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 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: 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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Guest Post: Mommy Style!

I put together a few mommy style boards together for this post – if you see anything you like, click on the link and it will take you to my Polyvore sets.
I’m very excited about this blog post, because since I started my blog, these have been my top three questions:
  • What should I wear when I’m nursing a baby?
  • I just had a baby and my body has changed – how do I dress this new postpartum body?
  • How do I dress for my job when my full time job is being a mom?

Since I’ve never had a baby, I don’t feel qualified to answer the first two.  The last question I will address later on in the post.  There are clothing principles that apply to every role we have through our lives (student, employee, parent, entrepreneur, leader, follower) and I can handle the principles of clothing fairly well.  I try to keep my blog fairly principle-based, so whoever reads it can apply the ideas to their own clothes.

Honest confession – sometimes it is hard to handle mom-specific questions as a single woman.  If the question comes at an emotional moment, it is easy to hear the question as a subtle rebuke (i.e. Fashion is easy for you, because you don’t have to worry about nursing / a constantly changing body / children) or it can feel like a defense or explanation disguised as a question (i.e. I exclusively wear leggings and t-shirts, because I’m chasing kids all the time and you don’t understand that, because you have an office job and don’t have to chase kids around all day).  I’ll admit that every time I get a question that I can’t really answer, I feel insufficient and stupid.  BUT I KNOW IT IS JUST IN MY HEAD.

Truth is, I sometimes envy moms, because I’d love to have a husband and kids.  But I can still want a family without envying the women who already have them.  So whenever I start imagining that moms are judging me and my “easy” single life, I need to stop it.  Even if moms do think that my life is easy, I can’t control what they think – my attitude is the only thing I can control.  Envy is never the answer.  Envy makes everybody miserable.  If you give envy any opportunities, you open the door to bitterness.  I love you, moms.  And I’m in awe of you.  All the time.  So this one is for you.

If you have ever asked me a question about how to dress when you’re nursing or about post-baby dressing and I didn’t answer you, I was too intimidated.  I never feel like I have the ethos to answer those questions.  So I brought in two women with all the ethos.  They are my sisters and between the two of them, they have seven children under the age of seven.  Laura has four children (her oldest is 7, her youngest is 2 1/2 months) and Steph has a 4-year-old and 2-year-old twins.   We had a great conversation last week and here is an incomplete and stream-of-consciousness record of that conversation, divided up into categories.  I’m pretty slow at taking notes, so some of these things are either from Steph or Laura, but I can’t remember which.


They are pretty beautiful.  

On Nursing and Clothes:

Steph:  Nursing twins is like its own THING, though. Nursing camisoles. That’s all I wore.  But I also didn’t leave the house for a while.  Nursing twins makes you REALLY feel like a fertility goddess. And now they feed themselves! It’s a miracle!

Laura:  [she was actually nursing while we had our conversation, which felt very appropriate]  …still nursing my fourth. He’s little and cute and I can’t say no! My other kids say, “Can he have crackers? No! He can just have milk, milk, and milk!”

Laura & Steph:  NURSING CAMISOLES.  You must have nursing camisoles.

Steph: Nursing bra, with a nursing camisole over it, and with a cardigan over that.  Extra layers are helpful. You can pull up the shirt and pull down the nursing cami and not show all of your back or all of your midriff.  Target has a great selection of maternity and nursing-friendly clothes.

Laura:  Don’t wear side-zip dresses.  Besides completely disrobing, there’s no way to nurse in a size-zip dress.  If you really want to wear a sheath or shift dress, get one with a full length zipper in the back.

General nursing clothes advice:

Wrap dresses plus nursing camisoles work really well for the period where you change sizes quickly, because wrap dresses are made to be adjustable.

Go for swing tops that fit at the shoulders, then give plenty of room at the waist.

If you do button-up tops or shirt dresses, you might have to size up to keep them from gapping egregiously, but you can always wear a button-up shirt open over your nursing camisole if it doesn’t fit quite right yet.

Remember that kids get bored and they will unsnap all your snaps and unzip all the zippers and play with all the buttons, so take that into consideration.

On Dressing a Postpartum Body:

Laura:  I think it gets easier after the first baby, because your body changes irrevocably after the first one….but it’s physically and emotionally hard every time.

