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.

Ashley Tries French Girl Style

Americans tend to idealize French style, because it sums up what we want – natural beauty, effortless  cool, mystery, allure.  Je ne sais quoi translates to “I know not what” – it’s that thing you can’t put your finger on, the thing that can’t be nailed down to 5 Easy Steps, that something that your coolest friend has.  Not just confidence, not just physical beauty, but an indefinable draw.  Cards on the table, I can’t really try that on.  It is beyond me.  But there are aspects of French style that I love and I am traveling to the south of France in the fall, so I am definitely in the mood to give it a try!

Day 1:  Classic Separates

Black-and-white striped top, black skirt, black flats.  Pretty classic.  For this week, I tried to go by Coco Chanel’s rule of “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”  I tried to simplify each outfit.  If an accessory didn’t have an impact, I didn’t wear it.  Even with the simplest outfit, there are ways to give it personality and make it unique.

I decided to wear my glasses, because glasses are an accessory with an immediate impact.  They have the ability to completely change a look.  It’s very French to work with what you’ve got.  What makes you look like you?  Glasses betray that I have a weakness – I’m genuinely nearsighted.  But that weakness is a part of who I am and what makes me me.  I like my glasses, because they help me see and I like how they look.  We don’t have to look physically perfect.  Beauty isn’t pretending we have no weak points.  Beauty is simultaneously telling the truth and concealing the truth.  Being honest and keeping secrets.

The shirt has a boxy fit, so I tied it up and changed the shape to suit me.  French women know how to wear clothes well.  They don’t let clothes wear them.  They will alter the clothes and make sure everything fits.


Day 2:  Favorite Dress

Your lifestyle affects what you wear.  One major logistical aspect of French style is that French women walk everywhere – it’s something that they take into consideration.  It’s about a thirty minute walk from my house to where I work, so I decided to walk to work one day and pick a cute outfit that would stand up to it.

A few thoughts that went through my head during the picking process:

  • It needs to be comfortable for the whole day – not just for walking, but for work as well.  The outfit needs to be multi-functional, because athletic clothes would be very comfortable for walking, but inappropriate in a professional context.  No matter how comfy sweatpants are, they would make me uncomfortable at work.
  • It needs to be cool and breathable.  Otherwise, I will arrive at work a complete sweaty mess.  It’s hard to maintain a cool and mysterious aura when completely drenched.
  • Shoes.  I can’t walk very far in heels.  Even comfy ones.  French women can, but I know my limits.  Flats, then.

Going by that criteria, I picked out one of my favorite dresses.  It was one that I actually wore a lot when I was in France.  Stretch jersey, a neutral print, a couple of details (ruffle sleeves, tie waist), and a great fit.  Light enough to keep me cool all day, pretty enough to make me happy all day.  That’s why it is one of my all time favorites.

I only had accessories that helped me out.  Sunglasses – pink ones that make me think of la vie en rose and that line in Sabrina (“Only in Paris, where the air is pink, does that song make sense.”)  Shoes – compact black Nike sneakers that transitioned well from the walk to the office.  I’ve heard the NEVER WEAR SNEAKERS IN EUROPE advice a lot, but it really depends on the sneakers.

The walk was wonderful.  Contemplative, unhurried, a good time for sorting through thoughts and planning out the day.  Appreciating often-overlooked processes is a beautiful part of French life.  Enjoying meals and making the meals, enjoying the process of getting ready, enjoying walking to work and walking back home from work.  In The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a wise fox tells the little prince about the importance of ritual:

“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the fox.  “If, for example, you come four o’clock in the afternoon, then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances.  At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about.  I shall show you how happy I am!  But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you… One must observe the proper rites…”

“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.

“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox.  “They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours.”

There are sweet rhythms and rituals to life – enjoy them and make them into something beautiful.



Day 3:  Covered/Uncovered

French style is sexy.  Undeniable fact.  But it’s more complicated than a see-up, see-down, see-through sexy.  It’s a mix of covered and uncovered.  It’s the allure of having a secret.  On a date, you probably don’t want the whole restaurant and your date to have the same reaction to your outfit.  A sliver of shoulder that only your date can see is just as alluring and has the added allure of mystery.  To quote The Little Prince again, “It’s only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”  There’s always more to be discovered.

I wanted to create a low-key mix with this covered/uncovered feel.  The color scheme was neutral again, but the lovely light neutrals that you see all over France in the summertime.  French women love their neutrals, but they also dress seasonally.  Black in the winter, cream and navy in the summer.  Black might make an appearance in a linen summer dress, but it isn’t the predominant color scheme.

