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!
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.
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! 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!
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
After the last post and my rash offer to try anything fashiony, I got one request for overalls. Maybe later. If I find a great pair of overalls, I guarantee I will post about it.
Another question that came was how to style pieces that are either oversized or have a lot of material and volume. Oversize Everything was one of the defining trends to come out of New York Fashion Week this year (big trench coats, wide-leg trousers, volume-on-volume-on-volume), so voluminous clothing will be in our fashion futures.
For this episode of Ashley Tries, I set myself a mini challenge: choose a different voluminous piece every day and style it up. I didn’t realize this challenge would lead to the entirely different challenge of photographing those outfits. This is my first outfit photography attempt, so forgive me in advance for the messiness. Here goes!
Monday, First (Failed) Attempt:
The first morning, I decided to style my wide-leg trousers from Loft. They are great trousers – soft, a nice neutral green color, good fit, good length. The only problem is that they require the right styling, because they have a lot of volume in the leg. I usually go for looser on top and skinnier through the leg, so I have to reverse my formula to style with wide leg trousers. The first attempt was with a boatneck navy t-shirt and a striped blazer. It was a complete fail – the color scheme was nice, but the fit was all wrong. The blazer is a little boxy, so it looked like I was wide through the leg, wide through waist, wide through the bust, wide through the shoulder. Wide all over. Then the high neck on the tee just smothered me in fabric. I was covered cloth from my clavicles to my toes. First lesson: Proportion is everything.
Monday, Second (More Successful) Attempt:
I kept the green trousers (because they were the reason for the outfit), but ditched everything else. After being smothered by that boatneck, I wanted a fitted top with a v-neck. I picked out a black and white print top in a wrap style. Some great things about the wrap top fit are the deep-v neckline, cinched waist, and fitted shoulders. This is one of those shirts that requires a camisole, but it’s totally worth it. Showing more skin at the neck made the whole outfit seem lighter and drew attention up to my face. Since the shirt had a defined waist, I didn’t have to tuck the shirt in, but that’s another option for getting the right proportions. The print added visual interest, but the print wasn’t as important as the fit for this outfit. I topped it with a black blazer that fit well at the shoulders and waist, to keep the top half streamlined. When I wear wide-leg trousers, I want all the height I can get, so I wore heels with this outfit. Actually, wearing heels became a steady theme throughout the week. I’m 5′ 3″, so getting overwhelmed is my biggest danger with oversized clothes. A Public Service Announcement to all you short women out there – don’t assume you can’t wear stuff. It’s all about the fit. Don’t be afraid to try shapes that are unfamiliar to you. Switching one thing out can add some Oomph to your closet.
This is a very poofy skirt. The picture doesn’t show you just how poofy this skirt is. It’s a heavy-duty little number I picked up at a Goodwill a while back. Made from rows of embroidered elastic fabric all stitched together, this baby can stand up on its own. The shape makes it tricky to put together an outfit. I started off with a black v-neck tee that I could tuck in, because having a defined waist is really important to pulling off this look. But I don’t like just having a tucked in shirt, because it tugs and scroonches and works its way up and twists around. So I tuck in the tee, but layer a light and bright cardigan over it. That way it’s obvious that the shirt is tucked in, but you can’t see much of it. It was cold that day, so I chose a jean jacket that hit at the waist. Any longer and the skirt would have been poofing the jacket out like an umbrella. Because cold, I wore black tights and black heels – matching tights and heels is a great way to give the legs a little more length. Second lesson: Where things hit is just as important as how they fit. This outfit works because the layers hit at the waist and the skirt ends just above the knee, so my waist and legs are highlighted. This is why I like three-quarter sleeves (I like my forearms), knee-length skirts (I like my calves), and dresses that hit at my natural waist (showing that I’m curvy while still leaving so much to the imagination).
I bought this shirt in Mexico and it is one of my favorite things – I’ve included a close-up on the embroidery, because IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL AND I LOVE IT. Also, these colors give me life. They remind me that there sunshine somewhere on this planet. It’s a beautiful one-size-fits-all tent. To balance out the volume, I paired it with skinny jeans and heels. The black cardigan has some nice weight to it and fits well through the shoulders, so it slimmed down the shoulders and was a nice frame for the embroidered top. Third Lesson: If you love something, make it the focus. It’s okay for everything else to be in supporting roles. You can balance out bright colors with neutrals, but be conscious of the neutrals – if I wear white jeans with this top, it would look like a summer beach party. Darker colors help ground it.
For the last official day, I decided to go big – a maxi dress with a big old sweater. I found this dress at Ross a few years ago and it just made me happy. It’s a subtle ombré – the top is pale blue and it fades out into white – putting it on is like traveling through a cloud layer into a clear sky. A loose maxi dress only has to fit through the shoulders. If the shoulders fit, everything else can float away from the body. The cardigan has been a favorite as well – it also has an ombré effect from the different mixes of yarn and a fantastic drape. The shoulders fit and everything else drapes. Fourth lesson: Volume is dramatic. Wearing oversized clothes does not deflect attention – it attracts attention. It’s possible to do volume on volume as long as you don’t get swallowed up by the clothes. Height helps with not disappearing into a sea of fabric, so heels are your friend if you are short (like me). I felt cool all day in this outfit, because it was a statement. It was immediately noticeable, without trying too hard.
I wore an oversize t-shirt and jeans and flats on Friday, but I spilled coffee on the shirt and it is in the laundry. Imagine that it looked cute and effortless, okay? Maybe it didn’t, but it felt easy and comfortable. A nice outfit for a busy day.
