Ashley Tries Referential Dressing

It’s easy to overthink clothes, because clothes are so personal.  When I overthink, I tend to lose track of the obvious.  Have you ever been caught off guard by a ridiculously easy question?  Like when you’re at a party and you’re a little nervous and a lot stressed and a stranger asks you how many siblings you have and you panic and just start listing numbers?  I can get that way when people ask me what I like about clothes.  Then my mind goes blank.  What DO I like about clothes?  Um, You get arrested if you don’t wear them in public?……They’re an aspect of art and culture that nobody can “opt out” of?…..They are usually made of cloth??….Okay, okay.  STOP, Ashley.

There are lots of reasons to like clothes, but my reasons aren’t very complicated.  I like clothes because clothes are pretty and interesting and can make people look really good.  There doesn’t have to be a deep reason to be interested in clothes and our clothes don’t have to be separated from what we like in other parts of our lives.

If your house is simple and minimalist, white walls with gray accents, I’m guessing that your clothing tastes will veer toward simplicity and minimalism as well.  If your favorite songs are all by Elvis, I wouldn’t be surprised if your wardrobe has some vintage vibes going on.  I like all kinds of things and that shows up in my clothes.  I love prints that remind me of my mom’s blue-and-white china pattern.  I love colors that make me think of the ocean.  So this week, I tried dressing in clothes that reminded me of other things I love.

Day 1

I love classic children’s literature and I have a particular fondness for the characters who don’t quite fit in with the rest of the group at first, but grow into it.  Usually the funny side characters.  The little, strange, hilarious ones.  Some examples:

  • Beanie Robinson from Dog Friday by Hilary McKay.  I’ve probably already mentioned Beanie on this blog, but she’s so great, I’ll mention her again.  She’s six.  She named herself Beanie, because she thinks a bean pod seems like such a comfy place to live.  She wants to run a Bed and Breakfast when she grows up and my favorite part of the book is when she gets an opportunity to do just that.  That little girl saves the day in such a nonchalant way that want to be Beanie Robinson when I grow up.
  • Dorothea Callum from the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome, which are all about kids who camp and sail and have adventures around the Lake Country in England. Dorothea and her brother don’t show up until later in the series, so the main group has already been established and everybody has a role.  Dorothea wants to be a novelist and none of the kids really knows what to do with that at first, but she eventually becomes the one everybody looks to for ideas.  By the time The Big Six comes around, she uses everything she knows about mystery stories to solve a real crime.  She’s just the best.  (EXCUSE ME WHILE I RUN OFF AND READ ALL THE BOOKS WITH DOROTHEA IN THEM.)
  • Constance Contraire from The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.  This book is about about a group of kid spies who are put in charge of shutting down a plot to take over the world, but Constance is the least likely child spy of all time.  She’s tiny, weak, grumpy, sleepy, and spends most of the book insulting her other teammates.  Her character development is such a surprise that I’ll just let you read it.  On the spy entrance exam, one of the questions is “What is wrong with this statement?”  The correct answer is that it isn’t a statement, it’s a question.  But Constance’s answer was “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?”  That still cracks me up.

This outfit feels old-fashioned and young at the same time.  There’s something about the flats and the collar and the cardigan and the flowers on the shirt.  I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why it reminds me of some of my favorite fictional characters, but it definitely made me happy that day!

Day 2

I love westerns and there’s a western trend thing happening right now, but let’s face it, I’m never going to look like Steve McQueen in The Magnificent Seven.  That’s the tragic fact of it.

I bought these lovely fringed earrings last Saturday and they had a western vibe to them, so I decided to channel the kind of western I knew I could do.  That is a glam western.  A musical western.  A Calamity Jane or Annie Get Your Gun kind of western.  As it turns out, it’s way easier for me to channel Doris Day than to channel Steve McQueen.

I really loved this look.  It’s cute and practical and packs a punch.  Just like Calamity Jane.  If there’s a trend you love, but don’t think you can do, alter it until it suits you!  The trends aren’t the boss of you.

