Ashley Tries Pin Curls and a Play

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

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

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

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Method 1:  Hat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Method 2:  Headwrap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ashley Tries French Girl Style

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

Day 1:  Classic Separates

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

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

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


Day 2:  Favorite Dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Day 3:  Covered/Uncovered

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

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

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

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


Day 4:  Denim Dress and Dizziness

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

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

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

Day 5:  Femininity

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

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

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

 

 

Ashley Tries Fandom Style

It’s Fandom Week and it has been one of my very favorites, mostly because I was joined by Sara, my good friend and fellow fashion enthusiast!  If you ever have something fashiony that you want to try, but are self-conscious or nervous about it, ask a friend to try it with you.  It’s twice as much fun and if the outfit totally doesn’t work, you can laugh about it together.  Having Sara along for the ride gave me the confidence to push my own ideas a little farther and enjoy the whole process even more.

For all of you wondering what “fandom dressing” is all about, it’s creating an outfit inspired by a fictional character.  These are real outfits that you can wear all day – not costumes.  It’s a creative outlet, a cool way to get clothes inspiration, and a way to show that you are a fan!  I’ve been wanting to try it for a while and I’m so glad I got the chance this week.

Day 1:  Mortimer Dalrymple

This was kind of a bonus day, because it was Memorial Day.  The sun was shining, the pace slowed down, and this sleepy little town reminded me of one of my favorite books – The Mad Scientists’ Club by Bertrand R. Brinley.  It’s set in a tiny town in the late 1950s / early 1960s and stars a bunch of middle-school boys who love science (and mainly use their brainpower to cause some mayhem).

Mortimer Dalrymple is in charge of electronics and making sarcastic comments.  One of my very favorites is when the club has rigged up an old house to make it seem haunted and then they hear that the sheriff is coming out to check it out.  “”I don’t wanna do my ghost act,” said Mortimer Dalrymple. “I might get arrested for having no visible means of support.””

Genius.

So with the air smelling like summer adventures, I wore rolled-up jeans, beat up sneakers, a plaid button down shirt, and a straw fedora with the brim flipped up.  It made me want to make a sea monster or figure out how to make a mannequin fly or haunt a house (and it really made me want to read all of those stories again).  When life slows down in the summer, it’s time to get busy!

Day 2:  Tiffany Aching and Kiki

Day 2:  Tiffany Aching (from The Wee Free Men)

Here’s a description of Tiffany Aching’s clothes from Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men:  “Start with the boots.  They are big and heavy boots, much repaired by her father, and they belonged to various sisters before her; she wears several pairs of socks to keep them on.  They are big.  Tiffany sometimes feels she is nothing more than a way of moving boots around.  Then there is the dress.  It has been owned by many sisters as well and has been taken up, taken out, taken down, and taken in by her mother so many times that it really out to have been taken away.  But Tiffany rather likes it.  It comes down to her ankles and, whatever color it had been to start with, is now a milky blue that is, incidentally, exactly the same color as the butterflies skittering beside the path.”

Tiffany Aching is a great character – she reads through the dictionary (because nobody tells her that you aren’t supposed to), she is overly precise, makes excellent cheese, and invades Fairyland armed only with a frying pan.  And she leads an army of 6-inch-high blue warriors.  Tiffany is a force to be reckoned with.

I was able to keep it simple for this one – when I read the description, it reminded me so much of my faded blue maxi dress that the dress was basically all I needed.  I just had to add boots!

Day 2:  Kiki (from Kiki’s Delivery Service)

[Note:  I didn’t have to write descriptions for Sara’s outfits, because Sara kindly wrote down some notes on her outfit-picking process.]

Sara:  “I love the look, feel, and storytelling style of any Studio Ghibli film. I chose Kiki because she has a very simple, but iconic look: swing dress, orange flats, big red bow (and a broom, which I left out for practical reasons).

I started with a simple navy swing dress, then chose a nautically-patterned red scarf (a nod to the seaside town she lives in) and tied it in a giant bow on my head. This is something that I did *all the time* in college, but it’s been a few years and I did feel very young and a little self-conscious at first.

I debated about what shoes to finish the outfit with. I have a pair of red flats that would have worked, but the silhouette of the dress paired with the giant bow felt very young and I work in an office. I opted instead for this great pair of orange wedge sandals I thrifted brand new for 50 cents last week. They stay true to the color of Kiki’s shoes while elevating (literally) the outfit a bit.”

