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

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As a perpetually single Christian woman, I’ve read a lot of blog posts on singleness.  I don’t seek them out.  They mysteriously appear on my Facebook wall.  Who knows where they come from originally, but they end up in my feed, like dust bunnies under a couch.  They have titles like “How the Church Fails Singles” or “37 Things Never To Say To Single People” or “Singleness and Contentment” or “Using Your Singleness” or things like that.  I usually read through them, but none of them really captured my attention.  Probably because all of them were so SERIOUS.  I’ve been putting off writing The Dreaded Singleness Post since I started this blog, but it’s time.  The Time Is Now.  My target audience is post-college single women in the 25-45 age range, but please, stick around.

I’m 30 and haven’t been asked out on a date since I started my job, and I’ve had my job for about 6 years now. Not that I think my job has anything to do with it.  I just tell time by landmarks. I don’t remember specific years when things happen.  Now, I don’t really know why I haven’t been asked out.  In my lower moments, I can think of all sorts of reasons why guys wouldn’t be interested in getting to know me.  Maybe I don’t talk enough.  Maybe I’m uninteresting.  Maybe I don’t seem interested.  Maybe I seem too independent.  Maybe I can’t cook.  Maybe I’m not attractive.  Maybe I’m mean without realizing it. Maybe it’s because I’m either overdressed or I look like one of the Lost Boys fro Hook.  Maybe it’s because my eyebrows are constantly trying to take over my face.

Let me exhort you not to fall down that rabbit hole.  If you have a specific concern, ask your family or a close friend in honesty and humility.  “Am I careless with my words?  Do I hurt people?”  Don’t ask yourself.  If you are asking the question, you either you don’t know the answer or you are ignoring the answer.  So stop asking yourself questions that you don’t know the answer to and move on to something else!

Have you ever auditioned for anything?  It’s a vulnerable, nerve-wracking, competitive experience, because you have to stand up on your own and perform to a room full of people who are there to judge you.  Sometimes the cast list comes out and your name isn’t on it.  The best advice I ever received about auditioning: Don’t try to figure out why you didn’t get the role.  That’s a fast way to go mad or get bitter.  Either you blame yourself and start obsessing about what you could have done differently, or you blame your competition.  Either way, you can start thinking “I didn’t get it because I didn’t have enough breath control for that low note.” “I should have had more confidence coming in.  “I’m too ugly for that role.” “She only got the role because she’s blonde – typical.” “Why did SHE get the role? My audition was so much better.”  DON’T DO IT.  The same thing applies to unwanted singleness.  If you like a guy and he starts dating your best friend, how do you respond?  It’s ridiculously easy to automatically blame your friend or blame yourself or blame the guy you liked.  DON’T DO IT.

But like I said, those are the low moments.  Most of the time, I’m happy and fine and enjoying life.  But I do run into some hilarious singleness problems.  Like people being concerned about me and offering me advice and comfort.  It’s amazing how uncomfortable comforting can be sometimes.  This is where all those “37 Things Never To Say To Singles” posts come from.  But OH COME ON.  How pretentious would it be to walk up with a scroll, dramatically unfurl it, and announce All The Thinges Which Maye Not Be Uttered In My Presence.  That’s what those posts are like.  Are people always going to say the right thing?  No.  Will they always be sensitive to the issue you’re handling right now?  Nope.  When people try to comfort you and do it clumsily, recognize their intention.  Remember all the times that you clumsily tried to comfort a friend.

I have a little collection of singleness sayings at this point. One of my personal favorites: “Don’t worry, it’ll happen when you least expect it.” At this point, I don’t know how I can expect it any less.  But the winner of the most uncomfortable (and unintentionally hilarious) comforting was a lady who came up to me at my Grandaddy’s funeral. Here’s the scene – I’m in the receiving line and a kind stranger comes up to me and starts this gem of a conversation:

Lady: “Do you have kids?”

Me: “No, I don’t have kids.”

Lady: “But you have a husband, right?”

Me: “No.”

Lady (patting my hand): “Aww. It’s still just you and Jesus.” (Lady walks away, while I struggle to keep a straight face during all of this, because this was at a FUNERAL.)

