Monday, December 20, 2010

Our Fond Farewell

Hello, Scholar Style Guide readers!  We have enjoyed contributing to this blog so much that it's bittersweet to announce we are bringing it to its conclusion.  We started the blog because, as our abstract says, we wanted to participate in conversations about the cultural construction of fashion, the semiotics of clothing, and how we can take these theoretical approaches to thinking about clothing and apply them to our daily dressing choices.   It has been a pleasure getting to know you all and discussing these issues with you.  Your comments have continued to assure us that intelligent, thoughtful, and stylish women abound within academia and beyond.  You've also become interested in and supportive of our personal lives and obstacles, and we have enjoyed interacting with you and each other through our collaborative blog project.  It has also been a fun creative outlet for us that has contributed to the life of the mind for each of us.

When we began last March, we didn't know how long we'd keep up the blog.  We figured we'd write until we felt like we had run out of things to add to the conversation.  We're stepping away now because we feel like we've shared just about everything we have to contribute to the online style blog community.  We look forward to keeping up with those of you who maintain your own blogs and we are confident that the thoughtful style blogging conversation is in very capable hands despite our departure.

For our final post, we put together some of our most popular, memorable, and favorite posts over the past 9 months.  We hope this will serve as a fun reminder to our longtime readers, encourage our newer readers to click back through the archives, and give future readers who stumble across our blog a good point of entry for navigating our ideas.

Anne-Marie:
left to right:
Hair Metamorphosis
Thoughts on Fur
Let's Talk About Lace, Baby!
Gingham Getup and Bygone Girliness
Grass is Always Greener
Hired or (Gulp!) Fired?
Dressing Simply With Patterns
Search all of Anne-Marie's posts.

Katie:
left to right:
Embracing Color 
Katie No Feet
Body Insecurities
Shorts and Summer
Curves, Calves, Coloring
Generic Categories
Dressing "Ladylike"
Search all of Katie's posts.

Liz:
left to right:
Rut Ditching; or, Pattern Mixing
Dresses as Skirts
Dressed-Up Comfort
Comfort Levels
Possible Summer Trend Overload
Textual Analysis: Henry James
Adrienne Rich and Heels
Search all of Liz's posts.

Wardrobe Workhorse Week

In September, we hosted a collaborative blog project to celebrate the items in our closets that we wear most frequently.  You can see the introductory post here, the wrap-up post and list of participants here, and all of our own posts here.

Thanks again, everybody, for reading along and sharing your ideas.  If you're finding us for the first time sometime in the future, we hope you'll still feel free to join the conversation!  At some point our url will bounce back to www.scholarstyleguide.blogspot.com, but we're happy to leave these nine months and many, many interesting conversations out there on the internet for us and our readers to consult in the future.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Last Day of Classes!

Draft:

Earlier Drafts: 
I debuted these boots on Tuesday, and I've worn this dress differently here and here.

Composition: 
faux turquoise beaded necklace (Kohl's)
brown and white print dress (Target)
long oatmeal cardigan (Target)
cognac faux-leather wide stretch belt (Charlotte Russe)
brown tights layered over gray tights (NY&Co)
cognac leather riding boots (Steve Madden, gifted)

Usage:
Today's the last day of classes for me this semester!  This means I'm collecting final research papers from my students, attending my final grad class of the term, and heading to our end-of-semester graduate student potluck.

I wore this outfit on Tuesday, though, for the second to last day with my students.  I know it's not too innovative to wear my new cognac boots with a brown ensemble, but a long cardigan is a step into new territory for me.  I was a big fan of this look from S. at Narrowly Tailored, so when I saw these long cardigans on sale at Target for $15, I finally picked one up and promptly ripped off her styling techniques to put together my own outfit.  I liked how the long cardi gave the outfit a bit of a "wrapped in a blanket" type feeling, and though it's a lot of brown, I liked how the cognac belt and boots complemented the chocolate brown of the dress and the tights.  I put the turquoise necklace on to serve as a pop of color, but I'm not that thrilled with what it adds to the outfit.  I kind of think I should have just embraced the brown and worn some brown beads instead.

My students are expected to evaluate their participation at several points throughout the semester, so they submitted their last self-evaluations on Tuesday.  There is a space to add "comments," and normally, if they write anything at all, they use this space to explain why they don't talk much in class, to ask if coming to office hours counts as participation, etc.  Most of them leave it blank.  Yesterday, one of my quieter male students wrote "This class taught me a lot about writing," and one of my quieter female students wrote 2 or 3 sentences telling me she really appreciated my teaching style.  Neither of them has ever complained about a grade, or asked for extra credit, or done anything to suggest they might be fishing for favoritism, so their unexpected notes were nice to read.  During my office hours, the three students who'd scheduled appointments to talk about last minute questions for the final papers stopped in, and I was so pleased with how much work they're putting in.  I am genuinely looking forward to reading their papers after chatting with them briefly yesterday.

These interactions reminded me that while it's so easy to get frustrated by the handful of students who demand a lot of attention by sending unnecessary emails, complaining about grades, etc., it's important to keep in mind that those students don't speak for everyone.  Teaching this semester has been a constant struggle to try to re-learn some of the things I first learned as a high school teacher.  I remember now that oftentimes student silence is a sign that everything is going fine.  I generally aim for my courses to be ones in which students get out of them what they put in, so it is rewarding to hear that those students who are making the effort are learning.  I tend to begin to feel like my work is futile when one or two students want to pass the blame off on me for their underperformance.  Yesterday served as an important reminder:  If the students who wanted to learn from my class feel like they did, the class has been a success.

Since many of you teach in different capacities, I wanted to share this reminder with you as you gear up to grade final assignments or final exams.  Your students probably learned a lot more than you realize.  I think we can all remember a class we took in which our instructor would have had no idea how much we loved it or how much we learned from it.  I'm hoping I can keep that in mind as I grade their final papers and as I reflect back on my first semester with undergrads.

Prompts:

  • How do you wear long cardigans?  Please share links!
  • If you teach, what are some ways that you work toward keeping a healthy perspective on your success as an instructor?  Any other tips for keeping those critical students from getting to you?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Shifting Boot Signification

Draft:

Earlier Drafts: 
These distressed skinnies have gotten plenty of mileage this fall.

Composition: 
chunky cream sweater (Old Navy clearance)
polish (OPI Can You Tapas This?)
distressed skinnies (American Eagle)
cognac leather riding boots (Steve Madden, gifted)

Usage:
How great are these boots?!  Last winter I bought the pair of affordable Steve Madden slouch boots which have featured prominently on the blog because I wanted to experiment with tall boots for the first time in ages.  I had sworn off tall boots in 2004 when I wore (what I thought were) a tasteful pair to teach and one of my co-workers informed me that my high school students were calling them "dominatrix boots."  They had a round toe and a thick heel, but apparently a boot didn't need a pointy toe or a stiletto heel to classify as "dominatrix" so long as it was a knee high leather one.

