Ashley Tries Clothes Performance Reviews

I recently fielded a question about bell sleeves on Facebook and it erupted into a kind of venting area.  Apparently, there are many visceral reactions to this particular sleeve format.  I loved it, because people were caring so loudly.  Some people had bad memories of bell sleeves back from the Lizzie McGuire era, some people objected to how bell sleeves dip into things (water in the sink, flour when you’re kneading bread, etc.), some people think that bell sleeves are only for Elves and Renaissance Fairs…..

For the record, I think bell sleeves can be done well or badly (like most things).  If you want bell sleeves to look modern, make the bell the volume and keep everything else tailored.  Or try bell sleeves on a fitted dress.  But I absolutely agree that they aren’t the most practical sleeves, so that got me thinking about practicality and how to judge the practicality of clothes.  So this week I’m going to be giving my outfits performance reviews.  Clothes are never perfect, because we are never perfect.  Figure out what works and what doesn’t and then go from there!

Day 1: Sweatshirt, Straight-Leg Jeans, and Sneakers

For this exercise, I’m going to breaking down outfits by element and walking through the strengths and weaknesses of each, then evaluating the outfit as a whole.

Sweatshirt

This style is what the fashion world calls a Luxe Sweatshirt, because it has added pizzazz.  The pizzazz on this number is the lace panel in the front.  The panel adds shape and draws your eyes to the center, creating a thinning optical illusion.  (Add points for thinning optical illusions.)

The downside to the panel is that to be extra fancy, the material under the lace is sheer.  So I have to wear a black camisole for warmth and coverage.  (Subtract points for sheerness and for black camisoles that roll up at the bottom and create a little ridge around the midriff.)  It is black and white, which generally looks classy.  (Add elegance points.)

The fit is good and it has that fleecy lining that most sweatshirts have, so add the comfy points!  This top does fairly well overall.  Fit, look, and detail are all good, but the sheer paneling and camisole necessity bring down its overall score.  Probably an 8/10.

Jeans

I know I’ve mentioned this roughly a thousand times, but I was moving this week.  So I found these straight leg jeans while I was moving and decided to give them a try.  They are back from the Days Before Ashley Wore Skinny Jeans, which has been a while now.  They aren’t flared.  I’d say they are wide-ish straight leg.

One great thing about them is the color.  Dark blue, no fading, which gives a business-like look to them.  Fading is fine, but it doesn’t look professional.  (Add business points.)

Moving on to the fit – I like straight leg jeans and wide leg jeans and even flares (if they aren’t too exaggerated), but I’m much more used to the skinny fit now.  There wasn’t TOO much fabric flapping around the ankles, but there was more breeze there.  I also can’t tuck them into boots, which is my go-to winter styling plan.  (Subtract tucking into boots points.)

The fit issues were more evident around the waist.  They are not high-waist, so they hit at a lower (less flattering) point, just above the hips and I felt the need to pull them up every once in a while.  (Subtract points for hiking up and muffin top territory.)  Since I’d automatically reach for a pair of skinny jeans instead of this pair, I’d say about a 6/10.  The color took them a point above 5/5, which I will be referring to as the “meh” point.

Sneakers

Black and white, with a little bit of espadrille braiding around the sides. (Add classic points.)  Found them at Salvation Army.  (Add cheapness points.)  The fit is nice.  (Add fit points.)  I don’t think they will last over five years, judging by the canvas, the stitching, and the sole.  (Subtract quality points.)  For what they are, I’d give them an 8/10.

Overall Outfit

I enjoyed this outfit and the overall look was more than the sum of its parts.  The paneling helped draw the focus away from the width of the sweatshirt and the width of the jeans.  The top was long enough that it covered the top of the jeans, which is where most of the fit issues lived.  The black and white of the sneakers echoed the black and white of the sweatshirt, which gave it some visual punch.  The sneakers kept the jeans from looking too short.  For a casual day, I’d give this outfit a 9/10, which is better than any of the pieces scored separately.

Day 2: Sweater, Skinny Jeans, Ankle Boots

Sweater

I found this sweater while I searching Salvation Army for Halloween costume materials.  (Add inexpensiveness points.)  It is an extra small men’s sweater, but the fit was so great that I couldn’t pass it up.  (Add majors points for SLEEVES THAT FIT FOR ONCE and a v-neck that isn’t too low.)  The color scheme and design were both great, with a pop of color up near the face and flattering diagonal color blocking.  (Add design points.)  The quality is very nice, judging by the seams and the weight.  (Add quality points.)  This sweater doesn’t have any points taken off.  It’s a 10/10 for me.  Hurrah!

Black Skinny Jeans

These are great jeans.  They are soft, but don’t stretch too much.  (Add quality material points.)  They fit like a glove, but are thick enough to not be see-through or show lines.  (Add fit points.)  They have a black tuxedo stripe running down the side of the leg. (Add whimsy points, because the stripes serve no purpose, but I love them.)  They are the right length.  (Add points for no hemming or cuffing.)  Finally, they make my legs look great.  I love these jeans.  I’d give them a 10/10.

Ankle Boots

These boots are black, have a gathered design, and are made of some sort of faux suede, so the major downside is that everything sticks to them.  Leaves, dirt, lint, dust – everything sticks and everything shows up.  (Subtract points for uncleanness.)  The fit is great and they zip on, so they aren’t going anywhere.  (Add points for shoes that stay firmly on the foot.)  They are a good brand, which I’ve had good success with for comfort and quality.  (Add quality points.)  They make my feet look little.  (Add cute points.)  I’d give them an 8/10.

Overall outfit

I liked the cleanliness and simplicity and coolness of this outfit.  The sweater was such a pleasant surprise and that made it special.  I especially love that patch of bright blue that draws attention up to the face.  Added a coat and was ready to go.  This outfit is a 10/10 for me.

Day 3:  Long Cardigan, Tee, Jeans

Cardigan

This cardigan is very long.  Proportionally, I think it is too long for me, but I wear it anyway.  (Subtract points for overwhelmingness.)  The clear blue color is lovely, though.  (Add color points.)  It is an open front design, so it sometimes stays on and sometimes slips off.  (Subtract a couple points for the times when it slips off.)  It reminds me a bit of Star Wars.  (Add nerd points.)  I’d give this cardigan a 7/10.  It is comfy and has a pretty color, but it doesn’t show me off.

