Thursday, May 28, 2009

why fashion matters

i'm not sure how it happened, but one day i looked in the mirror and i realized i didn't like what i saw. it's not just the getting older, the getting heavier. those are just symptoms. it's two things really. the first was the realization that when i look in the mirror, i don't see me. the second is that i couldn't help but wonder how i let it get this way.

i have always had a very strong sense of who i am. and that strong sense of who i am has always been as clearly reflected on the outside as i feel it on the inside. but recently i have allowed myself and my life to become fractured. my identity has become compartmentalized into different roles, none of which truely reflects a complete me. there is the corporate manager. the novelist and poet. the gardener. the would-be activist. the artist. the girlfriend. the daughter. the aunt. the patient whose body sometimes struggles to find the energy it needs to get through the day. but even the truest and most valued piece all alone is only a fraction of the whole puzzle that is me.

when i dress for work, i have been dressing for the corporate environment. not to bring myself into the job, but to fit into a role. by dressing this way, i deny myself. i hide who i really am. this is not only in-authentic, it diminishes both me and my job.

when i dress to work in the garden in grubby, ill-fitting clothes, sure, i am considering the messy task at hand, but i am also de-valuing both myself and a job that i find extrememly fulfilling and deeply spiritual. i am not treating myself or the task with the reverence we both deserve.

for me, fashion is not about status. it's not about looking cute. it's not about fitting in. it's about creating an authentic external representation of the person that i am on the inside. it's about expressing who i am. and it's about treating myself and my body with the respect i deserve.

a necklace isn't just a pretty stone. it's a way to honor my own inner and outer beauty. a well-fitted sweater doesn't just look neat and put together, it shows i'm proud of who i am and the shape i take.

and that's what makes it so important for me to get up every morning and put on beautiful/fun/creative/exciting, well-made clothes that fit just right. not only does it make me feel more at home in my body and more connected to all the pieces of who i am, it reminds me to bring the whole package to everything i do. and if you don't do that, then what's the point of doing it at all?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

another item for the "missing" list

it's amazing how often i choose my outfit based on which shoes i can bear to wear. some days i'm just not up for the towering stacked heels that look best with skirts, anything cropped and most of my pants (since i'm a couple of inches shy of whatever height most designers sew for). obviously, this can be very limiting. luckily, there's a solution: get myself a pair of low-heeled black boots.

of course adding it to the list is simple. finding them, however, is a completely different story.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

close but no cigar

more and more often i notice while getting dressed that my wardrobe feels just a few cards short of a full deck.

i pull together what i think is going to be a great outfit but wind up stopped short of perfection by the following words: "this would look awesome if i only had a [insert clothing item or accessory here]."

inevitably, when i get into work, my coworkers, who have jumped on the re-fabbing bandwagon are quick to point out the resulting compromise: "you know, that would look so much better if you just had a [insert same clothing item or accessory mentioned above here]."

to address this issue i have added a "missing pieces" list to this blog. that way, i can add items as i think of them and create a list that i can use when i shop. so instead of being distracted by something pretty, shiny and completely impractical, i'll be able to head directly to the fitted black cardigan sweaters and bag my prey. okay, i'll probably still be distracted. but at least this way i'll get the thing i need, too.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

fashion win

so this morning I walk over to chat with my stylist friend and no sooner had I sat down than she made me stand up again and do a slow turn so she could assess the outfit of the day. this was a change from usual when I can see her eyes struggling not to roll. when I sat down again, she smiled a big smile, gave me a double thumbs-up and said “approved!”

clearly I have a lot to learn, because while I thought I did okay with this outfit, I didn’t really think it was any better than others I’ve worn recently (and in some cases liked a lot more). I was however able to discern from her comments just what makes this outfit work:

- oversized belted sweater nips in waistline while camouflaging junk in the trunk
- skinny-leg jeans and high heels make legs look longer and slimmer

- hot pink top and scarf compliment skin-tone and draw attention to face
- dark wash jeans make legs look lean

- scarf ties together all the different colors in the outfit as well as my hair and eye colors, while the metallic gold thread provides a little sparkle
- turquoise cuff bracelet compliments yet another color in the scarf, adds a touch of fun and keeps the dark colors from getting too overwhelming

but what really makes this outfit work for me is that it’s super comfortable. the jeans have stretch, the shoes are tall but well-padded, and I can take off the scarf and/or sweater if the day gets too warm.

