Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Sentimental Romp(er)

Draft:
Earlier Draft:
I wore these wedges with a pleated linen skirt that I never iron but should.  Which is ironic, because I didn't iron today's outfit either, and I should've.  These shoes must render me incapable of starching and pressing my clothing.

Composition:
chambray romper (Swell, on sale!)
assorted blues beaded necklace (Talbots, gifted)
monogrammed silver bracelets (gifted)
blue wedges (Target)

Usage:
Well, it took me all summer to locate a romper I liked at a decent price, and here 'tis.  Let it be known that I do not typically spend an entire season shopping for a single item; after a while, I either call off the search or purchase a version I don't particularly adore.  So this find is especially successful.  I like that this all-in-one outfit doesn't make me look too juvenile, and I also appreciate that the smocked elastic waist and bust prevent fabric puckering.  That's my principal beef with other rompers: many of them boast back zippers, a feature which causes the seams to lay oddly across my lower back and booty.  Earlier this summer, Katie and Liz wrote about their one-and-done look of choice: the cotton jersey dress.  My one-and-done pick?  This comfy over-/cover-all derivative. 

Good thing the temperatures will remain high for a few more weeks; this garment will have more wear time.  The weather's rewarding my unusual shopping sobriety with delayed gratification, I'm pretty sure.

Yesterday I wore this outfit to run errands, the most important of which was mailing a care package to my youngest sibling, my college freshman sister.  She began classes yesterday, and, from what I can tell, she's enjoying herself far too much to bother updating me.  This is a good thing.  Even though I'm teary-eyed that she's so suddenly grown-up, I'm excited for the growing-up experiences she'll have over the next four years.  Ten bucks and a bottle of nail polish say she's not thinking about books right now, but even so, I hope she'll catch the learning bug for a subject she loves and grow to find higher education positively delicious.  My time in graduate school, learning among talented educators, and my short months of interacting with you thoughtful blogreaders have convinced me that more than a few of my sister's professors will feel just as you do: energized by the new school year's potential.  And I'm equally confident their excitement will be contagious.

Prompts:
  • Has your shopping endurance paid off this summer?  Tell us about your purchases!
  • For nostalgia's sake, what's your favorite back-to-school outfit ever?  Here's mine: a floral-printed pink tunic tee, coordinating leggings, pink lace-up Keds, and a Princess Jasmine bookbag.  Topped off with a side ponytail.  Third grade, baby.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Introducing: Wardrobe Workhorse Week!


Recently, reader Jill posed the question, "What are some essential wardrobe 'must haves' that won't make me look like a Plain-Jane?"  Meanwhile, Katie has purged her closet of the clothes she doesn't wear and is looking to rebuild her wardrobe in preparation for her teaching assignment.  We've all read published lists of "wardrobe basics," which proclaim the classic white button-down, the essential trouser, the quality cardigan, and more as "essential" to an adult wardrobe.  But we got to thinking about what is, for us, a more interesting question:
What items of apparel and accessories do people who are concerned with style most frequently wear?  
What do we keep reaching for when we want to feel great?  What are the items without which we'd consider our wardrobes incomplete?  In the past, you've noticed that we (and plenty of other style bloggers) call these types of items "wardrobe workhorses."  A wardrobe workhorse might be a shoe that goes with everything, a dress that can be worn a hundred ways, or a jacket that makes a great sartorial opening statement.

So we're deeming September 6-10 "Wardrobe Workhorse Week."  Between now and then, we'll think critically about our dressing habits and decide which 4-6 items we consider to be our most important wardrobe workhorses.  During that week, we'll publish posts in which we identify those items, talk about why we find ourselves reaching for them most frequently, and include photos that show you how we wear them.