Day 3:  Princess Leia and Peggy Carter

Day 3:  Princess Leia

Sara:  “I quite enjoy Leia. She’s a strong woman without falling into the trap of being a Strong Female Character (the type where you can just hear the capital letters thunking into place). Yes, she’s a princess. Yes, she needs rescuing. But once she is rescued she’s resourceful and brave without feeling the need to prove that she’s as good as a boy. She’s secure in who she is.

I knew that this outfit was going to be a little less on the nose than Kiki’s outfit as I do not own a flowy white space dress, and was not planning on putting cinnamon buns on my ears. Day 1 was almost a costume, day 2 was an homage. The heart of Leia’s style (at least in A New Hope) is that she wears all white and space buns. I chose a white dress and knotted a slightly oversized button-up over it.

Leia is a combination of hard and soft and the lace dress with the slightly masculine sleeves-rolled-up shirt struck that balance. I paired it with white leather oxfords with a platform that makes them feel future-y/space-y, and finished off the outfit with space buns and teensy planet earrings.”

Day 3:  Peggy Carter (from Marvel’s Captain America and Agent Carter)

She’s tough, kind, beautiful, funny – it’s no wonder Peggy Carter got her own spin off show after the first Captain America movie.  In the movie, she mainly wears a uniform, but in the show, she fights evil in beautifully bright dresses and tailored separates.  She makes running in heels look easy.  I’m not just a fan of Peggy – I’m a fan of the whole look of the show and the costume design in particular.  She takes on Captain America’s fight after he’s gone and she takes on his superhero colors as well – she starts wearing blue and red, and it’s such a cool visual storytelling move.

The blue and red are iconic, so I wanted to go for it, but I didn’t want to go too bold and primary.  Bright blue and bright red run into costume territory really fast.  I went for navy blue with a dark red belt, then topped it with a tailored blazer and peep toe shoes in neutral colors.  I loved this outfit.  Put-together, feminine, bold, and classic all at the same time.

Curled my hair a little bit, pinned up one side, and added red lipstick for a low maintenance version of a classic 1940s look.  It’s an everyday glamour – we’ve lost a bit of that in our very casual culture.  It was fun to bring it back in a modern way!

Day 4:  Miss Frizzle and Nausicaa

Day 4:  Miss Frizzle (from The Magic Schoolbus)

Sara:  “Miss Frizzle – it’s difficult to think of a woman more fearless or iconic when it comes to fashion (and taking large groups of children into terrible danger). I am a lady who likes her statement jewelry, statement prints, statements shoes, etc.  I like statements. So I definitely feel Miss Frizzle on a deeper level.

She will take a theme and run with it all the way and I knew I had to do the same. I started with this great red and white striped dress that is covered with hummingbirds, paired it with my camel wool blazer as it was chilly that day, and added red and navy patterned heels (be fearless). I knew the real make or break was going to be the details. I added these great glass earrings I thrifted as well as a thrifted bird brooch and then teased my hair into a big bun at the top of my head for the finishing touch.”

Day 4:  Princess Nausicaa (from Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind)

This was my Miyazaki day and I drew inspiration from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.  Princess Nausicaa flies a glider, tames giant insects, and sacrifices herself for her people after her father, the king, is murdered.  She’s tough.  She has to be.  But even with all she goes through, she never loses her sweet, joyful nature and her love just increases.

When she flies, Nausicaa wears a blue tunic, white leggings, boots (with shin guards), gloves, goggles, and a gas mask.  I went for a less on-the-nose look, because that’s a whole lot of crazy (especially for work).  I went for a blue tunic top, white pants, and ankle boots.  I’ll readily admit that Nausicaa’s boots make me want over the knee boots….and a glider to fly.

I put on some eyeliner for that Japanese anime look, and borrowed some crazy bug earrings from Sara (because Nausicaa can tame giant insects).  This look made me happy.  One of the things I love about fandom dressing is that it really is the thought that counts.  It’s the thrill of having a secret.  Nobody else had to know that my clothes were inspired by Nausicaa, but I knew it, and that knowledge gave me a happy little glow inside.

