Fit, Part 1: Tops and Dresses

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Since fit is so important and so tricky, I’m going to take a couple of weeks to talk through what to look for and how to make clothes fit better.  What kind of clothes do you find most difficult to fit?  I can tell where most of my fit difficulties lie, because I steer away from clothes that are difficult to fit and require an inordinate amount of effort.  Taking an honest look at my clothes, I tend to gravitate towards tops and dresses, because I can find a fit that I like fairly easily.  Trousers, skirts, and shoes are more difficult to find, so I have fewer of them.  I wear my favorite jeans until friction reduces them to shreds.  My shoes fall into two camps: worn thin or like new, because I wear my comfortable shoes all the time and uncomfortable (but oh so pretty) pairs very rarely.

Now, this isn’t to say that all tops and dresses fit me.  Oh heck NO.  I just have a better grasp of which tops and dresses look best on me and I can see possibilities while they are still on the hanger.  But probably the main reason for fit issues is how my weight fluctuates.  If I gain weight, I tend to gain around my stomach area, so jeans and skirts will fit me differently at different seasons, while my top half remains fairly consistent.

That’s why I’ve decided to split this fit discussion into a couple of different posts – Tops/Dresses this week and Trousers/Skirts next week.  (If you have any specific requests about trousers and skirts, please let me know during the week, so I can address them next Saturday!)  I may make accessories into a separate post as well, so this may be a three week miniseries.  I should end this post on a cliffhanger, so you can’t wait to see what happens next!

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These are the fit areas for tops, ranked by importance:

  1. Shoulders
  2. Chest
  3. Natural waist

Let’s break this down a little bit, because a list on its own doesn’t take us very far.

SHOULDERS

If your top or dress only fits you in place, it should be through the shoulders.  Examples of styles that fit only at the shoulders:  trapeze dresses, tunic tops, swing tops and dresses, smocks… the list goes on.  Here are a few visual examples:

 

In a miniature heat wave, the fewer points of contact between me and my clothes, the better.  A lightweight swing dress is one of my summer staples, not because it is cute, but because of how practical it is.  (It can also be cute.  Cute and practical – best of both worlds.)

How to tell if the shoulders fit:

  • The back is not pulling and creating lines across the shoulderblades.  If there are stretch lines across the shoulder blades, that is an easy way to see that a top is too tight.
  • The neckline lays properly.  Like the back of the shirt, the neckline shouldn’t be pulling into a different shape.  I don’t my v-necks turning into u-necks.  The opposite can also be a problem – I don’t want my neckline flopping around, falling off my shoulders, or gaping.
  • The sleeve seams hit near your shoulder joints.  If the seams hit well outside the shoulders, the top or dress will look oversized.  Oversized tops are a very fashiony thing right now, so you will often find extra-wide shoulder seams for effect.  Just know that a very oversized top will need to be balanced out with a slim cut on the bottom (skinny jeans, etc.)

The nice thing is that the most important area to fit is not the trickiest.  If the shoulder seams hit your shoulders and the neckline is laying nicely (not pulling or flapping), you’re probably good for shoulders.

CHEST

Closely following the importance of shoulder fit is chest fit.  I have been very blessed in the chest department and my goal is always balance – not too tight, not too loose.  That balance is a very tricky thing and still one that I have a hard time working with.

I’d be remiss in my duty if I didn’t mention bras at this point.  I won’t go into detail, but if your bra doesn’t fit correctly, tops will not look right, even if they technically fit.  If you are having a very difficult time finding tops and dresses, go get a fitting and find a couple of good bras.  It will help.  Trust me on this one.  The clothes you already have will fit better and the clothes you try on will automatically look better.

The wrong chest fit is the main cause of the common shirt tragedy that is GAPPING.  I gave up on buttondown shirts for a while, because if the shirt fit my shoulders, it did not fit my chest (and vice versa).  Recently, I’ve come across a few buttondown topsthat were designed with curves in mind and actually fit.  Color me shocked!  The unicorn tops are out there – the ones that fit through the shoulders and the chest.  Gapping is the main reason I’ve never been very into shirt dresses.  I think they are adorable, but unless the dress fits perfectly at every point, the gaps will take over and run wild.  I’m not giving up hope on a perfect shirt dress, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.  (Mainly because if I hold my breath, the gapping gets worse.)