Boots have come a long way since then, no?  There are so many options available now!  It seems like they've moved out of "trend" territory and have established themselves over the past few winters as a women's wardrobe staple.  The attitude toward them seems to have changed as they've become more widespread, and they seem to signify differently, too.  When I wore mine to teach in 2004, I thought it was acceptable because all the businesswomen in Chicago, near where I went to undergrad, wore them to work in the winter.  Apparently they were still unusual in my more rural school district in an area with a more moderate climate.  Now they're so ubiquitous that unless a teacher's boots have an especially pointy toe or skinny, tall heel, I don't think students even blink.  Though I guess that wearing them with short skirts still gives tall boots a different connotation.

I found myself reaching for those gray boots more and more, and one of my favorite features of wearing them was how they could turn a cozy, casual outfit into a chic look.  I wore them so often, in fact, that I decided to ask for a nice, high quality pair of cognac riding boots from my husband for Christmas.  I love everything about this pair.  They fit my fairly slender calves, the hardware details make them unique, the leather is buttery but sturdy, and I love how the zipper up the back is incorporated in the design of the boot-- it gives them just a touch of a bada** feel.  It also makes them super easy to get on and off.

I also think the boots might have super powers.  My husband has been encouraging me along and picking up the slack as I try to get through my hectic end-of-semester, and strapping these beauties on for the last few days of sitting in front of my computer helped me push through and finish a really complex thought experiment.  We joked about putting their box under the Christmas tree, but being able to wear them for these next few weeks is a great gift!

Prompts:

  • Do you agree that tall boots signify differently now than they did even a few years ago? What factors do you think contribute to this change?
  • Have you adopted boots as a wardrobe staple?  If so, how many pairs do you own? And which colors do you favor?  I've been surprised to find that my gray pair seem even more versatile than a black pair might have been.
  • What do you pair with cognac leather?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Please Share Your Leather Care Advice!

Hi All!  I've just received these boots as an early Christmas present from my husband, and I can't wait to show you how fantastic they are in an outfit post.

However, I'm hoping you'll share your leather care advice so I can properly treat the leather before I take them out in the elements.  I've read online that some people use beeswax, and there are a lot of different treatments you can purchase at the store, so I am curious what method of weatherproofing has worked best for you.

If you have a treatment or a product that you've had good success with, please share it in the comments!  Thanks, and I hope you all have a great weekend!

-Liz

image via Piperlime (or as I like to call them, "Definitely Not Zappos")

Friday, December 3, 2010

Putting on my Game Face

Draft:

Earlier Drafts:
These high-heeled Mary Janes are my go-to when I need a boost (literally and figuratively).
I own a lot of items with big floral prints, including this skirt.
To "fall up" my favorite summer dress, I paired it was a purple cardigan and these grape tights.
The seahorse necklace is one of my three sea creature necklaces.

Composition:
purple top (Marshalls)
black and white skirt (The Limited)
purple tights (Hue)
high-heeled Mary Janes (Michael by Michael Kors)
seahorse necklace (gift from boyfriend)

Usage:
The end of the semester - aka insanity - is upon us!  I'm in the midst of seminar papers right now, and my writing attire is pretty similar to Liz's.  However, last week, I had a (forced) lull in the writing frenzy for two big meetings, one with a professor to discuss my paper in a field that I am not super familiar with and one with my advisor to discuss exams, reading lists, committees, etc. - you know, just my entire life for the next few years.  I wanted to bring my game face to both of these meetings, especially the second one, and I wanted to up the style factor in order to do so.

Anne-Marie talked about this issue before, though her "game face" was for slightly different circumstances.  Since I wasn't planning on writing or reading for long periods of time that day, comfort wasn't as much of an issue since my schedule didn't allow enough time to hunker down in a cozy work spot.  So I pulled on a skirt, tights, and high heels.

I really like the color purple (the hue and the book, actually), and I thought it would be fun to go with a purple-themed outfit.  Colorful tights aways make me happy, and I like the contrast they make with this neutral skirt.  The outfit served its purpose, and I felt great that day.  And my professors noted that she liked my tights (and my paper's thesis - whew!). 

As I look at this outfit again, I think a belt would look good here.  I'm not a big belter, though I think with Liz's influence, I'm increasingly drawn to them.

Apologies for my somewhat scattered post; my thoughts are in another word document.  Good luck to all of you at this busy time of year!

Prompts:
  • What's your "game face" (game outfit?) look like? (yes, I realize that Liz asked a similar question recently, but really, that's the theme of this time of year)
  • When do you need to put on your "game face"?  When you write?  For big meetings?  For big departmental benchmarks?  For all of the above?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Skirts on a Plane

Draft:

Earlier Drafts:
I've worn this skirt with these boots before.
I like pairing this simple black turtleneck with colorful accessories.

Composition:
black short-sleeved turtleneck (H&M)
burgandy skirt (American Eagle)
black opaque tights (Target)
boots (Dingo via Zappos)
military style jacket (Macys)

Usage:
After having a blast at my cousin's wedding, I had to fly back home - a trip I blame for my recent cold.  I usually opt for a minimalist, simple look while flying, though I've tried switching it up a bit.  I'm always freezing on planes, so I normally wear jeans, long-sleeved shirts, flats, and I usually tuck socks and a cardigan in my carry-on.  This time, though, I took a cue from La Historiadora de Moda from Fashionable Academics and from Anne-Marie on trying a non-pants outfit with boots on a plane.

This skirt is comfortable, and the opaque tights are surprisingly warm.  Anne-Marie was right about the boots with socks keeping you warm - worked like a charm.  I was shocked to find that this outfit kept me warm enough to take off my jacket for almost the entire flight.  I bought it in September but hadn't had an occasion to post it before.  Though this raincoat is one of my favorite items ever - and probably garnered the most comments of any piece of clothing I've ever owned - I really wanted a simple fall jacket to just throw on for a little extra warmth.  This military style jacket is versatile, on-trend (though that's never really a selling point for me, just a coincidence), and inexpensive.  Perhaps its key selling point is that it's made of sweatshirt-type material, making it comfortable enough to fall asleep in on a plane.

Prior to my trip, I thought that this outfit would be a fine travelling ensemble, but not a great one.  However, I found it to be a comfortable, cute alternative to my normal jeans-and-a-t-shirt look.  Also, getting a sweet compliment on it from my boyfriend when he picked me up also helped convince me to consider furthering my styling choices for air travel (though I suspect he would have said it no matter what I was wearing).

Prompts:
  • Do you wear skirts on planes?  Boots?
  • What do you look for when purchasing jackets?
  • How important are current trends to you?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Blogging Break Needed

Draft:

Composition:
gray long sleever (Target)
red open cardigan (Express, gifted by my sister)
distressed skinnies (American Eagle)
gray slouch boots (Steve Madden)
gold lame skinny belt (Charlotte Russe-- to be debuted in sincerity soon)

Usage:
You guys, I really need to take a blogging break.  So I'm posting this outfit even though I don't think it is bloggable at all.

