Waiting Around On Valentine’s Day: A Study In Metaphors

[An important preface to this post:  I wrote this on February 15th while on airplanes.  Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I tend to get pretty philosophical on flights.  Maybe it’s something about hurtling through the air, being a little sleep-deprived, being very aware that my fate is NOT in my own hands, whatever.  If it doesn’t make sense, I apologize.  It’s probably the just the flight talking.  Alternate titles I thought of:  Singleness 2:  Even More Single?  / Does Hope Hurt?  / A Bad Day to Fly / Why Am I Still Here?…..  Yeah.  It was a long day.  Here goes!]

On Valentine’s Day, I spent a good chunk of the day in a tiny rural fog-bound airport.  I was waiting for a plane.  (As one does.)  The irony of sitting around waiting alone on Valentine’s Day didn’t escape me.

Trying to keep the boring part of the story short, I was dropped off for a mid-morning flight.  The weather didn’t look promising – snow flurries and freezing fog between the flurries.  The airport is so small that it only flies to one destination and the plane wasn’t at the airport yet.  It hadn’t even left the other airport yet.  That plane kept delaying and delaying and delaying.  Then finally, the news was announced that the plane was wheels up and on its way to us.  (Rejoicing!  Hope!  Hurrah!)  We had been in the airport for around 4 or 5 hours by that point.

As we scurried through The TSA Security Pageant (the most common form of interactive live theater in the United States), hope was running through our blood.  And as we sat in that post-security lockdown area, we heard the plane.  And then there was silence.  And then we heard the plane again.  That plane circled the airport three times, couldn’t find an opening in the fog, then went back to its original airport.


Went back through the line, got rebooked for an afternoon flight (which was about an hour away at that point), went back through The TSA Security Show and got patted down that time.  Why be MORE thorough the second time through security?  It’s a mystery.  Sat back down in post-security lockdown, and heard the plane.  And heard the plane.  And heard the plane.  Then heard the announcement that the plane circled three times and went back to its original airport.

You know the hardest part of waiting?  The hope of imminent change.  In this case, it was hearing both of the planes.  It was going through the motions and getting packed and getting prepped and getting patted down, then sitting there with a suitcase and going nowhere.  It felt like a Buster Keaton movie and I’ve never felt more for that sad-face little figure who was funny just because he didn’t know when to give up.

T.S. Eliot has a line in the Four Quartets:

I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope / For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love / For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith / But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. / Wait without thought thought, for you are not ready for thought…

Are you ever afraid of hope, because it seems so tied to disappointment and hurt?  I know that I’ve made hope into the enemy, because I’ve tried to fool myself into thinking that if I don’t hope for anything, I can’t be disappointed.  Making waiting and wanting into a problem and trying to solve them by ignoring them.

HOPE IS NEVER THE PROBLEM.  Hope is hope.  It is good.  How can we even pretend to be fine without it?

Today, I’m writing this on an airplane.  The weather is absolutely gorgeous.  The snow hills look like sleeping swans with their heads tucked under their wings.  From the air, school buses look like chopped up No. 2 pencils.  The world was blue and white and brightness.  My prayers have been answered.  Not that they weren’t answered yesterday, but yesterday’s answer was Wait.  Not gonna lie, I never like that answer.

But the truth is that yesterday was a terrible day for flying.  Today is a good flying day.  Today is everything that I hoped yesterday would be.  It’s obviously the right day to go.  I woke up knowing that it would work this time.

I spent a lot of the stuck-in-the-airport time reading, but also browsing social media.  A lot of single people kinda lost their minds over Valentine’s Day.  Reactions ranged from the ambivalent (Well, the day after Valentine’s Day, all the chocolate goes on sale) to pure reaction (Well, I’m going throw a party for myself and celebrate singleness!  Yeah!) to offended, wounded, and in despair.  Like waiting for a plane, this despair over a reminder of romantic love has everything to do with unfulfilled hope.  Being single on Valentine’s Day can be like hearing that your long-awaited flight has finally been canceled.  It’s a symbol of love and you feel excluded and alone.  But hope isn’t the problem.  You know the most important time to have hope?  When it is hard.

It’s the same with all virtues.  Fellas, love is easy when she’s looking beautiful in that black dress and her smile is stopping your heart.  A stranger could fall in love with her when she looks that beautiful.  Love is hard when the baby’s crying in the middle of the night and you’re deciding whether or not to acknowledge it or not.

