Tuesday, June 30, 2009

vacation packing

the last time i went to hawaii, i packed all the wrong things. now, in my defense, it's not like i was a hawaii veteran. i'd only been once before and that was on short enough notice that i didn't have time to think before packing. i just threw anything lightweight i owned into a bag and bought myself a hawaiian-print sundress when i got there. of course it didn't hurt that i had a washer and dryer in my room so i could wear the same three things over and over. what were those three things? my bikini, a pair of knee-length board-shorts, and a very lightweight sleevless t-shirt from H&M (along with my pink cowboy hat and keens, of course). oh, and about a gallon of spf 50 sunscreen.

what i didn't wear:
- jewelry
- dressy dinner clothes (especially the shoes)
- jeans (except on the plane, and even then i wasn't happy about it)
- a bra (except on the plane)
- my coat (even on the plane)
- a real purse

what i learned from both trips:
- pack more than one swim suit
- leave the dress clothes and the jewelry at home
- sarongs are a life-saver; you can wear them as a skirt, a dress and even a shawl or scarf for those chilly air-conditioned places (like the plane)
- lightweight, long-sleeved, loose-fitting button-down shirts are essential for those prone to sunburn
- the wider-brimmed the hat, the better
- the stronger the sunglasses the better

of course that doesn't mean i'm not going to fret about what to pack until the moment i'm on the plane or rush around trying to find the perfect pair of convertable cargo pants for the plane (okay, i actually already found those), but it will definitely help prevent the drama of being charged an overweight bag fee on my way home, so i'll have that extra $100 to spend on better things, like scuba lessons. or cool jewelry to bring home where i will wear it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

more questions answered

so, you probably remember all those questions i'm supposed to answer about my current and future wardrobe dreams. and i'll bet you noticed how i did a pretty good job of answering the first few before letting them trail off into the night like the trail of a trans-pacific flight. the dream of which is exactly what brings me to question number six on my long list:

how many fashion personalities/wardrobes do you need to have (work, casual, evening, etc.)? (i promise the segue will make sense in the end...)

my life is pretty simple. i work. i garden. i hang out. if i really stretch it i can add going out and working out. really stretch.

here's the break-down:

work: i work in a corporate office for the web division of a major corporation. that means i don't have to wear suits, but i shouldn't dress like a slob either. jeans are okay. t-shirts are okay. but i probably need to do less wearing them together. especially with beat-up adidas. and while lots of folks here take a pretty tame approach to wardrobe (slacks and button-downs), there is room for at least some range of personality and style. until recently i had not been taking advantage of this range. i need to. not only does it elevate my visibility (you always remember the girl with the fabulous outfit), i've found it actually makes me happier and more productive in my job by removing the resentment and misery of having to pretend to be someone i'm not. don't want to be a corporate drone? don't dress like one.

gardening: right now my gardening-wear consists of whatever expendable but maximally durable thing i can find in my closet. preferably with long legs and sleeves since the sun is not my friend. this means i pretty much look like a homeless person. i used to have an awesome selection of overalls and cute long-sleeved tees, but, well, do i have to say it again? yeah, they don't fit right now. the one essential in my arsenal: my pink cowboy hat. it keeps the sun off my head and neck and is a definite signature piece. as for the rest, i've been eying slogan shirts with sayings like "garden for victory" and "grow your own food." just need to place the orders.

going out: i'm not a four-star restaurant kind of girl, and i'm probably never going to need a swanky cocktail dress, but i do head up to the city for dinner and a little club action every so often and it would be nice to have something kind of hipster to wear. i mean, i'm not a 19 year old punk-rocker anymore, but if you're going to go out and have fun, you should look the part. bonus points here for something with a little edge to wake my inner party-girl.

hanging out: for me, hanging out is halfway between going out and lounging around (covered later). i'm leaving the house, but not to do anything that requires getting major beautification. maybe i'm meeting friends for a matinee or maybe i'm heading to the mall. the purpose doesn't really matter, what matters is that when i feel better about myself and how i look the whole experience is more enjoyable. that means comfortable, fun, clothes that reflect my personality.