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One note while we’re on finding a good fit through the chest – sleeve length is super important.  Wherever sleeves end, they create a visual line across the torso.  This holds true for the necklines and hemlines as well, which is why I tend to stay away from boatnecks and crewnecks, which create a solid line from shoulder to shoulder.  A v-neck or a scoop neck breaks up that visual line and doesn’t draw as much attention to the width.  If a sleeve hits at an unflattering point, but everything else on the top fits well, try rolling up the sleeves and pinning them in place.  It can change the whole look.

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NATURAL WAIST

We are getting into the bonus categories now – the Nice To Haves, rather than the Need To Haves.  If a top fits through your shoulders, chest, AND natural waist without any alterations necessary, you’ve found yourself a unicorn.  If it is within your budget, snag it.

Where is the natural waist?  It is the narrowest point between the chest and the hips.  For most women, it is near the base of the rib cage.  I have a long torso, but a pretty high natural waist.  I try to highlight my natural waist, because it gives the illusion that my legs are longer than they actually are.  Every little bit helps when you have legs as short as mine.  True story.

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This black and white top has beautiful construction – every line and fold and twist leads the eye to the natural waist.  This is one of those rare finds that fits everywhere – shoulders, chest, waist, and hips.  As far as fit goes, this is my favorite shirt.  I wish this shape came in every color and every print.  I’d happily have five of this shirt.

Dresses are more likely to accentuate the waist.  If you have a dress that doesn’t, there are simple ways to change that.  Belting is a good option.  (Here I reference every episode of What Not To Wear.)

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This dress fits through the shoulders and then floats out from there.  To add some more fit, all I had to do was add a thin belt.  It made a big difference in how people perceived the dress – I got a lot more comments on the overall style (“What a cute dress!”),and with the dress unbelted, I got a more comments on the shiny fabric and how comfy the dress looked.  All it needed was a little shape!

Ways to emphasize the waist:

  • Choose a skirt or trousers that hits at the waist, then tuck in or knot the top.  That can give a loose top some needed structure.
  • Layer up – a jacket that buttons at the waist will give a structured hourglass effect.
  • Belts – they do the trick.  I’ll admit I’m not that into belts, but I’ll deal with that more next week.
  • As far as alterations go, taking in the sides of a shirt is as about as easy as alterations get.  Turn the shirt inside out, try it on, safety pin the sides, then use a sewing machine or hand sew the sides.  Minimal tailoring skills required and the results are so rewarding.

If you have other questions about fit, write me and let me know and I’ll try to address them during this series!

I came across some of my old fashion sketches the other day, including this one, a copy of an antique fashion illustration:

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The dress is beautiful, but it also makes me grateful that I don’t have to wear a corset every day!  My clothing issues don’t include struggling for breath or having my spine rearranged.  We’ve gained comfort and a whole new set of fashion issues, but it’s always good to approach the new fashion issues with gratitude.  Clothing is a gift to mankind, but we as humans are very good at perceiving gifts as rights, and then turning rights into complaints.  So if I ever start to complain about how clothes don’t fit right, please remind me that I could have much more challenging fashion problems.

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Ashley and the Allure of Minimalism

I’m not a very organized person.  Fortunately, my life is pretty simple.  I go to work Monday through Friday, spend Saturday doing the things that I haven’t gotten to Monday through Friday, and go to church and rest on Sunday.  It may seem ridiculously simple, but it’s nonstop.  The things that I didn’t get to today will crowd into tomorrow and tomorrow already has plenty in it.

I don’t consciously form routines, but I get used to things really quickly.  This can be good or bad. Not much bothers me.  I moved into my house in November and I’m just now finding places to put all my things.  And not having enough storage makes me frustrated with the things I own and makes me want to purge.

When there’s a lot of chaos, I start thinking about Minimalism.  It’s an alluring concept.  Keeping only the most beautiful, the most useful, the happiest of items.  Streamlining life. Creating an atmosphere of simplicity and tranquility.  Does that sound amazing?  It always sounds amazing to me.  But I also know that for me it would be a reaction away from something else – minimalism as an act of frustration.