We also want to enlist a little help from our friends!  If you're willing to participate in WWW, please leave a comment here with a link to your blog by 9/5, and feel free to spread the word on your blog ahead of time by linking back to this post.  We'll post a list of all participants with links on 9/6.  During that week, we'll look to your blogs to read your posts that identify and celebrate your wardrobe workhorses.  If you'd like to copy the banner above and include it in your post, please feel free!  And if you don't keep a blog but would still like to participate, please email us your wardrobe workhorse list with any accompanying descriptions and photos to submissions{at}scholarstyleguide{dot}com by 9/4.  We'd be happy to feature them in a series of reader submission posts during the week.

When all is said and done, we'll compile a wrap-up post that we hope will bring everyone's ideas about wardrobe workhorses together.  We're optimistic that this experiment will help give us all a better idea of which clothes and accessories are truly staples of our stylish wardrobes.  We also hope it will provide us with a great resource to consider whenever we're ready to add items to our closets.

"The Beauty of the Power Game"

Drafts:
(These images are screen grabs from this NYT video gallery directed by Dewey Nicks)


Composition:
Left, from top:
Elena Dementieva, Kim Clijsters, Victoria Azarenka, and Jelena Jankovic
Right, from top:
Serena Williams, Vera Zvonareva, and Samantha Stosur

Usage:
I (Liz) hope you guys don't mind too much if I depart a little from our normal post content to discuss this New York Times Video Gallery, released last week in preparation for the US Open, which begins today.  I've told you before that I am a big tennis fan and an athlete, so I find myself both excited by the premise of this video gallery and disappointed by its execution.  I'll share my reaction to the videos, but I'm most curious to hear what the rest of you think.

First, a few thoughts on what I liked about the video gallery.  I really appreciate what I understand as the premise: to show female professional tennis players in slow motion in order to help us recognize the "beauty" of their bodily movements.  I know "beauty" is a loaded and sometimes dangerous word, but as a student of aesthetic theory, I do think appreciating "beauty" in itself is a worthwhile pursuit.  The title suggests that a woman's physical strength and power can be beautiful, which I think is a step in the right direction.  A few of them are even sweating noticeably!  I was fascinated by watching the women move in slow motion.  I've seen Kim Clijsters perform that split hundreds of times, but this was the first time I noticed that she placed her left hand on the ground to push herself back up.  I was intrigued by where their eyes were focused as they struck the ball.  The movement of their muscles in slow motion is, I think, quite beautiful.  The music does an interesting job of encouraging us to make a connection between these athletic movements and the bodily movements of dancers, particularly ballet dancers, which are more traditionally recognized as "beautiful."

But I think that's where my appreciation for the piece ends.  As I continued to think about it, all I could find were more points of frustration.  I'm bothered by the decision to put the women in designer costumes and, in 5 of the 7 videos, to leave their hair down so it could float around.  I think these editorial decisions reinforce the suggestion that women need to fancy themselves up in order for their appearance to read as "beautiful."  If the intent was really to have highlighted the beauty in their movement or their power, I can't understand why they weren't dressed in either their regular court clothes or even a more neutral ensemble.  If each of them were wearing the same black tank and shorts, for example, I think our focus would have been directed more toward their bodily movements.  Instead, I was thinking "Is JJ playing tennis in Herve Leger?  How is that possible?"

At first, I was delighted to see Samantha Stosur included in the gallery.  Of all the ladies included, she cultivates an appearance that is the least traditionally "feminine."  On court, she wears a dress with athletic-inspired styling accents, hats and visors, and wraparound sunglasses.  She pulls her hair into a tight ponytail and doesn't wear noticeable makeup.  Aside from Serena Williams, Stosur is easily the most muscular woman in the top 20.  It's the combination of these factors, I think, which results in rumors that she is a lesbian (as if that matters) and a steroid user (though she must consent to regular random drug screenings and has never tested positive).  Since I know these things about her, I was both glad to see her in a montage dedicated to "beauty" and surprised that she's been styled in a bandeau top with a bare midriff.  It seems completely inconsistent with her persona, whereas everyone else seems to at least be dressed in something she might have picked up off the stylist's rack.

