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.

 

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.