer.

My advice for closet evaluation is this – don’t purge.  You have all the time in the world.  Try on a couple things a week and think through pros and cons.  Keep it doable and you might just do it!

Ashley Tries French Girl Style

Americans tend to idealize French style, because it sums up what we want – natural beauty, effortless  cool, mystery, allure.  Je ne sais quoi translates to “I know not what” – it’s that thing you can’t put your finger on, the thing that can’t be nailed down to 5 Easy Steps, that something that your coolest friend has.  Not just confidence, not just physical beauty, but an indefinable draw.  Cards on the table, I can’t really try that on.  It is beyond me.  But there are aspects of French style that I love and I am traveling to the south of France in the fall, so I am definitely in the mood to give it a try!

Day 1:  Classic Separates

Black-and-white striped top, black skirt, black flats.  Pretty classic.  For this week, I tried to go by Coco Chanel’s rule of “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”  I tried to simplify each outfit.  If an accessory didn’t have an impact, I didn’t wear it.  Even with the simplest outfit, there are ways to give it personality and make it unique.

I decided to wear my glasses, because glasses are an accessory with an immediate impact.  They have the ability to completely change a look.  It’s very French to work with what you’ve got.  What makes you look like you?  Glasses betray that I have a weakness – I’m genuinely nearsighted.  But that weakness is a part of who I am and what makes me me.  I like my glasses, because they help me see and I like how they look.  We don’t have to look physically perfect.  Beauty isn’t pretending we have no weak points.  Beauty is simultaneously telling the truth and concealing the truth.  Being honest and keeping secrets.

The shirt has a boxy fit, so I tied it up and changed the shape to suit me.  French women know how to wear clothes well.  They don’t let clothes wear them.  They will alter the clothes and make sure everything fits.


Day 2:  Favorite Dress

Your lifestyle affects what you wear.  One major logistical aspect of French style is that French women walk everywhere – it’s something that they take into consideration.  It’s about a thirty minute walk from my house to where I work, so I decided to walk to work one day and pick a cute outfit that would stand up to it.

A few thoughts that went through my head during the picking process:

  • It needs to be comfortable for the whole day – not just for walking, but for work as well.  The outfit needs to be multi-functional, because athletic clothes would be very comfortable for walking, but inappropriate in a professional context.  No matter how comfy sweatpants are, they would make me uncomfortable at work.
  • It needs to be cool and breathable.  Otherwise, I will arrive at work a complete sweaty mess.  It’s hard to maintain a cool and mysterious aura when completely drenched.
  • Shoes.  I can’t walk very far in heels.  Even comfy ones.  French women can, but I know my limits.  Flats, then.

Going by that criteria, I picked out one of my favorite dresses.  It was one that I actually wore a lot when I was in France.  Stretch jersey, a neutral print, a couple of details (ruffle sleeves, tie waist), and a great fit.  Light enough to keep me cool all day, pretty enough to make me happy all day.  That’s why it is one of my all time favorites.

I only had accessories that helped me out.  Sunglasses – pink ones that make me think of la vie en rose and that line in Sabrina (“Only in Paris, where the air is pink, does that song make sense.”)  Shoes – compact black Nike sneakers that transitioned well from the walk to the office.  I’ve heard the NEVER WEAR SNEAKERS IN EUROPE advice a lot, but it really depends on the sneakers.

The walk was wonderful.  Contemplative, unhurried, a good time for sorting through thoughts and planning out the day.  Appreciating often-overlooked processes is a beautiful part of French life.  Enjoying meals and making the meals, enjoying the process of getting ready, enjoying walking to work and walking back home from work.  In The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a wise fox tells the little prince about the importance of ritual:

“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox.  “If, for example, you come four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances.  At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about.  I shall show you how happy I am!  But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you… One must observe the proper rites…”

“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.

“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox.  “They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours.”

There are sweet rhythms and rituals to life – enjoy them and make them into something beautiful.



Day 3:  Covered/Uncovered

French style is sexy.  Undeniable fact.  But it’s more complicated than a see-up, see-down, see-through sexy.  It’s a mix of covered and uncovered.  It’s the allure of having a secret.  On a date, you probably don’t want the whole restaurant and your date to have the same reaction to your outfit.  A sliver of shoulder that only your date can see is just as alluring and has the added allure of mystery.  To quote The Little Prince again, “It’s only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”  There’s always more to be discovered.

I wanted to create a low-key mix with this covered/uncovered feel.  The color scheme was neutral again, but the lovely light neutrals that you see all over France in the summertime.  French women love their neutrals, but they also dress seasonally.  Black in the winter, cream and navy in the summer.  Black might make an appearance in a linen summer dress, but it isn’t the predominant color scheme.

For this look, I chose a cream lace shirt and layered it over a gray camisole.  I love this top – it combines the sheerness of the lace with a very classic shape (high neck, short sleeves, a structured fit).  I wanted to wear linen at some point this week, so I brought out my tan linen shorts.  They are loose and comfortable, with a natural ease to them.  Mushroom-colored heels that cover the foot finished off the ensemble.

I didn’t wear any eye makeup on that day – not even mascara.  I wanted all the focus to be on the lips, so I put on foundation, then mixed red and bright pink lipstick for a really bright lip.  The whole look made me feel very beautiful.


Day 4:  Denim Dress and Dizziness

This day wasn’t much of a clothes day, because I got to work and immediately started feeling sick and dizzy.  So I came home and got into pajamas.  But before the pajamas, I wore a new favorite dress – an oversized denim shirt dress that is the perfect blank canvas for bold accessories.

Spikey shoes and hammered silver earrings and a textured ponytail.  Mascara and eyeliner.  Cool look.  But when you feel sick, you just don’t care.

When I get sick, I get dizzy and faint.  Then I get scared to drive, because I am afraid of passing out and crashing and generally being a danger to myself and others.  It’s best for everyone if I just get back into bed and sleep until I feel not sick.  Kind of a waste of an outfit, but again – I just didn’t care at that point.

Day 5:  Femininity

After spending Thursday in bed, I got up on Friday and felt like a new woman.  To celebrate, I put on one of my prettiest dresses.  It’s an ultra-feminine little number in a blue and white floral pattern, with a fit that makes the world a better place.

For all my confidence, I kind of steer away from this dress, because it’s so girly and pretty.  Just writing that down makes it sound stupid, but it’s the truth.  It’s easier to wear something quirky/interesting and be the person in the background.  This dress gets noticed.

In movie costuming terms, this is a romantic lead outfit, not a quirky best friend outfit.  Maybe that is part of the indefinable beauty of French women – maybe they naturally step into that lead role without thinking too hard about it.  I do tend to shy away from anything that seems romantic, because I’m perpetually single.  Sometimes it seems like a waste to wear pretty things, but it isn’t.  Life is short.  Wear the pretty things.  Wear them in celebration, wear them in confidence.

 

 

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.