Hope is a gift from the Holy Spirit.  We can’t cultivate it on our own.  Without God’s grace, love, hope, and peace are just words and words we can’t possibly understand, let alone carry out their actions.  We want hope without any need for hope.  We want love without any trials to refine our love.  We want peace to mean there is never any conflict for us to resolve or any anxiety to make us doubt.  We want to be great without trying.  Without difficult people or difficult circumstances messing our hair up.

Show love while waiting for love.  Have hope when it’s hard to wait.  Have peace when you start to doubt whether you even want hope.  Peace.  Be still.  I’m frustrated and illogical.  Peace  This is the most important time to have hope.  Hope comforts, disappointment hurts.  Don’t confuse them.

I was shown so much love on Valentine’s Day.  My family loves me so well.  I love them and I like them.  I’m spoiled and I know it.

My dad expresses his love in a lot of ways, but they fall under the general category of Caring.  He takes really good care of me.  He helps me with paperwork and booking flights and talks through car problems and taxes.  All the stuff that intimidates me.  We were on the phone so many times during the no-fly day, thinking through everything.

My oldest brother drove me to the airport, because he wanted me to be safe on the icy roads.  My second-oldest brother gave me a ride back to my house once everything got canceled and after finding out there wasn’t food in the airport, he made a detour to buy me chicken nuggets and sweet’n’sour sauce.  My sister fed me dinner and we made snow ice cream.  I’m so thoroughly blessed.  Saturated with blessings.

Waiting and hope are two different things.  Sometimes waiting feels like the airport.  Sitting.  Nothing to do except wait.  A defined timeline.  Between things.  Between what you have and what you want.  But I don’t think it is a good metaphor for hope.

Hope is like anticipating a really good dinner.  You have your work to do, but you have friends working alongside you, and you remember throughout the day that dinner is going to be amazing.  It isn’t static or wistful.  It’s a certain knowledge that God loves His children and He is going to give us exactly what we need.  Even if the work is hard, even if there are times you have to work alone, remember that there’s blessing ahead and it’s going to be exactly what you need and it’s going to taste even better after all that work.  Don’t JUST wait.  Work.

I’m saved by the blood of Jesus, so I can work in peace, knowing that He’s always taking care of me.  You know the only thing I have to do before I die?  Live.  That’s it.  Live in the delight of my Lord.  Do the work I’ve been given and give thanks for it.  Will that someday take the form of a house and a husband and some adorable fat babies?  I sure hope so.  But I’m not just going to sit and wait, because my life isn’t defined by what I don’t have right now.  I have so much to be grateful for and so much to do!  Time to get busy.  Keep praying, keep desiring good things, strong in faith that God gives His children everything they need and blesses far beyond.

If you’re waiting and struggling, maybe despairing, whether it’s for waiting for marriage, a job, reconciling with your family, or healing, I understand how hard it is.  I’m a 30-year-old virgin.  I know what waiting is like.  I look back on some of my life’s rough patches and just see darkness.  But I also know that those are my growth rings.  The hard times are the times when I’ve grown the most.  Those are my book of Psalms.  Seek out wise counselors, invest in friends, invest in family.  Don’t be embarrassed to cry in front of other people.  Let other people help you.  You don’t have to go it all by yourself.  You really don’t.  If you find that you’re stuck in airport mode, always sitting and waiting for that one thing that is out of reach, leave the airport.


Elements of Style: Personality

All the other elements of style (texture, fit, color, etc.) feed into personality.  What do your clothes say about you as a person?  This goes beyond clothes.  It’s all about how you wear things and what you’re comfortable in and what you like.

What do my clothes say about me?  I’m hardly impartial, but I’ll try breaking these photos down and running through some of the elements.  (For purposes of illustration, Ashley shall be referring to herself in the third person.)

Drama and Eccentricity

There’s some drama in this woman’s soul.  She’s combined a bright blue, an abstract print, and shoes covered in spikes.  It’s a weird combination, but she’s obviously leaning into the weirdness, because she put them all together.  Each piece could have been toned down – the sweater could be paired with jeans and a t-shirt and the dress could be paired with a structured black blazer.  (The shoes could also go with jeans and a t-shirt, but since they are covered in spikes, they’ll still be funky.  They’re just naturally a little weird.)