Steph: With my first, a couple of months afterwards, I could fit back into my pants. But after the twins, it’s been a year to two years before I can fit back into clothes – I’m still not fitting into some things.

Laura: At some point you have to make the decision – I’m tired of my clothes not fitting.  I’m getting NEW CLOTHES.  For a year or two after you have kids, you can be in the position of having tons of clothes and NOTHING that fits.

Steph:  I had to tell myself, “I may never be the same size as I was in college and that’s OK.”  BUT I USED TO BE SKINNY AND NOW I’M NOT.  Hormones don’t help those emotions either.  While there’s a baby in your tummy, there’s a reason for the roundness and now it’s out and you can grab two handfuls of your own stomach.

Laura: Even if you COULD get back into those clothes, they’re out of date now.  The hard thing is that you’re learning to dress a completely different body and you want to dress your OLD body.

General thoughts on post-childbirth dressing:

If you want to spruce up your wardrobe, choose things that are stretchy and versatile.  Your size is changing a lot, so this isn’t the best time to invest in tailored pieces.

Shop for outfits, because it can get frustrating if you have a top that fits, but no pants.  Shop for the size you are, not the size you want to be.  A couple of good outfits can get you through a period of transition.  A pair of pants, a skirt with a stretchy waistband, and three tops – that’s a solid little wardrobe right there.

When you have multiple kids, keeping your clothes clean is almost impossible.  Go for washable fabrics.  [Laura:  When I drop food, it usually falls on the baby.  Baby napkin.]

Kids are more important than clothes.  [Steph:  If my kid spits up on my dress and I get upset, it’s not a kid issue, it’s a heart issue.]

When you go shopping, hire a babysitter or ask your mom or your husband to watch the kids.  It will make the process go much quicker and you can focus on finding clothes.

Both Laura and Steph:  I like having some kind of pattern on my shirt – a plain t-shirt shows all the bra deficiencies and any rolls you have.

Choose tops that have an interesting pattern or texture.  Draping is nice.  Thicker materials are great.

If leggings or yoga pants or athletic shorts are your favorites, wear them! Cute, active “I’m getting things done” clothes can be helpful. If you wear them out of the house, put on a cute top or little dress over the top and then you’ll feel put together.

You can change habits and setting goals can really help with that.  It can be helpful to make a goal to get dressed before your husband leaves the house, so you feel ready for the day.

You can be content where you are, while hoping to go somewhere else.

Remember, you are pouring out your body for other people.  (When you’re nursing, you’re LITERALLY pouring yourself out.)

Be realistic about sizing.  Don’t buy things in the size you want, buy things in the size you are.  If you really want to change sizes, invest in a couple of outfits for now and start working hard towards your future size.

On Motherhood as a Job:

Being a mom is a full time job.  It’s important and difficult and beyond full time.  So it isn’t accurate to say that moms don’t have to dress for a job, but how should moms dress for their job?  Laura and Steph requested that I bring back the four questions for intentional dressing that I wrote for my first blog post.  If you answer these questions, you can start understanding your role and how your clothes will support you in that role.

  • What time is it? [examples:  Daytime / Evening / August / December]
  • Where am I? [examples:  Home / Work / School / Vacation / Jury Duty]
  • Who do I need to respect? [examples:  Kids / Coworkers / Parents / Spouse / Bride]
  • What are my responsibilities? [examples: Playing Duck-Duck-Goose / Computer Programming / Taking Blood Pressure / Teaching Classes]

Once you answer all those questions, answer the last question.  It’s still important, but it rests on all the other questions.  Ready for the last question?

  • DO I LIKE THESE CLOTHES?

Answer those five questions and you’ll be all right.  And if you have trouble working through stuff, I’m here.  Ask away.  I might bring in outside expertise, but I’m here.

 

Ashley Tries Styling Statement Pieces

I’ve probably said this before, but I’m not much of a basics girl.  Sure – I love my jeans.  I love a comfy black t-shirt.  But they don’t make my heart start singing Nessun Dorma.  Color, detail, texture, something unusual – these are all things I love to find.  My closet is not minimal.  It is not mostly basics with some statement pieces thrown in.  It’s more like statement pieces with some basics thrown in.  The practical upshot of this is that I have to be creative in how I wear my statement pieces.  If I have a statement top, but I only wear it with black pants and black shoes, that outfit will get tired and overused.  Keep your boldness and creativity and style those statement pieces.  Go for the gusto.