For this look, I chose a cream lace shirt and layered it over a gray camisole.  I love this top – it combines the sheerness of the lace with a very classic shape (high neck, short sleeves, a structured fit).  I wanted to wear linen at some point this week, so I brought out my tan linen shorts.  They are loose and comfortable, with a natural ease to them.  Mushroom-colored heels that cover the foot finished off the ensemble.

I didn’t wear any eye makeup on that day – not even mascara.  I wanted all the focus to be on the lips, so I put on foundation, then mixed red and bright pink lipstick for a really bright lip.  The whole look made me feel very beautiful.


Day 4:  Denim Dress and Dizziness

This day wasn’t much of a clothes day, because I got to work and immediately started feeling sick and dizzy.  So I came home and got into pajamas.  But before the pajamas, I wore a new favorite dress – an oversized denim shirt dress that is the perfect blank canvas for bold accessories.

Spikey shoes and hammered silver earrings and a textured ponytail.  Mascara and eyeliner.  Cool look.  But when you feel sick, you just don’t care.

When I get sick, I get dizzy and faint.  Then I get scared to drive, because I am afraid of passing out and crashing and generally being a danger to myself and others.  It’s best for everyone if I just get back into bed and sleep until I feel not sick.  Kind of a waste of an outfit, but again – I just didn’t care at that point.

Day 5:  Femininity

After spending Thursday in bed, I got up on Friday and felt like a new woman.  To celebrate, I put on one of my prettiest dresses.  It’s an ultra-feminine little number in a blue and white floral pattern, with a fit that makes the world a better place.

For all my confidence, I kind of steer away from this dress, because it’s so girly and pretty.  Just writing that down makes it sound stupid, but it’s the truth.  It’s easier to wear something quirky/interesting and be the person in the background.  This dress gets noticed.

In movie costuming terms, this is a romantic lead outfit, not a quirky best friend outfit.  Maybe that is part of the indefinable beauty of French women – maybe they naturally step into that lead role without thinking too hard about it.  I do tend to shy away from anything that seems romantic, because I’m perpetually single.  Sometimes it seems like a waste to wear pretty things, but it isn’t.  Life is short.  Wear the pretty things.  Wear them in celebration, wear them in confidence.

 

 

Ashley Tries Tee and Jeans

This was a busy week, so I wanted to simplify all my fashion decisions.  What could be simpler than starting every outfit with a t-shirt and jeans?  It’s a great blank canvas.

Day 1:  Fancy

I like to dress up a little bit on Mondays – it helps jumpstart the week.  I started off with an embellished black tee with some gather details and scattered embroidery.  It’s a swing shape, which means it fits through the shoulders then floats out from there.  Since the t-shirt was on the looser end, I picked out jeans in a fitted shape (to contrast with the looseness of the top) and in a dark wash (to keep the whole outfit feeling fancy).

I was much more aware of my shoe choices this week.  I tend to spend more time picking out my clothes, then grab shoes on my way out the door.  Since I themed my clothes with simplicity in mind this week, it gave me a little more time to think about shoes and accessories.

I went with some of my very fanciest shoes – black, gold, and cream heels that can easily overpower an outfit.  With jeans and a nice t-shirt, the shoes got to stand out in a good way.  Along with a simple gold chain necklace, that was the extent of my accessorizing, but the shoes pack a punch.  The complete outfit pleased me, because everything worked together and balanced out.  The shape of the jeans balanced out the shape of the top, the colors in the shoes mimicked the colors in the top.  It felt polished without any layering required.

Day 2:  Faded and Soft

Since I went for a more polished look on Monday, I wanted to focus on a soft, lived-in look for Tuesday.  The top has a breezy soft feel and a gray-and-white stripe woven into it.  It’s one of those rare, beautiful, and elusive creatures, the well-designed neutral tee.  If you see one of these creatures, capture it.

I picked soft, faded jeans and layered on a white jersey cardigan.  I wanted the outfit to feel like a flower that’s starting to fade, when the edges start curling and the petals soften.  My scuffy brown Oxford shoes and pale brown glasses kept everything in that same light neutral color palette.

The outfit was nice on its own, but it was an especially lovely background to highlight my favorite summer scarf.  There are a lot of colors on the scarf – the background is peachy pink and the foreground pattern is a bright blue and orangey red floral.  It was from a sidewalk sale in France and it’s one of my favorite things.  If there’s something you love to wear, create an outfit around it!