Tee

I love the print on this t-shirt.  It’s an abstract black and white dot print and it goes with everything.  (Add visual interest points.)  The fabric is thin and that is why there are little holes in the front (right around where my jean button hits).  (Subtract points for holes and thin material that is conducive to holes.)  I like the fit – it is fitted, but not tight.  I found this at Loft and it’s comforting to find a store where I know my size for shirts.  If I find a Loft medium in a thrift store, I know about how it will fit.  (Add points for the correct size.)  This is a great shirt and it served me well, but given the fact that it is falling apart now, I’d give it a 6/10.

Jeans

These jeans are in the same boat as the shirt.  I’ve worn them so much that they are kind of worn out.  These didn’t come faded or distressed – I did all that work myself!  The main places where I see the age are the knees.  They’ve been stretched out and even straight out of the dryer, they are baggy.  (Subtract points for baggy knees.)  They are also worn thin between the thighs and under the back pockets and any other place that gets friction.  They used to fit really well, but they are just old now.  They probably need to be replaced, so I’ll give them a 6/10.

Overall outfit

I didn’t feel cute in this outfit.  The elements were either overwhelming or worn out and I definitely felt overwhelmed and worn out.  The best part about it was the softness, but I actually feel more comfortable when I have some structure to my outfits.  Overall, this outfit gets a 5/5.  Meh.

Day 4: Lace jacket, tee, scarf, jeans

Jacket

I found this jacket in France and it has a special place in my heart.  (Add warm and fuzzy points.)  It isn’t very warm, but it isn’t really meant to be.  It is there to add visual interest and it does a great job at that.  (Add points for visual interest.)  This is a 10/10 for me.  I’m not going to wear it to keep me warm, but I am going to wear it for how it looks.

Tee

I love a black and white striped tee.  (Add classic points.)  The problems with this tee are all fit problems.  The neck is a mix between a scoop and a v-neck, and I disapprove.  Be one or the other, neckline.  (Subtract points for wishiwashiness.)  The hemline is rounded, which is usually good, because it makes the hips look smaller.  The problem is that the shirt shrank in the wash, so now the front of the shirt is an okay length, but the sides creep up sometimes.  (Subtract points for shrinking, subtract points for showing my sides.)  This shirt is a 6/10 for me.

Scarf

This scarf is huge.  It’s the size of a baby blanket.  (Add points for sheer volume.)  Like the jacket, it is meant to add visual interest, and it does a great job of that.  It’s not the best quality, so subtract a bit for that, but it adds a whole lot of pattern and color.  9/10.

Jeans

They are soft and worn, but not worn out.  (Add comfort points.)  I feel like they are going to disintegrate from wear at some point in the future, but since it is still in the future, I’m okay with that.  They tuck into boots, which is great.  They are a little loose at the waist, so I sometimes have to hike them up.  (Subtract points for hiking up.)  I’d give them an 8/10.

Overall outfit

I enjoyed this outfit.  It had enough sharpness (geometric patterns in the jacket, stripes on the tee) and enough softness (jeans and slouchy boots) and enough color and print to give it spice (scarf).  The elements worked together to create an interesting outfit that didn’t sacrifice comfort.  I’d give it an 8/10.

Day 5:  Shiny Dress, Shiny Sweatshirt

Dress

This dress is soft and the material is good quality.  (Add comfort points.)  It is a dark green jersey material with a shiny silver pattern printed on it.  (Add shiny points.)  I don’t think it is the absolute best shape to show off my shape, because it floats out from the shoulders and it is proportionally a little too long.  (Subtract shape points.)  I’d give it an 8.5/10.

Sweatshirt

This is funny one. It is sweatshirt material.  (Add comfy points)  But it has a great fit and a zipper.  (Add fit points.)  Then it has jewel embellishments all over the front.  (Add shiny points, but subtract points for when they get stuck on things.  Like people you hug.)  These jewel embellishments are dangerous hug traps.  And I love hugs.  So I need to think about how many people I am likely to hug during the day when I wear this.  It’s a 7/10 for me, because it’s a little more tricky to figure out what to wear it with.  Not as practical as I would like.

Overall outfit

I enjoyed this outfit, but I know it is a little bizarre.  Together, they are fun, but I think the shiny things should be split up and paired with matte textures.  Since the outfit doesn’t add anything to the individual pieces, I’d give this one a 7/10.  I love the elements, but not together.

Go ahead and think about your clothes.  Have opinions about your clothes.  Care loudly about your clothes!  Is is practical?  Is it fun?  Is it uncomfortable?  Is it worn out?  Take a moment and review how your clothes are performing for you, because the clothes are there to serve you.  This week made me realize that I need to replace a pair of jeans and I should balance out my oversized pieces better.

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Ashley Tries Hygge

If  the word hygge doesn’t look remotely familiar, you probably haven’t been on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook recently.  I’m late to the game on this one, but the concept is easy to grasp and very attractive.

To start with, it’s pronounced hue-gah.  It rhymes with the “AhWOOgah ahWOOgah” sounds that submarines make, but it isn’t usually accompanied by people yelling DIVE DIVE DIVE.  It’s usually accompanied by chunky knits and hot chocolate.  It’s a deeply ingrained concept for Danish people (and Norwegian people, as my Norwegian friends have patiently explained to me) and the word is hard to translate, but easy to understand.  It’s that feeling when you’re drinking tea on your sofa, wearing fuzzy socks, looking up, realizing you don’t have to go anywhere that night, and sighing happily.  It’s being surrounded by your favorite things and using them all the time.  It’s lighting candles and hanging up Christmas twinkle lights and basking in the glow.  It’s a cozy contentment brought about being warm and comfortable and feeling at home.  The hygge concept is often cited as the reason for Denmark’s extremely high national happiness rating.  So, does it work?  Does coziness increase happiness?  I decided to try it out this week, because I have been moving into a new house and I wanted some reassuring coziness in my life.

Hygge

 

 

Day 1

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This cardigan comes from Switzerland and it is one of my favorite things.  I bought it from a little old lady in a yarn and sweater shop.  She spoke no English, I spoke very little French, but she would repeat things until she assumed I understood.  For the most part, I didn’t understand anything.  The part I did understand was that the shearing, yarn spinning, and knitting were all done by hand in the Evolène Valley.  The cardigan is so connected to that place, it is like wearing a memory.

It is giant, it is cushy, it is solid.  I can feel the weight when I wear it.  You know when you’re lying in bed under heavy blankets and you feel pinned to the bed by warmth?  It’s a little like that.  It’s a good feeling.