Day 5:  Jose Carioca and Indiana Jones

Day 5:  Jose Carioca (from The Three Caballeros)

For the last day, I knew I wanted to do a Disney character, because Disney is one of the biggest influences in fandom dressing.  (If you look up Disneybound on Pinterest, you’ll find thousands of outfits that fans have put together.)  It was kind of tough to figure out which character to do, because there are so many options!  I was considering Maid Marion, Peter Pan, Wendy, Miss Bianca, Edna Mode, Lilo, Meg (from Hercules)…..then I remembered one of my very favorite Disney characters.  His name is Jose Carioca.  He’s a very dapper Brazilian parrot from Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.  They are pretty crazy – imagine Fantasia mixed with a travelogue from an epic trip through South and Central America.

Jose speaks Portuguese most of the time, moves to the rhythm of the samba, and teaches Donald Duck about Brazil.  He’s just the coolest.  He’s a green parrot, so I chose green skinny trousers.  He wears a yellow jacket, a white shirt, a bow tie, spats, and a boater hat and he always carries an umbrella.  The overall affect is extremely dapper, so I gave a nod to that with oxford shoes, a black hat, and a mock bow tie.  I wanted the whole outfit to look cool and effortless, so I substituted a striped tee for the collared shirt and then tossed on a chartreuse cardigan instead of a structured jacket.

This one is probably my favorite.  I’ve always loved Jose’s dapper tropical look and his effortlessly cool attitude and his accent and how he lives his life to a samba rhythm.  Some outfits make confidence easy.  This is one of them.

Day 5:  Indiana Jones

Sara:  “I knew for the last day that I wanted to wear pants. Therefore, I chose Indiana Jones (there were other considerations as well, I suppose). This one was super fun to put together, and again, I loved thinking of the details. The base was simple with tan pants and a safari-esque shirt. The hat was a given and I borrowed the leather jacket from Ashley (although full disclosure, I didn’t really wear it much as it was quite hot that day).

To finish off the outfit I added my life-size gold cicada earrings (which Ashley wore for her Nausicaa outfit) and the crowning touch was my snakeskin shoes (“Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?”). All in all it was a super fun week and I haven’t been this excited about getting dressed in a long time. Thanks for having me along, Ash!”

Thanks for joining me, Sara!  You made this week fantastic and you looked fabulous every day.

Thanks for reading, everybody!  If you have any ideas for me to try, please leave me a comment.

 

Ashley Tries Fierceness

When you skirt around the edges of the fashion world like I do, it is good to have a contrarian streak.  Fashion People are really good at telling you what you’re supposed to wear.  Some of their pitches are more convincing than others – I personally don’t think they are succeeding with the “culottes are the best” trend that they trying to push right now, but they’re really going for it.  My first reaction to most things is an immediate NO, followed by a grudging I’ll Think About It (if it is really something I should think about).  Anyway, the point is this:  as a 29-year-old single woman who works in a male-dominated field, there are assumptions and suggestions and outright commands that the fashion industry feeds me all the time.  I am supposed to be asserting myself, being (hashtag) Fierce, commanding attention, being unafraid of my own sexiness (like Beyoncé), and generally being (hashtag) Like A Boss.  That’s a whole lot for a woman to impose on a woman who just wants to do good work and get along with people.

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Day 1:  Punchy Professional

I started off the day with a pretty simple outfit – professional, but with some eye-catching color.  Red isn’t easily ignored – definitely not a color that you wear if you want to be ignored.  The high heels also helped with making my presence known.  Those heels make me look people in the eye that I’m not usually at eye-level with.  They are also loud.  I prefer flats, so I can run silent and run deep, like a submarine.

The most time-consuming part of this week was the hair and makeup, because I think that an aspect of fierceness is looking like you are in control and exercising an intimidating amount of control over your own look – like Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.  So I put on more makeup than I usually do and tried to look flawless and sharp and defined.  I don’t know how to do makeup, so my execution let me down a bit, but effort counts, right?  Doing hair is even more problematic than putting on makeup.  In the end, I straightened my hair, because straightening isn’t too hard.  It definitely gave me some mean girl in an early 2000s high school movie vibes.  But I guess that works, because who is in more control of her image and appearance than an apparently flawless high school mean girl?

The good thing about this ensemble is that it helped jump-start my Monday morning.  It felt business-like and kind of powerful.  Ready to go, ready to dive in.  The extra time spent getting ready also translated into being a little more awake by the time I got to work and I looked even more awake than I felt.  The overall outfit didn’t look that different to other people, except that people complimented me on my makeup, but it felt very different to me, because it was more calculated and more controlled than my usual look.