Enough concerned people have asked me if I had tried online dating that I eventually joined OKCupid.  There were a few reasons for this.  Reason 1)  If I tried it, I could just say “Yes. I have tried online dating” and quickly switch to a more interesting subject.  Reason 2)  It was free. 3)  I’ve heard some success stories from OKCupid, so I was interested to see what it was like.

I think the main thing that drove me nuts about it was the inefficiency of the process.  Inefficiency is fine when there is warmth and personality and kindness.  Greece is inefficient, but if there’s blue ocean and delicious food, I don’t care how inefficient it is. But the deadly combo of inefficient AND impersonal eventually made me put the online dating account on ice. If I wanted inefficient and impersonal, I could run down to the DMV or get called involved in some other tedious bureaucratic process.  In my opinion, trying to meet somebody shouldn’t feel like a part time job.  What happened to the original matchmaking services, dinner parties and dances?  I like those.  If nothing came out of the dinner party, at least you got dinner.  If nothing came out of the dance, at least you got to get dressed up and see all your friends.  If nothing comes out of online dating, you’re just home in your pajamas, clicking through photos of strangers, probably holding a glass of white wine.  No wonder we feel isolated sometimes.  Real people are more fun than the ideas of people.

I want Amazon or Netflix to start an online dating service. Sure, it would be icy and impersonal and probably run by evil masterminds, but at least it would be highly efficient. Netflix wouldn’t even need me to fill out a profile – they already know too much about me. They know that on emotional days, I either want to watch Disney movies or the category they have labeled as Emotional East Asian Dramedies.  If dating comes down to algorithms, I want a service with the very finest algorithms.  Amazon’s dating service would come with reviews for each person.  That would drastically simplify the process.

Truth be told, I am picky. Evidence to this fact: I’m 30 and oh so very single.  But I’ve waited this long, so why should I settle NOW?  It seems like bad timing.  I’m holding out for great.  I’m not planning on lowering my standards.  If anything, my standards have gotten higher.

Okay, now I’m going to say some things that I should probably Never Say To Singles, but rest assured, everything I’m going to say to you, I’ve already had to preach to myself.

  1. STOP COMPLAINING THAT ADULTING IS HARD.  Also, we need to stop using the word Adulting.  Sure it’s hard.  It’s real life.  But you’re a real adult, so stop pretending that you’re still a child trying to do adulty things.  You’re an adult doing what you have to do and have every capability of doing.  Do you want to be treated like an adult? Act like one. Commit to things. Don’t have one foot out the door.  As a single person, it’s easy to sit at the kid’s table for a lot longer.  My younger sister feels more like an adult than I am, because she has a husband, three kids, and a household that she has to run.  But that’s a feeling.  The truth is that I’m just as much of an adult, but it’s easier to not see myself that way.  It’s time to put down roots and start building my own household.  If I’m building that household on my own right now, that’s not a problem.

2. GIVE UP THE HYPOTHETICAL TIMELINE AND LIVE IN THE REAL ONE.  It’s easy to sigh and think, “When I was in college, I assumed I’d be married and have kids by this point.”  That’s a hypothetical timeline, but it feels more real the more you dwell on it.  This feeds into a particular smart girl problem of being terrified of falling behind or failing.  Sometimes it feels like I fell behind a long time ago and now I’ll never catch up.  It’s not a race.  Don’t feed the fake timeline.  Give up your disappointment.  Give up the fake competition.  This is the real timeline. Live in it and love it.

3. MAKE GOOD FRIENDS.  If I could have one thing written on my tombstone, I’d want it to be Good Friend.  Cultivate your existing friendships and always be open to new ones.  This probably seems like a no-brainer, but be a good friend to your family.  Sometimes it’s easy to ignore that aspect of family, but being friends with your siblings and your parents is one of the best things in the world.  Spend the time and really invest in people.  Let your focus be external, rather than internal.  Focus less on being interesting to other people and focus more on being truly interested in other people.

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4.  BECOME ADMIRABLE.  Keep learning.  Keep improving.  Become an intimidating force of nature.  Do the hard things that you have to do and don’t complain about it.  I find it so easy to complain.  Way too easy.  I don’t want to be a wimp or a whiner.  If an amazing man does come along someday, I want to be standing on my two feet and carrying out a plan, because that’s what I’d expect from him.