I enjoyed the week, because I got to wear some clothes that take a bit more effort to style. Challenges help me be creative and conscious of what I wear. It also introduced me to outfit photography. I am such a newbie, but I’m going to keep working on it and challenge myself in that way as well! Is there something you want me to try? Comment and let me know. Thanks for reading. I appreciate all of you!
One of the fun things about being an amateur fashionista is that people occasionally ask me for advice about clothes. You can’t even imagine how tickled I am when people message and ask how to dress for a new stage of life or how put together an interview outfit or if I can help them pick out their wedding dress. Yes yes yes yes yes. I feel like I’ve gotten a reputation for knowing about clothes just because I won’t shut up about it and by being okay with wearing strange combinations of things. So far it’s really paid off, because people keep asking me questions on a subject that I want to think about anyway!
The other day I got a question from a friend asking whether it was a fashion crime to wear jeans under dresses. I sent off my preliminary thoughts right away, but I decided to go one step farther. I’m using the question as an excuse to kick off a question-based series called Ashley Tries X. Send me a question about a tricky trend – is anybody else confused by this culotte renaissance? Or send a question about that one piece in your closet that never gets worn, because it doesn’t play well with the rest of your clothes and you don’t know how to style it. Ask about fashion crimes. Ask away! My fate is in your hands.
So here’s the story on my dress + trousers day:
Friday morning, I was getting ready for work in my ordinary morning haze. I honestly think the Morning Haze has more to do with my fashion sense than anything else. It’s easy to make bold choices when you are half asleep. And I don’t like strong light when I first wake up. This leads to crazy color combinations, because everything matches in the dark. Anyways, as I sifted through my t-shirts and jeans, I discovered a knit leopard-print dress in the same drawer. Finding it mixed in with all the trousers and shirts reminded me of my friend’s question about layering dresses and jeans. My morning-muddled mind asked WHY NOT?
So I layered the knit dress over skinny military-green trousers and added a jean jacket. I didn’t wear jeans, because my jacket was already denim and it seemed redundant. (It probably would have looked better with jeans and a different jacket, but I’ll take that into consideration for next time.) This decision took about two minutes, because I was hungry.
This was not my first time at the dress-over-jeans rodeo. Babydoll dresses over flares used to be my scene circa 2005 to 2010. It was fun. It was playful. The dresses were MADE to be worn over jeans. It was the water I swam in. I think that’s one of the reasons I felt super young in this combo – it kicked my memories back to a more Lizzie McGuire age. Young and informal – not un-cute, but I didn’t feel grown up.
During the day, I was very conscious of the outfit’s proportions. (…If the dress was a little bit shorter, it would be better…..if the jeans were tighter at the ankle, it would be better….) So if you want to try this, make sure to use your most fitted jeans – the tighter the better. To look modern, the jeans should be taking the place of leggings or tights. Don’t wear a pair of jeans that makes the dress look lumpy at the ankle or at the waist. The green trousers I wore fit me great from the calves up, but they get a little bunchy toward the ankles. The problem was that the dress covered up the places where they fit well and highlighted the places where the fit wasn’t great.
But there were definitely parts of the combination that I enjoyed – Friday was a crazy weather day and as I walked outside, the updrafts were pulling a Marilyn Monroe on my skirt. It was almost impossible to hold down all the points of a skater skirt when the wind has different plans. So I held down that skirt the best I could, but it was comforting to have something more substantial than tights to keep me covered! The skirt is fairly short, so I would normally wear the dress with tights or leggings, but it’s nice to have another option as well.
It was an interesting balancing act between how I act in a dress and how I act in jeans. I enjoyed the mobility and ease of not having to worry about my skirt riding up, and I would find myself not being as careful sitting down or leaning over. But then I would remember that I had a dress on and cross my legs like a lady. Again, I felt really young – I remember being little and wearing a dress meant you had sit up and cross your legs and be careful and not turn all the way upside down on the monkey bars. But I’m grown up now – I’ve learned how to handle dresses and I really like dresses. It’s second nature now.
It made me realize that I carry myself differently when I’m wearing a dress. Then when jeans enter the equation and the dress takes the place of a long top, it’s a little confusing to know how to behave in it. I came to the conclusion that even with the added coverage, if you’re wearing a dress, wear it like a dress. Don’t put things in your pockets. Don’t sit with your legs open. Behave like a woman, not a kid – which may seem like a no-brainer, but I had to remind myself more than I thought I would.
Conclusion: I would wear a dress over trousers again, but not with the same clothing combo. For this layering to work, the proportions are the most important part. I didn’t think about how my trousers fit at the ankles until I got to work and then I noticed it all the time. I wouldn’t wear it on a day when I have to be in charge of something or need to do something very adult (like file taxes or go to the DMV), because it made me feel young and informal. But there was a certain ease to it that I really enjoyed and I loved how different it was.
Who should try this: I know some women who feel really uncomfortable in dresses, because they feel like they have no range of motion. This would be a fun idea for them to try, because it gives them the security of wearing jeans, but adds the option of cute and comfy dresses. It would also be great for the moms who tell me, “If I wear a dress, my kids are just going to pull it up and hide under the skirt!” If they are worried about wearing dresses, because they don’t want to accidentally flash everybody, this could lessen that worry It’s also a great way to combine clothes you haven’t worn in a while – that slightly-too-short dress in a great print will pair nicely with those slightly-too-tight jeans that you still love. I’m not going to rock it every day, but on a blustery day or a I’m-in-the-Mood-for-Something-Different day, I think the dress-over-jeans will ride again.
Comment if you have any ideas for what I should try next!