Stosur's one of the ladies whose hair is pulled back, but you might not notice it, because her face is completely outside the fame within 5 seconds of the 23 second clip.  What gives, New York Times?  In four of the videos, the player's face is prominently featured for the entire clip.  The videos of Jankovic and Azarenka only show their faces for about half the time, but the camera pans up toward their faces rather than panning away from them immediately, as is the case in the Stosur clip.  Stosur's body is prominently featured, and had they focused only on her face, I probably would have complained that they seemed uncomfortable with her physical strength.  But the decision to figuratively cut off her head in a video that purports to celebrate the beauty of her power doesn't sit well with me, either.

My frustration about the refusal to feature Stosur's face was only heightened when I got to the final video.  The clip of Vera Zvonarava is focused almost entirely on her vibrant blue eyes and her floating hair.  Her arm only comes into the picture to strike the ball near the end of the clip.  The darkness of the scene behind her also serves to emphasize her hair and eyes, which I think we can agree fit the traditional Western standards of beauty.

So while I think this video gallery had great potential to ask its viewers to reconsider how they define "beauty" or "power," I think it ultimately fails to do so.  Maybe I wouldn't have expected so much from it if they'd titled it "Nice looking girls in nice looking clothes in slow motion."  But the title drew me in before, ultimately, the content let me down.

Prompts:
  • What's your take on the video gallery?  Which elements of the players' movements or the video production stood out the most to you?  Am I being too critical or not critical enough?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Audrey Might've Worn a Fedora

Draft:Earlier Drafts:
This strapless top's silhouette is surprisingly versatile.
These heels "go" with e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.  But I've said that already.

Composition: 
fedora (Target)
black strapless top (ShopMamie)
multi-chain necklace (Talbots)
black Audrey pants (Gap)
nude suede heels (Seychelles via Piperlime)

Usage: 
This week Katie reassessed her closet and determined that her attraction to floral prints may indicate that she's a more "ladylike" dresser than she realized.  Liz noted that Katie had previously described her style as "easy elegance," and asked if Katie considered the terms "ladylike" and "elegant" synonymous.  Their exchange was helpful to my own thinking because, although this week I've grappled with the definition of "ladylike" and danced around the idea of elegance, I hadn't speculated about the ways in which the two meanings may intersect. 

Months ago, noted photographer and illustrator Garance Dore published a post entitled "What is Elegance?" on her personal fashion blog.  I like Dore's definition of this frequently-used, often-abused term, for it emphasizes conduct over clothes and decorum over dressing habits.  It encourages me in a You're-Never-Fully-Dressed-Without-a-Smile sort of way.  People can be elegant with or without the "right" style savvy, she suggests.

Rex Harrison's character Henry Higgins learns a similar lesson in the 1964 film My Fair Lady.  When his efforts to refine Audrey Hepburn's street-smart protagonist Eliza backfire, Henry realizes that Eliza's je ne sais quoi renders her more elegant than any of his rules of form.  She is dignified despite, not because of, his insistence on social and sartorial graces.

I mention this film because, not-so-ironically, it derives from the same Mad Men era we've been discussing this week.  Consistent with the social undercurrents of 50s/60s fashion, the movie's very title challenges the notion of femininity.  For starters, it's possessive, suggesting that the fair female in question might be owned by, or at least indebted to, her teacher/admirer.  Therefore, it also implicitly asks, when exactly does Eliza become a "lady," before or after Henry instructs her in navigating high society?

I think the meanings of "ladylikeness" and "elegance" might intersect here, at the concept of social shrewdness.  Dore's characterization certainly esteems "politeness," "attention to others," "poise," and "a sense of culture" as primary qualifiers of elegance.  And media evidence from Audrey's classic films to Frank Sinatra's 1950s tune "Luck Be a Lady" demonstrate that, for women coming of age in these pivotal decades, "lady" likely had similar connotations.

If this is true, are these terms simply equivalent to "ethical conscience" or "social awareness" or something like it?  Do they mean being kind or even genteel enough to get along in society?  What implications would accepting these definitions have today?  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm interested in sorting through these ideas because so far next season's fashion marketing has depended on them.