5.  USE WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN.  A couple days ago, I was reading The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25.  It’s one of the hardest parables for me to read.  “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.  Look, there you have what is yours.” (Matthew 24:24-25)  I don’t know about you, but it’s very easy to me to feel sorry for that man with one talent, but that is because he uses the same excuse that I do.  LORD, I WAS AFRAID.  I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANTED ME TO DO.  WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?  The answer is anything except nothing.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  If he had put the talent in the bank, he would have at least earned interest on it.  Don’t be afraid, because fear only paralyzes.  Use whatever you have been given.

Love isn’t a feeling.  It’s something that you do.  Don’t sit and wait for love.  Don’t bury it in the ground.  Don’t be afraid.  Love God and love your neighbor.  That’s it.  That’s what we’re told to do.  Loving other people does not require any other person giving love to you.  God has already given you all His love.  More than enough for you to give away every second of every day for as long as you last.  Don’t be afraid.

So whatever I go for this year, I want to go full out.  If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay.  I want to do anything except nothing.  I want to invest in people and build up my friendships.  I want to put down roots and not be afraid that it’s the wrong thing.  It’s not the wrong thing.  The wrong thing would be to bury what I’ve been given in the ground.

To all my single ladies, my amazing friends:  I love you so much.  You’re like those classic actresses in black and white movies – fierce, funny, witty, compassionate, intelligent, and beautiful.  Most people don’t think they make women like that anymore, but I know that’s not true, because I know my friends.  I’m telling you that you are all worth getting to know and it’s my privilege to know all of you.  Are you intimidating?  Absolutely.  Please don’t lower your standards.  You don’t need to settle for mediocre.  You deserve legendary.

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Ashley Tries to Start the New Year Right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley Tries Asking People What They Think

This has been a WEEK, folks. Since I started the Ashley Tries series on this blog, I’ve been taking almost daily outfit pictures. Imagine (if you will) a picture of yourself every day for months. Yikes. There have been some days where I just want to hide under my desk and not come out. Yes, I know it isn’t necessary.  It is a self-imposed trial.  But the truth is that I take a picture and say something about the blog post at the beginning of every week SO THAT I CAN FORCE MYSELF TO WRITE THE BLOG POST AT THE END OF THE WEEK.  A few things that I’ve learned from taking outfit photos:

  • I am my own harshest critic.  Some days, I just don’t like my FACE.
  • It is impossible to take myself seriously. I’m a data analyst in a tiny town in the Pacific Northwest.  Who cares what a hick like me has to say about fashion?  The only qualification I have is that I love fashion and I’ve always loved fashion.  That’s about it.
  • What I like and what people respond to are usually two different things. Sometimes people love the outfits that I don’t enjoy wearing and some outfits I love don’t get much of a response on social media.
  • I’ve started learning what kinds of pictures people will respond to and like.  With that knowledge comes the temptation to only wear clothes that will get a positive response from other people.
  • It’s REALLY easy to be manipulative on social media. I know that isn’t news, but let me tell you something – if I decided to manipulate, I’d be good at it. So it is very important for me to NOT become a manipulator.

I am truly interested in how we relate to images and what we respond to and what we notice first in an image.  I’m the same person every day, but my outfit is different, the light is different, my facial expression is different… what draws people in?  What sells an idea?  So this week, I decided to do some basic image analysis by asking people for a one-word description of each outfit.  I tried to keep it simple and make sure the opinions were theirs, not mine.  I posted all the photos to my personal Facebook and Instagram accounts, so those opinions came from people I know.  Two of the days, I posted pictures on a larger social media group where I don’t know most of the people personally.

This was a daunting week for me.  Posting pictures is hard enough without asking people to honestly state what they think about how you look.  WHAT WAS I THINKING?  The problem is that I have a terrible oversupply of curiosity and I love categorizing things and I am fascinated (and terrified) by people and their frank opinions.

Monday’s Outfit: Clear Narrative

I wanted the first outfit to have a cohesive tone with a pop of color for visual interest.  This outfit was designed to be simple to comment on.  Simple and straightforward in form and function, with feminine details to brighten it up.  Even thought blazers are traditionally menswear-inspired pieces, this Zara blazer leans feminine, because the material is light and fine-textured, and it is tailored for curves.  Combined with the fine-knit red sweater, it’s definitely womanly, but still very professional.  Skinny jeans with pointy flats give a throwback 1960s vibe and reinforce the “I’m a woman” feeling.