My stuff isn’t the problem.  My bad attitude towards what I own is the problem.  That also seems ridiculously simple, but it’s usually not the first conclusion I come to.  When there is a pile of clothes on a chair (because there isn’t room in the closet), the clothes are not being insubordinate and stubborn.  Even if there isn’t a pile of clothes on the chair, there’s always going to be something that isn’t perfect.

Life is complex and chaotic.  It isn’t a bad idea to build your home into a haven of peace, but the peace needs to start internally.  If I start with the externals and ignore the unrest in my soul, a minimal Scandinavian design aesthetic won’t calm me down.

I tried outfits inspired by minimalism this week – neutral colors, simple designs.  Here are a few things I learned through the week:

  • I really missed my bright colors.  A bright print top with jeans takes just as much effort as a black t-shirt and jeans, but it makes a big difference in how I feel.
  • I found myself accessorizing more than usual.  If I’m rushing out the door, which is pretty much every day, earrings are my last priority.  But this week, earrings became a much higher priority, because they seemed to make my outfits more interesting and complete.

  • I kept hoping that simple clothes would make my life more simple.  I’ve heard about “decision fatigue” and how cutting down on the amount of decisions you make frees up your brain to make other decisions.  But I still had to make clothes decisions (i.e. do these jeans make my rear look good / does this top need a camisole / do I need a jacket), so it didn’t noticeably simplify my life.
  • This was a tired and emotional week for me.  I’ve recently taken on more hours and more responsibilities at work and I think it caught up with me.  The change was welcome, because I really love my job!  But I’ve been struggling a little bit to try and re-balance everything around the edges.  (Including the daily outfit pictures and this blog.)
  • I just bought two Ikea cabinets and I CAN PUT ALL MY CLOTHES AWAY AT THE SAME TIME.  Life is good.  If your stuff is too big for your space, find some more space or give away some of your stuff.  I should have done this months ago.

  • I love my little black dress.  It’s comfy and pretty and simply the best.  I want to wear it every day.
  • I realized I want to take a summer vacation from the blog while I figure out how to re-balance everything.  I’ll write next week, but there will be blog silence for about a month.  Don’t worry – Ashley Tries will try again.  This blog has been so good for me and all the feedback has been amazing.  A huge thank you to every single one of you who reads these posts.  I appreciate you!
  • It’s okay for life to be complicated as long as my soul is simple.  If I’m trusting God, it doesn’t matter what life throws at me.  As long as my attitude towards what I own is gratitude and not frustration, it’s a good place to start.

Dignity

This is a request post – a friend asked me my thoughts on dressing in a dignified manner. What a great question!  Clothes are real and practical, but they are also the manifestation of our ideas.  Dignity, honor, and clothing are all closely connected, but we can get so caught up in the practical that we don’t consider the ideals that shape us and our clothing.

This isn’t going to be in an Ashley Tries format, because it was hard to get up every morning, look for clothes, and think, “I’m going to be DIGNIFIED today.”  Any success that happened was partial at best.  But it was a definitely a good exercise, because it forced me to think outside my normal questions:  Which clothes are clean?  Does that top fit well right now?  Does this print top need black jeans to balance it out?  This week the questions shifted to broader questions:  How would my coworkers describe this outfit?  Is this outfit unquestionably appropriate?  Do I look like a woman, not a little girl?  As it turns out, the broader questions are harder to answer, because they encompass all the practical questions and then add perception and standards on top of that already substantial question pile.

I don’t know why it felt so pretentious to ask myself whether my outfit was “dignified” or not, but it really did.  Probably because I don’t think of myself as a dignified person – I think of myself as a funny, slightly clumsy, sometimes stressed, usually happy person.  I assign the term “dignified” to awe-inspiring people who are older and wiser and calmer than I am.  But I’m thirty and I don’t believe in putting off being an adult, so it’s good to think beyond what clothes are cute and start thinking about what clothes reflect the woman I want to be.

