Ashley Tries Hygge

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

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

Hygge

 

 

Day 1

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

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

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

Day 2

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

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

Day 3

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

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

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

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

Day 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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:

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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

Sweet

 

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.

Costumes & Someone Else’s Story

Beatrice
What’s the difference between clothes and costumes?  It’s a good question to ask around Halloween (one of the more socially acceptable times to wear costumes around town).  The distinction isn’t between normal and fantastical, because some costumes look like normal clothes and some clothes can look other-worldy or bizarre or fantastically beautiful.  In a performance, costumes are designed to tell stories.  So is the distinction between clothes that tell stories and clothes that don’t?  I’d argue no.
All clothes tell stories, but the difference comes with the story.  Your clothes tell your story.  Costumes tell somebody else’s story.
A helpful experiment is to switch your point of view and pretend to be a costume designer.  This is a happy game for me.  Ever since I was little, costume designer has been at the top of my list of Jobs I Want When I Grow Up.  This is the same list as the glamorous jazz singer… and the Indiana-Jones-but-a-girl museum archivist….and the unflappable secret agent (or all of those in some kind of combination). But clothes came first.  I’ve been obsessed with fashion and costumes for as long as I remember.  Around age 12, I started checking out design history books from the library and studying costume design, focusing on Hollywood from the 1930s to the 1960s and all the famous costumers (Adrian, Orry-Kelly, Cecil Beaton, Edith Head, the list goes on).  Weird hobby, I know.
Once you look from a costumer’s point of view, it’s hard to stop.  I didn’t realize how much I did, until last year, when I went to a local production of Romeo and Juliet and spent most of the play mentally redesigning all the costumes.  Permission to geek out a little bit?
In my dream production of Romeo and Juliet, the set, lighting, and costume design would be centered around two lines.  There’s that one line that everybody knows from the balcony scene, when Romeo asks, “What light from yonder window breaks?  It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”  The second comes from Friar Lawrence in Act II, “These violent delights have violent ends/ And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,/ Which as they kiss consume…”  Juliet is the rising sun.  Juliet is a consuming fire.  Costume design will help illustrate the arc of Juliet, from the first quiet sunbeams to the scorching destruction of her zenith.
The very beginning of the play would be in shades of gray, because Juliet (the sun) hasn’t appeared yet.  There wouldn’t be color until the moment Romeo sees Juliet at the party.  That moment is dawn.  After that, nothing can stop the sun’s rising.  As soon as Romeo and Juliet meet, it’s the equivalent of a ticking time bomb – that’s what the friar means when he says they are fire and gunpowder.   Juliet would enter in sunshine yellow – a color that connotes youth, innocence, energy, friendliness.  Romeo plays the moon, the counterpart to Juliet as the sun – he would wear shades of gray when he is by himself, because the moon produces no light by itself, it only borrows light from the sun.  When he is with Juliet, his costumes start showing hints of white, because he reflects her light.  By their wedding day, Juliet’s color would deepen to a bright gold and Romeo’s colors would lighten to gray and white – it is their mid-morning.  Then the seeds of violence from the beginning of the play start to sprout and the death counts start escalating.  Romeo is exiled and separated from his light source – he returns to his gray clothes.  During his exile, Juliet grows in resolve and passion – her clothes start showing tinges of red, like flame edges.  At the beginning of the play, she’s the first cool rays of dawn, but by the time Romeo returns from exile, she’s the scorching heat of summer.  She’d burn down the whole world to be with him.  The sun has terrifying power – it’s 93 million miles away and that still seems too close when it beats down at midday.  The play ends at high noon- the height of her beautiful, but destructive power.  She ends in flame red, he ends in black.  Their ending is the explosion that Friar Lawrence anticipated from the beginning – when fire and gunpowder kiss, they are both consumed.
That came from two lines of text and it’s just an example of how much thought goes into designing a world.  A costume designer has to know their characters.  The more detailed the character analysis, the more the costume can tell us.  What do the characters love?  What do they want?  What scares them?  Where do they come from?  How much money do they have?  What colors speak to them?  What secrets are they hiding?  When we’re watching a movie or a play, we agree to play along.  Without our imagination filling in the gaps, it doesn’t work.  The first time we see the main character, we subconsciously fill in their backstory before they say their first line.  That has everything to do with costume storytelling. We invest in those characters for two and a half hours and figure them out by every decision they make – what they decide to say, what they decide to do, what they put on in the morning.
We are used to this judgement process in a movie setting, because that is part of the game.  But how does it work in real life?  We usually try to fight against that impulse. We are told we shouldn’t form opinions based on appearances – don’t judge a book by its cover.  Why not?  When I meet somebody new, they are a puzzle to me.  If I care about them at all, I will invest some thought into finding out who they are.  Unlike the movie character, they didn’t spring into existence when I walked into the room.  They have a real backstory, not one that I assume or make up.  You can never ask all the right questions to get to know somebody, but you can know a lot about somebody by their reactions and their choices.  Be observant and pay attention to people.  Be interested in the real stories around you.  That girl who is taking your order leads a parallel life to you.  Unlike Juliet, she exists all the time.  Juliet exists (very dramatically) for three hours at a time.  So pay her the compliment of wondering about her and her story.  Try to figure out a little bit about who she is.
When we say “don’t judge on appearances”, I think we mainly just don’t want other people judging us.  I know that’s the case for me.  This blog post has worked me over, because I took a step back and asked, “If there was a character who dressed like me in a movie, what would I think about them?”  I didn’t like it.  I cried.  But as long as it teaches you something, don’t avoid it just because it’s hard.
Two big questions to start with:  what does this person love?  What does she fear?  Based on Ashley’s clothes, I’d say that she loves colors and interesting prints and textures and is enthusiastic about her interests.  She loves other people, but she doesn’t get too entangled in other people’s stories.  She doesn’t dress to attract guys, but she’s not dressing to repel them either.  In the movie, she’s the observer, the romantically neutral character – the protagonist’s best friend or an eccentric coworker.  Her main fear is being overlooked and ignored. Being invisible. Her bright colors are to avoid fading into the background.  She wants to be noticed on her own terms – as an interesting person with a sense of humor and things to say.  She’s just scared that nobody cares enough to ask.
So judge by appearances.  Don’t rely on people telling you everything.  Be willing to invest in the lifetime pursuit of learning about people. Make guesses.  Be genuinely interested.  Figure out what they love.  Figure out what they fear.  Just be willing to figure yourself out at the same time.