Day 3

I bought this gray top in France last fall and I’m so delighted it’s warm enough to wear it again!  It’s ruffled and voluminous and embellished and it has bell sleeves and is so all-out-feminine that it makes me think of a princess.  Given the chance, I’d dress like a princess every day.  The Child Within still casts a heavy vote and always votes in favor of MORE TWIRLY, PLEASE.

I wouldn’t want to wear a ball gown all the time.  That would be cumbersome and inconvenient.  But I love the idea of truly beautiful everyday clothes and I want to make it a thing.  Princesses in the woods are still princesses and they are still regal and beautiful in hard circumstances.  I always preferred Sleeping Beauty’s everyday clothes to her ballgown.  Probably because the pink-blue-pink-blue gown color change confused me as a child.  Anyway, I don’t know how I will make Princess a THING, but I really want it.  I think that’s why I started doing fashion in the first place.

Day 4

This look is based on one movie scene that shaped my aesthetics more than I can explain.

The movie is Disney’s The Three Caballeros and it’s truly bizarre.  But there’s one scene where there’s a little choo-choo train going through a jungle and the background is completely black and the jungle and the train bright saturated colors.  It was the first time I’d ever seen anything like that, with bright colors on a dark background, and boy did that ever speak to my soul.  The old comic, Krazy Kat, holds a special place in my heart for the same reason – the black skies and bright desert of Krazy Kat world strike a chord with me.

So to reference Mary Blaire’s 3 Caballeros artwork, I paired my brightest tropical print top with a black skirt and black shoes. It’s dramatic, but playful. It’s an everyday party.

Day 5

This one is easy. When I saw this romper, it made me think of a circus tent. And circuses remind me of summertime and popcorn and elephants.

I was so overjoyed about the first really warm day that I wanted to celebrate it! With shorts. But most of my shorts are very short. So this was an elevated short look that worked for the office. Win-win.

This was a fun challenge and it amplified all my happiness this week. If you are feeling a little bored with your outfits or just need some inspiration, take inspiration from things you love! What would your favorite book character pick out of your closet? What would an outfit based on toast with jam look like? What color reminds you of your favorite place?

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Ashley Tries to Give You Costume Ideas

First off – the only thing I like about Halloween is dressing up.  It is kind of like somebody who loves green getting excited about Saint Patrick’s Day.  I treat Halloween as a handy excuse to let my costume ideas run amok and take over. My mind has twenty ideas in it at any given moment, but they are all gone the next moment, so if you want a band name or a business name or a Twitter handle or a costume idea or an opinion on whatever, ask me. My friends know this, but usually they ask me what they should be for Halloween on the DAY OF and my thoughts haven’t filtered through yet and they all get that day’s batch of ideas. Since I have new batch of costume ideas every day, I decided to write this week’s ideas down just for you! (If you want band name, Twitter handle, or business name, just ask. There is a new batch every day. Every hour, really.  Then I forget them immediately.)

Day 1

This is a good little outfit as is – all black, but with fuzzy texture from the jacket and stripes to give it some visual interest.  When I asked people what kind of costume they thought it would be, I got great guesses:  mime, Catwoman, Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, cat burglar….

The great thing is that all those things are good ideas.  STEAL THOSE IDEAS IMMEDIATELY.  Cat burglars just need a mask over the eyes.  The Funny Face one needs a black turtleneck and white socks.  Mimes are unnerving to me, so I wouldn’t be one, but you can be if that’s what you want to be!

Anyway, my idea was that this looked kinda French to me, so I went for French Poodle.

I made myself a little dog tag that said Je m’appelle Fifi on it, attached it to a necklace, put my hair in ponytails (to look like poodle ears), and eyelinered my nose on.  I did pictures with and without the hat, because both ways worked.

I also did French Kiss.  That’s a little awkward, I know.  But it was super easy, because I just tried to make my outfit look stereotypically French,  then drew kisses all over my face in red lipstick.  It took two minutes and it’s a pun, but it’s a little awkward, so I’d go for poodle.

Day 2

I ended up really liking this outfit.  It was WAY more matchy matchy than I’d normally go.  I was at work before I realized my colors were mirror-imaging each with the orange in the middle.  AWESOME.   You can have a color chiasm costume if you want.