Day 2:  Bigger and Wider

Another aspect of fierceness that I’m fascinated by is fierceness as a defense mechanism.  It’s like moths – not the ones who blend in to protect themselves, but the ones whose patterns mimic eyes, so birds think it is a larger animal and stay away.  I felt a little like those moths this week.  I shall make myself taller.  I shall make myself appear confident.  Do I look like I have all the answers?  Because I really don’t, but maybe if I look like I do, people will assume that I know all the right things to say.  Even if I look fierce, I don’t feel that fierce, but the high heels definitely make me feel more confident.  I think it mostly has to do with the improved posture and the additional height that comes from the improved posture, plus however many extra inches the heels give me.

I pulled out my wide-leg black pants for this outfit, because they look so businessy that I usually don’t wear them.  I work in an informal office, so I sometimes shy away from really professional clothes.  A suit definitely isn’t on my list of clothes that I should own.  So after beginning with the wide-leg trousers, I added a horizontal stripe shirt and a slightly oversized white moto jacket.  Basically all the things that make you appear bigger.  It was an overwhelming outfit, but I wanted to make it work.  First thing I did was tuck in the shirt (something I don’t like doing) and wore a skinny black belt.  That lessened the stripe factor and made my legs look longer, because the trousers hit slightly lower than my natural waist.  The pink high heels were multi-taskers for making this outfit work – they continued the long legs illusion and added some color to an otherwise neutral look.

It was raining that day and I knew that my hair wouldn’t stay straight, so I curled it and tried to make it big.  I love big hair.  I just don’t know quite how to make my hair look big or how to make it stay big.  My hunch is that it would involve hairspray, which always seems like a big deal to me.  Hairspray reminds me of ballet recitals and plays, not real life.  Red lipstick also reminds me of recitals and plays, but I’m trying it more in real life these days.  The pink shoes were providing some color, but they weren’t near my face, so I added some red lipstick.  ALL THE THINGS.

I enjoyed this outfit.  Since it was neutral, the drama came from the volume and the proportions.  The outfit that doesn’t seem like it should work and then unexpectedly works is a happy thing.  I live for tiny victories.

Day 3:  Drama on Drama

I was given this dress and I LOVE IT.  It gives a nod to the 1940s with the fit and flare silhouette and the sleeve length.  It reminds me of Hildy Johnson in His Girl Friday – she’s a force of nature, speaks more words in one minute than most people can speak in 15, and stands up to anyone and everyone.

Usually I’d dress down something this bold and pair it with a jean jacket or a navy cardigan, maybe wear flats with it.  But dressing things down wasn’t part of this week’s agenda, so I wore this red cardigan with it.  I don’t think this was my most successful outfit this week.  A little too Hildy Goes Fox Hunting or something, but great fun.

One thing that felt strange about dressing fiercely was the timing, because my family was in town this week and I was happily surrounded by nieces and nephews.  My heart melts around babies and I just go into Auntie Ashley mode, which usually involves monster voices and this kind of thing:

It’s hard to be intimidating with such a furry hat on and it feels funny to wear nice clothes and then be wandering around in the fuzzy ear hat.  Fierceness is about having some hard edges and when I’m around my family, I don’t have them.  A baby smiles at me and I melt into a puddle.  Hard on the outside and soft on the inside – the clothing becomes unnecessary armor.

It’s a similar situation with work.  I don’t have to compete.  I know what I’m good at and what I’m not good at.  I don’t have to defend myself and I don’t work with jerks.  I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not.  I trust the people I work with and they trust me.  I don’t need armor there either.

Day 4:  Time to Rock and Roll

After a few days of drama, I wanted to take it down a notch.  There were a lot of different plans on Thursday and since I was going to be going from place to place, I just wanted something simple.  Truth be told, I love a little rock and roll in an outfit.  If I had a band t-shirt, this would be the kind of styling I would do – skinny jeans, boots, jacket.  I love this jacket, because it has structure through the shoulders and has the classic tilted moto zippers going on, but it’s also super soft and drapey.  The combination doesn’t scream rock and roll, but all together, it just feels cool.

