This week was all about the challenge of translating high fashion trends to wearable fashion. Most of the time, I’m not very concerned about whether I’m on trend on not, so this week pushed me out of my comfort zone. I decided to take each trend as far as I felt like I could go, while still maintaining some level of dignity and professionalism. So if you see something I’m trying and think, “That’s cool, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable in that outfit,” remember that you can take individual elements and make them work for you. I’m pushing each outfit to its limit (and past some of my limits), but you don’t have to.
The first trend I took on was this year’s take on the Old West. I think Maria Grazia Chiuri’s resort collection for Dior (on location in the high desert) was the year’s best example of mythic western meets haute couture. It has elements of spaghetti westerns, Victoriana, a whole lot of The Magnificent Seven, even a little steampunk. Epic.
I tried not to go too literal with it, because I didn’t want people to look at me and think Rodeo. I didn’t wear jeans or a bandana or fringe – it was more about the feeling that it gave me and the image it gave off to other people.
The base layer is a black dress that I don’t wear that often, but I should. It’s my go-to choir concert dress. It has long sleeves, a hem that hits below the knee, and a collar. On its own, it ages me. Combined with a tailored tweed vest and boots, the older-looking elements of the dress become features. I tied on a scarf to give a little bit of color and pattern and give the idea of a bandana without being that literal. The leather jacket added another tough element to an already tough ensemble, but the scarf and dress kept it from being armor. It’s a mix of soft, worn material and tough, worn leather. The important thing is that it all looks functional and lived-in.
The whole ensemble pleased me. It turned out better than I thought it would. This is my favorite style that I tried this week. If you want to incorporate a few western elements into your fall wardrobe, here are a few things that would look great:
The Warm Fuzzies
It’s all about fleecy-furry-fuzzy things this fall. I’m always happy to hear that comfy things are in style, because I LOVE COMFY. I borrowed my sister’s vest for this one, because I actually don’t own much faux fur (or I do, but it hasn’t come out of the winter box yet and I can’t remember it).
This style is fun and meant to be playful. A faux fur jacket can make an entire outfit look more glam. If it is bright pink, all the better! I went with muted tones for this look, but bright faux fur is really popular right now.
SO COMFY. I want to steal my sister’s vest now. I should just get my own.
Fuzziness doesn’t always have to be in a vest or a jacket form. A furry scarf or hat always looks great. I’ve seen sweaters with faux fur elements (sleeves or panels or collars) and those are super fun. Here are a few more ways to bring fur into your life:
Textiles and Proportion
This look ticked quite a few trend boxes and it definitely felt a little over the top. But I’m here to go big or go home. Here are some of the trends:
Oversized jacket, strong shoulders, belted at the waist. CHECK.
Plaid / check patterns. CHECK.
Earthy browns and grays. CHECK.
This look started with the brown check shirt that I borrowed from a friend. Plaids and checks are back in a big way. This is good news for the Pacific Northwest, where plaid is a way of life. If you don’t own plaid already, be on the lookout for plaid and check material in muted colors and earth tones. Think 1970s, because that’s another huge trend right now.
Wool and tweed and velvet and fur continue to hold our attention (very luxurious). Be on the lookout for wool coats and sweaters at thrift stores. Look in the men’s and women’s section and if you find a coat in a larger size, belt it at the waist to give it some shape and visual interest. Wide belts are back. I used to wear wide belts all the time, but I dragged them out and all my wide belts look like they belong to women who run pirate cruises. Pretty hideous. TIME TO UPGRADE. I’m going to invest in a belt this fall. A grown up belt.
I threw on knee socks and oxfords, because they went with the vibe, but I think it was a mistake. They kept me warm, so I’ll wear knee socks again, but not with such a busy outfit.
Silver and Fall Florals
Silver is the new metallic in town. I love metallics. I have a pair of dull silver oxford shoes that I wear with everything, but I don’t have any silver clothes, so I borrowed a sweater from my sister for this day. It’s gray with metallic threads running through it, so it’s pretty subtle.
I wear florals all year round anyway, so I’m delighted that floral prints are trending this season. If you don’t usually wear florals, start small. Try a scarf or a pair of shoes. In the fall and winter, I usually stick to prints with darker backgrounds and richer colors. If I go for a pastel print in the fall, I’ll pair it with brown or navy to give it some depth.
Silver adds a great spark. Here are some ideas for how to add it in:
And here are some retro floral prints that would look great going into fall:
Fashion is always politically charged, but this year has been pouring out high voltage. Culturally, there have been two collections that defined this year. When we look back at 2017, I think we’re going to remember Gucci’s spring show and Dior’s statement t-shirt.