Even if we don't reach any conclusions on the terms, I'm glad our posts this week have sparked such lively conversations about the development of feminism and the resurgence of vintage fashion.  We're energized by your insightful comments, comments like Mackenzie's: 

"I'm with you that 'ladylike' is a difficult word to use in grappling with your clothing ... But the silhouettes themselves? Rock, rock on. Not wearing something because of its previous connotations of bondage is just as much a form of bondage ... Let's all wear what makes us happy and only call it 'ladylike' if we are ready to be called 'ladies' in whatever we wear."

Prompted by Mackenzie's suggestion to wear what makes me happy, I've compiled an outfit inspired by Audrey Hepburn's monochrome look in the 1957 film Funny Face.  I've thrown in a fedora to gesture at Sinatra, too.  The overall ensemble is my nod to his confident swagger and Audrey's gamine boldness.  How does it resonate with you?

Thanks for the great discussions this week!  Have a happy weekend.

Prompts:
  • How do you define "elegance"?  "Ladylikeness"?  Do you think they're synonymous?
  • Why do you think Audrey Hepburn is regarded as a fashion icon?  What does she represent to you?
  • How do you think our style mindsets are like or unlike those of the 50s/60s?
  • More practically, this one-size-fits-most fedora business is not working for me.  Is this hat supposed to cover my ears?  How are you guys wearing them?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fashion Superstition

Draft: 

Composition:
red top (H&M)
brown trousers (Gap)
white cami (Old Navy)
black boots (Macy's)
sting ray necklace (gift from boyfriend)
watch (Fossil)

Usage:
Ah, back to school time.  Today was the departmental orientation for new graduate students.  Since I got my MA at this university, I considered myself already oriented, so I wasn't planning on attending.  However, I'm co-chairing a big, annual departmental event this year, so our grad organization's president asked my co-chair and I to say something about the event.  So I spoke, and I guess technically got (re)oriented too.

I have to say, I was surprised at how long it chose me to pick out an outfit.  I couldn't decide what kind of look I wanted to put together.  Departmental orientation isn't a formal event, and I knew many people who were speaking wouldn't get very dressed up.  And, after all, I would only be talking for about 2 minutes.  I did want to make a good (and professional) impression, though, and I echo Liz in that when I want to do well at something or feel less nervous about speaking in front of people, I want to look good to feel good.

This outfit may look plain.  It is a pretty basic look - fitted tee with a camisole to prevent excessive cleavage and neutral trousers with neutral boots.  However, I really, really, really like this outfit.  Why?  I was wearing it when I found out that I got admitted to the PhD program I will be attending (well, I had on a different cami, but close enough).

I'm a big believer in fashion talismans, as we know, and I do believe in fashion superstitions.  For example, if something bad happens to me while wearing something, I'll think twice before wearing it to a similar event.  And vice versa - I look at this outfit as a lucky one, and though it is simple, it is dear in my heart.  That's not to say that every time I have a bad day I have to throw away that outfit and burn sage.  But I definitely do associate certain memories, good and bad, with certain clothing.  It sounds ridiculous, but in college, after a certain guy broke my heart, I never wore the (very distinctive) socks I was wearing that day again.  Good thing I didn't have on a pair of Christian Louboutins.

Prompts:
  • Do you associate good and/or bad memories with the clothing you were wearing when they happened?
  • Do you have any fashion superstitions?

Comfort Levels

Drafts:

Composition:
eyeglasses (Kate Spade)
silver toned watch (Fossil)
black safari style rolled sleeve shirt (via sister's closet)
jeans (store at which I no longer shop)
mustard slice wedges (Nine West)

Usage:
This outfit ushered me through a long day of "professional development" on campus, or, as I've been calling it for years, "When teachers act like students."  We arrive late, we sit in the back, we speak to one another in hushed tones, we send texts with our hands under the desks, and we count the minutes until we're dismissed (thus, the watch).  As a new instructor at this institution, I actually found the day quite helpful, but I planned my outfit with comfort in mind.  I've been eying this shirt in Vickie's closet since she wore it shortly before she left for the summer, but I didn't put it on until yesterday because I didn't want to fade it by washing it multiple times.