I hope all of you stateside enjoyed a restful, relaxing, and/or productive Thanksgiving weekend with plenty of good food and good company.  I don't feel rested or relaxed, but I've gotten a lot of work done, so I don't feel panicked, either, which is an improvement over my state of mind two days ago.  After spending a nice Thanksgiving with my sister and my husband's extended family, I began a marathon paper writing session.  This means there hasn't been a lot of fashion going on in this house, but I thought you might be interested in how I dress for an extended period of mental heavy lifting.  (Or maybe, even if you don't care, you're just begging for a new post to pop up your reader so you can take a break for 2-3 minutes, as I've been doing for the past few days.)

While I sometimes find that dressing up helps me "bring my A game" to my work, this particular paper has felt more like slogging along than showing off.  So I've been wearing comfortable clothes that allow me to settle in for the duration.  I get cold easily, so layers are important.  For some reason, I also insist on writing in really long sleeves.  One of my favorite things about this sweater my sister gave me is the length of the sleeves.  Its drapey, open fit also makes it feel a little bit like a blanket.  And while writing in boots might seem strange, my feet get cold really easily, and this look is definitely preferable to the puffy striped socks/red flats look I was rocking yesterday.

I also employ some other profoundly nonsensical practices when trying to get through a really difficult thought experiment.  I eat a lot of gummy peach rings and drink a lot of wild cherry diet pepsi (because the two balance each other out?).  Thankfully, this glucose/aspartame cocktail has been supplemented this time by several heapings of my grandmother-in-law's delicious stuffing.  When I get stuck, I ask iTunes to play me a random song, take a break while it plays, and then get back to work once it's finished.  Sometimes my mind is blank during these 3-4 minute breaks, and sometimes I have important thoughts.  Yesterday I had a great idea while I listened to "Toes" by the Zac Brown Band with my forehead resting on the table.  (Have you seen the movie trailer where Paul Rudd smashes his head on a table after getting bad news on the phone-- starting at 0:45?  I can't tell you how many times I have imagined myself doing that these past few days.)  Sometimes the song iTunes chooses makes me laugh, like when "(I've Got To) Stop Thinking About That" by James Taylor cued up.  I wish I could, James.

Since I fear I might have disappointed you with my uninspiring outfit or my random babbling about my paper writing, I'll leave you with a photo of Oscar acting like life is hard.


Prompts:

  • What do you wear when it's time to settle in and get down to business?
  • Do you have any tricks of your own that help you get through a difficult task?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wearing Without Wearing Out

Draft:

Earlier Drafts:
This wardrobe workhorse tank was my favorite item of the summer and these skinnies have become a wardrobe workhorse, too.

Composition:
navy and white striped tank (Gap)
dark teal cardigan (H&M)
brown leather belt (Fossil)
distressed skinnies (A&E)
cream patent leather flats (Sam Edelman via Zappos)

Usage:
When I wore this tank and sweater together again to a baby shower this weekend, I realized that I'd been planning a post about this outfit for a while but kept forgetting to attend to it.  This weekend, I wore it with my teal Mary Janes, and it turns out that they're a hit with all generations!

The shoe swap speaks to why I wanted to write about this outfit, though.  The patent leather flats I'm wearing above are one of my favorite pairs because they're my wedding shoes!  Putting them on is one way for me to feel like that perfect day lives on.  This is their first appearance on the blog, though, because I'm trying not to wear them out.  While all three of us here at SSG like to wear our favorite items frequently, I hate when this frequent wearing leads to wearing out.  Patent leather, in particular, presents a problem for me because I don't know how to take care of it properly.  Fellow commuters, do you also notice that the heel of your right shoe gets rubbed down from driving?  Almost all of my shoes reveal the marks of my 40-60 minute drive to campus.  With regular leather it's no problem because I can polish the mark away, but when patent leather starts to rub away, it's the end of the road for the shoes.  Unless I'm missing something.

Readers with freakishly good recall might also remember that I wrote earlier about ruining this tank while wearing it, too.  Luckily for me, my mother in law read that post and bought me not one but two! replacements.  So now this tank can live on in my wardrobe for years to come, which is fortunate because I'd washed the original so many times that it was starting to fade.

Prompts:

  • Do you have any items that you love enough to be careful about how often you wear them in order to avoid wearing them out?  What are they?
  • Seriously-- do other commuters do this to their shoes?  Or am I just driving wrong?
  • Any patent leather care tips you can give me?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Comfort

Draft:

Earlier Drafts:
Liz and I both own these shoes, though in different colors.

Composition:
blue cashmere sweater (Saks, on sale)
jeans (Marshalls)
pumpkin Mary Janes (Seychelles)
glasses (Jill Stuart)

Usage:
Naturally, since we're in the busiest, most inconvenient part of the semester, I'm sick.  Despite fortifying myself with more vitamin C than even the scurviest sailor needs, I'm still ill, though admittedly not as bad as it could be - with the exception of yesterday, spent sleeping, dosing myself with orange juice, tea, and Sudafed, and then sleeping again, I've been functional, just uncomfortable.  Today, I had to pull myself out of yesterday's lovely ensemble of pjs to help moderate a professionalization session related to my big department service obligation this year.  I had a cute swingy skirt look put together in my head - I'm with E. over at academichic on loving skirts with movement - but my body physically rejected this look.  It wanted back in the pjs.  So I had to put together something more comfortable, but still acceptably professional.

Since it's a Friday afternoon, dark wash skinnies would do fine for pants.  These jeans are pretty stretchy, and thus are super comfortable.  I wanted heels to up the professional quotient, so I put on these pumpkin (or tan?) Mary Janes, which, despite being new, have quickly risen to the top of my comfy heels list.  For a top, I considered a classic button down or another top with more structure.  Again, though, I wanted something comfortable (Note: I realize that I keep repeating that word in this post, but really, "comfort" was my focus).  I pulled out this lightweight cashmere sweater, which is so soft it's more like a marshmellow hug than a top (that sentence proves that I'm not feeling well).  I completely agree with Sal at Already Pretty that cashmere is fabulous for winter, and I will definitely be seeking out more of it.  Obviously, on a graduate student budget, this fabric is not necessarily the most economical purchase, but as Sal points out, there are different price points for it, and I think that's cashmere sweaters (and scarves) are great investment pieces. 

Despite not feeling 100%, I still need to get in gear for the end of term, and this outfit successfully tricked my body into thinking it was still in bed, watching the occasional episode of "Arrested Development" between naps, while allowing me to be productive.

Prompts:
  • What do you wear when you're not feeling well but still have professional obligations?
  • Any tips for getting better/preventing illness?  I've heard about eating raw garlic, but haven't tried it.  Can anyone weigh in on it or offer some other advice?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Change and Predictability

Draft:
Composition:
black wool sweater (Loft)
grey trousers (Gap)
black patent heels (Nine West)
stud earrings, my latest favorites (Juicy Couture)
chain and fabric necklace (Icing)  -- Yes, it's shedding on my collar! It's definitively not high quality.
nail color (OPI "You Don't Know Jacques!")

Usage:
In response to Liz's complimentary post about my supposed ability to "manage uncertainty," today I'm sharing one of my most predictable ensembles.  Why?  Because, now that I'm spending more time in the classroom, I'm learning why experienced teachers like Liz prefer the manageable expectations of simple, go-to outfits.  For the first time, I get it.  Sartorial predictability is comforting when daily dynamics entail enough fluctuating factors.