I love chunky knits.  Thin, smooth, lightweight cashmere sweaters aren’t my bag.  I think they are beautiful (especially on other people), but I’m not emotionally drawn to them.  Warmth and weight are connected to me.  Technically, it is possible to have lightweight layers that are also warm, but for me to feel cozy, I need some bulk.  Usually a whole blanket.  Or a blanket-like sweater.

Day 2

img_4189This was the day I woke up with a swollen sore throat, took a sick day, and rested up at home.  The concept of hygge is never more attractive than when I’m home with a cold.  Tea.  Couch.  Blanket.  Fuzzy robe (even if I change out of my jammies, I’ll wear my robe over my normal clothes).  Slippers.  Stretchy pants.  I even took a bath, which I hardly ever do.  The steam works wonders, by the way.  Highly recommend baths.

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By the end of the day, I felt lots better.  It was a good day to explore whether hygge helped make me happier and you know what?  It did.  Being sick is no fun, but comfort and coziness and really enjoying your home makes everything better.

Day 3

After staying home and resting, I felt well enough to go to work the next day.  Wasn’t a hundred percent yet, but good enough.  My throat was still hurty enough to need something warm around it, so I found one of the scarves that I hadn’t packed up (did I mention that I’m in the process of moving?) and paired it with a really comfy dress and boots.

In the theme of comfort and ease, I wore my glasses and went without makeup.  For me, wearing my glasses make it easier to go without makeup, because I usually wear makeup to highlight my eyes.  And my glasses REALLY highlight my eyes.

The top knot bun made me feel kinda like a basic white girl, but I avoided Snapchat filters and pumpkin spice lattes and didn’t end up turning into one altogether…..

I really liked this outfit – this is one of my favorites.

Day 4

Beyond just warmth and comfort, I thought about what hygge would mean for clothes.  Part of hygge is being surrounded by your favorite things and these are some of my favorite things:

  • Blazers (especially if they are tweedy and fit well)
  • Sweaters (especially in a pretty color)
  • Scarves (especially print scarves)
  • Jeans (worn until very soft)
  • Boots (especially distressed brown boots)
  • Red lipstick
  • Blue

This outfit made me feel comfortable.  Not in a sweatpants kind of way, but emotionally and physically.  If I went out in my PJs, I’d feel emotionally uncomfortable.  If I go out in a short skirt and heels when it’s below freezing, I’m physically uncomfortable.  This outfit struck a great balance – it made me look nice and feel nice.  That’s an instant confidence booster.  Think about some of your favorite things and just start wearing them!

Day 5 (Have I mentioned that I’m kind of weird?)

I love this sweater.  I bought it at Anthropologie at least seven years ago and it’s the most hilarious and lovable piece of clothing.  The cowl neck is about as big as the rest of the sweater, it has a kangaroo pouch, it has a little drawstring thing….it has so many things going on.  But it is so much fun.  

I wore it with some of my comfiest jeans and little black sneakers from Salvation Army.

Concluding thoughts:  Hygge is happy.  Does it increase one’s happiness index?  I don’t know what a happiness index is, but if you are happy anyway, it can help feed that happiness.  It doesn’t manufacture happiness.  It is not a happiness pill.  Don’t take hygge as a cure for the blues.  That would be like hoping that Christmas spirit will take away family squabbles (actually, a lot of people hope that and then get disappointed when their Christmas spirit doesn’t work as expected).  The Christmas spirit we try to make on our own doesn’t solve any problems, but the good news is that Christ solves problems.  We can’t make our own Christmas spirit, but Christ gives us joy and peace and love, which becomes our Christmas spirit.  So hygge isn’t a way to summon up deep down joy, but if you have deep down joy, then that leads to an appreciation of everyday things.  Don’t try to gather joy from candles or from chunky cable knits or slipper socks, look to Christ for your joy.  Then the joy within you will extend out to the candles and the chunky cable knits and the slipper socks and your family and your house and your neighborhood…..I could go on, but you get the idea.

By the time I write my next post, I’ll be in my new house!  I’ve never decorated my own space before and I can’t wait!  As always, if you have any fashion questions, let me know and I’ll try to answer them.  Thanks for reading.  I appreciate you.

Ashley Tries to Give You Costume Ideas

First off – the only thing I like about Halloween is dressing up.  It is kind of like somebody who loves green getting excited about Saint Patrick’s Day.  I treat Halloween as a handy excuse to let my costume ideas run amok and take over. My mind has twenty ideas in it at any given moment, but they are all gone the next moment, so if you want a band name or a business name or a Twitter handle or a costume idea or an opinion on whatever, ask me. My friends know this, but usually they ask me what they should be for Halloween on the DAY OF and my thoughts haven’t filtered through yet and they all get that day’s batch of ideas. Since I have new batch of costume ideas every day, I decided to write this week’s ideas down just for you! (If you want band name, Twitter handle, or business name, just ask. There is a new batch every day. Every hour, really.  Then I forget them immediately.)

Day 1

This is a good little outfit as is – all black, but with fuzzy texture from the jacket and stripes to give it some visual interest.  When I asked people what kind of costume they thought it would be, I got great guesses:  mime, Catwoman, Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, cat burglar….

The great thing is that all those things are good ideas.  STEAL THOSE IDEAS IMMEDIATELY.  Cat burglars just need a mask over the eyes.  The Funny Face one needs a black turtleneck and white socks.  Mimes are unnerving to me, so I wouldn’t be one, but you can be if that’s what you want to be!

Anyway, my idea was that this looked kinda French to me, so I went for French Poodle.

I made myself a little dog tag that said Je m’appelle Fifi on it, attached it to a necklace, put my hair in ponytails (to look like poodle ears), and eyelinered my nose on.  I did pictures with and without the hat, because both ways worked.

I also did French Kiss.  That’s a little awkward, I know.  But it was super easy, because I just tried to make my outfit look stereotypically French,  then drew kisses all over my face in red lipstick.  It took two minutes and it’s a pun, but it’s a little awkward, so I’d go for poodle.

Day 2

I ended up really liking this outfit.  It was WAY more matchy matchy than I’d normally go.  I was at work before I realized my colors were mirror-imaging each with the orange in the middle.  AWESOME.   You can have a color chiasm costume if you want.