I wore more eyeliner than usual and straightened my hair again.  That also felt cool.  It wasn’t a ton of eyeliner, it was just more than I’m used to.  (Story of this week:  I felt different, but didn’t LOOK all that different.  A possible moral is that I should probably do my hair more.)

Day 5:  Is this like Beyoncé?

The last day, I opened up my closet and thought, “What would Beyoncé pick out of this closet?”  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think of Fierce and Beyoncé as fairly synonymous.  Whatever she wears is hailed as the New Fierce Thing.  It’s hard to keep up, because her styling changes constantly, but the two common factors are Sexiness and Drama.

It’s not that I can’t do the sexiness one, but I’d probably get an email from the human resources department and my baby nieces would be very confused.  So I went for the drama option – something that is a lot of look and needs attitude to pull off.  I have this tiered maxi dress with a beautiful and tons of volume.  I own it, but I’m a little scared of it, just because it’s big.  But Friday is go big or go home day, so it had to be that dress.  To cover up the spaghetti straps and make it more work friendly, I layered and knotted a black t-shirt over it.

High ponytail, black eyeliner, light lips.  Still more makeup than I’m used to, but not enough to worry other people.

This week was a lot of work.  It felt labor intensive, because I for the most part, I don’t worry about looking like I’m in control or looking perfect.  Defensive dressing is putting on armor, but wearing unnecessary armor just weighs you down.  I’m confident without it.  I don’t need to force fierce.  I don’t need to make people respect me, because I’m already respected.  I thank God for that, because I know that isn’t always the case.  So all the single ladies (all the single ladies), you don’t have to be fierce if you don’t want to be.  It’s okay to just do good work and get along with people.  Hashtag LikeANormalPerson.

Ashley Tries: Pattern Mixing

This week, I tried out pattern mixing.  I didn’t think that putting together outfits would be too difficult this week, because I have a lot of prints in my closet.  The funny thing is that only have print in certain kinds of clothes – tops and dresses.  I don’t tend to go for pattern for skirts or trousers.  That being said, there are ways to get creative and mix things up, no matter what you have!

Outfit 1:  Subtle Pattern + Bold Print

You may be thinking, “Um, that top doesn’t have a pattern…”  Here’s a closer look:

See?  The top’s not a solid color – it’s got that tiny gray stripe going on.  This is a good baby steps version of pattern mixing for anybody who gets a little intimidated by the idea.  I went for this skirt, because it has a print (yay!).  It’s also a skirt I don’t wear all that often, because most of my tops have a print or a pattern, so it’s harder to make it work in an outfit.  Once the skirt was established, it determined the color scheme.  It was Monday, so I didn’t want an intense outfit – I wanted something pretty chill and simple.

Keeping to a color scheme can help unify a look – pattern mixing doesn’t haven’t to look super busy.  It was also nice to have a long blue cardigan to pull the outfit together, but even without the cardigan, the top/skirt combo works.

It was nice to start off the week with something subtle, because the success gave me something to build on.  Like they say – don’t despise the day of small beginnings.

Outfit 2:  Stripe + Abstract Print

I went bolder on the second day, because print dresses are definitely my comfort zone.  For this outfit, the stripes take on the role of a neutral and the more abstract print takes center stage.  Usually when mixing patterns, choose one dominant pattern and one supporting pattern.  The dominant print will usually be more eye-catching – usually it’s more artistic or more brightly colored or just larger than the other print.  The supporting pattern will be something simple for the eye to process – stripes, dots, checks, etc.

This dress is a great mix, because it has cool bold pattern, but in a subdued color palette.  Blue, white, and black all function as neutrals, so it’s easy to throw any kind of jacket or sweater over this dress.  By matching part of the dress’s color scheme, the stripes don’t take away from the print.

Outfit 3:  Floral + Leopard

I found this happy dress for a steal, and I was so excited about that I wanted to wear it immediately.  The day was pretty warm, so I decided to pattern mix with an accessory, not layers.  Pattern mixing doesn’t have to be purely a cold weather sport.  Here’s a close up on the belt/dress combo:

Leopard is a fun print to use for the supporting role, because it is simple, repetitive, and combines two neutrals.  Animal prints can be hard workers for your closet.  Stripes are usually my go-to neutral print, but leopard is running a close second right now!