Wearing this uncomplicated look took my mind off the clothes, allowing me to focus on instructing.  It didn't require the perpetual readjusting of layered garments, and it didn't necessitate the tugging on shorter hemlines or lower necklines.  The minimal jewelry and monochrome palette were less distracting for both me and, hopefully, for my students.  Which makes me think: there might be ways in which sartorial choices can detract from our abilities.  (Ah ha! An epiphany!  Don't laugh, I'm slow on the uptake.)  Sartorial boldness doesn't always allow for professional and intellectual boldness, that is.

Normally I subscribe to the opposite view.  I think, if I challenge myself intellectually, pushing myself to read new literature and entertain bold ideas, then why not also challenge myself sartorially?  Especially since, as this blog and your own attest, we consider issues of aesthetics an important component of education.  In the world of the mind, we like trying on new thoughts, and we welcome encounters with the uncomfortable.  Evolutions of knowledge and opinion are generally good things; they often indicate growth.  So it follows that we would consider personal style evolutions good things too; they can also indicate growth.

Cutting and dyeing my hair or pairing seemingly incongruous garments -- both enable experimentation with new articulations of myself.  Even if I don't adhere to them permanently or even long-term (as in the case of my cinnamon hair hue, which is merely a demi-permanent dye, I should tell you), at least I can test the waters.  How did Aristotle put it?  "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."  Perhaps it's the same with sartorial choices: dabbling in a hairstyle, or a print, or a bright color, without necessarily permanently accepting it into our self-concepts, is productive if only because the courageous choice allows us to think anew about the social spaces we occupy.  It's a worthwhile initiative, I'd say, to challenge ourselves aesthetically.  That's why I quite like blogging alongside you guys, and why I welcome the occasional dramatic hair transformation.

For now, as long as my substitute teaching endeavor lasts, I'll be entertaining choices on Liz's side of the style fence.  I have quite a bit to learn about, as she says, "preparing, preparing, anticipating, and preparing."  For me, resisting spontaneity will be a grand -- and worthwhile -- sartorial adventure.

Prompts:
  •  How do you "prepare, prepare, anticipate, and prepare" sartorially?  I have no idea what I'm doing, so I'd welcome your strategies.  I've begun laying out ensembles the night before work -- does this count?
  •   Liz asked this question yesterday, and I think it's a good one: how do you get yourself out of a rut?  How do you challenge your patterns of style?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rut-Ditching; or, Pattern Mixing

Draft:

Earlier draft:
I wore this skirt and belt together when carrying my favorite bag.

Composition: 
black cami (Kohl's)
zebra print tank (Express via sister's closet)
green cropped cardigan (Express via sister's closet)
black and white print pencil skirt (NY&Co)
faux patent black belt (NY&Co)
black leather wedges (Lauren by RL)
nail color (OPI Can You Tapas This?)

Usage:
Anne-Marie's recent hair metamorphosis got me thinking.  Cut bangs, dye it a different color, and post pictures online for the world to evaluate?  I could never.  Sympathetic types might say "Liz just knows what she likes."  Less sympathetic types might say "Liz has trouble dealing with change," and downright  blunt types might say "Liz gets stuck in a rut."  All of them would be correct, I think.  Teaching high school helped me learn to prepare, prepare, anticipate, and prepare.  Teaching high school should have taught me that things don't always go according to plan.  However, I either didn't adequately learn that lesson while I was teaching, or I forgot it in the two years I spent as an Master's student.  This has been problematic lately, because this semester has been a constant reminder that I can't make things happen just by planning them.

Thankfully, the semester's not over yet, and there's still time to salvage my attitude toward it.  I might not be bold enough to make a change as significant as AM made with her hair, but her willingness to try out a new look made me think to myself: what is one thing I could do tomorrow to take me outside my comfort zone?  to remind myself of the benefits of sometimes pro-actively stepping outside the rut?  I decided on pattern mixing... with animal print.  I know this is kind of cheating, since the pattern on the skirt is very neutral, and combining two black and white pieces is not exactly experimental.  To my non-pattern wearing self, though, it felt like there was a LOT going on here.  All day long, I felt a slight unease, like "Oh, boy, yes, I am still wearing this crazy patterned outfit."  (Though I wore the cardigan all day, I took the second photo in an attempt to prove that this outfit IS kind of crazy.  The photo doesn't lie, though-- it was mostly in my head.)  I thought that uneasy feeling was good.  I still felt like me, but a more adventurous me, maybe.

So when I was confronted with more news this very day that suggested my plans had kind of backfired, I should have looked down at myself and thought: "It's okay.  I'm channeling Anne-Marie, who knows how to manage uncertainty much, much better than I do."  I didn't.  I got mad at myself for yet again insisting on trying so hard to plan ahead.  I hope that one day I'll actually learn the lesson.  Maybe the clothes can help.  If not the clothes, maybe the literature.  After all, I know what Robert Burns and John Steinbeck have to say about the best laid plans.  If not the literature, maybe the style blogging.  Because if Anne-Marie's post about her hair wasn't enough to convince me I should live a little more "in the moment," Sara's post on OiB today about being "mindful of where [she is] right now" should help.

Prompts:
  • How do you respond when your foresight proves to be in vain?  
  • What do you do to help get yourself out of a rut?  
  • Do you have any pattern mixing suggestions?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Embracing Color

Draft:


Earlier Draft:
I wore this dress with different accessories at my friend's rehearsal dinner.
I used these shoes to talk about high heels being my fashion talisman.

Composition:
yellow and pink beaded dress (Catherine Malandrino)
pink belt (came with a dress from H&M)
pink heels (Bakers)

Usage:
This weekend, I attended my cousin's wedding.  In choosing a dress, I vacillated between three different dresses, before settling on this one.  One was this blue dress that previously malfunctioned before another cousin's wedding (the zipper problem has since been fixed).  The second was this black and red floral number that I wore to another friend's rehearsal dinner, which I ended up packing as a back-up.  However, I wanted to take this colorful number for another spin.  Considering the wedding was in a slightly warmer climate and knowing the couple's style, I thought that this dress would work well even for a fall wedding.

Last time, I paired the dress with a black belt and black shoes, going more neutral in accessorizing this already very colorful dress.  This time, though, I decided to just embrace color and add more pink.  I really like how the shoes looked with the dress, and I think I'll use this combination in the future.  As for the belt, I think this raspberry-pink looked better than the black, but it still wasn't quite right.  I'm not entirely sure what width and color would look best.  Oddly, the dress didn't come with a belt, though I think it looks odd without one, though maybe it would look fine unbelted on someone with a less curvy body type.  Still, though, I think the shape of the dress calls for something to define the waist.  Thoughts?

During this stressful, crunch time of the semester, it was really fun to get all dolled up, have fun with family, and dance a bit.  Here's wishing all of you some stress-releasing fun!