Day 1:  Embroidered Tunic

You know I love this top.  WHAT IS NOT TO LOVE?  The hand embroidery, the color scheme, the memory of finding in Mexico – everything about this top moves me.  This is one of my Nessun Dorma pieces.  It’s loud and recognizable – definitely a statement.  Probably the hardest part about wearing this top is the volume – it’s a one-size-fits-all design that would probably last somebody through pregnancy.  Since I have absolutely no need for maternity wear right now, I always have to decide how to deal with the size.

Since this top has a ton of material, I figured I’d use that to my advantage.  I usually avoid these white jeans because they do not make my rear look amazing.  COME ON, JEANS.  YOU HAVE ONE JOB TO DO.  Seriously.  That’s all I ask of jeans.  This top + jean combo is a symbiotic relationship.  The white jeans make the bright colors look even brighter and the top covers my least favorite part of the jeans.  Fantastic.

White jeans are still kind of a statement, because the eye is drawn to bright white.  This outfit still needed something to ground it.  Enter accessories.  Brown shoes and a brown and black belt, to ground and tone down the color scheme.  Black accessories would have been too sharp a contrast, white accessories would have been a little too matchy-matchy for me.


Day 2:  Tropical Print

Another shirt I love.  This tropical print is SO bright and bold that it feels like I don’t have to do anything besides add jeans and (possibly) shoes.  While that’s true, it’s not creative.  Think a little more, Ashley.  If I always take the easiest route with an outfit, I’ll get bored or it will start to feel schlubby.

So I started thinking about alternate layering techniques with this one.  I can’t put it under a blazer right now, because it’s blazing hot and only one thing should be blazing.  (But I do think it would look rad under a blazer, so I’m looking forward to that day.)  Another option is layering a tank under it and keeping it open, but I’ve done that before.  But one layering option I haven’t tried is layering it under a dress.  It turned out cute!  To continue the cute/ladylike vibe, I rolled up the shirt sleeves and pinned them.  That makes the whole shirt look smaller and more fitted.

Neutral shoes, shell earrings in the shape of palm fronds (because the tropical earrings + tropical shirt combo made me chuckle).  Hair was kinda messy Elvis, which I didn’t mind.  Overall, I really enjoyed this outfit.  Happy outfit.


Day 3:  Romper!

My first romper, everybody.  A lot of people have asked my opinion on rompers and I’m here to say that it all depends.  It depends on you and it depends on the romper.  I found this one on major sale at Banana Republic, so the material is good quality and I’m not worried about it falling apart.  I picked it up before I realized it was a romper – actually, that’s how I pick up most rompers and jumpsuits.  The scene at the store usually goes something like this:  Ashley picks up romper:  “Cute dress!  Oh….it has shorts.”  Ashley picks up jumpsuit:  “Cute maxi dress!  HEY – WHY IS THIS PANTS?”

So I didn’t set out to get a romper.  I was mainly drawn in by the stripe – it reminds me of a striped beach umbrella or a cheerful restaurant awning.  Pulled it out and oh…it has shorts happened, but this time I decided to try it on, rather than put it straight back on the sales rack.  Because that STRIPE.  When I had it on, I fell for the slouchy ease of it.  The looseness and length sold me on this romper.  If it had been a smidge tighter or shorter, it wouldn’t have felt right.

I’ve seen some really short rompers.  The DON’T LEAN OVER rompers. The More Than I Wanted To See rompers.  The Kind Of Like A Dress But Way Shorter rompers.  I think that’s where my fear came from.  They are a weird combination of looking like a dress, but nobody feeling like they have to follow the dress rules, because shorts.  Moral: be cautious leaning over, no matter what you’re wearing.

There are a couple of downsides, even to this longer-length romper.  Problem 1)  It tends to ride up.  Problem 2)  It adds an extra level of difficulty to every bathroom visit.  It’s the one-piece swimsuit problem.  I won’t go beyond that, but it’s kind of a pain and not necessarily something that I think about in the dressing room.


Day 4:  Sheer Kimono

Funny story about this interesting layering piece – it was part of a 3-piece set.  The set was a long sleeveless dress, a sleeveless tunic to go over the dress, and this sheer layer to go over both of them.  My friend Marguerite tried it on and the dress + tunic combination were absolutely her gypsy aesthetic, but once she put on this layer, it aged the outfit roughly 30 years.  So we split up the set – she has the long dress and the tunic.  I have this kimono.

