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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley Tries Vintage

I actually don’t have a lot of vintage pieces in my wardrobe and I don’t usually go for vintage styling, so this week was an interesting challenge for me!  That might come as a surprise to some of you, because I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I have a retro / vintage vibe going on.  I think this is because I like wearing clothes that having interesting details, good fit, and funky colors, plus lots of femininity.  Those are all things that we associate with vintage clothing.

Last weekend, I went to an antique store to get framing supplies for some artwork that I wanted to put up in my house, and the antique store turned out to be full of beautiful vintage clothes as well.  Since I automatically make up rules for myself, I made a few rules, because everything was cool and beautiful and I wanted IT ALL.

  • If it doesn’t fit, don’t buy it.  (Don’t do the “if I lose five pounds, this will look great!” thing.  That ruins the fun of buying and having clothes.  This is a life rule for me, not just a vintage-clothes-shopping rule.  If it doesn’t fit right now, it’s not the right thing.  Period.)
  • If needs major work, don’t buy it.  (This applies to stains, holes, bad zippers, etc.  Hemming is okay, major structural alteration is not.)
  • If you don’t have an occasion to wear it, don’t buy it.  (It has to work for MY life, not somebody else’s life.
  • If it looks like a costume, don’t buy it.

Even with those rules, I found two dresses, two coats, and an evening gown.  The evening gown did not make an appearance, but I’m going to a fancy Christmas party soon and I promise I will post a picture when I wear it!

Day 1: Gingham Dress


This dress is cute, comfy, and practical.  I think it would look better without tights, but I needed tights on Monday.  Because it was cold.  Here are the reasons I bought this dress:

  • It combines two big trends for this year:  western details and gingham.  I could have bought this exact dress at a funky boutique somewhere.  What goes around comes around!
  • The material is good quality – stretchy, thick, and soft.
  • While it is a shirt dress, only the top actually buttons and unbuttons.  The skirt does not unbutton and this prevents gapping and other wardrobe malfunctions.  I appreciate that kind of concern for my wellbeing.
  • It fit beautifully.  It was made with curves in mind.
  • It was eight dollars.  SCORE.

I don’t think this is the best styling for it.  I picture this as a standalone spring / summer dress with some flats or chunky heels.  This dress is pure fun and it definitely looks better on than it does on the hanger.  That’s why it’s important to try things on!

Tuesday: Western Jacket

This jacket is my new favorite thing.  According to the tag it comes from Pam Layne’s Sage In Bloom – apparel wear – Ft. Worth Texas.  This thing is legit.  It’s quality wool, a fantastic cut, plus it has BIRDS ALL OVER IT.  I could find this jacket at Anthropologie right now, but I wouldn’t be able to afford it.  This jacket was around twenty dollars, but to buy something comparable new would probably be around two hundred dollars.  That’s why I was over the moon to find this one.  Even if nobody else loves it as much as I love it, I feel like I won a treasure hunt.

I did modify this one slightly, because there were beaded tassels coming off the buttons.  It was definitely a look, but it’s easier to wear it without.  Also, the lining fabric is incredible.  Lining fabrics go a long way with me.  I appreciate designers who spend time on a part of the garment that may only be seen by the wearer.

Wednesday: Red Skirt

I was considering wearing the other dress I bought, but it was too summery.  I would have frozen to death.  So I asked my friend Sara to loan me a vintage skirt, so I could try styling it in a modern way.

This is probably my favorite outfit this week, just because there were a lot of moving parts.  Skirt, t-shirt, sweater blazer, necklaces, ankle booties.  A red skirt may seem intimidating and hard to pair with things, but it can be really beautiful.  It just requires some boldness.

The best part of the skirt was the fit and flare shape.  The waist hit right at my narrowest point and then went out from there.  The sweater blazer buttons at the natural waist as well, so it was just a great day for that waist.  I wanted to mix prints and to do an unexpected color scheme (red, white, peachy-pink, and black), because trying to match would be impossible and the mix is what makes the outfit look modern.  Matching makes outfits look more retro/vintage.

Thursday: Necklace

Since Wednesday’s outfit was all about trying to make the mix look modern, I want Thursday’s outfit to look vintage, but with modern clothes.  The only vintage element is the necklace.  My grandma gave it to me and I think it’s the coolest thing.  Very graphic and sleek and modern.