Prompts:
  • How would you style this dress?
  • Does getting dressed up make you feel good during stressful times or do you just want to wear comfortable clothes?
  • What do you normally wear to weddings?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Student Conference Attire, Take Two

Draft:

Earlier Draft:
I wore this dress for a conference presentation in the spring.

Composition:
faux turquoise beaded necklace (Kohl's)
pale turquoise cardigan (Target)
brown printed jersey dress (Target)
brown stretch belt (Kohl's)
teal mary janes (Seychelles)
nail color (OPI You Don't Know Jacques!)

Usage:
After reading your comments on my suggestion that I was going to dress casually for my student conferences, and after reading A-Dubs's explanation of why she "feel[s] the need to bring it, sartorially" at this point in the semester, I had a change of heart.  I decided that those of you who suggested that meeting the students in the library created a neutral enough environment were right, so I decided to dress as I normally do when I teach.  It also occurred to me that I'd also be more comfortable in my regular "teaching" clothes than in a more casual outfit.  I'm still getting used to the different register of authority I'm experiencing as a graduate student instructor of undergraduates.  I'm more comfortable with the clear, distinct line drawn between "adult/authority" and "child/student" that I operated under in my high school classroom.  I realized that if I felt too casual, I might not be able to do my best work as a teacher during the conferences.

Looking back on the conferences, I feel like this was a good decision.  Most of the students seemed more at ease meeting with me in the library than they had been in my office.  When a few of the students suggested that I was too demanding or being too hard on them, it actually made me feel more comfortable to be in an open, public area than sitting in the corner of my office, too.  Those conferences were definitely the exception, though.  Most of the students came well prepared with appropriate questions to ask.  The real test, I know, will be if their next papers demonstrate an improvement.  If the conferences don't end up benefiting the students, though, I definitely benefited from them.  Having a chance to talk to each of the students individually actually reminded me of a lot of the things I really enjoy about teaching.  I think that having on my "teacher clothes" also made it easier for me to start the conference by asking how they are managing the transition into college without it seeming like I was trying to befriend them. 

An experienced high school teacher once told me, "Some days you'll find teaching exhausting, but if you find it exhilerating on most days, you know you've found the right profession."  I was worried that sitting through two hours of conferences for three straight days would wear me down, and several other instructors told me that they hate conferences.  I found my experience of holding conferences quite refreshing, actually, and I feel ready to guide them through the last few assignments with the hopes that they do better on those papers than the one I graded this week.  Because those were not good.  It's true what they say about a teacher's work never being done.

Prompts:
  • If you teach, what do you find most exciting about working with students? 
  • Whether you teach or not, are there any features of your job that you enjoy even though your colleagues disdain them?  What are they?  Why do you think you enjoy them more than others?
  • And this is a sidebar, but how often do you theme dress?  I put on this almost-never-worn cardigan last week because, in my graduate class, we were discussing a novel in which turquoise stones figure prominently.  I figured I had to wear my turquoise necklace for this discussion, so I dug this cardigan out to complement it... and all the sudden, I had a great new way to wear this dress!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Bruise; alternately titled, Copycat

Draft:

Earlier Drafts:
This dress is one of my summer staples.
I often wear this cardigan around the department.

Composition:
purple cardigan (Marshalls)
blue dress (Target)
purple tights (Hue)
pumpkin Mary Janes (Seychelles)

Usage:
Today I finally decided to dress up my favorite summer dress for fall.  I wear this simple blue cotton dress all the time in the summer, and I wore it in September with these cowboy boots.  This time, I decided to pair them with my recently purchased grape-purple tights and an eggplant-purple cardigan.  I call it my "bruise" look because of the color palate.  I like how the dark hues all fall in the same section of the color wheel: the colorful darkness (if that makes sense) feels good for November. 

Originally, I had envisioned this outfit with the aforementioned cowboy boots, but when I tried them on, they just looked off.  I still wanted that lighter neutral on my feet, so I pulled out my new Mary Janes, a shoe style I love.  Seychelles calls this color "Saddle Tan," but I think of it more as pumpkin.  I find that these shoes can function as an orange-y color and as a neutral, depending on the look.

These shoes may look familiar and for a good reason: they were Liz's first purchase after her shopping hiatus.  I loved her blue shoes, and I've trying to shore up more of a teaching wardrobe before spring.  In particular, I need some cute, teaching-friendly heels, and after seeing these ones (I actually didn't realize that they were the same ones at first), I bought this pair in a different color.  This isn't the first time two of us on SSG have owned the same pair of shoes: Liz and Anne-Marie own the same pair of snake print shoes, again in different colors.  Anne-Marie and I don't own the same boots, but they're very close.

I think that Liz, Anne-Marie, and I have relatively different styles, but we definitely overlap in certain areas.  It's always interesting when we're attracted to similar pieces.  For more on (all over) copycat looks, see Style Underdog and In Professorial Fashion.

Prompts:
  • How similar is your style to that of your friends, colleagues, and/or co-bloggers?
  • Do you own any of the same pieces as your friends, colleagues, and/or co-bloggers?
  • What's your favorite summer piece to "fall up"?

Professional Conference Attire

Draft:

Earlier Drafts:
I wore this jacket/belt combination over a dress in the spring.

Composition:
faux turquoise beaded necklace (Kohl's)
teal button-down (NY&Co)
navy blazer (Gap Outlet)
brown belt (Kohl's)
"mocha" trousers (Express)
teal mary janes (Seychelles)

Usage:
First, I want to thank you guys again for your thoughts on my student conference attire.  I'm looking forward to telling you how they went and what I wore next week, after I've had a chance to meet with all my students and upload some pictures.

For today, though-- on to a very different type of conference!  I recently gave a paper at an interdisciplinary conference at my own university.  I was very intimidated to share a panel with a fellow grad student who is on his second yearlong dissertation fellowship award, a professor who is currently working on her second book on a National Endowment of the Humanities fellowship, and another professor who is a premier scholar in the field.  It was also kind of nerve-wracking to give the talk in front of so many of my own professors. I knew they'd be stopping me in the halls to talk to me about it afterward (and they have).  I was completely prepared, though, and that always helps to calm my nerves.  My co-panelists' papers were really interesting, and I got some very helpful questions and comments about my own paper, so it was a definite success.

I kind of surprised myself by putting together this pants outfit for the presentation, given my recent reservations about pants.  Last spring, when I presented at an international conference, I wore a dress and swing jacket combination.  I came across the photo linked above in the "earlier drafts" section, which reminded me that I actually wore a different version of today's outfit to the first day of that conference.  This time, I thought I'd stick with something that had worked before while making it a little more "me."  I added the teal button down underneath, the turquoise beaded necklace, and what are quickly becoming my signature teal mary janes.  The belt was perhaps unnecessary, but despite how frequently I deploy this waist-cinching maneuver, this was the first time my husband has ever said "I really can't believe your waist is that small!" so I guess it made an impact.