working out: okay, this one is a little bit of wishful thinking since I don’t actually work out. at least not yet. but if you don’t have at least one workout outfit, it makes it tougher to actually make the leap to doing it.

lounging around: yes, i have become one of those people who change directly into sweats when i get home from work. which is fine. as long as you are home alone with your pizza and reality TV. but these days, i'm usually not, and the frumpiness of my lounge-wear is starting to depress my boyfriend. and honestly, even without him in the room muttering about the thrill being gone, looking that bad does not make me feel good. there's a big difference between relaxing and wallowing and let's face it, cute and comfortable don't have to be mutually exclusive.

of course i've left out the most important one, or at least the most urgent at the moment: vacation-wear! a tropical vacation is on the horizon and, surprise!, i have nothing to wear. but that, my friends, demands a post of its own.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


when it comes to fashion, i'm all about the fun and funky pieces. which is great, as long as you have something to wear them with. otherwise, with my affinity for tropicals and plaids, i'd wind up looking something like hawaiian luau meets braveheart in a blender. not pretty.

the solution was simple, of course: t-shirts. i've always had a huge supply in every color. some plastered with images, band names and slogans. some just plain. unfortunately, they are all in the too small bin in my sister's basement.

the truth is, i've been waiting until i lost some of my extra padding before replacing them. i hate shopping for clothes when i don't feel good about my body. then it hit me, there is more than one way to feel better about your body and clothes that look and feel great is at the top of the list. so off i went on a shopping spree, and thanks to ann taylor loft, american apparel and the gap, i am now awash in tees: short sleeved, long sleeved, no sleeved, three-quarter sleeved, even a few tank tops and cardigans thrown in for good measure, in all the colors of the rainbow (plus some that aren't). my favorites: the black peasant top from ann taylor loft and the grey cuffed tee from the gap.

it's amazing how much easier it is to get dressed in the morning.

Monday, June 15, 2009

the ultimate accessory

what can i say? not only is it a fabulous color which coordinates perfectly with my eyes, it's a great way to help get me back to a more comfortable size. (see, i love it so much it's making me poetic...)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

building brand

one of the cool things about the company i work for is that every so often they bring in special guest speakers to help inspire us in our work. yesterday was one of those days.

the speaker in question was a former CEO of our very own company. his resume is also populated with an impressive array of major corporations and start-ups. the topic: managing your career.

the talk he gave really was inspirational, but the part that stood out most for me was the section on building your personal brand. now, having spent most of my career in marketing and advertising (web-focused, but still) i get the value of a brand. more importantly, i get the value of packaging. and after all, what is fashion but your own personal packaging?

sure, finding just the right packaging can be tough. but that isn't really the crux of the issue. because the best packaging in the world won't make a bit of difference if you don't start by defining your brand. when it comes to a personal brand this means asking yourself some tough questions like:
  • who am i?
  • what are my talents and my passions?
  • who do i want to be?
  • what about myself am i trying to portray?
  • does it need to be different in different situations?
now for me, i've always had a pretty strong sense of self. unfortunately i haven't been able to translate that into words. the answer to "who am i?" always winds up sounding either flippant or weirdly esoteric and obtuse like a zen koan. i think the answer is to come up with key adjectives instead of complete thoughts. passionate. sensitive (not always in a positive way). shy. independent... you get the picture (or at least part of it).

so looks like i have more questions to answer. the second one, i will answer though with a quick anecdote:

some friends and i were discussing the lottery. when one friend asked me what i would do if i won, i didn't even have to think: read, write and garden (not necessarily in that order, but probably in generally equal weights). sure, there are other things, and variations on those things, but put most simply, those are it. read. write. garden. couldn't be any clearer than that.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

the down-side of sentimentality

i have this necklace. a locket actually. it's really beautiful and unique. thing is, it was given to me by my former mother-in-law, a woman i never much liked even before i divorced her son. and post-divorce... well, let's just say i'd rather pretend it was all just some ugly nightmare and try and forget him, her, everything.

but of course it's not that easy. especially when confronted with this lovely piece of jewelry. which i have spent more than 10 years now not wearing.