If you want a vintage look, but don’t feel confident hunting down vintage pieces from thrift and antique stores, you can still achieve a vintage look that doesn’t look like a costume.  Look for dresses that fit on the top, flare out at the bottom.  Look for fitted jackets.  Look for unique prints or interesting details.  The main thing to keep in mind if you want a vintage feel is to go for pieces that look ladylike.  Not necessarily super fancy or cutesy, but the clothes need to make you feel like a woman.  Bows and lace and frills may make you feel girly, but a great fit will make you feel womanly, and that’s more important.

Friday: Tan Coat

This wool coat is beautiful in its simplicity.  The lines are good, the wool looks pristine, and the neutral color will never go out of style.  It is a little bit loose, but that allows me to layer sweaters under it, so I’m up for that.

My favorite part of this outfit was the mix of neutrals in the sweater and the coat.  They don’t match, but they go together really well.  The outfit is comprised of basics, but basics with personality and great fit.

Turns out, I really love vintage.  I’m going to keep my eyes open for vintage pieces that mix with the rest of my clothes and add that little extra zing to an outfit.  Raid your grandma’s closet.  Look in thrift stores.  Hunt around.  There are beautiful treasures to find!



Ashley Sings the Praises of Scarves

Scarves are great and I’ll tell you why.  They are the easiest way to add personality to an outfit and they are the easiest accessory to personalize.  How many ways are there to wear earrings?  Unless you’re into mixing and matching, there’s just one way you can wear a particular pair of earrings.  With scarves, the only limit is your imagination.

This square floral scarf from H&M is about the size of a baby blanket.  It’s got this crazy mix of colors with peach, rust, light orange, navy, and green.  I have a ton of navy in my closet, so when I put on an outfit and realize that I’m wearing a navy sweater with dark wash jeans and I’m suddenly a column of navy blue, this scarf is a great way to break up the monochrome.

Here are a few thoughts on how to work with a large square scarf:

  • You can fold it into a triangle or roll it up to make it less bulky.
  • For a triangle fold, you can leave the point in the front and wrap the corners around until you can tie the ends in the front.  It’s like an oversized bandana look.
  • If you want something smaller, start with the big triangle fold, then start to roll it up until the size is where you want it.  Then wrap it around your neck as many times as it will go.
  • If you know you’re going somewhere windy, go for a Grace Kelly headscarf look.  Start with the triangle fold, then cover your hair, knotting under your chin.  Add sunglasses for additional glamour.
  • Try knotting your scarves at different lengths – that will change the entire look of the scarf.  If you tie the ends together, you can use any scarf as an infinity scarf.

I have three shapes of scarves – square, infinity, and rectangle.  Mostly rectangle.  So most of my scarf ideas apply to classic long scarves.  Harry Potter scarves.  Rugby scarves.  Ebenezer-Scrooge-after-he-repents scarves.

Here are some reasons that I love scarves, along with some tips and techniques.

  • If it’s really cold and you’re worrying about whether your scarf needs to match your hat or your gloves or your coat, don’t worry.  It isn’t worth it.  Usually once you’re inside, you don’t need the hat, coat, or gloves.  So coordinate your scarf with your outfit, because you might want to keep your scarf on all day, but don’t worry about finding a matching beanie.
  • Scarves are practical and beautiful.  When I have a cold, scarves feel absolutely necessary.  They are like little blankets that you get to keep with you all day.
  • I love when people give me scarves as presents.  Most of my scarves have been given to me.  When a friend buys me a scarf, it’s usually something that stands out to them and that they think I would like, so it’s a blend of both of our styles.  So when I see that scarf, I think of that friend.  It’s personal and sweet.
  • My go-to scarf style is to fold the scarf in half, so that if forms a loop.  Pull the ends through the loop and go.  It stays put and keeps your neck really warm.
  • Tie the ends together and use your classic scarves as infinity scarves.  I have one infinity scarf, but there’s really only one way to style an infinity scarf, so squares or triangles or rectangles are more versatile.
  • Scarves are great guinea pigs – if you aren’t quite sure about a new trendy color, try it in a scarf first.  Then if you decide that it isn’t a great color on you, you aren’t stuck with a sweater or a dress.  You have a scarf, which would still be a great present for somebody who looks great in that color.
  • For a textured look, twist your scarf up and then knot it.
  • For some drama, tie your scarf behind your neck and let the ends hang down like a cape.
  • Wear your scarf with attitude.  Scarves shouldn’t be boring.