I'm curious what you think about this outfit, but I'm also interested in how frequently you aim to give papers at conferences.  I realize that an article publication carries a lot more weight on the C.V. than conference talks, but while I'm still in coursework, I have very little time to work on revising the papers that my professors indicate have publication potential.  Plus, I'm wary about publishing something this early in my career and regretting its point of view later on.  I have plenty of time to revise seminar papers into conference papers, though, so my general approach has been to accumulate conference presentation lines on my C.V. until I'm ready to move on to getting an article published.  I'm really curious about how frequently you all aim to present at conferences, what types of conferences you're most interested in attending, and whether that has changed as you progress into your career.  I've discussed these things with my own professors, obviously, but we have such a diverse and interesting group of readers that I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the issue, too!

Prompts:

  • How often do you give conference presentations?  Every year?  Every semester?  Every time you come across a CFP that matches the work you've been doing?  Only when another University pays you an honorarium to come and talk about your current book project?
  • So far I've presented at a graduate conference, a very large, prestigious international conference, and this interdisciplinary conference at my own university.  What types of conferences appeal the most to you?  As a graduate student, did you work on getting accepted by the "prestigious" conferences or were you focused on getting any exposure for your work that you could find?  Or maybe both?
  • Have these things changed over the course of your career?  Does my model of focusing on conference presentations now and shifting the focus to article publications in a year or so make sense to you?
  • Do you have a go-to outfit for conference presentations?  Do you find that you tend to prefer skirts or pants?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hair Metamorphosis

Draft:
Composition:
emerald short-sleeved sweater (Merona)
marigold swing jacket (NY&Co)
grey pleated shorts (F21)
black sheer tights (?)
black suede wedges (DKNYC)
nail color (OPI "You Don't Know Jacques!")

below:
marigold suede bag (gifted)
jeweled brooch (Macy's) 

Usage:
Today's visit to the salon reminded me of the transformative power of dyed and chopped locks.  I haven't dramatically altered my hairstyle since last Thanksgiving, when I asked my stylist to hack away at my then-shoulder-length curls.  Since that fateful chop, I've hovered around Bob-cut territory, sometimes requesting near-pixie looks, and sometimes declaring "growing out" periods (which never lasted longer than a month).  When I sought her advice on remedying this hair ambivalence, my friend Caitlin of Frosting and Bows (who has known me and my hair since the second grade) suggested that I dye my blonde head red.  Auburn, really.  I wanted to heed her advice, I sincerely did, which is why I dabbled in cinnamon weeks ago.  (Didya notice?  It was subtle.)  Alas, I couldn't muster the courage for even a semi-permanent hue.

But today, without specific intention, I took the plunge back into a Bobbed 'do and full-on into auburn.  More like, I fell into auburn accidentally.  See, I snapped these photos earlier today before scooting out to what was supposed to be a "quick trim."  I had aimed to post about cold weather shorts:
I hadn't prepared for a hair transformation.  However, a few snips and a spontaneous bottle of allover color later, and I'm suddenly an inductee to both the Bangs and Redhead Clubs.  Spice o' life, I tell you.  Spice o' life.

Prompts:
  • What's the boldest hairstyle you've ever tried?  The most spontaneous?
  • What factors usually prompt you to change hairstyles?  Relationships, career moves, geographic moves, new exercise regimens, or something else?
  • I've heard it said that older women typically model their hairstyles after those of their favorite life phases.  Do you think this theory holds water?  If so, what have been your favorite life phases, and what did your hair look like during these times?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Student Conference Attire

Draft:

Earlier Drafts: 
AM gave me this graphic tee as a graduation gift, these boots are one of my favorite cool-weather staples, and I wrote about working from home in these skinnies.

Composition:
Moby Dick tee (gifted from AM via Out of Print)
cream cardigan (Anne Taylor)
light wash skinnies (American Eagle)
gray slouch boots (Steve Madden)

Usage:
Starting tomorrow, I'm meeting each of my students for a student-led conference.  I've given them a set of requirements to prepare before the conference so they can come ready to ask me questions.  I want to avoid the type of conference where I do a lot of talking, the student does a lot of head nodding, and then he/she forgets everything we discussed.  I'm hoping that if they show up knowing what they want to get out of the meeting, setting time aside for conferences will be more beneficial.  We'll see how that goes.

I'm also working on creating an environment conducive to the type of conversation I want to have with each student.  Rather than asking them to come to my office, where some of them seem to be intimidated, I'm meeting them in the main library on campus.  I'm also planning to wear jeans to give off the "I'm also approachable and I want to help you" vibe.  The outfit above is quickly turning into one of my favorite casual iterations: interesting top+ cardigan+ skinnies+ interesting shoe.  I'm not planning to wear this outfit-- I'm not sure it's a good idea to wear this particular word across my chest while meeting with students-- but I'm thinking about wearing something like it.

I wonder what you all think?  Should I avoid skinny jeans? Graphic tees?  Should I wear something more "professional" on top to mitigate the jeans on bottom?  Would it be better to stick with more formal, dark wash jeans?  I'm really curious about your suggestions for this particular teaching moment, whether or not you've instructed undergrads before.

Prompts:
  • What type of outfit would you suggest in order to facilitate the kind of conversation I've described above?
  • Are there any specific items of clothing you think I should avoid-- either because they're too informal or for any other reason?
  • Do you have any other tips for running student conferences?  I'm all ears (or eyes?)!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Threadbared Feminism and Fashion Links

If you're anything like me, you've been missing your daily dose of genius while the women over at Threadbared have been working diligently on their manuscripts.

Today, though, they've posted an awesome set of links to articles/blog posts/etc that grapple in different ways with this question:
How is fashion an instrument of gender oppression and how is it a means to feminist liberation?
Please visit their post, "F Bombs," if you'd like to check out the list and/or add your own suggestions to it in the comments.

I've read many of these before, and I can't wait to look through the rest between semesters, when time allows!

-Liz

Friday, November 5, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Draft:
Composition:
white pleated button-down (Martin & Osa)
grey blazer (Gap)
plaid skirt (Loft)
grey tights (Hue)
riding boots (Etienne Aigner via DSW)

Usage:
On the last day of May I declared a personal hiatus from the formal classroom.  Today, five months later, I'm returning to school.  Although I'm only filling in as a substitute teacher, I'm excited and nervous to operate in an academic setting again.

Today I'm sporting equestrian-inspired footwear to commemorate jumping back in the academic saddle.  My skills may be rusty, but my enthusiasm for education has undergone a revival.  Giving myself a breather, exploring other employment options, and reacquainting myself with arts education have reminded me how much I enjoy learning.  Here's hoping that energy sustains me through this period of re-training.

Not only is this new teaching experience allowing me to exercise a dormant part of my brain, but it's also enabling me to explore a neglected section of my closet: professional clothes.  Months ago, when I felt overwhelmed by DIY house projects, I longed for this day.  Now I'm relishing the break from casual apparel and embracing professional attire.

I especially like that the changes in my employment coincide with the changes in season.  It infuses the "turning over a new leaf" concept with new meaning.  (And there's a bit of schmaltz to get you through Friday.)

Enjoy the weekend!