i’d like it even more if the jean were slightly more bootcut so i didn’t feel quite so much like a child’s top (skinny point at the bottom, wide load at the top) but that’s just me. according to the feedback I’ve received, the skinny cut actually shows off my legs. just goes to show you, i am not a natural when it comes to figuring out what flatters my figure. but that’s okay. these things can be learned.

the fickleness of fit

when it comes to looking fantastic, fit is king. possibly even one of those golden-age god-emperors. I learned this the other day when I put together what I thought was a pretty passable outfit. which it was. mostly. the problem was, my friend pointed out, the jeans. I love the cut of the jeans so I wear them a lot. but cut and fit are not the same (and that’s not even getting into the whole optical illusion created by the color of the wash, which I’ll get back to later).

the cut was fine. low waist. narrow through the hip and thigh. slight flare. but the fit did me no favors at all. the waist was too big and rode lower even then it should have, which to be honest, was already pretty low, especially for a corporate office. and then there were the thighs…

now, thighs are one of my admitted challenge spots. I like to blame the years of adolescent gymnastics, because even when I was thin as a rail, I had trouble finding pants that had enough breathing room in that area, especially if the waist fit. (this is one of the key reasons I prefer a little stretch in my jeans.)

so long story short, the waist was saggy, the pockets buckled and the thighs were like sausage casings (if sausage casings were made out of a pale blue tourniquet). now the jimmy dean effect is something that I’m going to have to work out with the gym, but the waistband is a whole ‘nother thing.

the suggestion of my fashion-savvy friend was to pop over to a tailor for a little nip/tuck. which if my weight didn’t fluctuate like a yo-yo I might actually consider. but today’s fit, would likely be tomorrow’s ill-fit, so what’s a girl to do?

1. stabilize the weight already. pick a number. go there. stay there. it will definitely take some time, but it’s a good goal to have.

2. always, always, always, buy pants with a little stretch. no matter how good the deal (and these jeans were a shockingly good deal — $2 at my local goodwill) if it doesn’t fit, there’s no way you’ll look fab, so it’s not worth the price.

Monday, May 18, 2009

speaking of shoes…

back in my younger days, i was a sucker for shoes. i had, at one point, over 100 pairs in every imaginable color, heel-height and style. thing was, i only really wore about 6 of them. why? because the others weren’t comfortable. at one point i got so fed up with digging through the piles of toe-pinching, blister raising torture devices that I tossed any and every pair that had ever caused me pain, which left me with a grand total of 8 pairs of shoes.

sure, i’ve built back up my collection some since then, but these days, it takes more than a pretty face or a well-turned heel to turn my head. these days, you have to earn your place on the shoe rack. sure, you still have to look cool, but you also need to be functional, comfortable and made well enough that you don’t need replacing after just a few strolls around the block.

as a result of my higher standards of shoe choice, i find myself gravitating to a couple of brands — brands that used to make me shudder at their very mention: clark’s, born, god forbid aerosoles… but here’s the thing. it’s not just that i’ve changed. they’ve changed, too, with cool new sub-brands that infuse the frumpy comfort of the parent brand with a hip style all their own, creating the perfect blend of form and function. these new shoes are so comfortable and still so fun, my closet is starting to overflow all over again. but this time it’s with shoes that actually feel and look good, including many pairs from these new hybrids:

indigo by clark’s: 6 pairs
born crown collection : 2 pairs

all it took was trying on one pair and i was sold. and in case you were wondering, those shoes i bought over the weekend? crown collection. pretty cool, huh?

the sweet forgiveness of shoes

i did buy one thing at the store yesterday — a pair of super-comfy but very cool black wedge shoes. they were a little expensive but since i've bought my last pair probably 15 years ago, i figure it's worth putting in a little extra money to buy something that's going to a) hold up over time, b) not kill my feet. besides, unlike the rest of my body, my feet stay pretty much the same size.

i can't wait to wear them to work today.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

sugar and spice and everything nice, that's what chubby is made of

i'm not going to sugar-coat it. the only thing worse than trying on clothes when you at your all time high weight is doing it in 97 degree heat.

i wasn't even able to find any of the key purchases now listed on my new missing pieces list. just as well. highest weight ever is not the time to invest in classic pieces you hope will last a good long time.

tomorrow morning: renewed dedication not just to the exercise, but to watching what i eat. and just to kick it off right, i ate half a pint of butter pecan haagen dazs for dinner.

nothing like going out with a bang.