So my bet with myself was that people wouldn’t have any trouble summing this outfit up and that the results would be clear and harmonious.  Most of the results sorted out nicely into four main categories.  While the categories are distinct, they harmonize well together.  (Some of the terms were repeated more than once.)

Category 1: Professional

  • Professicasual
  • Office-casual
  • Professional
  • Bossbabe
  • Exec
  • Boss
  • Office

Category 2: Tailored

  • Polished
  • Clean
  • Sharp
  • Tailored
  • Fitted
  • Snappy

Category 3: Classic

  • Chic
  • Classy
  • Classic
  • Preppy

Category 4: Attitude

  • Smart
  • Happy (because of my facial expression)
  • Confident
  • Prepared
  • Boom (apparently, this outfit has impact)

There were a few outliers that didn’t fit well into those categories:  Cold, All-seasonal, and Pinterest.  I thought Cold was a really interesting one, because it deals with how the observer feels when they look at the image.  Viewer comfort is very important, especially in advertising.  If you look at an advertisement for shoes and see pain written all over the model’s face, you won’t want to buy those shoes.  The model’s job is to make uncomfortable things look comfortable, and it is a job I do not envy.  All-seasonal is a great description as well.  It has to do with practicality and use value.  I think Pinterest means that it looks good, which I appreciate!

And while I do look professional here, I’ll admit something.  After work on this day, I went home, put bubble wrap all over the floor, turned on ABBA records, and danced around on the bubble wrap.  Sometimes I’m not all that grown up….

The results pretty much lined up with what I expected – a classic professional look with some attitude.

Tuesday’s Outfit: The Wild Card

You know how I told you that I’m tempted toward manipulation?  Well, I designed this outfit to be difficult to describe.  I’m sorry, everybody.  I wanted to compare Monday’s straightforward look to a more involved, complex look.

I’m an odd duck and I like an odd mix of things, but I’ve learned that some of my more eclectic looks just confuse people.  Confusion usually keeps people from commenting (unless I specifically ask for their opinion, like this week).  So my bet with myself was that the descriptions for this outfit would be all over the place and some people would love it and some people wouldn’t care for it.

Category 1: Attitude

  • Fun
  • Cool
  • Playful
  • Quirky
  • Relaxed

Category 2: Cuteness

  • Girly
  • Cute
  • Babydoll
  • Lunch Date (I think of date clothes as being cute, so that’s why I stored this description under Cuteness)
  • LEGS (nobody actually posted that description, but friends told me their opinions throughout the day)

Category 3: The Mix

  • Confusing
  • Mixed
  • Contrast
  • Sneakers?  (This one is from my sister who got all excited when she saw that I had curled my hair and then didn’t understand why I was wearing sneakers)
  • Eclectic
  • Retro-inspired (I think this comes from the red lipstick and the tweed mini and the styling)
  • Boho-chic

Category 4: Materials

  • Textured
  • Draped
  • Flutter

There were a few outliers that I really enjoyed: Moss (color and softness), Anime, and Dr. Who Girl.  The last two kind of formed a little subgroup.  This mix almost looks like a character in a show, but a show that is a little strange and a lot foreign.  It goes along with the quirky/playful/girly vibes that people were picking up.

There were fewer comments on this outfit and they came in later in the day, like people had been contemplating how exactly to describe this look.  Don’t worry.  I expected that.  The proportions aren’t what you expect, there are sneakers where there should be heels, the skirt is fitted and the top is loose…. chaos.  But it’s a chaos that sometimes exactly fits my mood, so I’ll keep a little bit of the weirdness.  It’s very me.  Because I’m very strange.

Wednesday’s Outfit:  The Comment Machine

In all honesty, I designed this outfit to get attention and to be easy to describe.  Stripes.  A crazy bright color.  Shape.  Strong attitude.  Any of those are up for grabs.  This outfit is in your face and demands an opinion.  A diva of a look.  I’m not actually a diva, by the way.  I’m work in a cubicle and do a very specific, very nerdy job that requires some intelligence and a whole lot of stubbornness and independence.