It’s a lovely fabric – soft and sheer, with crushed velvet forming silhouettes of branches and flowers.  A bohemian vibe, which isn’t usually my style, but I’ll make an exception for this one.  I really have to fight the hippy look on this one, or everything goes Professor Trelawney very fast.  Jeans and a black t-shirt are really good at being the supporting cast.  Black t-shirts and jeans are the Sam Rockwells and Stanley Tuccis and Greg Kinnears of the wardrobe.  They don’t usually get starring roles, but that’s because they are such great supporting actors and they are easy to take for granted, but I love them dearly.

I could have just done the kimono and the metallic shoes, but since my mental taglines for this week were Today, I Go For The Gusto and Make A Statement, I added the camel necklace.  A necklace featuring camels definitely counts as a statement necklace.  Bold design and humor and whimsy all together in an accessory?  That makes me very happy.

If I wanted to mix it up more, I could wear this kimono piece with a patterned shirt.  It would have to be a pattern that doesn’t take away from the kimono, something clean and simple, like a stripe.  It would also look cute over a short dress and ankle booties.  But sometimes it’s nice to keep the outfit simple and make that statement piece the star of the show.


Day 5:  Statement Necklace

Since I highlighted the statement pieces on Thursday, I wanted to make the statement fade into the background for Friday.  To be honest, I don’t wear that much jewelry.  I try to at least wear earrings, but if I’m rushing out the door, I’ll forget to put them in.  Every couple of weeks, I’ll wear a necklace.  I have a pretty turquoise ring, but I probably only wear it once or twice a year.  Never wear bracelets or watches.  Not the best at accessories.  I’m in awe of women who have more than one purse and switch out depending on the outfit.  That’s so cool and sophisticated to me.  I get one purse for twenty dollars or less and I use it for everything until it falls apart at the seams.

Where was I?  Oh, yeah.  I don’t wear much jewelry, so when I do wear it, I want it to have an IMPACT.  I want it to be SEEN FROM SPACE.  I found this necklace at a thrift store and bought it because it was so big and chunky and multi-media.  It’s the necklace equivalent of a super excited, bubbly person with no chill.  I liked the idea of giving it a little more chill and subtlety by having it blend in with a floral print shirt.

I wore a soft, faded pair of jeans and flip flops.  I don’t usually wear flip flops to work, but on Thursday, my friend invited me to come get a pedicure with her.  It was my first pedicure ever and my feet have never looked so pretty!  I can no longer walk over hot gravel barefoot, because my calluses have been grated off and my feet are like baby feet.  Also, my weird toenail on my pinkie toe has never looked so normal.  Hurrah!

This week was a very busy work week and it helped that I started each day trying to be bold.  It’s not just about clothes.  There were a lot of opportunities for me to be brave this week and if you are mentally prepared to be brave, it is easier to face whatever comes up.

Ashley Tries to Look Pretty Without Feeling Pretty

To be blunt, I didn’t feel pretty at all this week and the last thing I wanted was photographic evidence of each day.  It was one of those weeks.  I don’t know what brings it on.  My brain recognizes that I look exactly the same as last week, but my emotions seem to be taking snapshots and then applying a filter called Hideous.  Most of the time, my face doesn’t bother me, my hair doesn’t bother me, my body shape doesn’t bother me.  Hardly anything bothers me.  Then a week will come along and everything bothers me.

I recognize that I’m blessed – most of the time, I do feel pretty.  A lot of women wish they felt pretty most of the time, but they don’t.  Their emotions have the Hideous filter as the default setting.  If that is the case for anybody reading this, let me tell you this:  you are more beautiful than you think you are.  I guarantee it.

One thing I noticed this week was that I started getting defensive about other attributes, maybe in subconscious fear that I would start losing them as well.  “Well, at least I’m good at my job.” “Well, at least I can sing.”  “Well, at least I can draw.”  These things are real blessings.  Doing my job and singing songs and drawing made me happy this week.  The problem was the attitude I had toward the.  The attitude actually made them less happy, because I felt like I needed them.  The bad part was the “Well, at least…” part.  The unspoken (but implied) beginning of the thought was “Well, [I’M NOT PRETTY, BUT] at least….”