The length of the skirt and the length of the dress are both exaggerated, and that larger-than-life attitude translates to drama.  It’s more dramatic than it is flattering, because a shorter hemline would highlight her legs more and a shorter jacket would highlight her waist more.  So she’s not too concerned with how people see her, but she’s definitely not hiding.

She’s not taking this photo session very seriously.  It looks like she’s trying to do the YMCA dance and misspelling it.

High Powered Nerd

She’s got more tailored separates going on for this look, juxtaposed against the informality and nerdiness of her Star Wars tee.  It’s like she wanted to wear the t-shirt, but realized she need to go to work, so she threw on a blazer to make it seem more business-appropriate.  The blazer and fitted trousers just draw more attention to her t-shirt, because it’s the only colorful aspect of the outfit.

It looks like she likes sci-fi and wants to let everybody know that about her.  The outfit and her stance in this photo make her look confident.  The blazer gives the impression of competence and the heels improve her posture.  The whole look says, “I may be a geek, but don’t underestimate me.”


This outfit looks happy, cute, and relaxed.  But what gives us those impressions?  The happiness factor mainly comes from the bright splash of sunshine yellow.  Colors are emotional and yellow signals HAPPY to our brains.  The hat and dotted shirt almost have a childlike look to them, which reads cute.  The jeans and flat boots look comfortable and the pose looks natural, which gives the whole outfit a relaxed feeling.  If the person wearing the clothes looks uncomfortable, it’s almost impossible to think of those clothes as comfortable.

The wearer sells the outfit.  Cool girls make the uncoolest of clothes look cool.  You know the kind of girl I’m talking about – they walk into a room wearing culotte overalls over a baggy sweater and you start thinking about where to find some culotte overalls.  Relaxed girls make their clothes look comfortable, beautiful women make their clothes look gorgeous, funny girls make their clothes look quirky.  The more personality you have, the more personality your clothes have.


This is a simple look, but it gives the feeling of somebody who’s ready to go.  Maybe on a road trip, maybe on a hike, maybe on a small and spontaneous adventure.  That plaid flannel lulls you into a sense of outdoorsiness, whether real or imaginary.  The boots have a weathered patina, but did they come from the store that way?  Or did the wearer earn that distressed finish?  It’s hard to know.

You know those guys in airports?  The ones wearing charcoal suits and black leather shoes, wheeling tiny luggage, and speaking importantly into headsets?  Sometimes you hear snippets of the conversation.  Things like “Brian is still getting up to speed, so I’m having to pick up the slack” and “When I get back, let’s go over the paperwork.”  Wouldn’t you be shocked if those guys WEREN’T going on business trips?  It’s hard for my brain to imagine any other situation for them to be in.  It’s not just the suit and the leather shoes.  It’s the aura of busy-busy-business that they carry around with them.

Some clothes act as a uniform for particular situations.  Like gym clothes.  Or yoga pants.  They are literally NAMED for the situation they are normally found in.  If you’re walking around in gym clothes, you have the air of I’m-just-on-the-way-to-the-gym.  Little Black Dresses are uniforms for any occasion that’s dressy, but not TOO dressy.  Buttondowns and slacks are interview outfits.

People project intention.  Clothes have a ton to do with that.  Want to look responsible?  Dress like a responsible person.  Wear a blazer and slacks and pumps and a blouse and look that interviewer in the eye and speak with good diction.  Are you scared inside?  Absolutely.  But that doesn’t matter right now.  What matters is trying your best to get a job.  Want everybody to leave you alone?  You can wear a shirt that has GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE printed on the front.  Or you can wear facial expression that says that same thing, but with a couple expletives thrown in.  You’ll get the same results.

Personality Personified

When people say that I’m a character, I take that as a high compliment.  I want to be a character.  I want to be interesting and unique and I want my clothes to reflect that.  When I put together my outfits, I don’t copy anybody.  They’re an expression of my intention, my situation, my faith, my finances, my taste, what I love, and what I don’t.

Wherever I go, there I am, but that doesn’t mean I stay the same.  I don’t have to uncritically accept myself as a finished product.  There’s room for improvement and there’s time to improve.  I’m a different person than I was ten years ago and my clothes definitely reflect that.  What will I look like in another ten years?