This was one of the two looks that I showed to a much larger audience.  Asking your friends for opinions is one thing, but asking strangers is far more daunting.  I told everybody to be honest, because I’m tough.  That wasn’t a lie.  I honestly thought I was tough, but MAN.  It is nerve-wracking and humbling to have people give their first impressions of you on the basis of one image.  But for social media, that’s usually all we get.  That’s why the temptation to curate an image grows so strong.  We want people to like us and to find us interesting and to know us.  But we only want them to “know” us to the extent where we are still likable and it gets easier and easier to balance on that little balance beam.  Like I suspected, the results filtered out into three main categories:

Category 1: Color

The cropped chartreuse sweater got a lot of attention, with Cheerful, Juicy, Zingy, Sunny, Yellow Umbrella, Sunshiney, Pop, Yellow, Bright, Banana Split, SunnyRain, Color, Fresh, Modern 80s, Modern Morton Salt Girl, Vibrant, Banana Peel on a Piano, the end of a pencil, Bright, Artpop, Pop Art, Electric, Meadowlark

Category 2: Stripes

The stripes didn’t have as many variations, but still got plenty of descriptions: Graphic, Bumblebee, Piano, Neo-preppy, Stripey, Striped, Zebralimepiebarcode (note: this technically includes the color as well, but the stripes are mentioned twice, so this one gets stored in the Stripes Category), Nautical, Zebra, Geometric, Jarring, Deco, Rio (referring to Rio de Janeiro’s mosaic sidewalks), Busy, Crisp

Category 3: Attitude and Overall Styling

Sometimes the description comes from the overall vibe of the outfit, rather than the individual elements.  There was a lot of confidence and diva:  Striking, Bold, Dramatic, Drama, Confident, Pizzazz, Upbeat, Confident, Distinctive, Spunky, YAAAAASSSSS.  People picked up on clarity and focus:  Sleek, Chic, Straightforward, Smart, OK, Clearcut, Contrast, Snappy, Contemporary, Trendy.  Apparently, this ticked some artistic boxes as well:  Artful, Whimsical, Twist, Hipster, Artsy, Pinterest, Fun.  Oh yeah.  And somebody’s description was Outfit.  Helpful to know.

There were a few outliers, but most of them had to do with the shape and fit:  Flattering, Twirly, Lampshade.  Self-explanatory.  There was also kind of an animal subcategory, with all the zebras and bumblebees and meadowlarks hopping around.

This outfit got reactions and reactions go straight to the head, like champagne.  It would be easy to escape into a heightened version of yourself, the person who always looks confident and chic and artistic, the person who gets attention.  Of all the outfits this week, this one is probably the last one I would wear on a regular basis.  It is elaborate.  I enjoy it, but it only reflects a part of me.

Thursday’s Outfit:  The Hardest Day

By Thursday, I was worn out.  I’m moving into a new house and I’m in the middle of a long project at work that requires all my stubborn will power, but I came into the day emotionally drained. As soon as I started asking for people’s snap judgments at the beginning of the week, I had started judging my photos more harshly and I got more and more self-conscious. Even when people are nice, it is still emotional to hear other people’s opinions of me. Even when it is not personal, it feels personal. After all, they are looking at this picture of me. And my face. And my body. And all my flaws. And WHY DID I EVEN START THIS ALL THESE PICTURES ARE GARBAGE AND I AM A MONSTER WHY AM I NOT LIVING UNDER A BRIDGE WAITING FOR BILLYGOATS TO DEVOUR and by Thursday, I was already toting around three days of that. Moral: Don’t look at your own photos too much, it will just highlight everything that makes you self-conscious.

On Thursday, I still had my terrible curiosity and my terrible stubbornness and they keep me going on terrible ideas. Smart people probably reconsider bad ideas mid-week. I’m not smart enough to do that. I would like to say it’s discipline. Or a thirst for knowledge. Or that it is fun for me. Or that I love carrying out plans and checking things off lists. But it isn’t. It is just stubbornness and the knowledge that I am a slow writer of an insignificant blog that I don’t NEED to write every week. But if I don’t write this week, I won’t come back to write it next week. So I have to write a blog post this week in order to write a blog post the next week and the next week and the next week.