For the summer, accessories are a great way to add visual interest to your outfit without dying of heat stroke.  You don’t have to sacrifice comfort for fashion.  Have a striped shirt?  Add a denim skirt and floral shoes.  Have floral jeans?  Throw on a polka dot tank top.  You can be creative with fewer pieces.  Keep cool.  Enjoy summer in style.

Outfit 4:  Dots + Florals

This is my new favorite dress – simple enough to throw on without thinking, but with enough detail to stand alone, without needing accessories to make it interesting.  For those sunny days that start out chilly, add a floral scarf.  Once you don’t need the extra warmth, tie the scarf on your purse strap.  It’ll still add color to your outfit and then your outfit will just be simple, like this:

Man, I’m going to wear this dress so much this summer.  I know it’s already arrived for my California and Texas friends, but in Idaho, summer takes on a legendary quality.  SUMMER IS COMING AND IT WILL BE BEAUTIFUL.  And this dress will become a part of the legend.

Outfit 5:  Dots + Florals

After a couple days of using accessories for pattern-mixing, I felt like it was time to go big.  Since I quickly ran out of print skirts, this is a floral dress with a print t-shirt tied over it.  The great thing about layering a shirt over a dress was that I could wear the shirt at my natural waist without worrying about exposing my midriff.  I could essentially wear a crop top, but without the unwanted skin-baring.  It was really fun to wear.  Especially with those shoes – they are pretty-darn-high wedges with poofy flowers on them.  They make me feel like I should be dancing the cha-cha in a flower-filled courtyard somewhere.

This outfit made me remember the point of mixing prints, which is to HAVE FUN.  Don’t be too analytical about it.  If you try it once and you bomb, give it another try.  Keep trying different combinations until you find one you like.  Enjoy the sunshine and enjoy your clothes!

Ashley Tries: Denim on Denim

I got a request to try wearing denim on denim this week – this one has been great, because this is an area where I make a ton of arbitrary rules for myself.  When I create these fashion barriers for myself, I rule out a lot of outfits from the outset.  When you worry less, suddenly your wardrobe contains a whole lot more potential outfits.  (Funny how that works!)

Outfit 1:  Denim Shirt + Jeans

I only own one denim shirt and I don’t wear it all that much, partly because of all those rules I make up (more about those as we go along), but also because it is a buttondown.  Shirts that button tend to gap on me and I sometimes (okay, most times) don’t want to mess with them.  The reason I bought this particular shirt was that jeans shirts seemed to be all the rage, but I didn’t think you could wear a blue jean shirt with blue jeans.  So I bought a gray one.

This was my most apologetic outfit this week – I wore black jeans with a gray denim top and I felt super boring.  That’s why I added a busy jacket – it has quilting detail, contrast zippers, and a bird print.  I also wore red lipstick, which I don’t usually wear.  There’s something about gray that makes me feel like I fade into the background, like I’m a cement block.  So the outfit didn’t start out promising for me, but it grew on me.

I started out not liking how basic the the black and gray jeans looked, but once I got over that, I saw that it was a great blank canvas.  It provided a backdrop for drama – the jacket and red lipstick were the stars of the show.  Simplicity is not my default, but it can be refreshing.  It was a good start to the week, because it made me loosen up and change my mind.

Outfit 2:  Blue Jeans + Jean Jacket

After easing into the week, I decided to break the first and most important of the Ashley Denim Rules.  Don’t wear a Canadian Tuxedo.  What is a Canadian Tuxedo?  It’s a blue jean jacket and blue jeans and I don’t know why it is called that, but it is.  I don’t mind the look on other people, especially farmers.  Farmers look legit all the time.  That’s because they care more about the functionality of their clothes than how their clothes look.  I care so much about how my clothes look that I sometimes give up functionality altogether.  SOME OF MY JEANS DON’T EVEN HAVE WORKING POCKETS.  Farmers wouldn’t put up with that for a second.  Anyway, I’ve always felt the Denim Squared look is one of those looks that can only be worn successfully if you don’t think about it.  And I think too much.  Obviously.

I made it a bit more girly with a dotted tee, my grandma’s flower necklace, and pointed flats.  I admit the necklace was a distraction maneuver (DON’T LOOK AT THE JEANS, LOOK AT THIS NECKLACE).  But it wasn’t really necessary – apparently nobody but me cares if I wear blue on blue.  Actually, people liked the look, and by the end of the day, I liked it too.  The nice upshot of all of this is that I won’t worry about throwing on a jean jacket over jeans.  Denim jackets are the perfect weight for spring and I probably will be wearing this one a lot in the near future!