Scarves are the easiest way to start pattern mixing.  Try wearing a striped scarf with polka dots or a floral scarf with stripes.  This was my Thanksgiving outfit- the loose floaty fit of this dress was no accident…. Also, every outfit looks better with an ADORABLE BABY.  This is my tiniest nephew and he’s such a sweetheart.

I have a couple of cool things for next week.  I’m working on an art project for my house and I found some fantastic vintage clothes at an antique store, so I’m going to be talking about how to wear vintage pieces so they don’t come across as costumes.


Ashley Tries Asking People What They Think

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

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

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

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

Monday’s Outfit: Clear Narrative

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

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

Category 1: Professional

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

Category 2: Tailored

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

Category 3: Classic

  • Chic
  • Classy
  • Classic
  • Preppy

Category 4: Attitude

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

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

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

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

Tuesday’s Outfit: The Wild Card

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

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

Category 1: Attitude

  • Fun
  • Cool
  • Playful
  • Quirky
  • Relaxed

Category 2: Cuteness

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

Category 3: The Mix

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

Category 4: Materials

  • Textured
  • Draped
  • Flutter

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

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

Wednesday’s Outfit:  The Comment Machine

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

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

Category 1: Color

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

Category 2: Stripes

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

Category 3: Attitude and Overall Styling

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

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

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

Thursday’s Outfit:  The Hardest Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Category 1: Simple

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

Category 2: Intellect

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

Category 3: Masculine

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

Category 4: British Vibes

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

Category 5: Professional (Possibly Ruthless)

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

Category 6: Attitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday’s Outfit:  Last Hurrah

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

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

Category 1: Nature

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

Category 2: Attitude/Overall Impressions

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

Category 3: Texture and Movement

  • Textured
  • Cozy Party
  • Flowy
  • Movement
  • Dynamic

Category 4: Pattern-Mixing

  • Geometric
  • Patterns
  • Hectic

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley Tries Clothes Performance Reviews

I recently fielded a question about bell sleeves on Facebook and it erupted into a kind of venting area.  Apparently, there are many visceral reactions to this particular sleeve format.  I loved it, because people were caring so loudly.  Some people had bad memories of bell sleeves back from the Lizzie McGuire era, some people objected to how bell sleeves dip into things (water in the sink, flour when you’re kneading bread, etc.), some people think that bell sleeves are only for Elves and Renaissance Fairs…..

For the record, I think bell sleeves can be done well or badly (like most things).  If you want bell sleeves to look modern, make the bell the volume and keep everything else tailored.  Or try bell sleeves on a fitted dress.  But I absolutely agree that they aren’t the most practical sleeves, so that got me thinking about practicality and how to judge the practicality of clothes.  So this week I’m going to be giving my outfits performance reviews.  Clothes are never perfect, because we are never perfect.  Figure out what works and what doesn’t and then go from there!

Day 1: Sweatshirt, Straight-Leg Jeans, and Sneakers

For this exercise, I’m going to breaking down outfits by element and walking through the strengths and weaknesses of each, then evaluating the outfit as a whole.


This style is what the fashion world calls a Luxe Sweatshirt, because it has added pizzazz.  The pizzazz on this number is the lace panel in the front.  The panel adds shape and draws your eyes to the center, creating a thinning optical illusion.  (Add points for thinning optical illusions.)

The downside to the panel is that to be extra fancy, the material under the lace is sheer.  So I have to wear a black camisole for warmth and coverage.  (Subtract points for sheerness and for black camisoles that roll up at the bottom and create a little ridge around the midriff.)  It is black and white, which generally looks classy.  (Add elegance points.)

The fit is good and it has that fleecy lining that most sweatshirts have, so add the comfy points!  This top does fairly well overall.  Fit, look, and detail are all good, but the sheer paneling and camisole necessity bring down its overall score.  Probably an 8/10.


I know I’ve mentioned this roughly a thousand times, but I was moving this week.  So I found these straight leg jeans while I was moving and decided to give them a try.  They are back from the Days Before Ashley Wore Skinny Jeans, which has been a while now.  They aren’t flared.  I’d say they are wide-ish straight leg.

One great thing about them is the color.  Dark blue, no fading, which gives a business-like look to them.  Fading is fine, but it doesn’t look professional.  (Add business points.)