I had already decided that Thursday’s outfit should be nondescript. A dull echo of Monday’s outfit, a direct contrast to Wednesday’s outfit. Plain. Simple. Not very sharp, not very colorful. Not pretty. Ordinary. To tell the truth, I like the outfit. It’s a meat and potatoes outfit. Nothing to write home about, but sturdy and practical and comfortable. It just isn’t an outfit that demands photographic evidence. It is an ordinary life outfit, like most outfits should be.

By the time Sara took my photo, I was tired and emotional and tired and headachey and TIRED. Do you ever forget how to smile? I do. It’s like when you’re lying in bed, wide awake at three in the morning, and you can’t remember how to fall asleep and you wonder if you will ever sleep again. If I have a headache, I’ll forget how to smile. When I do smile, you don’t have to wonder whether it is real. If I’m smiling at you, it’s genuine. Very bad at faking stuff.

So Sara took my picture and then I was in possession of a non-smiley, aggressively ordinary outfit photo. Like I said at the beginning, I’m my own worst critic. I didn’t see any beauty in that picture. That’s when the temptation to control and the fear of criticism kicked in. Why not just ignore it and do nothing? I don’t OWE anybody a picture of me, especially not in a boring meat-and-potatoes outfit with an ugly face that is incapable of smiling. It would have been tough for me to post that picture anytime, but on the week where I was asking for one-word descriptions? That seemed like cruel and unusual punishment. How I could show that ugly face to my friends, let alone strangers?

It took all my stubbornness to talk myself down and push aside the self-consciousness and post this one. And ask for opinions about it. I already knew that I didn’t see anything good about it, and if I didn’t, who would? Every comment that came in just made me more tired of myself. My tiredness and emotion kept me from having sound perspective. By late evening, I was on the brink of tears. Let me stress that it was not the comments that made me cry and I appreciate every single one of you who wrote a one-word description. By that point, I felt hideous.

But I’m still a data analyst and the data must be analyzed!  Most of descriptions shook out into clear categories:

Category 1: Simple

Some of the descriptions in this category referred to the color scheme: Muted, Earth-tone, Dull. Most of them referred to the overall look: Solid, Basics, Casual Chic, Practical, Simple, Dependability, Conservative, Classy, Conservative-esque, Casual, Timeless, No, Relaxed, Jewelry-less, Classy, Midwest, Texas Chic, Country Casual, Chic, Comfortable, Same. Stable to the point of boring.

Category 2: Intellect

Professorial, Library, Studious, Professor, Intelligent, Science, Smart, Articulate, Sharp

Category 3: Masculine

Masculine, Menswear-inspired, Garçonne, Androgynous, Strong, Strength, Power, “more Mars then Venus”

Category 4: British Vibes

English, Oxford, Susan, Buchan, British, Scottish, Female Dr. Who, Equestrienne, Autumnal, Mixed, Tweedy

Category 5: Professional (Possibly Ruthless)

Attorney, Spy, Business, Business Casual, Corporate, Boss, ThugAccountantMom, Professional

Category 6: Attitude

Serious, Presence, Yaaasssss, Sassy, Pride, The “I’m listening, but already shaking my head ‘No’.” Look

If we combine all these categories, this look has a distinct persona. Something along the lines of an intelligent British man in a stable, boring profession, who is secretly a ruthless spy. Weapon of choice: sarcasm.

I also got Mom and DadMom, so I guess this look gave off parental vibes. It goes along with all those dependable/practical/conservative descriptions.

This day actually received the most descriptions of the entire look, rather than descriptions of individual pieces. I’m guessing that is because none of the individual pieces stood out enough to deserve a separate comment. The tweedy blazer and the glasses gave rise to most of the Intellectual, Professional, and British ideas. I’ve always been nearsighted, and it is true that people assume you are smarter if you wear glasses. My friends would try on my glasses and then ask, “do I look smarter?” I couldn’t answer that question, because I couldn’t see them without my glasses.