I have a pep talk I give myself in moments like this: “STOP IT, ASHLEY.”  That’s the whole speech.  And then I pray.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat as many times as it happens.  Don’t let it get normal.  Don’t let it get deep inside of you.  Don’t let your emotions dictate your actions.

Here’s a good test to see if your perspective is warped – how do you handle input from other people?  How do you handle compliments?  If your feelings have taken over, you can’t accept input.  There isn’t room for another opinion.  Don’t dismiss other people’s opinions.  If somebody tells you that you look nice, don’t assume they are lying.  If you have trustworthy people around you, why would they suddenly become liars when they talk about you?  If you assume every compliment that comes your way is a lie, then your perspective is warped.  Don’t turn your family and friends into liars.  What if they try to tell you something important and you have gotten into the habit of dismissing what they say?  The issue is not whether or not you feel pretty.  It’s how you handle your emotions.

There’s also the problem of appearance vs. reality.  I can come across as confident and easy breezy, but I’ve gotten pretty good at projecting it even when I’m not feeling it.  I’ve been posting pictures all week that I see no beauty in, but nobody else notices a change.  To be completely honest, I post pictures throughout the week to keep myself accountable to actually write this weekly blog post.  Writing is really hard for me.  Staying disciplined and consistent is REALLY hard for me.  This blog combines both of those things.  I want to quit every week.  But I know it’s a good thing and I’ve been deeply humbled by everybody’s responses to it.  I’m grateful for all of you – everybody who asks what I’m doing for Ashley Tries this week, everybody who trusts me to tackle a specific fashion problem, everybody who asks advice.  Thanks for trusting me to write this thing – you trust me more than I trust me.  Pretty sure it’s been a year since I started and YAY I HAVEN’T QUIT.  That’s pretty darn exciting to me.

Phew.  Keeping secrets is my default.  Telling them to the Interwebs?  Yet another thing I’m uncomfortable with.  But what’s the use of having a bad week if I don’t use it to help encourage other people who are having rough weeks?  I want to help.  If you need advice or encouragement, message me and I’ll try to help best I can.


Day 1

This week was all about choosing things that made me happy, since I was fighting the blues.  I like this shirt – it is soft, has some cool design details, and best of all – it isn’t sheer!  I don’t like shirts that I need to wear another shirt under.  It’s summer!  I can’t go around wearing two shirts all the time!  A pair of comfy jeans.

A couple new things in this outfit!  New shoes that I am breaking in for a trip in September.  I’m really pleased with them – they are comfortable, good quality, and pretty enough to transition between walking all day and going to restaurant at night.  The other new thing is trying out a patterned headscarf.  I like this one – the burgundy base color blends in with my hair a little bit and the abstract print looks good even when it’s all scrunched up.  It’s great for those days when you wake up feeling like a bird must have nested in your hair during the night, and that’s exactly how I felt that day, so it was convenient.

Day 2

This is the other pair of shoes I’m breaking in for my trip and they are 95% great, but they rub at one very specific point on each foot, so they drew first blood around the end of the work day.  Everything else about them is great, so I’ll just buy a couple of those little gel pads, put them over the tiny blood stains, then I’m good to go.  Ha.

It was a hot day, so I just put on a loose dress and headed out the door.  I love a swingy dress during the summer, because everything that has direct contact with my skin gets sweaty.  This dress doesn’t end the day with a spreading sweat patch in the lower back, so it’s kind of a winner.  It’s comfy and it has great texture and color – what’s not to love?

Over lunch, I sat and sketched.  If there are two things that can get me out of myself and my own thoughts, it’s singing and sketching.  I’ve been sketching women and clothes since I was four or so.  The earliest drawings I remember doing are a queen wearing cowboy boots and a glamorous lady with hair over one eye (because when I was little, glamour = a beautiful woman with blond hair over one eye).  I didn’t know who Veronica Lake was at that point, but it was very Veronica Lake.  These sketches aren’t like the rest of my art – they aren’t really based on anything and they are all different.  They are littered all over my room and scattered through my life and I don’t even think about them, but I’m really grateful for them.  Art helped me out of my funk this week.