Moving on to the fit – I like straight leg jeans and wide leg jeans and even flares (if they aren’t too exaggerated), but I’m much more used to the skinny fit now.  There wasn’t TOO much fabric flapping around the ankles, but there was more breeze there.  I also can’t tuck them into boots, which is my go-to winter styling plan.  (Subtract tucking into boots points.)

The fit issues were more evident around the waist.  They are not high-waist, so they hit at a lower (less flattering) point, just above the hips and I felt the need to pull them up every once in a while.  (Subtract points for hiking up and muffin top territory.)  Since I’d automatically reach for a pair of skinny jeans instead of this pair, I’d say about a 6/10.  The color took them a point above 5/5, which I will be referring to as the “meh” point.


Black and white, with a little bit of espadrille braiding around the sides. (Add classic points.)  Found them at Salvation Army.  (Add cheapness points.)  The fit is nice.  (Add fit points.)  I don’t think they will last over five years, judging by the canvas, the stitching, and the sole.  (Subtract quality points.)  For what they are, I’d give them an 8/10.

Overall Outfit

I enjoyed this outfit and the overall look was more than the sum of its parts.  The paneling helped draw the focus away from the width of the sweatshirt and the width of the jeans.  The top was long enough that it covered the top of the jeans, which is where most of the fit issues lived.  The black and white of the sneakers echoed the black and white of the sweatshirt, which gave it some visual punch.  The sneakers kept the jeans from looking too short.  For a casual day, I’d give this outfit a 9/10, which is better than any of the pieces scored separately.

Day 2: Sweater, Skinny Jeans, Ankle Boots


I found this sweater while I searching Salvation Army for Halloween costume materials.  (Add inexpensiveness points.)  It is an extra small men’s sweater, but the fit was so great that I couldn’t pass it up.  (Add majors points for SLEEVES THAT FIT FOR ONCE and a v-neck that isn’t too low.)  The color scheme and design were both great, with a pop of color up near the face and flattering diagonal color blocking.  (Add design points.)  The quality is very nice, judging by the seams and the weight.  (Add quality points.)  This sweater doesn’t have any points taken off.  It’s a 10/10 for me.  Hurrah!

Black Skinny Jeans

These are great jeans.  They are soft, but don’t stretch too much.  (Add quality material points.)  They fit like a glove, but are thick enough to not be see-through or show lines.  (Add fit points.)  They have a black tuxedo stripe running down the side of the leg. (Add whimsy points, because the stripes serve no purpose, but I love them.)  They are the right length.  (Add points for no hemming or cuffing.)  Finally, they make my legs look great.  I love these jeans.  I’d give them a 10/10.

Ankle Boots

These boots are black, have a gathered design, and are made of some sort of faux suede, so the major downside is that everything sticks to them.  Leaves, dirt, lint, dust – everything sticks and everything shows up.  (Subtract points for uncleanness.)  The fit is great and they zip on, so they aren’t going anywhere.  (Add points for shoes that stay firmly on the foot.)  They are a good brand, which I’ve had good success with for comfort and quality.  (Add quality points.)  They make my feet look little.  (Add cute points.)  I’d give them an 8/10.

Overall outfit

I liked the cleanliness and simplicity and coolness of this outfit.  The sweater was such a pleasant surprise and that made it special.  I especially love that patch of bright blue that draws attention up to the face.  Added a coat and was ready to go.  This outfit is a 10/10 for me.

Day 3:  Long Cardigan, Tee, Jeans


This cardigan is very long.  Proportionally, I think it is too long for me, but I wear it anyway.  (Subtract points for overwhelmingness.)  The clear blue color is lovely, though.  (Add color points.)  It is an open front design, so it sometimes stays on and sometimes slips off.  (Subtract a couple points for the times when it slips off.)  It reminds me a bit of Star Wars.  (Add nerd points.)  I’d give this cardigan a 7/10.  It is comfy and has a pretty color, but it doesn’t show me off.


I love the print on this t-shirt.  It’s an abstract black and white dot print and it goes with everything.  (Add visual interest points.)  The fabric is thin and that is why there are little holes in the front (right around where my jean button hits).  (Subtract points for holes and thin material that is conducive to holes.)  I like the fit – it is fitted, but not tight.  I found this at Loft and it’s comforting to find a store where I know my size for shirts.  If I find a Loft medium in a thrift store, I know about how it will fit.  (Add points for the correct size.)  This is a great shirt and it served me well, but given the fact that it is falling apart now, I’d give it a 6/10.