Outfit 3:  Polished Denim

By day 3, I’d already exhausted my denim top options, so I asked my friend Sara to lend me some chambray.  What are friends for?

This blue chambray top had a beautiful tailored fit, so I paired it with dressy pair of jeans – they’re a J. Crew pair I found at a consignment store.  After adding print in the first two outfits, I felt like I should keep everything simple and streamlined.  The fit elevated this outfit.  The darts and shoulder style give the shirt a 1940s feel and very dark wash jeans always feel more dressy to me – the combination felt like a cool mix of conventional and modern.

Black heels were in keeping with this outfit – the peep toes give them a little 1940s vibe, but they are practical and solid.  That’s how this whole ensemble made me feel – professional and put-together, but with a bit a vintage, a bit of attitude, and a killer fit.  Nothing much added, nothing to jazz it up.  I guess good fit is my comfort zone.  If something has a fit that I love, I don’t add distraction pieces.

Outfit 4:  Patterned Denim

This dotted denim shirt also belongs to Sara and it is so comfortable.  I need to keep my eyes open for a chambray shirt, because I see their value now.  The dot pattern and the looser fit of this shirt made it more casual than the last one, so I decided to emphasize the playfulness with some pattern mixing and a light color scheme.  By this point in the week, I was comfortable with denim on denim.  Isn’t that cool?  Four days and my stubborn little opinions changed.

This outfit felt cute, comfy, easy-breezy.  I also want to give a shout-out to my great old Payless shoes.  These babies are workhorses – as it turns out, mushroom color goes with everything.  Who would have thought?

Outfit 5:  Rufflepalooza

On the last day, I returned to my own jean shirt, because I had exhausted my top options.  Since I’d already worn the top, I wanted to style it completely differently.  This denim wrap dress is pretty cool – it was a Ross find from a few years back.  In the summertime, I’d normally wear it over a bright tank top.  In the wintertime, I’d style it with a black turtleneck and boots.  But nothing this week was a normal styling choice for me, so I decided it was time to go big or go home!

The wrap dress gave the gray jean shirt a different vibe – it was reminiscent of a uniform, which I don’t mind at all.  The whole look leaned towards a Dust Bowl / Great Depression aesthetic, so I couldn’t wear ankle boots or oxfords (it would have been too on-the-nose referential).  So I pulled out the spiked wedge sneakers.  These shoes bring a smile to my face and that’s what this outfit needed.  It needed some humor and eccentricity.

I’m really glad I tried this one – it pushed me out of some assumptions that I didn’t even realize were issues.  Why is there such a difference between What Other People Wear and What I Wear?  I never minded when other people wore denim on denim on denim, so it’s hilarious that I had so rules for myself.  It all comes down to self-consciousness.  One major thing I realized this time around is that I’m deep-down afraid of being a Boring Person.  That’s why I wear clothes that make me feel like an Interesting Person.  So when I have a simple outfit on, I’ll put on red lipstick or a crazy necklace or a huge scarf.  Just to feel like I’m seen.  I try so hard not to blend in with the wall, but people see me no matter what I wear.  They notice me more than my outfit.  That’s a big comfort.

Please keep sending try requests!  Thanks to Medora for the denim on denim question.

 

 

Ashley Tries: The Fancies

I think we all have those things in our closet that seem too fancy to wear on an ordinary basis.  But are they?  I’ve heard of “dressing down” clothes, but does it actually work?  This week, I tried dressing down some of my harder-to-wear fancies and I was pretty happy with how it worked!

First fancy:  Sequin Top

I found this top at a consignment store and bought it because SPARKLES, but haven’t worn it that much, because sparkles.  But it is a good top – the fit is nice and it’s from Ann Taylor (therefore quality).  It definitely deserves to get worn more.  But how to wear a sparkle shirt to work and not feel overly dressed-up?  In this casual climate, Sparkly Top + Jeans + Heels = the dress code for Going Out For Cocktails With Girlfriends.  I wasn’t going out for cocktails.  I was going to work.  And jeans were still my best option, so I needed Flats.

At that point, I had sparkle top + jeans + flats, all solid colors and all dark.  So I either needed something bright or something print, to set off all the dark colors.  I was in more of a monochromatic mood, so I decided against a bold color and went for a bold print blazer in neutral colors.  So the outfit ended up being sparkle top + jeans + flats + print blazer.