but today i got sick of the whole push-pull drama of it all. if i'm not going to wear it, i shouldn't own it. so i wore it to work. and spent the whole day thinking about my ex-mother-in-law. and i still haven't figured out what to do... but i do feel a new poll coming on... go ahead, vote... you know you want to tell me what you think.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

questions: my current look

1. what adjectives best describe your current look?
2. what do you like about your current look?
3. what do you dislike about it?

truth is, i really don’t feel like i have a current look. outfits are cobbled together from random items based primarily on what i happen to be able to squeeze into at the time. usually this results in me looking like a twelve-year old skater boy. probably not the best way to instill confidence in and command respect from my employees and coworkers and certainly not from upper management. outside of work, I almost always feel frumpy, drab and distinctly un-fabulous. which gives me a nice, clean segue into what I dislike about my current look:
  • doesn’t reflect my interests, passions or personality (sometimes not even my own tastes)
  • no continuity from day to do, no cohesive visual message that let’s people know who i am
  • not always (or even usually) flattering
  • not always (or even usually) well-matched
  • no pizzazz (except occasionally when it probably has too much pizazz)
  • takes forever to get ready because i can’t figure out what to wear (took three separate outfits for me to get out the door this morning)
but what do i like about my current look? the simple answer is not much. but there are certain outfits, certain individual pieces and certain components that i do like:

things i like...
  • big scarves: e wear one almost every day, partly because e’m always cold and partly because san francisco weather is fickle and demands both preparedness and flexibility (it’s a hat, it’s a brooch, it’s a pterodactyl—I mean it’s a scarf, it’s a hat, it’s a warm blanket…)
  • chunky-heeled shoes: there’s nothing better than added height without the added danger brought on by a clumsy girl trying to wear skinny heels
  • boots: ideally knee-height, they’re perfect with skirts, cropped pants and even rolled-up jeans, plus they’re warm
  • ethnic prints: tropical, asian, batik… i’m even a sucker for scottish tartan (especially when the tartan in question is weathered mclean dress)
  • wide-legged pants: even better, flares… even better, striped flares… okay, no, wait… that may be part of what got me in this mess
  • fitted (but not too-fitted) tops: showing off curves is good, looking like a sausage, not so much
  • chunky, single pendant necklaces: especially big, “alive” stones (moonstone, labradorite, opal) framed in silver

my favorites...
  • outfit: long elephant bell jeans worn with a black and burgundy mandarin-style brocade top, platform ankle boots and a big black scarf (incidentally, those jeans are also my favorite pants)
  • skirt: orange, green and black batik wrap skirt embellished with stylized images of taro leaves
  • tee: mission playground’s “a little for all”
  • scarf: a black and white batik pareo my mom bought for me in Hawaii
  • necklace: the labradorite pendant i bought in cambria, ca
  • shoes: vegas boots, baby! a pair of knee-high, stacked heel, black leather, italian lovelies that i paid an ungodly amount of money for in a boutique at the venetian in 1998 and which still look completely fabulous despite constant wear, proving once again that, at least when it comes to shoes, you get what you pay for
which leads us to another important question: how do I use these individual pieces as the basis for an actual style? but that is a question for another day.

Monday, June 1, 2009


in order to help me along my way to fashion fabulousness, my stylist friend asked me to answer a few questions:
  1. what adjectives best describe your current look?
  2. what do you like about your current look?
  3. what do you dislike about it?
  4. what are your short and long-term fashion goals?
  5. how would you describe the look you want to achieve?
  6. how many fashion personalities/wardrobes do you need to have (work, casual, evening, etc.)?
  7. who are your fashion role-models (celebrities, friends, colleagues, etc.)?
  8. do you have any hard and fast fashion rules (no bare midriffs, only natural fibers, etc.)?
now some of these are total no-brainers but others… they’re going to take some thought. i’ll answer one now, and the rest over the next several posts.

do you have any hard and fast fashion rules?

  • no angora, i break out in a rash just looking at it
  • nothing itchy or scratchy
  • nothing that requires dry cleaning
  • natural fabrics
  • low-waisted styles only
  • comfort is key
  • a little stretch is a beautiful thing
i also have a very strong preference for closed-toe shoes. my feet are always freezing so i’m all about socks.