When I returned home from my day of development, I was thus quite interested to read Anne-Marie and Katie's exchange that elaborated on my earlier celebration of new fabric technologies.  Katie suggested, and Anne-Marie agreed, that one of the unfortunate results of the availability of less expensive (and less restrictive) clothing is that it is often made from lower quality materials.  This nicely facilitates the desire of these discount manufacturers to keep us buying new items all the time.  This is something I certainly had not considered when I originally touted new fabrics as pro-feminist, though this great shirt remained in my sister's closet precisely because I didn't want to ruin it in her absence.

As I posed for these photos, I was also trying to show off how great my curls have been looking for the past few days.  Thanks to a fresh haircut, a confidence boost from you guys, and a new styling product suggested by a friend/reader, I'm more comfortable than ever with my natural hair texture.  This also made me reflect back on an exchange I had with my mom after my no shopping post.  She suggested that, though we younger ladies were celebrating the "comfort" of new clothing technologies, my 96 year old Gramma is so "comfortable" in her girdle that she refuses to consider my mom's suggestion that she stop wearing it.  I responded to suggest that Gramma's "comfort" in a girdle is likely "a reaction to societal pressures put on a woman (especially of Gramma's generation) to fit the norms of beauty or femininity endorsed by that society."  Easy for me to say, right?

What I want to acknowledge, though, is that I'm fully aware that my flatiron has been functioning in much the same way as Gramma's girdle.  It is decidedly not comfortable to spend ten minutes blowing my hair dry and ten minutes or more straightening it with a flat iron, though I have in the past felt more comfortable with my hair after undergoing this process.  Why?  Because I've bought into the suggestion that straight hair looks healthier and is more professional because curly hair is unruly.  And because in the past my natural hair has always looked, um, not neat, and I like everything about me to look neat.  These are the very mental handcuffs from which I was trying to break free when I stopped my daily hair routine several months ago.

I don't know if anyone cares about all of that, but what I really wanted to say was that this has been a great week for me on this blog for these reasons.  When we started posting, Katie, AM and I wanted to open up these conversations we have about clothes, societal expectations, and the like to other like-minded individuals in hopes that it would generate a larger conversation.  The existence of the blog keeps the three of us talking and gives us a space to have these conversations, and the participation of all you who read the blog enriches those conversations and encourages us all to think about ourselves and our habits in new ways.  I enjoy all of the posts the girls write, and all of your comments, but I did want to stop and acknowledge that this week, especially, it feels like conversations are developing naturally out of one another and ending up in really interesting places.  Anne-Marie is encouraging us to think about our closets in new waysKatie is encouraging us to feel empowered in clothing that has a different back story than the new narrative of female empowerment she's writing.  And I'm finally getting comfortable with curly hair. 

Though we're good friends, and we encourage each other as best we can, it's really those of you who read and comment who have, I think, pushed us to these points.  Thanks for making the blog feel so worthwhile!

Prompts:
  • I don't know quite what to ask you guys today.  I just wanted to say thanks.  : )  And now I'm off to do some reading before I meet my new PhD cohort for lunch.  Yippee!!  (And you better believe I'll be looking fierce!)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dressing "Ladylike"

Draft:
Composition:
black, red, and beige floral dress (Anne Klein)
black belt (came with the dress)
black slingbacks (Nine West)
pearl drop earrings (Target)

Usage:
The recent great posts about throwback fashion from Anne-Marie, and a shopaholic intervention for Liz provide a nice context for some of the thoughts I have about this outfit.  I wore it awhile ago to my friend's wedding rehearsal.  I chose it because I liked the classic silhouette and the feminine floral pattern.  I thought about pairing it with a pair of four-inch black suede pumps that would have added some edge (that doesn't sound edgy, but trust me, they are).  However, I went with these lower heeled black slingbacks to match the sweetness of the dress and pearls.  Overall, it's a very traditional, feminine look.  Ladylike.
(please see the comments on Anne-Marie's bygone girliness post - there's an interesting discussion of this term and its connotations)

Now, I love feminine looks, no doubt, but I don't really think of myself as a "ladylike" dresser - that is, a traditional, more conservative dresser.  Then I thought about my (recently conquered) shorts-phobia and my closet full of skirts and dresses with modest hemlines.  I thought about my minimalist approach to accessories.  And this outfit really made me consider my love affair with floral prints.