I think the Simple and Masculine ideas go together. Men aren’t expected to be fancy, so it is perfectly acceptable for guys to form an outfit without accessories or bright colors. Good fit and quality materials are the main concepts for men’s fashion. Women’s fashion builds on the foundations of fit and quality, but adds another element: visual interest. Makeup, jewelry, accessories (especially scarves, bags, and SHOES), color, print, texture…these are the glory of an outfit. The point of a little black dress is not the black dress, it is the woman inside it.

This outfit had a lot of direct comparison to Monday’s outfit – same jeans, sweater under a blazer, flats. But Monday’s outfit had feminine elements (earrings, pointy-toe flats, a bright red sweater) and Thursday’s outfit had masculine elements (muted colors, a straight-line blazer, and boots).

It’s probably obvious by this point, but I’m a nut and a major overthinker. Thursday was the hardest day, because I was asking for judgement on something I had already judged. But Thursday was the day that I learned the most about how I handle criticism and a couple of strong temptations. I’m tempted to only show people what I want them to see. I’m tempted to try to control everything. I’m tempted to rely entirely on my own judgement.

Well, that got heavy. But it’s honest.

If you ever get anxious, there is a Bible verse that I ran across recently and I’m trying to remember it when I worry:
“In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Do not fear;
Zion, let not your hands be weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:16-17)

Why should I be afraid? God is with me and He rejoices over me. He sings over me, a nut who overthinks everything and gets scared about what other people think. I get afraid of things that don’t matter at all and He is so happy to have me that He is singing. That’s humbling, folks. Okay, I’m crying again, but happy tears this time.

Friday’s Outfit:  Last Hurrah

I woke up on Friday with no headache and no fear, which does wonders for one’s perspective. Friday’s outfit is comfy and different and I like it. It’s busy, but grounded in the black and white color scheme. The main thing that made me happy about this picture is that I LOOKED happy in this picture. Truly, smiles make everything better. Don’t be self-conscious about smiling. Yes, your eyes squint and your cheeks bunch up, but you look lovely. If you can smile, smile. There’s nothing more beautiful.

On Friday, I only asked for opinions on my personal Facebook and Instagram accounts, because I wanted to keep the result size more manageable. I was already starting to compile and categorize the results from the previous days, so I had plenty of results to go through. This outfit wasn’t planned for a particular reaction and that made the reactions more fun, because they were unexpected.

Category 1: Nature

  • Winter
  • Ocean
  • Butterfly
  • Trout
  • Snowy
  • Nudibranch
  • Fish
  • Glistening like an icicle
  • Whirlpool

Category 2: Attitude/Overall Impressions

  • Wild
  • Bold
  • Daring
  • Whimsical
  • Cute
  • Snazzy
  • Pizzazz
  • Fun
  • Refreshing
  • Artist
  • Miyazaki

Category 3: Texture and Movement

  • Textured
  • Cozy Party
  • Flowy
  • Movement
  • Dynamic

Category 4: Pattern-Mixing

  • Geometric
  • Patterns
  • Hectic

I was surprised by all the nature-inspired descriptions, but I love them. I totally see Nudibranch (technical term for sea cucumber) – it’s all about the ruffled edges and the movement. The sweater DOES look like fish scales.  It looks like ice and snow and the ocean and all those things.

My sincere thanks for the Miyazaki description. How cool is that? It goes along with all the overall impressions of boldness and whimsy and wildness. This persona could have her own Hayao Miyazaki movie. It would be set in winter and there would be lots of fish in it.

And so my science experiment comes to an end. My hypothesis was correct. I have an instinct for knowing what kinds of images will get the most reactions. But what I didn’t anticipate was my own discomfort throughout the week. I came into this week thinking I was tough and I came out all vulnerable.  By the end of the week, I found myself wanting people to tell me that I look pretty.  Asking for judgement on my appearance opened up a fear door I didn’t even know was in the house.

My conclusion: I need to be honest. You know when I said that the reason I need to write the blog post this week is so I can write the blog next week? The same applies for honesty – if I start lying, it will be a fast trip downhill. If I try to create an image and become one person in real life and another person for the camera, I’m in trouble.

Thank you for all your descriptions! This post couldn’t have happened without your help and I appreciate you all. As always, if you have a fashion question or want help with something, send me a message and I’ll try to help out in any way I can. That’s why I’m here.

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.

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

img_4299

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.

img_4192

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 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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