These jeans are in the same boat as the shirt.  I’ve worn them so much that they are kind of worn out.  These didn’t come faded or distressed – I did all that work myself!  The main places where I see the age are the knees.  They’ve been stretched out and even straight out of the dryer, they are baggy.  (Subtract points for baggy knees.)  They are also worn thin between the thighs and under the back pockets and any other place that gets friction.  They used to fit really well, but they are just old now.  They probably need to be replaced, so I’ll give them a 6/10.

Overall outfit

I didn’t feel cute in this outfit.  The elements were either overwhelming or worn out and I definitely felt overwhelmed and worn out.  The best part about it was the softness, but I actually feel more comfortable when I have some structure to my outfits.  Overall, this outfit gets a 5/5.  Meh.

Day 4: Lace jacket, tee, scarf, jeans


I found this jacket in France and it has a special place in my heart.  (Add warm and fuzzy points.)  It isn’t very warm, but it isn’t really meant to be.  It is there to add visual interest and it does a great job at that.  (Add points for visual interest.)  This is a 10/10 for me.  I’m not going to wear it to keep me warm, but I am going to wear it for how it looks.


I love a black and white striped tee.  (Add classic points.)  The problems with this tee are all fit problems.  The neck is a mix between a scoop and a v-neck, and I disapprove.  Be one or the other, neckline.  (Subtract points for wishiwashiness.)  The hemline is rounded, which is usually good, because it makes the hips look smaller.  The problem is that the shirt shrank in the wash, so now the front of the shirt is an okay length, but the sides creep up sometimes.  (Subtract points for shrinking, subtract points for showing my sides.)  This shirt is a 6/10 for me.


This scarf is huge.  It’s the size of a baby blanket.  (Add points for sheer volume.)  Like the jacket, it is meant to add visual interest, and it does a great job of that.  It’s not the best quality, so subtract a bit for that, but it adds a whole lot of pattern and color.  9/10.


They are soft and worn, but not worn out.  (Add comfort points.)  I feel like they are going to disintegrate from wear at some point in the future, but since it is still in the future, I’m okay with that.  They tuck into boots, which is great.  They are a little loose at the waist, so I sometimes have to hike them up.  (Subtract points for hiking up.)  I’d give them an 8/10.

Overall outfit

I enjoyed this outfit.  It had enough sharpness (geometric patterns in the jacket, stripes on the tee) and enough softness (jeans and slouchy boots) and enough color and print to give it spice (scarf).  The elements worked together to create an interesting outfit that didn’t sacrifice comfort.  I’d give it an 8/10.

Day 5:  Shiny Dress, Shiny Sweatshirt


This dress is soft and the material is good quality.  (Add comfort points.)  It is a dark green jersey material with a shiny silver pattern printed on it.  (Add shiny points.)  I don’t think it is the absolute best shape to show off my shape, because it floats out from the shoulders and it is proportionally a little too long.  (Subtract shape points.)  I’d give it an 8.5/10.


This is funny one. It is sweatshirt material.  (Add comfy points)  But it has a great fit and a zipper.  (Add fit points.)  Then it has jewel embellishments all over the front.  (Add shiny points, but subtract points for when they get stuck on things.  Like people you hug.)  These jewel embellishments are dangerous hug traps.  And I love hugs.  So I need to think about how many people I am likely to hug during the day when I wear this.  It’s a 7/10 for me, because it’s a little more tricky to figure out what to wear it with.  Not as practical as I would like.

Overall outfit

I enjoyed this outfit, but I know it is a little bizarre.  Together, they are fun, but I think the shiny things should be split up and paired with matte textures.  Since the outfit doesn’t add anything to the individual pieces, I’d give this one a 7/10.  I love the elements, but not together.

Go ahead and think about your clothes.  Have opinions about your clothes.  Care loudly about your clothes!  Is is practical?  Is it fun?  Is it uncomfortable?  Is it worn out?  Take a moment and review how your clothes are performing for you, because the clothes are there to serve you.  This week made me realize that I need to replace a pair of jeans and I should balance out my oversized pieces better.

Ashley Tries Hygge

If  the word hygge doesn’t look remotely familiar, you probably haven’t been on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook recently.  I’m late to the game on this one, but the concept is easy to grasp and very attractive.