Floral prints can cause anxiety.  Academichic did a series on florals this spring, noting the vexed relationship modern women often have with this perennial print.  Indeed, they are an unabashed feminine print, evoking delicacy and traditional.  Fashion gurus often take issue with the print, often advocating contrasting it with leather, denim, spikes, etc. to rough up the soft flowers.  I, on the other hand, have never had any problem with florals.  In fact, I realized the floral is my go-to print.  I own quite a few pieces of (usually neutral) floral print items.



Maybe I should start rethinking my opposition to labeling myself as traditional or as a more conservative dresser and just embrace my tendency to go for "ladylike" looks.

Prompts:
  • Do you have a go-to print or color, and if so, what is it?
  • What's your take on floral prints?  Like 'em?  Hate 'em?  How do you style them - by embracing the femininity or with contrasting notes or something else?
  • How do you define "ladylike"?

A Method to the "Mad Men" Madness

Draft:
Earlier Drafts:
These earrings prompted me to reconsider the size and quantity of my accessories.
These woven sandals acted as casual alternatives to my flip-flops.

Composition:
navy and taupe patterned top (Levi's)
taupe striped wide-leg pants (Old Navy)
woven sandals (Target)
pewter earrings (Fossil)

Usage:
One way to adopt a trend is to practice its principles.  My budget might prevent me from investing in a trend's specific styles, but I'm learning to participate in it by instead embracing its methods.

Here's what I mean.

This week our posts have referenced the 50s/60s-era throwback styles which seem to be gaining momentum as the fall fashion season nears.  We've mentioned Mad Men several times in relation to this sub-movement because the award-winning television series is largely responsible for the vintage resurgence.  The ensembles featured on the show are indeed jealousy-inducing, but because contemporary iterations are currently out of my price range, I haven't purchased any.  Thankfully, while dreaming up ways to participate in the looks the show has revived and still maintain my financial integrity, I stumbled upon this clip on the Mad Men website.

(Under the "Videos" tab, click on "Mad Style."  Then select "Mad About Style: Dresses.")

In it, Janie Bryant, the show's costume designer, and Simon Kneen, Executive V.P. and Creative Director for Banana Republic, chat about the semiotics of the female cast members' frocks.  The clip offers a peek into the construction of the Mad Men sartorial vibe, and it also gives insight into the more general early-mod revival.  Of particular interest, however, is that two minutes into the blurb, Kneen reminds us of a post-WWII-era principle of dressing:

"In those days, they would talk about 'building a wardrobe.'  It was going to do you probably for five or six years.  People would alter their dresses.  They would change their hemlines.  Fashion is a little bit disposable today, and people are looking for newness."

Kneen's observation is a poignant one, as it reminds us that women did not always begin anew with trend-conscious wardrobes every season.  Instead, they modified their old wardrobes to suit.  The takeaway for me?  I need not always buy new - that is, buy more - in order to look new.  Sara at Orchids in Buttonholes elaborated on this topic yesterday in a post which refuted the "dress better by buying more" sentiment by advocating what I think is a 50s/60s-era spirit of thrift.  Her post convinced me that my budget - and my creativity - would benefit if I imagined my garments as having longevity.

Truthfully, I'm slow on the up-take with this one, because other blogfriends have been testing the recycled wardrobe waters for months.  Tania at What Would a Nerd Wear just completed a "30 for 30" month-long challenge, in which she simultaneously declared a shopping hiatus and challenged herself to repurpose 30 pieces she already owned.  Liz began a similar challenge yesterday; she has limited herself to two back-to-school purchases, and she's maximizing their wearability by styling them in more ways than one.