It was a cool outfit – I felt like kinda rock-and-roll, like a bass player in an all girl rock band.  Not the lead singer, who would need a more attention-grabbing outfit, but a casually cool background musician.  Not trying too hard is the essence of cool.  I think the success of the outfit came down to the shoes.  If I had worn heels with this outfit, I would have been self-conscious about being too dressy.

My takeaway from this outfit:  If the outfit looks too much like a Going Out For Cocktails outfit, wear flats.  Also, I really like the mix of sparkles and print.  That’s pretty cool.

Second fancy:  Major Shoes

These shoes are a lot of shoe.  They have black and white and gold and straps and buckles and the things.  They are beautiful and intimidating, so I usually find myself going for another pair.  It’s like if you’re recording an album and you have to decide between a diva who is notoriously difficult and doesn’t play well with others, and a singer who is almost as good, takes direction well, and gets along with all the musicians.  It’s tempting to pick the solid singer and not deal with the diva.  Sometimes you don’t want the drama.

That’s how I feel about these shoes.  But they have so much going for them, I really should wear them more.  I didn’t want anything too matchy, so I tried to limit the black in this outfit.  That ruled out black pants, so I went for a pair of maroon skinny jeans.  That way I also didn’t have the blue jean problem of trying to figure out whether to go for a light, medium, or dark wash.  Because there are codes and standards and self-imposed rules that we believe about jeans.  Sometimes it is easier to bypass the blue jeans and all the arbitrary denim rules by choosing jeans in a completely different color.

I wanted some print, because that made the first outfit look pretty cool, so I grabbed a dark floral top.  Because everything was leaning towards dark colors, I decided against a black jacket (and a black jacket would have made it look more formal than I wanted).  A light grayish/tannish tweed jacket lightened up the whole look.  I really enjoyed this outfit and it reminded me of all the things I love about those crazy shoes.  I’m going to be more relaxed about what I wear them with and just use them the way I wear black pumps.  Don’t be afraid of the diva shoes – learn to enjoy the drama and don’t worry about it!

My takeaway from this outfit:  Your statement shoes probably go with more than you think!  Do you have fancy shoes left over from a wedding?  Give them another try.  Heels can literally (and figuratively) elevate an outfit.  Life is too short to afraid of your own shoes.

Third fancy: Velvet Skirt

Between the cranberry velvet and the satin cummerbund belt, this skirt falls squarely into the Christmas Party realm (especially if I paired it with the sequin top from that first outfit).  It looks so christmassy, it seems a little wrong to wear it in the springtime, but there isn’t any real reason not to wear it and velvet is very in right now.

The first decision I had to make was whether to tuck the shirt in.  NO.  It was a pretty easy decision, because I think the skirt waistband looks a little fussy and cummerbundish.  Also, there’s a random button.  Also, it is satin.  So it’s a hard no on the tucking in – the added benefit of untucked shirts is that it kicks the formality down a few notches.  I went for a black and white buttondown shirt that is loose and long, then added a green jacket a bit shorter than the shirt.  A shorter jacket cheats the eye into seeing a longer leg line and draws some attention to your waist.  I needed all the leg help I could get, because I wore flats with this one.

My takeaway from this outfit:  If you don’t like one aspect of a piece, cover it up.  Nobody needs to know that shirt has weird sleeves – wear a jacket.  Nobody needs to know how low the neckline is on that dress – wear a sweater on over it and pretend it’s a skirt.  Nobody knows and nobody cares.  It’s a comforting thought.

Bonus outfit:  Easter Shoes!

This one came before I set the challenge, but I loved pulling out the crazy bridesmaid shoes for Easter.  I hesitated, because I wasn’t sure whether they would match the tone of the dress and the jean jacket.  But I COULDN’T RESIST BECAUSE THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL.  That is all.  Check out all the crazy sparkles!

I enjoyed this week – it made me realize that I put some clothes into an arbitrary Wear Only For Special Occasions category.  And they don’t have to be off limits – it’s not like they are beaded ball gowns.  I feel like I got some of my clothes back.

Live boldly!  Wear your pretty things!  Enjoy the things you have while you have them.

Thanks for reading my blog – if you have anything you want me to try, let me know!