Day 3:  Pattern Mixing


A simple starting point doesn’t rule out a bold statement.  A green-based geometric print t-shirt and dark skinny jeans became the starting point for this outfit.  

The weather was chilly and rainy, so I needed another layer.  I love blazers – they take the same amount of effort as sweatshirts, but look way cooler.  So instead of a sweatshirt or a plain sweater or a jean jacket, I went for a print blazer.  

The print combination dazzled and disoriented the eye.  Pretty prismatic.  Bold to the point of foolhardy.  The only reason it kind of worked was the dark jeans and shoes.  I went for a bolder shape on the shoes- they have cutouts and peep toes, but they are black, so they didn’t add to the pattern craziness.  

I enjoyed this outfit – it didn’t feel like a typical t-shirt and jeans outfit, but it didn’t require extra effort.  It just required extra confidence.  It is easy to equate simple with safe or boring, but it doesn’t have to be either one!

Day 4:  Smiling Sushi


I found this smiling sushi shirt at the Salvation Army and I immediately loved it.  It has probably become obvious that I like some eccentric clothes… this one is pretty out there. But it fits great, it seems brand new, and it feels nice.  

Since the shirt was so different, I decided to opt out of the typical blue jeans, and go for a burgundy skinny jean.  They’ve actually been a very versatile pair of jeans for me.  I highly recommend a non-blue pair of jeans.  

This outfit was just a tee and jeans, but it lots of personality, thanks to the details and color.  Smiling sushi can make any day happier!

Day 5:  Layering on the happiness!


The aforementioned Salvation Army visit resulted in a lot of prints, including a button down shirt in a super-bright / bird-of-paradise / tropical print.  I adore a tropical print and they are very on trend right now – Dolce and Gabbana released a haute couture resort collection based around a custom tropical leaf print last year, etc.  

It’s a lot of print, so I kept it open and layered it over a black tee.  That breaks up the print and the black grounds all the bright colors. 

Dark ankle-length jeans and pointy black flats gave it a little 1960s vibe to me.  Like Gidget Goes Hawaiian or something.  

This week was a great palate cleanser – getting ready made easy!  I found myself focusing on one thing in the outfit (shoes or a scarf or a print).  The framework was all set up, then it was easy to infuse personality into the outfit.

Ashley Tries: The Fancies

I think we all have those things in our closet that seem too fancy to wear on an ordinary basis.  But are they?  I’ve heard of “dressing down” clothes, but does it actually work?  This week, I tried dressing down some of my harder-to-wear fancies and I was pretty happy with how it worked!

First fancy:  Sequin Top

I found this top at a consignment store and bought it because SPARKLES, but haven’t worn it that much, because sparkles.  But it is a good top – the fit is nice and it’s from Ann Taylor (therefore quality).  It definitely deserves to get worn more.  But how to wear a sparkle shirt to work and not feel overly dressed-up?  In this casual climate, Sparkly Top + Jeans + Heels = the dress code for Going Out For Cocktails With Girlfriends.  I wasn’t going out for cocktails.  I was going to work.  And jeans were still my best option, so I needed Flats.

At that point, I had sparkle top + jeans + flats, all solid colors and all dark.  So I either needed something bright or something print, to set off all the dark colors.  I was in more of a monochromatic mood, so I decided against a bold color and went for a bold print blazer in neutral colors.  So the outfit ended up being sparkle top + jeans + flats + print blazer.

It was a cool outfit – I felt like kinda rock-and-roll, like a bass player in an all girl rock band.  Not the lead singer, who would need a more attention-grabbing outfit, but a casually cool background musician.  Not trying too hard is the essence of cool.  I think the success of the outfit came down to the shoes.  If I had worn heels with this outfit, I would have been self-conscious about being too dressy.

My takeaway from this outfit:  If the outfit looks too much like a Going Out For Cocktails outfit, wear flats.  Also, I really like the mix of sparkles and print.  That’s pretty cool.

Second fancy:  Major Shoes

These shoes are a lot of shoe.  They have black and white and gold and straps and buckles and the things.  They are beautiful and intimidating, so I usually find myself going for another pair.  It’s like if you’re recording an album and you have to decide between a diva who is notoriously difficult and doesn’t play well with others, and a singer who is almost as good, takes direction well, and gets along with all the musicians.  It’s tempting to pick the solid singer and not deal with the diva.  Sometimes you don’t want the drama.

