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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.