One of the most common verses that comes up when you look up dignity in the Bible is Proverbs 31:25 – “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”  That’s striking and beautiful image, isn’t it?  It’s a good verse to remember when the future feels like NO LAUGHING MATTER.  In Job 40:9-10 (ESV), the Lord asks Job, “Have you an arm like God? and can you thunder with a voice like His?  Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; cloth yourself with glory and splendor.”  In Esther, the king asks what “honor or dignity” has been bestowed on Mordecai for saving the king’s life (Esther 6:3) and the part of the honor that gives Mordecai is to dress him in royal robes.  All of these verses speak about dignity as something that can be bestowed and put on.  It has weight and it can be seen by other people.

We were born wanting honor, but we mess up in how we seek after it and we mess up in how we think it comes to us.  We understand there is a link between clothing and honor, which is one of the reasons that clothes are so important to us.  The bride on her wedding day, the graduation robe, the uncharacteristically professional interview suit, mourning black at a funeral – these all have built-in significance and backstory, but everything we put on has a backstory.  Usually it isn’t as obvious as a wedding dress, but we all know that some clothes have more dignity or honor than others.  But as I said earlier, we can really mess up what we consider honorable.  Attention is not the same as honor.  Approval does not equal dignity.  We’ll settle for acceptance if we can’t get the honor we really want, because all it takes to gain acceptance is to find a group with the same blind spots.  If nobody likes your posts, do you feel unlovely?  Disappointed?  Alone?  That’s an indication that you’re really seeking after the approval of others.  It has nothing to do with strength, dignity, or laughing at the the days to come.  Don’t settle for counterfeit dignity.

A couple of practical applications

  • Even though I wasn’t certain about what outfits were dignified this week, I knew that I could control how appropriate my outfits were this week.  I avoided the the skirt that’s two inches too short when I sit down, the neckline that needs attention whenever I lean over, the jeans that are just a *little* bit too tight.  I aimed for appropriate to the point of boring.  It was a comfortable way to live, because I didn’t have any worry hanging around my clothes choices this week.
  • There’s dignity in dressing for your age and your stage of life.  In an age of perpetual adolescence, it’s beautiful to see a respectable woman in respectable clothes.  I don’t want people to think I’m twenty.  I’m thirty.  I should be leaning into responsibility, not running away from it.  My first impulse is to run away from responsibility and when it’s given to me, I immediately freak out.  That isn’t mature of me and it’s an area where I need to routinely confess sin and fight against my first instincts.  For all the moms out there, it’s just fine to look like a mom.  There’s a ridiculous amount of pressure on moms to get back to where they were “pre-baby”, but everything changes post-baby and it’s a beautiful thing!  Moms, you are amazing.  You have an amazing job and it is fine to wear clothes that are appropriate for it.  Don’t feel like you need to apologize for looking like a mom.  That would be like me apologizing for looking like a data analyst.
  • Shame shouldn’t be our default.  Shame is the opposite of dignity and it should never be where we live.  Shame can be a powerful driver, because the point of shame is to drive us away from our sin and to God and forgiveness.  It is not a good place to settle down and build a house.  If shame isn’t driving us to God, it’s driving us somewhere else.  Shame can drive to self-loathing or self-aggrandizement, to hatred of others or idolatry of others.  Get out of there.
  • I want to be clothed in dignity.  I want honor.  That might seem completely obvious, but it’s not something I admit very often, even to myself.  Because it’s “easier” to stay as I am right now.  It’s “easier” to be whiny and petulant.  It’s “easier” to live without the burden of responsibility.  It’s “easier” to stay #Relatable and celebrate my flaws and my fails.  It’s definitely easier to be worried about the days to come than to laugh at them.  I’m afraid of failing.  But going back to the idea of confidence, God is on my side.  Why should I be afraid of anything?  When I die, I want to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  Why do I hold onto things that aren’t easier in the long run?

All that to say, I don’t know what dignified looks like on me, but I want to grow into it.  I know what it looks like on other people.  There’s dignity in honest work, in kindness, in formality, in reverence, and in loving God with everything I have and everything I make.

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.

Canceled.

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.

Ashley Tries Dressing Like Cities

Last week’s post was very practical, so I decided to push myself creatively this week.  Being creative helps me get excited and getting excited helps me write posts, so here we go!