Blue dresses are great for costumes.  I’m giving a couple of ideas here, but there are tons more:

  • Alice in Wonderland (add a headband and Mary Jane shoes)
  • Wendy Darling from Peter Pan
  • The Sky (pin white paper clouds on the skirt and make a yellow sun and put it on a headband)
  • The Ocean (pin paper fish on the skirt….you get the drift)

I was inspired by the color of this dress to be a box from Tiffany & Co.  It’s so iconic.  Blue box, white bow, bling….

I also did Belle from Beauty and the Beast, because I love her.  It was one of favorite movies growing up and I especially love when she’s wandering around lost in a book.  Blue dress, white sleeves, book, black flats, ponytail.  Easy and cute.

Day 3

This was my Mary Tyler Moore day.  Took inspiration from her adorable dancing scenes in The Dick Van Dyke Show.  Flipped my hair, pointy black flats, slim-cut ankle trousers, cream t-shirt.  This would be really cute as a couple costume as well!

Couples Costume: The Dick Van Dyke Show
The most typical fashionista costume is Audrey Hepburn’s black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but I loved the idea of taking her laid-back style from the Moon River scene and making that into a costume instead.  Slim-cut jeans, flats, sweatshirt, headwrap, and a guitar (or a ukulele).  We aren’t aiming for perfectly matching the movie – we’re going for close enough.  IT’S OKAY IF YOU HAVE TO EXPLAIN YOUR COSTUME.  It’s just supposed to be fun.

Bonus:  I dressed up as Snoopy.  I adore Snoopy.  I may BE Snoopy.

I am a happy woman if I get to yell “CURSE YOU, RED BARON!” once in a while.  I’m a nut.  You probably already picked up on that, but it’s true.  What’s the point of being cool if you can’t dress up as a dog being a WWI fighter ace?  THERE IS NO POINT IN BEING COOL.  SNOOPY HAS FUN.  BE LIKE SNOOPY.

Did I tell you I’m in the middle of moving?  I am.  I’m mostly crazy already.

Day 4

I got lots of questions about this jacket on the day I wore it.  Are you going hunting?  Did you escape from prison?  Do you fly an X-Wing?  Flying an X-Wing sounds fun.  I didn’t really want to an x-wing pilot costume, but I could have.  All of these are grand costume ideas.  But I mainly just wore the jacket to distract from how boring the rest of the outfit was.  There – I’ve admitted it.

I like the idea of being The Great Pumpkin, but I decided to go for a couple of different costume ideas.

I did a vaguely steampunk costume with this.  I bought these goggles for a Time-Travel-Themed Birthday Party that I threw for myself a few years ago and I love them.  Everything looks cooler with goggles.  Put them on a hat or directly on your forehead.  For an automatically cooler adventure look, put the goggles on and dust around them with brown makeup.  That makes your face look dusty.  Then keep on layering makeup (eyeliner, red lipstick for cuts and scrapes, etc.) until it looks like you’ve had an interesting life!

In stream of consciousness costume ideas, my face was already smudgy, so I decided to try a Kaylee costume (Kaylee is the mechanic from Firefly and Serenity).  She wears a military green jumpsuit, so I wore green jeans and tied a green jacket around my waist to mimic that look.  Serviceable boots.  A girly pink shirt and a floral umbrella.  Two little buns on top of my head.  I love this look.  I’d for sure do this one again!

Day 5

This is a haiku of a costume – it’s “The Sun Shining Through Rainclouds And Making Everything Sparkle” and the best part is that you can wear it all day.

Rainboots are a great basis for a costume.  For just one adorable example, you could be Christopher Robin saying, “Tut tut, it looks like rain” and wear shorts and a blue sweater and rainboots and carry an umbrella.

One of my favorite looks is worn by that brand icon, The Morton Salt Girl.  Just look how great this is:  

To do this right, I’d get the largest size of Morton’s Salt and make the container into a little purse / candy container, but really all you need is a floaty yellow dress, some salt, and an umbrella.  When it rains, it pours….

So those are just a few ideas.  Use what you have – be creative!  If you have a hat that you never where, think of who might where it and go as that person.

Abstract out the things that you love about a character.  If you want to dress up as Maid Marion from Robin Hood, you don’t have to transform into a fox – wear a long purple dress, an ear headband with a purple scarf over it, and eyeliner your nose black.  Voila!

Other easy costumes:

  • Harry Potter Characters (white buttondown, tie, gray cardigan, skirt / trousers)
  • Peanuts Characters (Oversize polo shirt + shorts + sneakers+ a blankie = Linus.  Blue dress + bow = Lucy.)
  • Animals and Birds
  • Snapchat Filters (wear normal clothes, then add dear antlers or cat ears or a floral crown, etc.)
  • Calvin and Hobbes (extra points if you go for the time where Hobbes wears a sombrero)
  • Pippi Longstocking (mismatched socks, crazy braids, superhuman strength…..)
  • General adventurers (safari gear, maybe a spear through the hat)
  • Dr. Sattler, Dr. Grant, Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park (extra points if you have a group costume and somebody volunteers to be a velociraptor or a T-Rex)
  • The kids from Holes (basically anything orange will come in handy here)
  • Librarians (because librarians are the best)

And I’ll just leave this one here.  I love it.  You’re welcome.

Costume Idea: Worn-Out Phrase

 

Ashley Tries 2017 Fall Fashion Trends

This week was all about the challenge of translating high fashion trends to wearable fashion.  Most of the time, I’m not very concerned about whether I’m on trend on not, so this week pushed me out of my comfort zone.  I decided to take each trend as far as I felt like I could go, while still maintaining some level of dignity and professionalism.  So if you see something I’m trying and think, “That’s cool, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable in that outfit,” remember that you can take individual elements and make them work for you.  I’m pushing each outfit to its limit (and past some of my limits), but you don’t have to.

Magnificent Western

The first trend I took on was this year’s take on the Old West.  I think Maria Grazia Chiuri’s resort collection for Dior (on location in the high desert) was the year’s best example of mythic western meets haute couture.  It has elements of spaghetti westerns, Victoriana, a whole lot of The Magnificent Seven, even a little steampunk.  Epic.

2017 Trends: Magnificent Western

I tried not to go too literal with it, because I didn’t want people to look at me and think Rodeo.  I didn’t wear jeans or a bandana or fringe – it was more about the feeling that it gave me and the image it gave off to other people.