That’s how I feel about these shoes.  But they have so much going for them, I really should wear them more.  I didn’t want anything too matchy, so I tried to limit the black in this outfit.  That ruled out black pants, so I went for a pair of maroon skinny jeans.  That way I also didn’t have the blue jean problem of trying to figure out whether to go for a light, medium, or dark wash.  Because there are codes and standards and self-imposed rules that we believe about jeans.  Sometimes it is easier to bypass the blue jeans and all the arbitrary denim rules by choosing jeans in a completely different color.

I wanted some print, because that made the first outfit look pretty cool, so I grabbed a dark floral top.  Because everything was leaning towards dark colors, I decided against a black jacket (and a black jacket would have made it look more formal than I wanted).  A light grayish/tannish tweed jacket lightened up the whole look.  I really enjoyed this outfit and it reminded me of all the things I love about those crazy shoes.  I’m going to be more relaxed about what I wear them with and just use them the way I wear black pumps.  Don’t be afraid of the diva shoes – learn to enjoy the drama and don’t worry about it!

My takeaway from this outfit:  Your statement shoes probably go with more than you think!  Do you have fancy shoes left over from a wedding?  Give them another try.  Heels can literally (and figuratively) elevate an outfit.  Life is too short to afraid of your own shoes.

Third fancy: Velvet Skirt

Between the cranberry velvet and the satin cummerbund belt, this skirt falls squarely into the Christmas Party realm (especially if I paired it with the sequin top from that first outfit).  It looks so christmassy, it seems a little wrong to wear it in the springtime, but there isn’t any real reason not to wear it and velvet is very in right now.

The first decision I had to make was whether to tuck the shirt in.  NO.  It was a pretty easy decision, because I think the skirt waistband looks a little fussy and cummerbundish.  Also, there’s a random button.  Also, it is satin.  So it’s a hard no on the tucking in – the added benefit of untucked shirts is that it kicks the formality down a few notches.  I went for a black and white buttondown shirt that is loose and long, then added a green jacket a bit shorter than the shirt.  A shorter jacket cheats the eye into seeing a longer leg line and draws some attention to your waist.  I needed all the leg help I could get, because I wore flats with this one.

My takeaway from this outfit:  If you don’t like one aspect of a piece, cover it up.  Nobody needs to know that shirt has weird sleeves – wear a jacket.  Nobody needs to know how low the neckline is on that dress – wear a sweater on over it and pretend it’s a skirt.  Nobody knows and nobody cares.  It’s a comforting thought.

Bonus outfit:  Easter Shoes!

This one came before I set the challenge, but I loved pulling out the crazy bridesmaid shoes for Easter.  I hesitated, because I wasn’t sure whether they would match the tone of the dress and the jean jacket.  But I COULDN’T RESIST BECAUSE THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL.  That is all.  Check out all the crazy sparkles!

I enjoyed this week – it made me realize that I put some clothes into an arbitrary Wear Only For Special Occasions category.  And they don’t have to be off limits – it’s not like they are beaded ball gowns.  I feel like I got some of my clothes back.

Live boldly!  Wear your pretty things!  Enjoy the things you have while you have them.

Thanks for reading my blog – if you have anything you want me to try, let me know!

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.