Gucci has been having quite the year. Instead of having separate runway shows for men and women, they had a co-ed show with men and women walking together. The whole aesthetic was very feminine, including the men’s looks. There was a persistent butterfly theme that represented transfiguration. The message was pretty clear – their future is female and men will become more feminine, until they are almost indistinguishable from women. The worship of women has begun. Dior’s “We Should All Be Feminists” t-shirt is saying the same thing, but in a more straightforward way.
I tried to mimic the Gucci aesthetic on Friday. This was the most difficult day, because I fundamentally disagreed with the whole idea they were working with. It’s like they took all the stereotypical feminine elements of clothes and put them into a blender. Flowers and butterflies and embroidery and lace and pink and bows and bright colors all over the place. Some of the pieces are gorgeous, but they are swallowed by the chaos. This look was hard to pull off, because I didn’t feel like myself. The outfit felt chaotic and forced.
There are some beautiful elements in Gucci’s style, so it has a strange draw for me (strange being the operative word). But I don’t want to be drawn in by it. I’m a woman and I don’t want to be worshiped or put on a pedestal or lifted up as some shining example. That’s a good way to get a warped perspective or get destroyed. I don’t want other people forced to be like just like me. That’s crazy. I don’t want society to be so scared of masculinity that we remove all trace of it and replace it with femininity. We need true masculinity and true femininity, which is so far beyond throwing bows and lace and makeup all together.
If you don’t think about fashion, start thinking about it. What is it saying about you? What is it saying about the culture you live in? Don’t write it off as unimportant. If we keep letting other people dress us, our clothes will keep saying whatever they want to say. So make sure you understand what they are saying.
- What should I wear when I’m nursing a baby?
- I just had a baby and my body has changed – how do I dress this new postpartum body?
- How do I dress for my job when my full time job is being a mom?
Since I’ve never had a baby, I don’t feel qualified to answer the first two. The last question I will address later on in the post. There are clothing principles that apply to every role we have through our lives (student, employee, parent, entrepreneur, leader, follower) and I can handle the principles of clothing fairly well. I try to keep my blog fairly principle-based, so whoever reads it can apply the ideas to their own clothes.
Honest confession – sometimes it is hard to handle mom-specific questions as a single woman. If the question comes at an emotional moment, it is easy to hear the question as a subtle rebuke (i.e. Fashion is easy for you, because you don’t have to worry about nursing / a constantly changing body / children) or it can feel like a defense or explanation disguised as a question (i.e. I exclusively wear leggings and t-shirts, because I’m chasing kids all the time and you don’t understand that, because you have an office job and don’t have to chase kids around all day). I’ll admit that every time I get a question that I can’t really answer, I feel insufficient and stupid. BUT I KNOW IT IS JUST IN MY HEAD.
Truth is, I sometimes envy moms, because I’d love to have a husband and kids. But I can still want a family without envying the women who already have them. So whenever I start imagining that moms are judging me and my “easy” single life, I need to stop it. Even if moms do think that my life is easy, I can’t control what they think – my attitude is the only thing I can control. Envy is never the answer. Envy makes everybody miserable. If you give envy any opportunities, you open the door to bitterness. I love you, moms. And I’m in awe of you. All the time. So this one is for you.
If you have ever asked me a question about how to dress when you’re nursing or about post-baby dressing and I didn’t answer you, I was too intimidated. I never feel like I have the ethos to answer those questions. So I brought in two women with all the ethos. They are my sisters and between the two of them, they have seven children under the age of seven. Laura has four children (her oldest is 7, her youngest is 2 1/2 months) and Steph has a 4-year-old and 2-year-old twins. We had a great conversation last week and here is an incomplete and stream-of-consciousness record of that conversation, divided up into categories. I’m pretty slow at taking notes, so some of these things are either from Steph or Laura, but I can’t remember which.
On Nursing and Clothes:
Steph: Nursing twins is like its own THING, though. Nursing camisoles. That’s all I wore. But I also didn’t leave the house for a while. Nursing twins makes you REALLY feel like a fertility goddess. And now they feed themselves! It’s a miracle!
Laura: [she was actually nursing while we had our conversation, which felt very appropriate] …still nursing my fourth. He’s little and cute and I can’t say no! My other kids say, “Can he have crackers? No! He can just have milk, milk, and milk!”
Laura & Steph: NURSING CAMISOLES. You must have nursing camisoles.
Steph: Nursing bra, with a nursing camisole over it, and with a cardigan over that. Extra layers are helpful. You can pull up the shirt and pull down the nursing cami and not show all of your back or all of your midriff. Target has a great selection of maternity and nursing-friendly clothes.