To start with, it’s pronounced hue-gah.  It rhymes with the “AhWOOgah ahWOOgah” sounds that submarines make, but it isn’t usually accompanied by people yelling DIVE DIVE DIVE.  It’s usually accompanied by chunky knits and hot chocolate.  It’s a deeply ingrained concept for Danish people (and Norwegian people, as my Norwegian friends have patiently explained to me) and the word is hard to translate, but easy to understand.  It’s that feeling when you’re drinking tea on your sofa, wearing fuzzy socks, looking up, realizing you don’t have to go anywhere that night, and sighing happily.  It’s being surrounded by your favorite things and using them all the time.  It’s lighting candles and hanging up Christmas twinkle lights and basking in the glow.  It’s a cozy contentment brought about being warm and comfortable and feeling at home.  The hygge concept is often cited as the reason for Denmark’s extremely high national happiness rating.  So, does it work?  Does coziness increase happiness?  I decided to try it out this week, because I have been moving into a new house and I wanted some reassuring coziness in my life.




Day 1


This cardigan comes from Switzerland and it is one of my favorite things.  I bought it from a little old lady in a yarn and sweater shop.  She spoke no English, I spoke very little French, but she would repeat things until she assumed I understood.  For the most part, I didn’t understand anything.  The part I did understand was that the shearing, yarn spinning, and knitting were all done by hand in the Evolène Valley.  The cardigan is so connected to that place, it is like wearing a memory.

It is giant, it is cushy, it is solid.  I can feel the weight when I wear it.  You know when you’re lying in bed under heavy blankets and you feel pinned to the bed by warmth?  It’s a little like that.  It’s a good feeling.

I love chunky knits.  Thin, smooth, lightweight cashmere sweaters aren’t my bag.  I think they are beautiful (especially on other people), but I’m not emotionally drawn to them.  Warmth and weight are connected to me.  Technically, it is possible to have lightweight layers that are also warm, but for me to feel cozy, I need some bulk.  Usually a whole blanket.  Or a blanket-like sweater.

Day 2

img_4189This was the day I woke up with a swollen sore throat, took a sick day, and rested up at home.  The concept of hygge is never more attractive than when I’m home with a cold.  Tea.  Couch.  Blanket.  Fuzzy robe (even if I change out of my jammies, I’ll wear my robe over my normal clothes).  Slippers.  Stretchy pants.  I even took a bath, which I hardly ever do.  The steam works wonders, by the way.  Highly recommend baths.


By the end of the day, I felt lots better.  It was a good day to explore whether hygge helped make me happier and you know what?  It did.  Being sick is no fun, but comfort and coziness and really enjoying your home makes everything better.

Day 3

After staying home and resting, I felt well enough to go to work the next day.  Wasn’t a hundred percent yet, but good enough.  My throat was still hurty enough to need something warm around it, so I found one of the scarves that I hadn’t packed up (did I mention that I’m in the process of moving?) and paired it with a really comfy dress and boots.

In the theme of comfort and ease, I wore my glasses and went without makeup.  For me, wearing my glasses make it easier to go without makeup, because I usually wear makeup to highlight my eyes.  And my glasses REALLY highlight my eyes.

The top knot bun made me feel kinda like a basic white girl, but I avoided Snapchat filters and pumpkin spice lattes and didn’t end up turning into one altogether…..

I really liked this outfit – this is one of my favorites.

Day 4

Beyond just warmth and comfort, I thought about what hygge would mean for clothes.  Part of hygge is being surrounded by your favorite things and these are some of my favorite things:

  • Blazers (especially if they are tweedy and fit well)
  • Sweaters (especially in a pretty color)
  • Scarves (especially print scarves)
  • Jeans (worn until very soft)
  • Boots (especially distressed brown boots)
  • Red lipstick
  • Blue

This outfit made me feel comfortable.  Not in a sweatpants kind of way, but emotionally and physically.  If I went out in my PJs, I’d feel emotionally uncomfortable.  If I go out in a short skirt and heels when it’s below freezing, I’m physically uncomfortable.  This outfit struck a great balance – it made me look nice and feel nice.  That’s an instant confidence booster.  Think about some of your favorite things and just start wearing them!

Day 5 (Have I mentioned that I’m kind of weird?)

I love this sweater.  I bought it at Anthropologie at least seven years ago and it’s the most hilarious and lovable piece of clothing.  The cowl neck is about as big as the rest of the sweater, it has a kangaroo pouch, it has a little drawstring thing….it has so many things going on.  But it is so much fun.  