Friday, May 15, 2009

want wow? choose color!

i've always been a pretty monochromatic dresser. black, black and more black. sometimes with a wild touch of, oh, say, navy. or grey. but only if i'm feeling especially sassy.

well, today, inspired by the unseasonable heat, i decided to pull out all the stops. and when i mean all the stops, i mean ALL the stops. you guessed it: bright yellow.

i have no idea what possessed me to buy a bright yellow batik dress. it was probably being in hawaii. and the fact that it was on sale. at walmart. for $5. head full of sunshine and optimism i just couldn't resist.

today, i needed a little of that sunshine and optimism so i pulled out the dress. and man did it get noticed. mostly what i got was "wow!" wow like that looks fantastic? or wow, that's bright, must... sheild... eyes... i have my suspicions.

at any rate, it made me feel all sunny and perky even worn over dark wash, pegged jeans and under a slumpy black carigan. perhaps my coworker said it best:

"wow. only you could pull-off something like that." and yes, i am 100% sure that there were silent air-quotes around the words "pull-off."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

lesson one: think before you dress

okay, so i've been at this self-improvement, re-fabification thing for almost a week now and i have already learned one very important lesson: the number one key to improving how you dress is to actually think about how you dress.

sure, it seems obvious enough, but when you're sprinting out the door with no time to spare, sometimes it takes all you have just to find two matching shoes and a passably wrinkle-free shirt. you may as well forget about trying to coordinate accessories. make that kind of morning a habit and you'll find the crumpled, thrown-together look has become your new signature style. or total lack thereof.

the solution? picture your day's perfect outfit. for me, the best times for this little exercise are the night before while trying to fall asleep or first thing after the alarm goes off between hitting snooze and cursing the dawn. once i know what i want to wear, i can let my mind drift to accessories while i brush my teeth or wash my hair.

i don't recommend you take this advice too far and start mapping out your clothes for the week. i for one am way too fashion-moody to plan more than one day out and too much pre-planning can lead to fashion-anxiety and eventually fashion-exhaustion and you'll wind up worse than you started. but a little extra thought about looking good while standing in the shower never hurt anyone.

try it out.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

accessories freed from detention

back in october 2007 i put my house up for sale. in order to make it presentable i packed up most everything i owned including all of my jewelry. since then that jewelry has been slumbering in tiny boxes and (gasp) tupperware containers in the bottom dresser drawer.

i finally unpacked them today.

the good news is i was able to get rid of one third of the collection without even batting an eye -- because really, even i know i'm never going to wear that mood ring again, even on halloween. another third needed further consideration. the last third are things that i love and would probably wear again now that they have been liberated from their plastic holding cells. the bad news is, during those two+ years, many of them have become tarnished and dusty, and i, never really having been that much of a jewelry person (or maybe just not much of an "upkeep" person) have no idea how to return them to their former glories. which leads me to another question: once i do get them cleaned up, what do i do with them? i have a jewelry box, but it's it's like an episode of desperate housewives in there. necklaces getting themselves into nasty entanglements, earrings desperately try to loose their mates...

clearly i need a little schooling on the art of jewelry care and feeding (or at least care and storage). what are the best ways to rejuvenate tired pieces? and what are the best ways to store them out of sight and protected from dust, grime and clumsy limbs? because who knows... maybe a little bling would be good incentive to help keep this whole improvement project rolling.

Friday, May 8, 2009

ramping up and breaking a rule

in order to address the weight portion of the program, my friend and i have decided to start taking daily walks after lunch. we had been doing it before the weather turned, but rain is no longer a plausible excuse (it's 70 degrees and sunny today).

unfortunately, accomplishing today's walk will cause me to break one of my hard and fast fashion rules: never wear white tennis shoes with everyday clothes. given that fact you may wonder why, exactly, i even own white tennis shoes and why i have them tucked inside a file cabinet at work. suffice it to say, it's a long, sad story about last minute tennie buying before a trip to new york. and since i have a really hard time wasting usable shoes i figured i'd bring them in here, "just in case."

today's case is wooden platform clogs -- not viable walking attire. as for whether or not wooden platform clogs constitute a fashion offense of their own, that's a topic for another post.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

where it starts

i have lost my sense of style.

i'm not sure how it happened. perhaps it was the career transition from funky start-up to conservative mega-corp. perhaps it was the doctor-mandated 15 pound weight gain that turned into 20... 22... 23... and keeps climbing. perhaps it was just the getting older, tireder, lazier. but the reason doesn't really matter. what matters is, it's time to get it back.

to that end, i have enlisted the help of a life/fashion-stylist friend who swears she can get my fashion sense and wardrobe right back on track. of course, i'm going to have to take care of those extra 10 pounds myself.

my style make-over (or is it a re-make?) starts today. stay tuned to see where it goes.