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


Ashley Tries 2017 Fall Fashion Trends

This week was all about the challenge of translating high fashion trends to wearable fashion.  Most of the time, I’m not very concerned about whether I’m on trend on not, so this week pushed me out of my comfort zone.  I decided to take each trend as far as I felt like I could go, while still maintaining some level of dignity and professionalism.  So if you see something I’m trying and think, “That’s cool, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable in that outfit,” remember that you can take individual elements and make them work for you.  I’m pushing each outfit to its limit (and past some of my limits), but you don’t have to.

Magnificent Western

The first trend I took on was this year’s take on the Old West.  I think Maria Grazia Chiuri’s resort collection for Dior (on location in the high desert) was the year’s best example of mythic western meets haute couture.  It has elements of spaghetti westerns, Victoriana, a whole lot of The Magnificent Seven, even a little steampunk.  Epic.

2017 Trends: Magnificent Western

I tried not to go too literal with it, because I didn’t want people to look at me and think Rodeo.  I didn’t wear jeans or a bandana or fringe – it was more about the feeling that it gave me and the image it gave off to other people.


The base layer is a black dress that I don’t wear that often, but I should.  It’s my go-to choir concert dress.  It has long sleeves, a hem that hits below the knee, and a collar.  On its own, it ages me.  Combined with a tailored tweed vest and boots, the older-looking elements of the dress become features.  I tied on a scarf to give a little bit of color and pattern and give the idea of a bandana without being that literal.  The leather jacket added another tough element to an already tough ensemble, but the scarf and dress kept it from being armor.  It’s a mix of soft, worn material and tough, worn leather.  The important thing is that it all looks functional and lived-in.

The whole ensemble pleased me.  It turned out better than I thought it would.  This is my favorite style that I tried this week.  If you want to incorporate a few western elements into your fall wardrobe, here are a few things that would look great:

The Warm Fuzzies

It’s all about fleecy-furry-fuzzy things this fall.  I’m always happy to hear that comfy things are in style, because I LOVE COMFY.  I borrowed my sister’s vest for this one, because I actually don’t own much faux fur (or I do, but it hasn’t come out of the winter box yet and I can’t remember it).

This style is fun and meant to be playful.  A faux fur jacket can make an entire outfit look more glam.  If it is bright pink, all the better!  I went with muted tones for this look, but bright faux fur is really popular right now.

SO COMFY.  I want to steal my sister’s vest now.  I should just get my own.

Fuzziness doesn’t always have to be in a vest or a jacket form.  A furry scarf or hat always looks great.  I’ve seen sweaters with faux fur elements (sleeves or panels or collars) and those are super fun.  Here are a few more ways to bring fur into your life:

Textiles and Proportion

This look ticked quite a few trend boxes and it definitely felt a little over the top.  But I’m here to go big or go home.  Here are some of the trends:

Oversized jacket, strong shoulders, belted at the waist.  CHECK.

Velvet.  CHECK.

Plaid / check patterns.  CHECK.

Earthy browns and grays.  CHECK.

This look started with the brown check shirt that I borrowed from a friend.  Plaids and checks are back in a big way.  This is good news for the Pacific Northwest, where plaid is a way of life.  If you don’t own plaid already, be on the lookout for plaid and check material in muted colors and earth tones.  Think 1970s, because that’s another huge trend right now.

Wool and tweed and velvet and fur continue to hold our attention (very luxurious).  Be on the lookout for wool coats and sweaters at thrift stores.  Look in the men’s and women’s section and if you find a coat in a larger size, belt it at the waist to give it some shape and visual interest.  Wide belts are back.  I used to wear wide belts all the time, but I dragged them out and all my wide belts look like they belong to women who run pirate cruises.  Pretty hideous.  TIME TO UPGRADE.  I’m going to invest in a belt this fall.  A grown up belt.

I threw on knee socks and oxfords, because they went with the vibe, but I think it was a mistake.  They kept me warm, so I’ll wear knee socks again, but not with such a busy outfit.

Silver and Fall Florals

Silver is the new metallic in town.  I love metallics.  I have a pair of dull silver oxford shoes that I wear with everything, but I don’t have any silver clothes, so I borrowed a sweater from my sister for this day.  It’s gray with metallic threads running through it, so it’s pretty subtle.