Blue dresses are great for costumes.  I’m giving a couple of ideas here, but there are tons more:

  • Alice in Wonderland (add a headband and Mary Jane shoes)
  • Wendy Darling from Peter Pan
  • The Sky (pin white paper clouds on the skirt and make a yellow sun and put it on a headband)
  • The Ocean (pin paper fish on the skirt….you get the drift)

I was inspired by the color of this dress to be a box from Tiffany & Co.  It’s so iconic.  Blue box, white bow, bling….

I also did Belle from Beauty and the Beast, because I love her.  It was one of favorite movies growing up and I especially love when she’s wandering around lost in a book.  Blue dress, white sleeves, book, black flats, ponytail.  Easy and cute.

Day 3

This was my Mary Tyler Moore day.  Took inspiration from her adorable dancing scenes in The Dick Van Dyke Show.  Flipped my hair, pointy black flats, slim-cut ankle trousers, cream t-shirt.  This would be really cute as a couple costume as well!

Couples Costume: The Dick Van Dyke Show
The most typical fashionista costume is Audrey Hepburn’s black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but I loved the idea of taking her laid-back style from the Moon River scene and making that into a costume instead.  Slim-cut jeans, flats, sweatshirt, headwrap, and a guitar (or a ukulele).  We aren’t aiming for perfectly matching the movie – we’re going for close enough.  IT’S OKAY IF YOU HAVE TO EXPLAIN YOUR COSTUME.  It’s just supposed to be fun.

Bonus:  I dressed up as Snoopy.  I adore Snoopy.  I may BE Snoopy.

I am a happy woman if I get to yell “CURSE YOU, RED BARON!” once in a while.  I’m a nut.  You probably already picked up on that, but it’s true.  What’s the point of being cool if you can’t dress up as a dog being a WWI fighter ace?  THERE IS NO POINT IN BEING COOL.  SNOOPY HAS FUN.  BE LIKE SNOOPY.

Did I tell you I’m in the middle of moving?  I am.  I’m mostly crazy already.

Day 4

I got lots of questions about this jacket on the day I wore it.  Are you going hunting?  Did you escape from prison?  Do you fly an X-Wing?  Flying an X-Wing sounds fun.  I didn’t really want to an x-wing pilot costume, but I could have.  All of these are grand costume ideas.  But I mainly just wore the jacket to distract from how boring the rest of the outfit was.  There – I’ve admitted it.

I like the idea of being The Great Pumpkin, but I decided to go for a couple of different costume ideas.

I did a vaguely steampunk costume with this.  I bought these goggles for a Time-Travel-Themed Birthday Party that I threw for myself a few years ago and I love them.  Everything looks cooler with goggles.  Put them on a hat or directly on your forehead.  For an automatically cooler adventure look, put the goggles on and dust around them with brown makeup.  That makes your face look dusty.  Then keep on layering makeup (eyeliner, red lipstick for cuts and scrapes, etc.) until it looks like you’ve had an interesting life!

In stream of consciousness costume ideas, my face was already smudgy, so I decided to try a Kaylee costume (Kaylee is the mechanic from Firefly and Serenity).  She wears a military green jumpsuit, so I wore green jeans and tied a green jacket around my waist to mimic that look.  Serviceable boots.  A girly pink shirt and a floral umbrella.  Two little buns on top of my head.  I love this look.  I’d for sure do this one again!

Day 5

This is a haiku of a costume – it’s “The Sun Shining Through Rainclouds And Making Everything Sparkle” and the best part is that you can wear it all day.

Rainboots are a great basis for a costume.  For just one adorable example, you could be Christopher Robin saying, “Tut tut, it looks like rain” and wear shorts and a blue sweater and rainboots and carry an umbrella.

One of my favorite looks is worn by that brand icon, The Morton Salt Girl.  Just look how great this is:  

To do this right, I’d get the largest size of Morton’s Salt and make the container into a little purse / candy container, but really all you need is a floaty yellow dress, some salt, and an umbrella.  When it rains, it pours….