As for me, today I'm reviving a very old pair of trousers by styling them into a new look.  I normally wear these striped pants to work with wedge heels and a button-down, but pairing them with flat sandals and a loose-fitting top gives them a more relaxed feel.  What's more, repurposing them will save me from purchasing some out-of-my-price-range versions currently featured as "New Fall Arrivals" in my favorite shops.  A bit of economy goes a long way.

One caveat: it's possible that following this Mad Men-era principle might pose a Catch-22 situation.  Common advice often dictates that a sustaining wardrobe must be an expensive one.  But "investing" isn't always a euphemism for "splurging."  At least, I don't think it has to be.  Sometimes "investing" can simply mean "maximizing" or "getting creative with what we have."  After all, I'm always investing something in my clothing, whether it's money or creativity.  For now, the latter suits my financial situation best.  So, in this way, adhering to a tenet inspired by the current trend allows me to participate in one of its ideologies, even if I can't afford its clothes.

Prompts:
  • Does this principle resonate with you?  How are you practicing it personally, and how have you observed others participating in it?
  • Can you think of other fashion trends that have sparked worthwhile dressing principles?  I have a hunch that my husband's obsession with thrift stores originated with some haute couture movement in which he takes little interest, for example.
  • Besides restyling, in what other ways would you suggest I maximize my wardrobe?  I've considered taking a few items, like this skirt, to a seamstress for some dramatic alterations.  I know others of you are more daring in your sewing projects.  Please tell us about them!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to School Not Shopping

Drafts:

Composition:
Back to School Purchases:
black shift dress with skinny faux patent belt (H&M)
mustard toned buckled slice wedges (Nine West Outlet)
You've Seen Them (almost) All Befores:
purple cardi (NY&Co)
black faux patent belt (H&M)
punchy beaded necklace (Old Navy)
sand colored swing jacket (H&M)
gray short sleeved turtleneck (via sister's closet)
silver toned ring necklace (JC Penney?)
gray cardi (NY&Co)
clear lucite bead necklace (Kohl's)
faux snake print belt (Kohl's)
white and cream circle print top (H&M)
stone colored belt (NY&Co)

Usage:
I am taking a 30 day hiatus from shopping.  I have not yet found all of the items on my "back to school shopping" list, but I've decided to stop here-- with this black shift and these mustard slice wedges.  After reading Tania's description of how liberated she felt after her 30 days without shopping, I realized that is just the sort of liberation I need.  I don't buy very much, but I engage on thoroughly exhaustive hunts for the items I've decided I need.  When shopstyle shows up as one of the "top sites" in your web browser, you have a problem.  Since my semester starts soon, I think it makes perfect sense to set aside this annoying habit of mine for a while to focus on more important tasks.

To get myself excited about this undertaking, I thought I'd see how many different ways I could style this perfect! simple shift dress.  I only stopped here because I ran out of time, not because I ran out of ideas.  The course I'm teaching this semester meets fewer than 30 times, and I am 100% sure I could style this one dress in a different way for every single session.  And these shoes?! 
Two of the items on my back-to-school list were "colored wedge" and "nude closed-toe shoe," and I actually think this pair ticks both boxes.  I wore them with all of the outfits above mostly for convenience, but the experiment also confirms my suspicion that depending on the ensemble, they can function both as a neutral and as a pop of color.

I'm also pleased that this shift fits right into the conversation Anne-Marie started yesterday about 50s and 60s style trends.  What I'll add to her post is this: I think I feel different in my shift than the real life Joans and Bettys of the past felt in theirs.  Clothing technology has made some remarkable strides in the past 50 years.  I can purchase similar silhouettes, but my options are constructed from breathable, washable fabrics that move with me.  My version of femininity might look similar, but it doesn't require me to wear undergarments that dig into my body, either.  Anne-Marie's own experience with her belt in the heat speaks to how uncomfortable our clothes can make us in certain circumstances, and it gives me sympathy for all the ladies back in the day who had to learn to walk in skirts that minimized their strides.