I wear florals all year round anyway, so I’m delighted that floral prints are trending this season.  If you don’t usually wear florals, start small.  Try a scarf or a pair of shoes.  In the fall and winter, I usually stick to prints with darker backgrounds and richer colors.  If I go for a pastel print in the fall, I’ll pair it with brown or navy to give it some depth.

Silver adds a great spark.  Here are some ideas for how to add it in:

And here are some retro floral prints that would look great going into fall:


Fashion Activism

Fashion is always politically charged, but this year has been pouring out high voltage. Culturally, there have been two collections that defined this year.  When we look back at 2017, I think we’re going to remember Gucci’s spring show and Dior’s statement t-shirt.

2017 Trends: Gucci Eccentricity


2017 Trends: Fashion Activism

2017 Trends: Fashion Activism by beetlescarab on Polyvore

Gucci has been having quite the year.  Instead of having separate runway shows for men and women, they had a co-ed show with men and women walking together.  The whole aesthetic was very feminine, including the men’s looks.  There was a persistent butterfly theme that represented transfiguration.  The message was pretty clear – their future is female and men will become more feminine, until they are almost indistinguishable from women.  The worship of women has begun.  Dior’s “We Should All Be Feminists” t-shirt is saying the same thing, but in a more straightforward way.

I tried to mimic the Gucci aesthetic on Friday.  This was the most difficult day, because I fundamentally disagreed with the whole idea they were working with.  It’s like they took all the stereotypical feminine elements of clothes and put them into a blender.  Flowers and butterflies and embroidery and lace and pink and bows and bright colors all over the place.  Some of the pieces are gorgeous, but they are swallowed by the chaos.  This look was hard to pull off, because I didn’t feel like myself.  The outfit felt chaotic and forced.

There are some beautiful elements in Gucci’s style, so it has a strange draw for me (strange being the operative word).  But I don’t want to be drawn in by it.  I’m a woman and I don’t want to be worshiped or put on a pedestal or lifted up as some shining example.  That’s a good way to get a warped perspective or get destroyed.  I don’t want other people forced to be like just like me.  That’s crazy.  I don’t want society to be so scared of masculinity that we remove all trace of it and replace it with femininity.  We need true masculinity and true femininity, which is so far beyond throwing bows and lace and makeup all together.

If you don’t think about fashion, start thinking about it.  What is it saying about you?  What is it saying about the culture you live in?  Don’t write it off as unimportant.  If we keep letting other people dress us, our clothes will keep saying whatever they want to say.  So make sure you understand what they are saying.

Ashley Tries Costuming A Play!

Dance Party


I have very specific bucket list items, but I also accept generalizations of those items.  For example, my bucket list includes “Design and create costumes for an outdoor production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest” and “Drink limoncello on a balcony overlooking the Adriatic” – that kind of thing.  But I check off aspects of each one as well, because anything included in those items counts for something.  Seeing an outdoor Shakespeare play, drinking limoncello, wearing a linen dress, looking at the ocean from a balcony – those still count.  I think they actually count more for day-to-day life than the detailed and perhaps-perhaps-perhaps items.  But I am checking off a major part of that first one, because I got the opportunity to costume a play!  (Not that I am ruling out costuming The Tempest.  I will never rule it out.)
It was a summer play with a small cast and an accelerated rehearsal timeline – a month and a half from start of rehearsals to performance, and they needed a costume manager.  The thought of being in charge of all the costumes for a production was daunting, but I knew I wanted to costume a play at some point, and this seemed like a good opportunity to give it try!
I didn’t have to design and create any of the costumes from scratch, which was a relief, because my sewing skills are pretty rusty.  I’ve hemmed more trousers and cuffs in this last four weeks than I have for the past four years. There was a good costume collection to draw from, so it was all about compiling and accessorizing and tailoring.  It felt like a mix between a mom planning all the clothes for a multiple day trip with a family of ten and curating a vintage clothing display.
Once I agreed to be in charge of costumes, I had to get to know the story and the characters in it, because the purpose of costumes is to advance the plot by telling you more about each character.  Costumes are character development.  And if the costumes look great, it’s a bonus!
The Play:  Over The Moon (based on a P. G. Wodehouse novel)
Where:  New York City
When:  Springtime of 1927
Cast:  6 men, 4 women (all adults)
With that in mind (especially the time period), I started marking up my script.  As each character entered the story, I tried to imagine what they would be wearing.  What time of day is it?  Are they staying at home or going out?  Are they young or old?  Is this character concerned about money and position?  What is his job?  What does she want out of life?
Started with ideas, then went on to the specifics.  Does the character move around a lot?  (If so, focus on looser costumes.)  Do they have quick costume changes?  (If so, keep the outfit simple to take on and off.  Ditch the buckled shoes and button-back dresses.)  Once the cast is in place, you have to keep each cast member’s size and coloring in mind as well.
Once I had a vision (and a 1927-centric Pinterest board), I went to explore the costume collection.  I had a couple of afternoons where I just got to putter around and look at everything and pull whatever I wanted.  SO MUCH FUN.  I know that doesn’t sound super fun to most people, but I love details and colors and fabric.  Spending hours on my own looking at costumes is never a hardship.  What I had available shaped my general vision into a more specific vision.
Some things I learned:  Some details are for the audience and some are for the actors.  Audience details are obvious – sleeve lengths, bold prints, sparkles, contrasting colors, glasses, suspenders, hats, SPARKLES.  Some details are for the actors – the subtle details that you don’t see unless you are up close.  Back in the days of black and white movies, costume designers were asked why they used colors in the design, when the colors didn’t show up in the movie.  They said it was for the actors – an actress will act differently in a red dress than in a black dress.  Costumes inform performances.
Here are some of my favorite details from this show:





Another thing I learned is that there’s a difference between what you like and what’s right for the show.  News flash, I know.  But it’s really tempting to fall in love with a vision and stick with it, even if it doesn’t match up with a character or with the story.
When it comes down to it, choose the piece that has the most personality.  Like these hats – I loved this little cream number with the bow, because it’s cute and tiny and simple.  The straw hat is big and loud and covered in holes, but it has so much more personality.  It took me more time to like it, but now I love it.


I learned a ton through this experience.  I learned that it’s a ton of work to work through the entire process from vision to execution.  It requires a lot of organization and communication and more bossiness than I have.  I also learned that I’m bad at men’s sizing – I can generally tell a woman’s size, but men’s sizes are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.  If I costume another play, I am just going to take detailed measurements at the beginning of the process.
Come see the play!  Sweat, tears, planning, painting, lighting, accessorizing, and MUCH hemming has gone into this play.  The actors have memorized an entire play just for you! Welcome to New York City, circa 1927.

In Betweenness



When I was little, we had The Wind in the Willows on tape.  Almost every night, my sisters and I went to sleep listening to Mr. Mole abandoning his whitewashing and escaping his underground burrow to obey the call of spring.  I heard this description from Kenneth Grahame so many times, it has become the way I think about waiting for a new season:  “Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.”
Right now, I am longing for spring.  I catch glimpses of it – a warmer breeze, patches of green under the snow, longer days.  But the snow keeps falling and my heart falls with it.  How do you handle the space between what you have and what you want?
This doesn’t just apply to waiting for spring (I’m not ignoring my California and Texas friends).  This can apply to any in-between/transitional stage.  The exercise-and-eating-better stage between the size you are and the size you want to be.  The waiting stage between the job interview and finding out whether you got the job.  The last quarter before school ends. The last trimester of your pregnancy.  My personal least-favorite is when I know that I want a change, but I don’t know what exactly I want.  I looked up the definition of ennui (a wonderfully descriptive French word) -it is defined as “a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.”  Yup.  That sounds about right.
The irony is that the Divine Discontent & Longing stage isn’t a great time to make big decisions, because any change seems like a good change.  Save the major changes for a moment when you aren’t going slightly mad.  The “don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry” principle applies here.  An emotional decision feels good at the time, but it doesn’t always have the best long-term result.  Wait until a more content moment and make a disciplined decision.  I know you don’t like any of your clothes right now, but don’t throw out your entire wardrobe.  You end up with no clothes.  It’s easy to want to get rid of things, to tear things down, to run away to something else – but it’s a good time to build, to learn, to be creative.
Here are some ways to fight the onset of ennui during those waiting days:
1.  Rediscover your favorite things.  Turn on great music you haven’t listened to in a while, look through your closet, and find a few items that have great memories associated with them.  Happy memories fuel us.  A special piece is almost like wearing a Patronus charm.  I have a special place in my heart for clothes that I bought traveling, because they transport me back to where I was when I bought them.  Inherited clothes are also really special.  I have some beautiful necklaces and clothes from my grandmas.  Clothes are emotional, because they are so personal.  After my wonderful Grandaddy Leonard passed away, all the grandchildren helped go through his clothes and it was a perfect time to remember his everyday life.  I took one of his sweatshirts – it doesn’t look like much, but it reminds me of him and there’s love and comfort in it.