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The base layer is a black dress that I don’t wear that often, but I should.  It’s my go-to choir concert dress.  It has long sleeves, a hem that hits below the knee, and a collar.  On its own, it ages me.  Combined with a tailored tweed vest and boots, the older-looking elements of the dress become features.  I tied on a scarf to give a little bit of color and pattern and give the idea of a bandana without being that literal.  The leather jacket added another tough element to an already tough ensemble, but the scarf and dress kept it from being armor.  It’s a mix of soft, worn material and tough, worn leather.  The important thing is that it all looks functional and lived-in.

The whole ensemble pleased me.  It turned out better than I thought it would.  This is my favorite style that I tried this week.  If you want to incorporate a few western elements into your fall wardrobe, here are a few things that would look great:

The Warm Fuzzies

It’s all about fleecy-furry-fuzzy things this fall.  I’m always happy to hear that comfy things are in style, because I LOVE COMFY.  I borrowed my sister’s vest for this one, because I actually don’t own much faux fur (or I do, but it hasn’t come out of the winter box yet and I can’t remember it).

This style is fun and meant to be playful.  A faux fur jacket can make an entire outfit look more glam.  If it is bright pink, all the better!  I went with muted tones for this look, but bright faux fur is really popular right now.

SO COMFY.  I want to steal my sister’s vest now.  I should just get my own.

Fuzziness doesn’t always have to be in a vest or a jacket form.  A furry scarf or hat always looks great.  I’ve seen sweaters with faux fur elements (sleeves or panels or collars) and those are super fun.  Here are a few more ways to bring fur into your life:

Textiles and Proportion

This look ticked quite a few trend boxes and it definitely felt a little over the top.  But I’m here to go big or go home.  Here are some of the trends:

Oversized jacket, strong shoulders, belted at the waist.  CHECK.

Velvet.  CHECK.

Plaid / check patterns.  CHECK.

Earthy browns and grays.  CHECK.

This look started with the brown check shirt that I borrowed from a friend.  Plaids and checks are back in a big way.  This is good news for the Pacific Northwest, where plaid is a way of life.  If you don’t own plaid already, be on the lookout for plaid and check material in muted colors and earth tones.  Think 1970s, because that’s another huge trend right now.

Wool and tweed and velvet and fur continue to hold our attention (very luxurious).  Be on the lookout for wool coats and sweaters at thrift stores.  Look in the men’s and women’s section and if you find a coat in a larger size, belt it at the waist to give it some shape and visual interest.  Wide belts are back.  I used to wear wide belts all the time, but I dragged them out and all my wide belts look like they belong to women who run pirate cruises.  Pretty hideous.  TIME TO UPGRADE.  I’m going to invest in a belt this fall.  A grown up belt.

I threw on knee socks and oxfords, because they went with the vibe, but I think it was a mistake.  They kept me warm, so I’ll wear knee socks again, but not with such a busy outfit.

Silver and Fall Florals

Silver is the new metallic in town.  I love metallics.  I have a pair of dull silver oxford shoes that I wear with everything, but I don’t have any silver clothes, so I borrowed a sweater from my sister for this day.  It’s gray with metallic threads running through it, so it’s pretty subtle.

I wear florals all year round anyway, so I’m delighted that floral prints are trending this season.  If you don’t usually wear florals, start small.  Try a scarf or a pair of shoes.  In the fall and winter, I usually stick to prints with darker backgrounds and richer colors.  If I go for a pastel print in the fall, I’ll pair it with brown or navy to give it some depth.

Silver adds a great spark.  Here are some ideas for how to add it in:

And here are some retro floral prints that would look great going into fall:

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Fashion Activism

Fashion is always politically charged, but this year has been pouring out high voltage. Culturally, there have been two collections that defined this year.  When we look back at 2017, I think we’re going to remember Gucci’s spring show and Dior’s statement t-shirt.

2017 Trends: Gucci Eccentricity

 

2017 Trends: Fashion Activism

2017 Trends: Fashion Activism by beetlescarab on Polyvore

Gucci has been having quite the year.  Instead of having separate runway shows for men and women, they had a co-ed show with men and women walking together.  The whole aesthetic was very feminine, including the men’s looks.  There was a persistent butterfly theme that represented transfiguration.  The message was pretty clear – their future is female and men will become more feminine, until they are almost indistinguishable from women.  The worship of women has begun.  Dior’s “We Should All Be Feminists” t-shirt is saying the same thing, but in a more straightforward way.

I tried to mimic the Gucci aesthetic on Friday.  This was the most difficult day, because I fundamentally disagreed with the whole idea they were working with.  It’s like they took all the stereotypical feminine elements of clothes and put them into a blender.  Flowers and butterflies and embroidery and lace and pink and bows and bright colors all over the place.  Some of the pieces are gorgeous, but they are swallowed by the chaos.  This look was hard to pull off, because I didn’t feel like myself.  The outfit felt chaotic and forced.

There are some beautiful elements in Gucci’s style, so it has a strange draw for me (strange being the operative word).  But I don’t want to be drawn in by it.  I’m a woman and I don’t want to be worshiped or put on a pedestal or lifted up as some shining example.  That’s a good way to get a warped perspective or get destroyed.  I don’t want other people forced to be like just like me.  That’s crazy.  I don’t want society to be so scared of masculinity that we remove all trace of it and replace it with femininity.  We need true masculinity and true femininity, which is so far beyond throwing bows and lace and makeup all together.

If you don’t think about fashion, start thinking about it.  What is it saying about you?  What is it saying about the culture you live in?  Don’t write it off as unimportant.  If we keep letting other people dress us, our clothes will keep saying whatever they want to say.  So make sure you understand what they are saying.

Ashley Tries 30!

I turned 30 this Monday.  I’ve successfully made it from October 1987 to October 2017.  YAY!  It’s good so far.  I like it.

I didn’t have a clothing theme this week – I thought I’d do a list of things I’ve learned, things I’m grateful for, and things I want to do by next October!

1. First of all, I’m grateful for everyone who reads this blog!  I started it in July 2016 and I still get intimidated every time I write a post and send it off into the ether.  You have been such an encouragement to me and I hope I’m an encouragement to you as well!

2.  I learned this a while ago, but it’s been steadily reinforced throughout this past year:  we are our own worst critics.  Most of us don’t have an arch-nemesis whose only goal is to ruin our day in subtle ways.  We don’t outsource that job, because we do it ourselves.  The best plan is just to confess our sins and move on.  Be happy and don’t ruin your own life.  (By the way, I’m really good at ruining my own day.  It’s easy to do.)