Laura: Don’t wear side-zip dresses. Besides completely disrobing, there’s no way to nurse in a size-zip dress. If you really want to wear a sheath or shift dress, get one with a full length zipper in the back.
General nursing clothes advice:
Wrap dresses plus nursing camisoles work really well for the period where you change sizes quickly, because wrap dresses are made to be adjustable.
Go for swing tops that fit at the shoulders, then give plenty of room at the waist.
If you do button-up tops or shirt dresses, you might have to size up to keep them from gapping egregiously, but you can always wear a button-up shirt open over your nursing camisole if it doesn’t fit quite right yet.
Remember that kids get bored and they will unsnap all your snaps and unzip all the zippers and play with all the buttons, so take that into consideration.
On Dressing a Postpartum Body:
Laura: I think it gets easier after the first baby, because your body changes irrevocably after the first one….but it’s physically and emotionally hard every time.
Steph: With my first, a couple of months afterwards, I could fit back into my pants. But after the twins, it’s been a year to two years before I can fit back into clothes – I’m still not fitting into some things.
Laura: At some point you have to make the decision – I’m tired of my clothes not fitting. I’m getting NEW CLOTHES. For a year or two after you have kids, you can be in the position of having tons of clothes and NOTHING that fits.
Steph: I had to tell myself, “I may never be the same size as I was in college and that’s OK.” BUT I USED TO BE SKINNY AND NOW I’M NOT. Hormones don’t help those emotions either. While there’s a baby in your tummy, there’s a reason for the roundness and now it’s out and you can grab two handfuls of your own stomach.
Laura: Even if you COULD get back into those clothes, they’re out of date now. The hard thing is that you’re learning to dress a completely different body and you want to dress your OLD body.
General thoughts on post-childbirth dressing:
If you want to spruce up your wardrobe, choose things that are stretchy and versatile. Your size is changing a lot, so this isn’t the best time to invest in tailored pieces.
Shop for outfits, because it can get frustrating if you have a top that fits, but no pants. Shop for the size you are, not the size you want to be. A couple of good outfits can get you through a period of transition. A pair of pants, a skirt with a stretchy waistband, and three tops – that’s a solid little wardrobe right there.
When you have multiple kids, keeping your clothes clean is almost impossible. Go for washable fabrics. [Laura: When I drop food, it usually falls on the baby. Baby napkin.]
Kids are more important than clothes. [Steph: If my kid spits up on my dress and I get upset, it’s not a kid issue, it’s a heart issue.]
When you go shopping, hire a babysitter or ask your mom or your husband to watch the kids. It will make the process go much quicker and you can focus on finding clothes.
Both Laura and Steph: I like having some kind of pattern on my shirt – a plain t-shirt shows all the bra deficiencies and any rolls you have.
Choose tops that have an interesting pattern or texture. Draping is nice. Thicker materials are great.
If leggings or yoga pants or athletic shorts are your favorites, wear them! Cute, active “I’m getting things done” clothes can be helpful. If you wear them out of the house, put on a cute top or little dress over the top and then you’ll feel put together.
You can change habits and setting goals can really help with that. It can be helpful to make a goal to get dressed before your husband leaves the house, so you feel ready for the day.
You can be content where you are, while hoping to go somewhere else.
Remember, you are pouring out your body for other people. (When you’re nursing, you’re LITERALLY pouring yourself out.)
Be realistic about sizing. Don’t buy things in the size you want, buy things in the size you are. If you really want to change sizes, invest in a couple of outfits for now and start working hard towards your future size.
On Motherhood as a Job:
Being a mom is a full time job. It’s important and difficult and beyond full time. So it isn’t accurate to say that moms don’t have to dress for a job, but how should moms dress for their job? Laura and Steph requested that I bring back the four questions for intentional dressing that I wrote for my first blog post. If you answer these questions, you can start understanding your role and how your clothes will support you in that role.
- What time is it? [examples: Daytime / Evening / August / December]
- Where am I? [examples: Home / Work / School / Vacation / Jury Duty]
- Who do I need to respect? [examples: Kids / Coworkers / Parents / Spouse / Bride]
- What are my responsibilities? [examples: Playing Duck-Duck-Goose / Computer Programming / Taking Blood Pressure / Teaching Classes]
Once you answer all those questions, answer the last question. It’s still important, but it rests on all the other questions. Ready for the last question?
- DO I LIKE THESE CLOTHES?
Answer those five questions and you’ll be all right. And if you have trouble working through stuff, I’m here. Ask away. I might bring in outside expertise, but I’m here.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.