2. Change your perspective by trying something new.  Be bold.  I get to February/March and I’ve been wearing my winter clothes for so long, I need to change it up.  I start mixing the patterns I’ve never mixed, I start layering shirts over dresses, I try to change the shapes of my clothes by belting, I wear boots to get through the snow and then change into fun shoes when I get to work…. I’ve never dyed my hair, but this is always the point in the year where I start thinking about it.  If you want to try a new wardrobe without buying it, swap some clothes with a friend – chances are good that they want to try something new as well!  This isn’t clothes-related, but going somewhere new can be great for gaining some perspective.  Clear a Saturday and go find somewhere new.  It doesn’t have to be far away, just out of your ordinary routine.  Adventure is a good tonic.
3.  Moneyball it.  This is a phrase I use all the time when I’m talking about clothes, but I realize that it doesn’t make sense to anybody else.  I’ll try to explain – it probably still won’t make sense, but here goes.  In the movie Moneyball, the manager of a baseball team loses a star player and decides to not to replace him with another star player that has all the same strengths, but to replace him with a group of players.  In the aggregate, their strengths add up to the strengths of that star.  Have you been inspired by an outfit recently?  Using what you’ve got, try to replicate what you want.  It’s a really fun exercise, because it forces you to be creative.  Like peplum tops?  Create that look by layering a short top or cardigan over a longer top, then knotting or belting the short top at your natural waist.
4.  Wear bright colors.  When it’s gray outside, I need the contrast.  I’m a contrarian by nature.  I wear bright colors in the winter, because everything neutral outside (black, white, gray, brown).  I don’t feel as much need for bright colors in the summer – I’m happy to just wear a black tank and jean shorts.  When I really want spring, I start wearing a mix of spring and winter clothes (I still have to be warm enough).  I’ll wear a navy sweater, a bright floral skirt, tights, and boots.  A pastel sweater with my jeans.  A spring dress over a long-sleeved t-shirt.  Anything that adds spice and variety.
5.  Try different accessories.  This is another great thing to team up with a friend on – swap scarves or necklaces or earrings.  I’ve been alternating between two pairs of boots all winter (because snow), and sometimes I bring cute shoes to change into for the office, because I’m tired of the boots.  If my outfit is boring me, but there’s nothing really wrong with it, I’ll put on some crazy shoes or some big earrings (like my sneakers with spikes – I love those).  I have strange jewelry tastes – I either wear tiny stud earrings or costume jewelry that can be seen from space.  All that to say, I’m not great at accessorizing, but I know that changing up accessories can make a difference in how your clothes feel.
6.  Make something.  This is another point that isn’t about clothes, but creating something can really help turn around a listless mood.  Draw a picture.  Sing a song.  Do some sit ups.  Find a recipe that sounds delicious and make it (and have a glass of wine while you cook).  Write down a little story.  Start a blog and share something that you’re interested in (and find out everything that makes you insecure and terrified along the way – like being insecure about stating your opinions in public and terrified of writing….awkward).  Make tea and invite a friend over and then make some good conversation.  Make a list and check things off.
7.  Anticipate and prepare for what you want.  Start planning for what you want and do something about it.  Do you want to be a smaller size?  Time to start an exercise regime and start being more conscious about what you eat.  Longing for spring?  Get daffodils and tulips and scatter them around your house.  Start spring cleaning.  Use that wanting to do good things.  Want to travel?  Start saving up and plan your trip.  In the meantime, find somewhere close by to explore and learn more about.  If you get good at having adventures here, you’ll be great at adventures when you go overseas.  If you feel listless and don’t know exactly what you want, FIND OUT WHAT YOU WANT.  That’s the fun part.  Maybe Step 6 (The Making of All the Thinges) will help you figure out things that you want to get better at.  Don’t just bear with the in-between times – use the in-between times.  Invest your time and make it worthwhile.
Come on, spring.  I’m ready for you.