3.  I love colors.  Bright colors make life happier.  Dark colors make life richer.  But of all the colors, red is the most important to me.  When I wear red, it is because I decided that I needed some red in my life that day.  It’s intentional and important.  Red lipstick, a red top, a pair of red shoes that I used to wear when I had to speak in public…. What color makes your day?

4.  I’m scared of writing.  I’ve learned that every week for a year now.  I’m scared NOW.  But I also know that being scared isn’t a good reason for doing something good.  So if you know something is good and part of you wants to do it and part of you seizes up in terror just thinking about it, you should probably do it.

5.  I’m grateful to my friends Sara and Lindsey, who have been my photographers in this venture.  We’ve had a lot of two-minute photo shoots since I started my Ashley Tries series and I can’t thank them enough, because I’m bad at face selfies and mirror selfies or any kind of selfies, really….

6.  Over this coming year, I’d love to get better at alterations.  My mom is bringing up my little sewing machine within the month, so I’ll be able to give it a try.  I fully expect to be bad at it, but I want to work on it, because I’ll have to hem trousers all my life.  My legs are super short.

7.  Building on that thought, to the short women of the world – there are ways to work with your proportions.  Even for a short person, my legs are proportionally short.  I have to hem petite trousers.  I sometimes wear capris and just call them ankle jeans.  If you ever have specific questions about what works and what doesn’t, ask away.  Odds are good that I’ve had to deal with the same clothing problems you are having!

8.  If you worry about what people think about what you’re wearing, remember that most people like it when OTHER people make bold fashion decisions.  Whenever I wear a hat, I hear this multiple times during the day – “I love hats!  I can’t wear them, but you look so cute in it!”  There are lots of different kinds of hats.  There’s probably a hat shape that suits you, so give it a try!  (The same principle goes for anything that’s out of your comfort zone.)

9.  It’s easy to make clothes a scapegoat.  If you are unsatisfied with yourself and your life and how you look, clothes will constantly be a problem.  If clothes NEVER work, that’s probably a sign of something deeper.

10.  Building on that last one, it’s hard to be content if you constantly compare yourself to other people and how they look.  We don’t even have to know these people.  Some of them are strangers, walking blithely through the carefully landscaped gardens of Instagram and Pinterest.

11.  Speaking of Pinterest, I don’t like millennial pink.  I’ve arrived at that conclusion and I’m okay with it.

12.  One of my biggest fears is fading into the background and disappearing.  And nobody noticing.  On the flip side, what I want most is to have somebody look at me and really see me.

13.  Smiles are beautiful.  They are like the sunrise.

14.  I want to sing Romeo and Juliet with Mark Knopfler this coming year.  Just want to put that out there.  I don’t know how that would work, but I REALLY WANT TO.

15.  The days when I want to give up are the most important days not to give up on.

16.  My favorite Ashley Tries series was the week that I got to try out fandom dressing with Sara.  That week made me so very happy.  Here are a few highlights!

Princess Leia:

Princess Nausicaa:

Miss Frizzle:

Agent Peggy Carter:

17.  If you are going through a rough time, use it.  Use it as a reminder to encourage others.  Use it to sharpen your mind and focus your walk with the Lord.  Use it as a opportunity to change.  Hard times are when growth happens.

18.  Singing can get me out of a deep blue funk faster than anything else can.

19.  I probably have too many dresses.

20.  In the immediate future, I will consign some of my dresses.

21.  Women are beautiful.  I’m surrounded by beautiful women.  A lot of times, women don’t see how beautiful they are, but I’m here to say, “Ladies, you are gorgeous.  No lie.”

22.  I’ve loved my trips this year!  Mexico in February and France and Switzerland in September.  I love traveling – I always come back a different person than when I left.

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23.  I have never decorated my own house before, but I’m going to be moving into a place of my own soon and I get to DECORATE HOWEVER I WANT.  I’m scared, but also excited!

24.  One of the past year’s goals was to get better at talking to people.  I think it’s kind of working.  It’s a work in progress.  Being awkward is awkward, everybody.  I want to be un-awkward.  So I’m working on it.  Remember, embarrassment is entirely your own reaction to something, so you can choose not to be embarrassed.  In some situations, it’s really hard to decide not to get embarrassed, but it can be done.

25.  I am thinking about dressing up as Static Cling for Halloween.

26.  Keep sending questions – I want to answer all your questions this year!  This especially applies to the ones that you think are strange to ask.  I love random questions.

27.  Sample question:  “Ashley, how might one properly wear food prints?”

28.  Remember not to take clothes too seriously – they’re here to work for you, not the other way around.  You’re the boss of your clothes.

29.  This year, I want to get better at cooking.  And playing an E chord on the ukulele.  And keeping a plant alive.  And having people over to eat popcorn and drink tea and do artwork.  And talking to people (work in progress).  And blogging.  I want to get better at living.

30.  This has been a great year.  I’ve had my rough patches, but overall, it’s been stellar.  Thanks for making it so.  You are all great.

Here’s to the next 30 years!

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Ashley Tries Not Freezing in a Skirt

Every once in a while, I’ll get a question that pushes me to the limits of my outfit creativity.  This week I’ve tried to answer the question, “How can I wear a skirt without freezing to death in the winter?”

It actually wasn’t the best week to try to solve this problem, because (after a few days of very autumnal weather) it warmed up and got pretty toasty in the afternoons.  But I’m dedicated to answering your burning fashion questions, even when I’m burning like a fashion question.  I stuck with all my layered outfits until I got home from work and changed into something else that was less hot.  So without further ado, here are a few creative suggestions for how to keep warm while wearing a skirt!

Statement Tights

Tights and leggings are an obvious solution to coldness, but why stick to black or tan or bland tights?  Brighten up a neutral outfit with some bright tights.  Truth is, I wear this burgundy color so much during the fall and winter that I count burgundy as a neutral color.  It goes great with black, brown, gray, blues, greens, RED, pink….you get the idea.  I also have bright magenta tights and they really bring the party to a neutral outfit.