Investment

Clothing Investments
As we start 2017, it’s a good time to think about wardrobe investments.  Some pieces are worth spending more money on, but with almost unlimited options out there, which ones fit best your budget and your life?  In this post, I’ll try to break down what makes a good investment piece and how to make good money decisions when you are shopping.  It always pays to be smart and disciplined!
There are a couple of things to factor into clothing decisions – the first one to consider is material cost.  Some clothes are expensive simply because they cost more to produce, but they can definitely be worth investing in, especially if they serve an important purpose in your wardrobe.  Wool, silk, leather, and other luxury materials cost more, but if you take care of them, they can last a lifetime.  You pay for quality.  Ask any knitter what it would cost to knit a full-size sweater out of quality wool – the yarn alone would probably be a couple hundred dollars, but you also have to factor in the time it took to make.  So usually the nicer the fabric and the better the workmanship, the more it costs.  But the reverse doesn’t always hold true – you can’t just assume that every expensive item of clothing must be good quality.  Sometimes it is just high-priced garbage.
The second concept to consider is cost per use  – to get an item’s cost per use, divide the initial cost by the number of times you wear that item.  This is all very well and good, you’ll say, but I’m not a prophet – how can I tell now how much I will use something in the future?  One way to figure out what you will wear most in the future is to figure out what you have worn the most in the past.  When you are investing in a piece, bring all your past experience to that purchase.  Here’s a great story from Emily Post circa 1945:
A very beautiful Chicago woman who is always perfectly dressed for every occasion has worked out the cost of her own clothes this way:  One a sheet of paper, thumb-tacked onto the inside of her closet door, she puts a complete typewritten list of her dresses and hats and the cost of each.  Every time she puts on a dress, she makes a pencil mark after its notation.  By and by, when a dress is discarded, she divides the cost of it by the number of times it has been worn.  In this way she finds out accurately which are her cheapest and which her most expensive clothes.  When getting new ones, she has the advantage of very valuable information, for she avoids the kind of dress that is seldom put on – which is a bigger handicap for the medium-sized allowance than many women realize.
When you are investing in a piece, bring all your past experience to that purchase.  Yes – your experience dressing your body gives you a perspective that nobody else has – every struggle to create an outfit before work, every outfit triumph, every body frustration, every “DANG – my rear looks good in these jeans”.  Take all that valuable knowledge and apply it.  I might be buying a wool coat soon – my usual modus operandi is to buy a really funky vintage wool coat at a thrift store or consignment shop and wear it until it falls apart.  But I’m an adult now and it will be good to have a nice wool coat, because in the long Idaho winters, that is the first (and sometimes only) thing people see.  But all my lovely funky thrift store coats have shown me what I need in an expensive coat.
1) The coat needs to have a collar, because I’ve had collarless coats before and you lose a surprising amount of heat from your neck.  I’m already cold enough.  I’m an expat Californian in the frozen north.
2)  It needs to have buttons – none of this open-front-with-a-belt business.  It looks pretty, but when the wind picks up, I want my coat to stay shut with me holding it on.
3)  It needs to be long enough to cover my rear.  My trousers can’t protect it all by themselves.  It needs an extra layer to keep it warm.
So those will be my coat requirements.  What requirements do you bring with you when you go shopping?  Which jeans do you love?  What kind of neckline draws attention to your face?  What sleeve length do you like?
A discussion of cost per use wouldn’t be complete without mentioning bras.  Bras make or break a wardrobe.  If your bra isn’t doing its job well, the rest of your clothes won’t fit right.  If you have never had a proper bra fitting or your size has changed, it is worth it to go get a fitting and a couple of nice brassieres.  They are worth the expense.  Trust me on this one.
I have also gotten to the point where I want to invest in nice shoes – this decision probably would have come sooner if I liked shoes.  But I’m stubborn and I don’t like shoes (probably because I don’t usually get good ones) and nice shoes are expensive…  But the truth is that bad shoes kill your back and can be treacherous in any weather.  Good shoes are a good investment for you and for your physical well-being.  Besides, if you buy a cheap pair of boots every winter, an quality pair that lasts for a long time will be cheaper in the long run.  A couple of thoughts – make sure to invest in the kind of shoes you wear the most.  If you always wear heels, invest in an excellent pair of heels.  If you always wear flats, choose a great pair of flats.  Choose a color that will go well with all of your clothes – if you need a visual reminder, take a picture of your closet and look for the dominant colors.
Imagine your closet is a garden filled with a mix of annuals and perennials.  Annuals need to be replaced every year – these are the inexpensive clothes that you can wear until they disintegrate.  They add color, variety, and punch. All trends and fashion experiments should live in this category until you have made up your mind firmly about them.  Perennials come back year after year, so they should be a delight.  Pulling out your wool coat and leather boots every winter should be as happy as the sight of the first crocus pushing through the snow.  Think about the things you wear the most – those are your candidates for perennials.  Do you wear jeans every day?  It is worth investing in a few nice pairs.  If you carry a purse every day (and odds are that you do), it might be worth looking for a beautiful one that makes a statement.  If you live a warm climate, look for fine cotton and linen.  If you live in the frozen north, look for wool and silk blends.
An investment purchase is not the time for experimentation or impulse buying.  Buy something you know you need, not something you feel like you might need.  If you can’t make up your mind, walk away.  Don’t shop desperate – the clothes can sense fear.  Be shrewd and patient.  Read the inside tags and figure out what that sweater is made of and how to take care of it.  Keep your eyes open in thrift stores and consignment shops and discount stores like Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls, and TJMaxx  – I recently found an Ann Taylor leather jacket in the Salvation Army for less than ten dollars (score!).  Look for things in the “wrong” season – boots are inexpensive in July and swimsuits are inexpensive in November.  Be observant and you can find quality for a great price.  Most importantly, love what you invest in – make sure that the color looks beautiful on you and the shape shows you off in the best way.