I wore it with some of my comfiest jeans and little black sneakers from Salvation Army.

Concluding thoughts:  Hygge is happy.  Does it increase one’s happiness index?  I don’t know what a happiness index is, but if you are happy anyway, it can help feed that happiness.  It doesn’t manufacture happiness.  It is not a happiness pill.  Don’t take hygge as a cure for the blues.  That would be like hoping that Christmas spirit will take away family squabbles (actually, a lot of people hope that and then get disappointed when their Christmas spirit doesn’t work as expected).  The Christmas spirit we try to make on our own doesn’t solve any problems, but the good news is that Christ solves problems.  We can’t make our own Christmas spirit, but Christ gives us joy and peace and love, which becomes our Christmas spirit.  So hygge isn’t a way to summon up deep down joy, but if you have deep down joy, then that leads to an appreciation of everyday things.  Don’t try to gather joy from candles or from chunky cable knits or slipper socks, look to Christ for your joy.  Then the joy within you will extend out to the candles and the chunky cable knits and the slipper socks and your family and your house and your neighborhood…..I could go on, but you get the idea.

By the time I write my next post, I’ll be in my new house!  I’ve never decorated my own space before and I can’t wait!  As always, if you have any fashion questions, let me know and I’ll try to answer them.  Thanks for reading.  I appreciate you.

Ashley Tries to Give You Costume Ideas

First off – the only thing I like about Halloween is dressing up.  It is kind of like somebody who loves green getting excited about Saint Patrick’s Day.  I treat Halloween as a handy excuse to let my costume ideas run amok and take over. My mind has twenty ideas in it at any given moment, but they are all gone the next moment, so if you want a band name or a business name or a Twitter handle or a costume idea or an opinion on whatever, ask me. My friends know this, but usually they ask me what they should be for Halloween on the DAY OF and my thoughts haven’t filtered through yet and they all get that day’s batch of ideas. Since I have new batch of costume ideas every day, I decided to write this week’s ideas down just for you! (If you want band name, Twitter handle, or business name, just ask. There is a new batch every day. Every hour, really.  Then I forget them immediately.)

Day 1

This is a good little outfit as is – all black, but with fuzzy texture from the jacket and stripes to give it some visual interest.  When I asked people what kind of costume they thought it would be, I got great guesses:  mime, Catwoman, Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, cat burglar….

The great thing is that all those things are good ideas.  STEAL THOSE IDEAS IMMEDIATELY.  Cat burglars just need a mask over the eyes.  The Funny Face one needs a black turtleneck and white socks.  Mimes are unnerving to me, so I wouldn’t be one, but you can be if that’s what you want to be!

Anyway, my idea was that this looked kinda French to me, so I went for French Poodle.

I made myself a little dog tag that said Je m’appelle Fifi on it, attached it to a necklace, put my hair in ponytails (to look like poodle ears), and eyelinered my nose on.  I did pictures with and without the hat, because both ways worked.

I also did French Kiss.  That’s a little awkward, I know.  But it was super easy, because I just tried to make my outfit look stereotypically French,  then drew kisses all over my face in red lipstick.  It took two minutes and it’s a pun, but it’s a little awkward, so I’d go for poodle.

Day 2

I ended up really liking this outfit.  It was WAY more matchy matchy than I’d normally go.  I was at work before I realized my colors were mirror-imaging each with the orange in the middle.  AWESOME.   You can have a color chiasm costume if you want.

Blue dresses are great for costumes.  I’m giving a couple of ideas here, but there are tons more:

  • Alice in Wonderland (add a headband and Mary Jane shoes)
  • Wendy Darling from Peter Pan
  • The Sky (pin white paper clouds on the skirt and make a yellow sun and put it on a headband)
  • The Ocean (pin paper fish on the skirt….you get the drift)

I was inspired by the color of this dress to be a box from Tiffany & Co.  It’s so iconic.  Blue box, white bow, bling….

I also did Belle from Beauty and the Beast, because I love her.  It was one of favorite movies growing up and I especially love when she’s wandering around lost in a book.  Blue dress, white sleeves, book, black flats, ponytail.  Easy and cute.

Day 3

This was my Mary Tyler Moore day.  Took inspiration from her adorable dancing scenes in The Dick Van Dyke Show.  Flipped my hair, pointy black flats, slim-cut ankle trousers, cream t-shirt.  This would be really cute as a couple costume as well!