I wanted to show off the tights by making them the only colorful element in the outfit.  There’s a wonderful description in The Princess and the Hedge-Pig by E. Nesbit.  A king and queen decide to decorate a basement for a secret christening celebration and they must decide how to handle a conspicuous copper drain.  “Now this copper had been a great trial to the decorators.  If there is anything you don’t like about your house, you can either try to conceal it or ‘make a feature of it’.  And as concealment of the copper was impossible, it was decided to ‘make it a feature’ by covering it with green moss and planting a tree in it… It had been very much admired.”  This is also the case with clothes.  Conceal It or Make A Feature Of It.  Tights can easily fade into the background, but if you make a feature of them, fun tights can add a real kick to an outfit.


Another feature of the tights – they showed off the cool cutout detail on my shoes.  My feet are about the same color as the shoes, so they don’t provide enough color contrast to show off how cool the shoes are.  With a burgundy background, those shoes pop.  This outfit felt basic, but cool.  An oversize denim shirt dress, a long cream sweater with a zigzag pattern on the lapel, burgundy tights, and tan shoes.  I also think I wore bird earrings.  It was Monday and that was a long time ago and I’m honestly not sure.  I have a feeling that bird earrings were involved.

Guess what?  Monday Me knew that Saturday Me wouldn’t remember about the bird earrings, so Monday Me took a picture of them!  I know my memory resembles that of a sand flea, so I usually take that into consideration.  I do sometimes think, “Nah – I won’t write it down.  I can’t possibly forget THAT.”  Let me tell you, that never ends well.  Never.

Wear Pants

This one is might seem like cheating, but if you freeze whenever you wear a skirt, go ahead and wear pants.  Tuesday was a day with lots and lots of meetings and communications and businessy business things, so I wanted to feel like a boss.  I found this pantsuit at a thrift store for less than ten dollars, but it is still a suit.  And a suit signals confidence.  There are drawbacks to it – the jacket is oversized and the pants are pleated and high-waisted.  But once I belted the jacket, both those drawbacks faded into the background.  The bright red short-sleeved sweater under it really made it for me.

I got a lot of “nice suit” comments that day, usually accompanied by a huhI wonder what Ashley is doing kind of look.  I work in a tech department, so if a suit is worn, there must be a definite reason for the suit and it invites comment.  This applies equally to guys.  I’m the first to ask one of my coworkers, “WHY ARE YOU WEARING A SUIT?  DID SOMEBODY DIE?”  Just kidding.  But I definitely comment whenever anybody shows up to work in a suit.

The main problem was how hot I got in this suit.  I won’t wear this one again until there is snow on the ground.  I’m serious.  Way too hot.  But oh-so-fun to wear, because I walked tall in that suit.  And the whole oversize thing is very in right now, so I’m kind of on trend with this one.

Boots and Slips


Knee-high boots keep half of your legs warm.  For those of you who hate tights (and I know there are some of you), this is a good option.  I could also have worn a longer skirt, which would have kept the knee region warmer.

While we’re on the subject, not all skirts are created equal.  Some skirts will keep you warmer than others.  Longer lengths help, thicker material helps.  Stating the obvious, a wool skirt that comes down to mid-calf is going to keep you warmer than a linen skirt that hits above the knee.  The fit also changes the warmth.  A skirt that fits at the waistband and then goes out will allow free airflow all up and down your legs.  A straight skirt or a pencil skirt will at least provide a little insulation.

So I had the boots to make half my legs warm and I had a half slip on.  Slips actually help a lot.  Slips are unsung heroes.  They help with static.  And especially with layering, static gets REAL.  If you have on a slip, you don’t have to worry about how your skirt handles daylight.  Slips keep you a little bit warmer and every little bit helps.  If you don’t have a half slip, buy one.  Direct recommendation.

Dress Over Jeans (And A Sweater)


I wanted to revisit the Dress Over Jeans thing, because that was my very first Ashley Tries post.  These are great jeans to wear under dresses, because they are very slim fit – like leggings, but without so much stretch.  They even have a side zipper, so they don’t add bulk under the dress.  The dress is stretchy and flowy, the jeans were fitted and tailored.  A good partnership.

Not one to leave well enough alone, I thought, “What if I also wore a sweater under this dress?”  What was I thinking?  I’m now basically wearing an outfit under an outfit.  I was too busy thinking about other things, I guess.  Like how my birthday is coming up next week.  Or what to eat for breakfast.  Or how I need to clean my room.  Or whether I should brush my hair.  All of those things are flitting through my head at any given moment and occasionally my outfit reflects this lack of focus.

It wasn’t too bad, because it was a thin sweater, but I was overly hot by mid-morning.  Should have seen it coming, but I lose focus for one minute and I’m wearing two outfits at once…. That being said, I would wear a shirt under this dress.  Just not a sweater.  This is another outfit that will come back once there is snow on the ground.

Long Sweater and Boots


I really like these boots.  They remind me of spats and armor and Nausicaa.  They give me some steampunk vibes and I’m a big fan of that whole oeuvre.  The boots kept my calves covered and the long sweater kept my rear warm.  What more could I ask for, really?  Halfway through the day, I took off the sweater and I was in the short-sleeved dress and boots and I still liked the look.

If you wonder whether it’s okay to wear florals in the fall, I say go for it.  I wear my clothes all year round, just with different layers.  If you think of other solutions to this problem, comment with your solutions!  I love hearing from you.  If you have other questions for me to tackle, let me know.  I like having a fresh challenge.  Thanks for reading – I appreciate all of you.

Ashley Tries: Travel and Transfiguration

At the beginning of this month, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to France and Switzerland.  This trip was all about a lovely group of people, delicious food, complex wine, sun-warmed castle walls, cows with bells around their necks (and other scenic wonders), and coming back with a fresh perspective.  I loved it.  It gave me fresh eyes and new courage.

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A lot of people have asked me about packing, because I decided to only take a purse and a carry-on duffel bag.  Kind of an ambitious choice for a 13 day trip, but I made that choice because I didn’t want to worry about collecting bags before going through border security in France.  This was the first time I was traveling out of the country by myself, so I wanted to simplify the traveling process as much as possible.  It really helped – my flight to Paris CDG airport got delayed for about half an hour and my connection (with border security and passport checks and everything) was already pretty tight.  If I had to claim checked baggage from that flight, I probably wouldn’t have made my flight to Marseille.  So a win for packing light!

This is the space I had to work with:

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Not very much room, but that also necessitated packing light.  Nature abhors a vacuum and when I have space to fill, I tend to fill it.  Before I went on the trip, I had a plan to find the perfect duffel bag.

1) It had to fit in an overhead bin.

2) It had to be flexible and squashable.