My challenge this week was to style looks inspired by different cities.  Beauty standards and styles differ drastically from place to place, so if you feel like your style could use a change of scene, choose a city and go for a different look!

Seoul

I will occasionally get very into South Korean television shows.  Netflix knows this all too well, which is why “Emotional East Asian Dramedies” shows up as a suggested category.  The fun thing is how completely different they are.  Different stories, different styles, different responses – it’s an escape to a different place.

To describe South Korean style without using the word cute is almost impossible.  It is almost too cute to believe.  The lead actresses in Korean TV shows are tiny and short and perfectly adorable.  Smooth hair, flawless skin, pink lips.  They don’t try to look grown up.  They’ll wear sneakers and oversized sweaters and bows and pink and short skirts and patterned tights.  Sometimes all at the same time.

I felt super cute in this look.  The leggings helped the skirt (which is definitely on the short side) feel secure and acceptable.  The white lace top gave the look femininity and layering the lace over a striped tee made it feel young.  I wore my bowler hat to give the whole look a bit more punch and added light shoes to brighten up the color scheme.

New York City

New York, Paris, and Milan are the world’s fashion capitals, but they all have different styles.  NYC style is aggressive and sleek and edgy.  New Yorkers love black and denim.  I don’t have any black heels right now, but black heels or black ankle boots would have really added to this look.

This style is all about having quality pieces that become staples, then adding an interesting piece.  A statement coat, killer shoes, or a designer bag plus all black basics – that is how it’s done.  It’s versatile, works for day or night, and relies more on the personality of the wearer than on the personality of the clothes.  This is style for confident people who know who they are.

Barcelona

For Barcelona style, I was inspired by the colors and structure of the city itself, especially the architecture of Antoni Gaudí.  His buildings are all curves and roughness and colorful mosaics.  Layers and layers and layers.

To mimic Gaudi’s crazy mosaics, I started off with a printed floral dress.  For an unexpected layer, I layered a denim shirt dress over the floral.  With a cinched belt, the shirt dress functioned as a kind of trench coat.  A classic look, but with unusual materials.  The ensemble felt eccentric, artistic, colorful, but grounded.  Red lipstick needed to happen with this one.  I

I loved wearing this outfit.  Layers on layers, full of texture and personality.

London

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London!  Of the four inspiration cities this week, this is the only one I’ve actually visited and this outfit is definitely the one that I want to wear over and over again.  It suited me.

When I listen to interviews with shining examples of London style, the common theme is always a fear of looking like they tried too hard.  There’s a certain kind of messy mix that just looks cool.  The British love their traditional textiles (knits, tweeds, bouclé wool, leather).  Tweed blazers with jeans and leather brogues.  Fisherman knit sweaters with corduroy mini skirts.  Hair shouldn’t look done, even if it takes a long time to make it look undone.  If you do eyeliner, smudge it up.

For this look, I started with a black turtleneck and tweedy skirt.  Ribbed gray tights for texture and warmth.  Jean jacket to make the whole thing a little more casual (and to not look like I tried to hard).  Smudgy eyeliner, hair allowed to do its own thing.  Scuffy leather oxford shoes and a gray morning.  Very London.

If you want add variety to your outfits, choose a place that inspires you and put together an outfit that reminds you of that place.  It is a ton of fun.  This week made me excited to get dressed in the mornings!

Ashley Plans to Go Adventuring

The air has gotten cooler and clearer.  The sunshine is no longer oppressive.  The sky has darkened slightly.  Summer is scootching over and making room for autumn.

I love Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows always, but certain chapters stick out to me at different times.  The chapter for this time of year is called “Wayfarers All”, when all the birds are getting ready to migrate for the winter.  This is the beginning:  “The Water Rat was restless, and he did not exactly know why.  To all appearances the summer’s pomp was still at fullest height, and rowans were reddening, and the woods were dashed here and there with a tawny fierceness, yet light and warmth and colour were still present in undiminished measure, clean of any chilly premonition of the passing year.  But the constant chorus of the orchards and hedges had shrunk to a casual evensong from a few yet unwearied performers; the robin was beginning to assert himself once more; and there was a feeling in the air of change and departure.”