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Another great thing happened to me on Tuesday – I learned how to do eyeshadow.  Last week, my friend Lizze (who is a rep for Mary Kay) came up and asked me if I wanted to learn how to do makeup, since a substantial subplot of this blog is that I can’t do makeup or hair.

So on Tuesday, we met up and she patiently took me through how to put eyeshadow on my face and how to make it stay on my face.  Shout out to Lizze, because I was comically ignorant to basic makeup techniques (what’s primer? but how do you use an eyebrow comb?  is the eyeshadow symmetrical now?).  I kept freaking out about how dark the eyeshadow was and then it turned out looking completely fine.  It was great to learn something new.  I’ve been putting eyeshadow the same way for years and it’s the way I saw on the back of an eyeshadow package.  As it turns out, the way I’ve been doing it just made my eyeshadow disappear, because I put the darkest color only on the crease and when I opened my eyes, it vanished.

The biggest takeaways for me:  Don’t freak out about how dark the eyeshadow looks right when you’re putting it on.  You are very close to the mirror and it looks more dramatic than it actually is, and once you put on mascara and step back from the mirror, the look will come together.  (Put on mascara and step away from the mirror is probably good advice for all of life, really….)  Application tips for those of us with hooded eyes / monolids – put on your eyeshadow with your eyes open and put the brightest color above the crease.  That way, you can see what the finished product will look like and the crease won’t eat your pretty shadow.  Highlights go right under the eyebrow and right above the eyelashes.  Voila!  This is how it turned out.  (Thanks, Lizze!)

It was so great to learn more about makeup.  I should have somebody teach me how to do my own hair.  *gasp*


Day 3

This was my “I’m going to try to apply what I learned yesterday in the presence of a professional makeup artist and try to make it work in my real life with my actual makeup”.  It went pretty well, considering.  Eye makeup?  CHECK.

Flip flops (because I had blisters from the day before), jeans, a bright pink tee.  To add a little bit of visual interest and elevate the outfit a bit, I layered a white lace shirt over the top.  That way I had glimpses of bright pink, but I wasn’t all pink.  It would have been a lot (especially with bright purple eyeshadow).  I went for bright colors, because the blues just kept coming this week and I needed to keep fighting them.

Day 4

I needed to keep on pushing and keep on trying this week, because I woke up every morning ready to give up.  THE DAY HADN’T EVEN STARTED YET.  That’s unacceptable.  I needed an extra challenge by Thursday and something else to think about, so I chose a skirt that I find challenging to wear.  It’s a pleated navy-and-cream J. Crew number that was a steal at $10, but it’s a little fancy/fussy.  Paired it with a floral top that went with (but didn’t match) the navy in the skirt.

Did the eyeshadows fairly successfully.  Hurrah!

Wore the first pair of shoes again, because blisters ain’t the boss of me.  These shoes are proving to be very versatile.  Hurrah!

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Did some art on Thursday night and it turned out so much better than I had hoped!  Used oil pastels to draw the cover of The Little Prince on black paper and I thought about stopping at the black and white stage, because I was afraid of messing up a perfectly good concept with colors.  But I’m really glad I added in the colors.  Art is good for me.  It’s an area where I know I have to push myself and if I mess up, there’s always another piece of paper.  Messing up is part of it and it isn’t permanent.  Keep pushing until it’s done.  Don’t stop halfway through.

Day 5

By Friday, I was so ready to be done with the week.  So tired of my hair, my face, my body, my little blistered feet.  But I had things to do, places to be.  Got out of bed.  Pulled out a dress that I used to wear all the time, but haven’t worn in a while (mainly because there’s a big old stain on the front).  I positioned the belt over the stain and zoomed to work.  This has been a really big week at work, which has been a hard blessing.  I obviously needed to be pushed to my limit this week.  Beyond my limit.  Beyond the safe black and white sketch, into the risk and beauty of bright colors.  Beyond how I feel, into what I believe.

These weeks come.  They are hard and humbling.  But you know the most amazing part?  God loves me no matter what I’m feeling.  He is all my beauty.  Any good that comes from me comes from Him.  He doesn’t change and He doesn’t have bad days and He doesn’t quit and He doesn’t give up halfway through.  He’s not going to stop drawing me while I’m still in the sketch phase – at the end of my life, every corner of the canvas will be complete.  He has written me a story that Shakespeare wishes he could have written.  So are my emotions in charge?  No.  They’re not.