3) It had to have handles and wheels.  Handles for when I wanted to carry it.  When I travel, I assume lots and lots of stairs.  From past trips, I have learned never to assume there will be elevators!  But I also wanted wheels, so I had the option of NOT carrying it.  Wheels are great for airports.

So I looked on Amazon and got overwhelmed with choices.  Then I went to Ross (just in case there were duffel bags there) and found this pretty little blue-and-white number by Chaps.  I measured it to make sure it would fit in an overhead bin (CHECK), it was squashable (CHECK), it had handles and wheels (DOUBLE CHECK), and it was cute!  Added bonus.  This bag was great.  The print made it easy to spot, because most baggage is black – this bag stood out like a bluebird in the middle of a flock of ravens.

Once I had my bag, I needed to figure out what to put in it.  My packing style is idiosyncratic, so don’t feel like you need to follow my example.  When I pack, I assume everything about the trip will go right.  I don’t have backup plans when it comes to packing.  The way I figure it, if there’s an emergency, I won’t be caring about my clothes anyways.  If worst comes to worst (i.e. I get cold), I’ll buy a jacket while I’m there.  Or I’ll borrow a blanket from the hotel and walk around with that wrapped around me.  It’s a foreign country and I probably don’t need to impress anybody.

I had lists all over my house and they all looked something like this:

  • Passport
  • Underwear
  • PJs
  • Phone Charger
  • 1 or 2 pants?
  • Watercolor Pencils (and the list goes on….)

(Spoiler: I only ended up taking one pants.)

I don’t remember where this came from, but I remembered hearing that rolling clothes saved space, so I decided to take that one further.  Behold, the roll of rolls:

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This is the majority of my packing.  This bundle of joy has two pairs of shorts and five shirts, tied with a scarf so they didn’t come apart and dance around the duffle.  One pair of shorts formed the outer shell and then everything else got rolled up separately and then rolled up into it.  I ended up wearing the scarf as well, so this was an efficient little bundle.  In retrospect, I would have only taken one pair of shorts and I didn’t need ALL those shirts.  3 or 4 would have worked fine.  The nice thing about this system (besides saving space) was knowing exactly where my shirts were when I got there.

I had the Shorts-and-Shirts bundle, the Dresses bundle, and the Pajamas-and-Underwear bundle.  Here’s my lemon dress to demonstrate the bundling:

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It’s a cute form of packing.  And that lemon print just slays me.  I love it so much.

As is my habit, I wore all my bulkiest items on the plane (so they didn’t take up room in the suitcase).  My travel outfit included a black cardigan (the closest I came to packing a jacket), black jeans (my only pants), and black Nike sneakers.  The other shoes I took were metallic lace-up flats and strappy metallic sandals.  I didn’t pack heels, because I didn’t have the room and I didn’t want to wear heels anyways.  I only packed shoes that I knew I could walk well in, because nothing can ruin a trip faster than hurt feet.  These metallic flats got MVP for this trip, because I wore them almost every day and they were comfy the whole time:

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We spent most of the time in Provence and it was glorious.  We stayed in two different Chateaus and this is the view from my first room:

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Happy sigh.  It was harvest season, the sun warmed the stone, and the sun and the stone warmed my spirit.  Most of my ideas about Provence come from pictures on wall calendars.  But guess what?  IT IS JUST AS BEAUTIFUL AS THOSE PICTURES.

 

I can’t list what my favorite was.  It was all my favorite.  It felt like I had somehow stumbled onto the set of Much Ado About Nothing and I got to play Beatrice.  (“Thus goes every one to the world but I, and I am sunburnt”)  I know that the colors are going to stick with me.  Yellow stone, light blue shutters, light green doors, dusty rose walls, orange dirt in the vineyards, dark green trees, white roads, strong blue skies, then all these colors turning sudden gold as the sun goes down and tries to drag all the colors past the horizon with it.  Everything turning white and blue in the moonlight.  The sun hitting my face in the morning.  All of it.

I did buy some clothes while I was over there.

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That pink top is definitely the girliest thing I have ever owned.  Maybe that I’ve ever SEEN.  Bows and lace and pink pink pink.  I bought the panama hat out of necessity, because I needed sun protection, but it also added some adventure to each outfit.  I really enjoyed that hat.  I’ve realized that I love hats, but most of the hat shapes I love are traditionally men’s hat shapes.  I will choose a panama over a floppy brim hat and I will choose a boater over a cloche.  If you don’t think you can wear hats, make sure you try a few different kinds of hats!

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The white lace jacket is a lot of fun.  It was inexpensive and not made to last, but I’m going to wear it a lot.  Here are a couple of ways I’ve styled it already:

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I bought this gray top, which is probably the most typically French thing I bought.  Light gray is very popular during the summertime in France and it has cool little stitching details and an interesting shape.

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Most of the women I saw in France looked put together, but not ostentatious.  They favor light neutrals in the summer (cream, gray, tan, light blue).  A lot of French women wear jeans + neutral top + nice shoes as a daily uniform.  But it really depends on what they are doing – it was harvest season at the vineyards while we there, so everybody was pitching in.  There was one winemaker who was wearing her Spiderman t-shirt and jeans and most of the winemakers were wearing rubber boots, because it was time to work in the vineyards and harvest the grapes.  Clothes always depends on the context – it’s easy to have an idealized image of eternally glamorous French women, but everything depends on what’s going on!

Then I came back home filled with so much joy and energy and inspiration.  I feel beautiful and transfigured, like Sabrina Fairchild.  But most of the transfiguration happened internally.  I don’t look that different, but I feel that different.

I crossed continents and oceans.  I packed everything I needed into a carry-on and a purse.  I stayed in a castle.  I saw swans and flamingos.  I saw cowboys herding bulls and cows try to climb down a cliff face.  I sat and sketched the places I stayed.  I witnessed the beginnings of running jokes.  I ate some of the finest figs and pears and plums I have ever eaten, and my heart melted into a puddle of happy whenever I ate a croissant.

I came home changed.  Changed by traveling, changed by new friends, changed by observing another culture, changed by having to be braver.

If you have the opportunity to take a trip, take it.  It doesn’t have to be big.  Try going somewhere you’ve never been before, even if it just one state away, one county over.  It changes you.  I came back ready to take on new challenges and make big decisions.  After living with roommates for my whole life, I am moving into a little house on my own and I couldn’t be more excited for what happens next.

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