Prompts:
  • I mentioned that my professional clothes have been on vacation until now.  Do you organize your closet according to context -- sorting clothes into "casual" and "professional" categories -- or do you cross-purpose your clothes to suit a variety of settings?
  • Is this outfit overly themed?  Too, erm, suitable for a polo match?
  • Teachers, what are your favorite go-to ensembles?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pants Practice

Draft:

Earlier Drafts:
I wore these pants here, and if you click the "cardigans" tab, you'll likely turn up oodles of results with this cardigan or an identical one.

Composition:
black cami (Kohl's)
red print tank (Isaac Mizrahi for Target: does anyone else miss his line there as much as I do?)
black and red beaded necklace (NY&Co)
black cardigan (NY&Co)
micro plaid trousers (Express)
black wedges (Lauren by Ralph Lauren)
"Metro Chic" polish (Sephora by OPI)

Usage:
So I've been trying to work on putting together outfits I like with pants since I wrote about my "pants prejudice" in last week's post.  I've been surfing some other blogs and looking at pants ensembles, and I've decided there is a standard pants outfit that "works."  The basic ingredients are:
1) a great pair of pants (I love all of mine, so that's not the problem)
2) a cute top (I have fewer of these)
3) a cardigan (I obviously have plenty of these)
4) at least one other item of interest (statement necklace, great earrings, belt, cute shoes, etc.)

I really liked this outfit.  I don't own a lot of prints, so this is as close to print mixing as I can come, even though I really like that styling choice.  (I actually had no idea that I don't buy prints until I started blogging.)  I like how the red top brings out the reddish/pinkish stripe in the micro plaid (I think you can make this out if you click to enlarge).  This necklace looks great up against the red top and black cardigan, and it also falls nicely with the neckline of the top.  And after what feels like a long time of deferring to neutral nail polishes, the cold weather prompted me to return to the fall hues that I fell in love with last year.

It all felt very pulled together and cohesive for me, and I ended up wishing I'd waited two days to wear it.  You can probably tell from my "I voted!" sticker that I wore this outfit on Tuesday, but it seems in retrospect like this would have been a perfect outfit to wear for the formal observation my teaching mentor is conducting in my classroom today.

Prompts:

  • Can you share a list of "ingredients" for a different type of pants outfit that "works" for you?
  • Can you think of anything I could add to this list of ingredients to mix it up?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thoughts on Fur

Draft:
Composition:
cream cotton bow-tie top (Halogen via Nordstrom)
faux fur vest (Old Navy)
orange print skirt (Tucker for Target, gifted)
brown tights (Merona)
suede and leather boots (Franco Sarto via DSW)

Usage:
Today I attempt to parse my fist-pumping affection for the current furlike garment revival.  I can't decide if I'm for the democratization of fur in its less expensive faux forms, or if I'm legitimately opposed to authentic animal-derived garments.  Perhaps both.  Except, if the latter holds true for me, then I'd have to ditch these leather boots on ethical grounds.  And, frankly, I like leather.  Why doesn't wearing leather make me uncomfortable in the same way wearing genuine animal hair makes me uneasy?  It's likely that the tanning process so de-characterizes animal hides that it renders them unrecognizable, making it easier for wearers like me to disassociate the product from the source.  Not so with animal fur.  I wore a faux rabbit hair vest to class once, and, upon hugging me, a student declared she had "caught a bunny."

Not only do ethical issues make me uneasy about wearing genuine fur, but the same issues make me wary about the mere semblance of the authentic.  To the extent that, when wearing faux fur, I feel it necessary -- albeit ridiculous -- to preface all garment-related (ok, and -unrelated) conversation with "Don't worry,this isn't real."  Which is what I did yesterday while sporting this Old Navy vest.  (I can confirm that framing smalltalk in such a way ensures awkward social situations.)  If the mere suggestion of the authentic makes me bristle, then why not consider prints like the one Katie interrogated yesterday problematic?  Sure, gesturing at animal-derived material via printed cotton is less threatening, but exactly which garments warrant moral unease?  Only the real animal-derived clothes, or the ones that gesture at the real too?

I ask because this weekend, between handing out candy to costumed neighborhood kids, my husband and I chatted about our favorite childhood Halloween get-ups.  A psychologist's son, my husband noted that he was restricted or spared from (depending on your interpretation) wearing costumes that referenced violence or included pretend weapons.  "Why?" I asked. "Fake weapons are, well, fake."  To which he responded, "The semblance of the real can be problematic -- even harmful -- too."  Fair enough.

Should the same principle apply to fur?

Prompts:
  • Ok, no holds barred, where do you stand on the animal fur issue?  Do you wear genuine animal hair garments, faux animal hair garments?  Do you wear animal prints?
  • If you don't wear genuine animal fur for ethical reasons, then please elaborate on them.  As I'm thinking through this issue, it'd be helpful to hear your rationale.
  • Since I mentioned leather too, what do you think about wearing it?  I haven't sufficiently researched the processes for preparing either animal fur or leather, so I'm wondering if they differ in important ways.
  • On a lighter note, blogging friends weren't kidding when they raved over the Tucker for Target line.  This skirt is ubercomfortable, and the print works in my wardrobe even better than I expected.  Huzzah!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In the News: Leopard Print

In lieu of a new outfit today, I wanted to do a quick post about this article, "Leopard print vs. 'the investment piece,'" in Slate by Simon Doonan, creative director at Barneys, commentator on VH1's I Love the 70s/80s/90s series, and occasional America's Next Top Model style mentor guest.  While Doonan's article is a bit all over the place, I think it raises interesting issues about the marketing of fashion pieces, how trends are identified, and what gets to be called an "investment piece" and what doesn't.

Doonan observes that seasonal trends are anointed in "a desperate attempt to spot the glimmerings of a coherent message" in order to "help you, the ordinary woman in the street, navigate the vast and unpredictable terrain of the fashion apocalypse."  In other words, trends are imposed narratives designed to organize and neatly delineate the intrinsically incohesive fashion world.  Furthermore, certain trends are actually classic, perennial looks that the fashion world simply relabels as "trendy" - a move that Doonan calls "cheating."

I like how Doonan uses the supposedly new leopard print trend to interrogate this trend "cheating" and to complicate our notion of "investment pieces."  He acknowledges the boldness of leopard print and its cultural connotation of tackiness, but juxtaposes this "tacky, theatrical, and sad, albeit fabulously so" print with various examples of leopard print's endurance through time.  To conclude, he puts leopard print in conversation with talk of "investment pieces" - which he interestingly labels as a trend - to say that no one in fashion marketing is "ballsy enough to actually claim that a leopard print, with its nod to Bettie Page's pastie-twirling, burlesque high jinks, could ever be packaged and sold as an investment."  Leopard print, though a perennial look, has too much cultural baggage to be called an "investment piece" though it otherwise would be, just like a "Reed Krakoff military great coat."  And Doonan blames that marketing problem for the lack of leopard print he sees on the subway - basically, the label of safe "investment piece" has killed the recent bolder leopard print "trend."

I previous wrote about my own experience with leopard print. In that post, I acknowledge that animal prints can be "tricky," but that "my approach to animal prints has been to either use them as accents or to use them to spice up more conservative styles."