That’s it.  Nothing looks very different, but everything feels different.  Summer is beautiful, but summer doesn’t make me want to run away and explore and change and have adventures.  To use another Wind in the Willows quote, autumn fills me with a “spirit of divine discontent” and that’s where I am right now.  Ready to drop everything and run away.

Monday

This week started with an eclipse – how amazing is THAT?  I didn’t experience the total eclipse, but the moon covered around 94% of the sun.  The light dimmed darker and darker and the air went cold and the ambient noise died down.  I don’t pay attention to the tiny insect clicks and bird coughs until they stop.  It moved me.  Our planet relies on a fireball that is 93,000,000 miles away.  We are so fragile, yet so self-important.  That’s what I loved about the eclipse.  We aren’t awestruck as often as we should be.  It’s good to feel very small and very finite.  Pride does not become us.  Humility makes mankind more beautiful.

That being said, I don’t think this is a very successful outfit.  But I enjoyed the sequins on the shirt, because I’m like a magpie.  I like shiny things.  The cardigan and oxford shoes made me feel like a character in a steampunk adventure.  Am I a drama queen?  Maybe a tad…

Monday Night

I spent that evening with friends.  We sat on top of a dry hill, surrounded by insect hums and dry grass cracklings.  The sun went down and sucked all the color towards itself, until it sputtered on the skyline like a barely functional neon sign.  The air smelled like change and movement.  The neon sun eventually went out entirely and the colors dispersed.  Stars pricked through the fabric of the sky.  Quietness and an open sky are good for me.  It’s easy to lose perspective and get caught up in my tiny comings and goings and my own story.

Tuesday

I like this outfit.  These pants are simple black jeans, but some kind designer added a tuxedo stripe to the side.  That makes them so much cooler.  They’re like dressy Han Solo pants now.  Black ballet flats and a tweedy top layered over a longer black t-shirt.  It looked dressy without trying too hard.

Since I’ve been in Change Everything mode, I made a haircut appointment.  I love haircuts.  I’ve never had a haircut I didn’t like.  It’s possible that OTHER people didn’t like them, but I liked all of them….

I like to feel cute BEFORE I get the haircut (makeup done, a good outfit, etc.), because that really makes the haircut look even better.  I never want to leave the salon still feeling like the Before in a Before and After comparison in an advertisement.  I want to look like the After picture.

Have you noticed how EVERYTHING changes in the After picture?  There’s always the thing the ad wants to highlight (usually dramatic weight loss), but the Before picture is taken in the least flattering clothes and the least flattering light, from the absolute worst angle.  The After picture has the same woman at a great angle, immaculate hair and makeup and a killer outfit, standing in the glow of perfect lighting.  It’s usually because we want everything to change when we change one thing about ourselves.  Sometimes we want a change, but we have remember that one change doesn’t change everything.  This isn’t Roman Holiday.  But haircuts are lovely.  I highly recommend them.

Wednesday

This is the happy smile of a woman with a new haircut.  New hair is the ultimate accessory.  Especially for a woman who struggles to remember to wear earrings.

I love the day after a haircut – my hair still smells amazing, because of the magic potions that the hairstylist puts on my hairs.  It also still has a little bit of styling left, so I don’t even brush it.

Jean and a t-shirt and metallic shoes.  No need to complicate things.


Thursday

I wanted to see how the hair reacted to air-drying.  The results pleased me – it has a lot of personality and movement.

This outfit is very-much-so Me.  It’s kooky, but still practical.  It’s a mix of a little old lady and little kid.  Really bright, but grounded with neutrals.  It’s an outfit that doesn’t really care about what other people think.  Who doesn’t love a Hawaiian shirt?

Friday

This is my favorite outfit from this week.  I think of it as genteel rock and roll, like those rock songs with random flute, cello, or harpsichord solos in the middle.  Wild Thing comes to mind, as does Stairway to Heaven.

Pattern mixing, skinny jeans, some happy messiness to the hair – that’s all this takes.

I’m off on an adventure next week, because I’m flying to Provence!  I may post next week, but I’ll be gone for a while.  Don’t worry – I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.  See you later, folks!  I’m in the mood to fly away.