So those are just a few ideas.  Use what you have – be creative!  If you have a hat that you never where, think of who might where it and go as that person.

Abstract out the things that you love about a character.  If you want to dress up as Maid Marion from Robin Hood, you don’t have to transform into a fox – wear a long purple dress, an ear headband with a purple scarf over it, and eyeliner your nose black.  Voila!

Other easy costumes:

  • Harry Potter Characters (white buttondown, tie, gray cardigan, skirt / trousers)
  • Peanuts Characters (Oversize polo shirt + shorts + sneakers+ a blankie = Linus.  Blue dress + bow = Lucy.)
  • Animals and Birds
  • Snapchat Filters (wear normal clothes, then add dear antlers or cat ears or a floral crown, etc.)
  • Calvin and Hobbes (extra points if you go for the time where Hobbes wears a sombrero)
  • Pippi Longstocking (mismatched socks, crazy braids, superhuman strength…..)
  • General adventurers (safari gear, maybe a spear through the hat)
  • Dr. Sattler, Dr. Grant, Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park (extra points if you have a group costume and somebody volunteers to be a velociraptor or a T-Rex)
  • The kids from Holes (basically anything orange will come in handy here)
  • Librarians (because librarians are the best)

And I’ll just leave this one here.  I love it.  You’re welcome.

Costume Idea: Worn-Out Phrase

 

What makes you happy?

Abstract

 

We’ve talked about the 4 questions for intentional dressing:
  • What time is it?
  • Where am I going?
  • Who do I need to respect?
  • What are my responsibilities?
After all those practical questions are answered, we get to the fun question:  Do I like these clothes?  This is the subject, personal part of clothing.  I love it.
Going through my closet last week, I set aside pieces that I love and have worn many, many times and started trying to figure out what I really liked about my favorites.  These are themes that stood out to me:
  • Color
  • Print
  • Interesting structural details
  • Fit
  • Comfort

I’ll just deal with color for this post and I’ll get to the other aspects later.  These days, color doesn’t have as much to do with the four practical questions.  (There are exceptions to this – to respect the bride, don’t wear white to a wedding, etc.)  It has much more to do with the last question – the “do I like it” question, but it goes beyond liking.  Colors are culturally embedded, emotional, symbolic, and powerful.

Back in the days of black and white, costume designers were routinely asked why they designed costumes in color.  Why didn’t they just design in shades of gray?  That’s all the audiences could see.  The designers replied that actors needed colors to emotionally engage with their characters.  When Bette Davis wore a red dress, you knew she was wearing a red dress – even if you saw it as dark gray on the screen.  The costume’s color changed her attitude and her performance, and that’s what we pick up.

We know what colors mean, even when we don’t think about it.  Red is the most obvious – passion, blood, fire, courage, desire.  Yellow – sunshine, cheerfulness, summer, spontaneity.  Different greens can give different emotions – some greens evoke life, nature, hope, others (like poison green) signify jealousy, envy, greed.  Blues calm – they communicate intelligence, loyalty, stability, tranquility.  White stands for purity, cleanliness, even holiness.  Black has always signified mourning and death, but shifted into popularity over the 20th century (partially thanks to Henry Ford’s Model T and Coco Chanel’s Little Black Dress).

When colors become popular, we should ask why.  Think.  Use our brains.  They mean something – what do they mean?  Because colors change us – they change our moods, they change our behavior.  They have power.

If you’re afraid of color and only wear black/gray and maybe jeans (yes, you – you know who you are), try to figure out what it is about color that you’re avoiding.  Maybe you’re afraid of attracting attention.  Maybe you are afraid of a color looking bad on you.  Maybe you don’t want to try new things.  I have nothing against black, but it can become camouflage.  To give color a try in a low-risk way, find a cardigan in a beautiful color and throw it on over your black t-shirt.  Or try a bright skirt.  Don’t worry, it will go with all your black clothes.  Maybe you’ll get noticed, but that is not a bad thing.  Cheerful colors make other people happy.  Give it a go and tell me how it goes!