Couples Costume: The Dick Van Dyke Show
The most typical fashionista costume is Audrey Hepburn’s black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but I loved the idea of taking her laid-back style from the Moon River scene and making that into a costume instead.  Slim-cut jeans, flats, sweatshirt, headwrap, and a guitar (or a ukulele).  We aren’t aiming for perfectly matching the movie – we’re going for close enough.  IT’S OKAY IF YOU HAVE TO EXPLAIN YOUR COSTUME.  It’s just supposed to be fun.

Bonus:  I dressed up as Snoopy.  I adore Snoopy.  I may BE Snoopy.

I am a happy woman if I get to yell “CURSE YOU, RED BARON!” once in a while.  I’m a nut.  You probably already picked up on that, but it’s true.  What’s the point of being cool if you can’t dress up as a dog being a WWI fighter ace?  THERE IS NO POINT IN BEING COOL.  SNOOPY HAS FUN.  BE LIKE SNOOPY.

Did I tell you I’m in the middle of moving?  I am.  I’m mostly crazy already.

Day 4

I got lots of questions about this jacket on the day I wore it.  Are you going hunting?  Did you escape from prison?  Do you fly an X-Wing?  Flying an X-Wing sounds fun.  I didn’t really want to an x-wing pilot costume, but I could have.  All of these are grand costume ideas.  But I mainly just wore the jacket to distract from how boring the rest of the outfit was.  There – I’ve admitted it.

I like the idea of being The Great Pumpkin, but I decided to go for a couple of different costume ideas.

I did a vaguely steampunk costume with this.  I bought these goggles for a Time-Travel-Themed Birthday Party that I threw for myself a few years ago and I love them.  Everything looks cooler with goggles.  Put them on a hat or directly on your forehead.  For an automatically cooler adventure look, put the goggles on and dust around them with brown makeup.  That makes your face look dusty.  Then keep on layering makeup (eyeliner, red lipstick for cuts and scrapes, etc.) until it looks like you’ve had an interesting life!

In stream of consciousness costume ideas, my face was already smudgy, so I decided to try a Kaylee costume (Kaylee is the mechanic from Firefly and Serenity).  She wears a military green jumpsuit, so I wore green jeans and tied a green jacket around my waist to mimic that look.  Serviceable boots.  A girly pink shirt and a floral umbrella.  Two little buns on top of my head.  I love this look.  I’d for sure do this one again!

Day 5

This is a haiku of a costume – it’s “The Sun Shining Through Rainclouds And Making Everything Sparkle” and the best part is that you can wear it all day.

Rainboots are a great basis for a costume.  For just one adorable example, you could be Christopher Robin saying, “Tut tut, it looks like rain” and wear shorts and a blue sweater and rainboots and carry an umbrella.

One of my favorite looks is worn by that brand icon, The Morton Salt Girl.  Just look how great this is:  

To do this right, I’d get the largest size of Morton’s Salt and make the container into a little purse / candy container, but really all you need is a floaty yellow dress, some salt, and an umbrella.  When it rains, it pours….

So those are just a few ideas.  Use what you have – be creative!  If you have a hat that you never where, think of who might where it and go as that person.

Abstract out the things that you love about a character.  If you want to dress up as Maid Marion from Robin Hood, you don’t have to transform into a fox – wear a long purple dress, an ear headband with a purple scarf over it, and eyeliner your nose black.  Voila!

Other easy costumes:

  • Harry Potter Characters (white buttondown, tie, gray cardigan, skirt / trousers)
  • Peanuts Characters (Oversize polo shirt + shorts + sneakers+ a blankie = Linus.  Blue dress + bow = Lucy.)
  • Animals and Birds
  • Snapchat Filters (wear normal clothes, then add dear antlers or cat ears or a floral crown, etc.)
  • Calvin and Hobbes (extra points if you go for the time where Hobbes wears a sombrero)
  • Pippi Longstocking (mismatched socks, crazy braids, superhuman strength…..)
  • General adventurers (safari gear, maybe a spear through the hat)
  • Dr. Sattler, Dr. Grant, Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park (extra points if you have a group costume and somebody volunteers to be a velociraptor or a T-Rex)
  • The kids from Holes (basically anything orange will come in handy here)
  • Librarians (because librarians are the best)

And I’ll just leave this one here.  I love it.  You’re welcome.

Costume Idea: Worn-Out Phrase