This shirt's classic and relatively conservative shape lets the leopard print stand out but not overwhelm.  I consider this top an investment piece, and I get a lot of wear out of it: as I stated in the post about it, "I can wear it with a pencil skirt and heels or, as I do here, with jeans."  While leopard print may not suit everyone's taste, and while it can veer into the absurd, I think with the right, measured approach, it can be an investment piece.

Prompts:
  • Can leopard print - or any animal print - be an investment piece?
  • How do you define an investment piece?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dresses as Skirts

Draft:
Earlier Drafts:
I posted the photo at right when I wore this dress alone during the summer, and I also wore this dress for my master's defense.

Composition:
faux turquoise beaded necklace (Kohl's)
turquoise cardigan (Old Navy)
brown stretch belt (Kohl's)
blue embossed cotton dress (J. Crew)
teal mary janes (Seychelles)

Usage:
Last week, when I posted the look at right, Katie of Interrobangs Anonymous wrote "Alright, lady, time to spill your shirts over dresses layering techniques. I'm amazed at how you keep pulling it off without there being any weird shapes or bulges."  I'm happy to oblige!  Today's look is not really a dress-as-skirt look, since the top of the dress is still clearly visible, but I did use one of my dress-as-skirt "techniques" to style this monochromatic-ish look, so I thought it would be a good time to share them all with you.

In both the look above and the one to the right, I've used a "fold under and belt" technique.  Above, I folded the cardigan under, positioning the fold at the desired place, and then used the belt to hold the cardigan in place and mask the transition from cardigan to dress.  At right, I did the same thing with the white button-down, but since it was under the cardigan, I just had to make sure the white shirttails didn't hang out beneath.  (I tried it that way too, but I didn't like it as much.)  I do actually think there is some detectable bulging in each look, but not enough to look weird, IMO.

The belt is also key for the looks below, which I'd describe as examples of the "fold up and belt" technique.

In both of these cases, I put a top over the dress and folded about a one inch cuff at the bottom of the top.  I continued folding up until the shirt reached the desired position, and then I put the belt over the top of the cuff to hold the shirt in place.  I started trying this because I liked the color-blocked dresses I saw everywhere this summer, where the skirt was one color, the top was another, and there was a solid belt-like elastic stripe through the middle.  To save money, I figured out how I could create a similar look with pieces I already had.

This doesn't work with every shirt, though.  I had to choose a shirts that weren't too long, or the cuff that goes under the belt would have gotten too big and bulky.  I also had to carefully choose shirts that were thick/dark enough and cut in such a way as to obscure the top of the dress beneath it.  At right, for example, I actually wanted to wear a brighter blue tee, but since it has a scoop neck, the brown bits of the v-neck dress were peaking out.

This doesn't work with every belt, either.  The thicker and stretchier the belt, the better it will work to keep the cuff in place without looking weird or feeling uncomfortable.  This brown belt works perfectly for this type of thing, which explains why it's featured to heavily in this post.

The looks below don't really incorporate any technique at all.  All I've done is layer a top over a dress.

This simple layering technique works for me because I tend to favor dresses cut in simple, sheath silhouettes.  This allows for any number of tops to be put over the dress and prevents any weird bunching from going on.  While this works best when the skirt is also fairly form-fitting, I've been surprised at how many dresses with full skirts that I've been able to use with all of these techniques.

Today's first look is a good example of a full skirt working for layering.  I really love this dress, so I was excited to find another way to wear it.  Skeptics might suggest that I didn't need the belt, but I liked how moving up the waistline with the belt allowed the skirt to move like it does when its worn alone.  Since the distinctive heel of my teal mary janes is wooden, I thought the brown belt might also help draw attention to that feature of the look.  This ensemble also prompted a friendly conversation with the woman who rang up my items at the grocery store, so I'll consider it a success!

Prompts:

  • Which is your favorite "dress as skirt" look?  Do you have any other ideas for how to make this work?
  • How have style blogs helped you to re-think your styling techniques?  It never even occurred to me to try mixing clothes in this way until I began posting pictures of myself online, but I love how it makes my wardrobe feel more versatile and fun.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Draft:


Composition:
red hat (thrifted)
red trench coat (thrifted)
black gloves
black pants (Macy's)
black boots (Macy's)
black t-shirt (Old Navy)
map

Usage:
Happy Halloween!  Since Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, I figured it would only be appropriate to commemorate it in a SSG post.  Growing up, I loved dressing up for Halloween.  Getting to put on a costume and be someone else for a night was a lot of fun for young, overly dramatic me...and still is fun for older, still dramatic me. 

Growing up, my mom always made our costumes.  Now, I can't sew at all, but I still like that make-it-yourself spirit.  I never buy ready-made Halloween costumes.  I put mine together from things already in my closet/house and from thrifted items.  Last year, I went as Carmen Sandiego, everyone's favorite international thief and geography educator.  A pretty low maintence costume, as all I really needed were a red trench coat, which I found in a thrift store, and a hat, found in the same excursion.  I layered them over basic black and threw a map in my pocket as a cheeky nod to Carmen's globe hopping.  Also, I did the classic running-away Carmen pose in every photograph taken.

Here's hoping all of you have a happy (and stylish) Halloween! 

Prompts:
  • Do you dress up for Halloween?  If so, what are you going as this year?
  • What was your favorite Halloween costume ever - worn by you and/or seen on someone else?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cancer Awareness

Hi all--

I don't have an outfit for you today; I have something to say from my heart.

Like many of you, my life has been profoundly impacted by cancer.  I've been touched by the number of style bloggers who have participated in October's "Breast Cancer Awareness" month. I see it as a real, visible, material manifestation of their desire to help fight cancer and reach out to those who have experienced it.

I can't help but be bothered, though, by the commodification and commercialization of the "breast cancer awareness" movement.  I appreciate the questions posed by Breast Cancer Action's "Think Before You Pink" initiative.  They suggest that before we purchase something to benefit breast cancer awareness, we ask:

How much money actually goes toward breast cancer programs and services?
Where is the money going?
What types of programs are being supported?
What is the company doing to assure that its products are not contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?

One of my colleagues has been researching the rhetoric of various breast cancer "awareness" initiatives, and she first exposed me to Babara Ehrenreich's important 2001 essay, "Cancerland."  I'll admit that when I first read the article, I thought she was being overly cynical.  As time has progressed, though, and I've seen cancer cells refuse to respond to treatments in the bodies of those I love, I can't help but feel indebted to Dr. Ehrenreich.  I appreciate her willingness to voice an unpopular but very important perspective on the "fight against cancer," and I hope that some of you will take the time to read her thoughts on the issue.  If you or anyone you know has ever been just downright angry about cancer, you might be able to relate to her article as strongly as I do.

I wanted to write today, also, because as breast cancer awareness month comes to an end, those of us in the States are faced with a different type of opportunity to "do something" on November 2.  If you're committed to fighting cancer, I'd like to encourage you to do some extra research into which elected officials have proven their own commitment to the same.  While this is just one of the many important factors I weigh when I cast my ballot, I hope you'll agree that it's one worth considering.

With my most sincere wishes of happiness and health to all of you,
Liz