So while some may say that its anti-feminist to return to styles that were popular when women's bodies were inhibited in these ways, I say to them: I can do a cartwheel in this dress and these shoes.  Thank goodness for stretch fabrics!  Since new technology has allowed the physical liberation of my body in these clothes, I'll argue that I can absolutely wear them without claiming all the old ideological baggage that they carried back in 1962. 

Prompts:
  • What's your favorite closet workhorse?  Have you run out of ways to wear it yet?
  • Have you ever stopped shopping for a predetermined length of time?  What was your experience with it?
  • In your opinion, what's the best innovation in apparel technology from the past 50 years?  Why?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Gingham Getup and Bygone Girliness

Draft:
Earlier Drafts:
These versatile wedges might be my favorite purchase of the season.
This punchy clutch has accompanied me to both semi-formal and casual outings. 

Composition:
blue gingham button-down shirt (Brina & Em via Marshalls)
black or navy (?) pleated skirt (handmade via Parts & Labour)
leather belt (Anthropologie)
wedge sandals (RJ Girl via Piperlime)
yellow clutch (SR Squared by Sondra Roberts)
reading glasses (United Colors of Benetton)

Usage:
I wore a version of this outfit two weeks ago, when I tagged along with Liz to Legg Mason Tennis Classic.  It was a humid 97 degrees that day.  Note to self: belted ensembles are not bright ideas for sitting outside in sweltering temperatures.  I returned home that evening with an attractive ring of perspiration around my midsection, but I liked the outfit enough to take another crack at it.  Today's iteration is my re-do.

This skirt is a dream come true, even though it's big on me at the waist, and even though I cannot determine whether it's black or navy.  (Liz thinks it's black.  I think it's navy.  What's your assessment?)  I want to suade this pleated wonder toward the blue color family, so I've paired it with a gingham shirt in an obvious cornflower shade.  The combination of gingham with a high-waisted, short-hemlined, full-bodied skirt screams 1960s Throwback to me.  Maybe I've been watching too much Mad Men, but I'm fairly confident Peggy Olson would wear a version of this outfit on her off days.

That's why, for fun, I've accessorized with a pair of brown tortoiseshell frames.  They make me look like the spitting image of my mother, a child of the '60s herself.  On some days I'm bummed to live so far from home, but when I want to experiment with being my mom's doppelganger, it's nice to set foot in public without hearing, "Ohmygawd, you look just like Paula!"

(Love you, Mom.)

Which brings me to this thought: almost every magazine I've read this month has featured the new "ladylike" throwback silhouettes for fall.  Real Simple magazine, to which I subscribe, even went so far as to title its featured spread after a Henry James novel.  Here's the lede text:

"Portrait of a Lady: As any great literary heroine knows, being your own woman is never without a few bumps in the road.  But, thankfully, the clothes that will hit stores this fall - sophisticated instead of girlie, tasteful without being stodgy, and figure flattering without revealing it all - will at least make the getting dressed part smooth and drama-free."

The magazine's editor wrote this in the same issue: 

"Ladylike dressing is making a comeback and, as far as I'm concerned, not a minute too soon.  Whenever I've gone to any mall, anywhere in this country in the past few years, I've walked around in disbelief, looking in the store windows and thinking, Is anybody over the age of 13 actually wearing these clothes?  ... Where were the clothes for a woman who wants to look modern but appropriate?  Could I be the only one?"

I'll admit I've given these upcoming fall fashion trends a fist-pump or two.  What woman doesn't look great in a full skirt, and what woman wouldn't want to rock a jeweled brooch and simple wool shift dress like Christina Hendricks?  I wonder, though: are these revitalized trends by nature coded with the fraught femininity which characterized them in their heyday?  Should we then embrace them and their social implications cautiously?  Or have gender relationships - and apparel technologies - so evolved that women can now confidently don clothing which only decades prior symbolized female social oppression?  Liz began a discussion on this topic when she wrote about Adrienne Rich's 1980 essay "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence."  Essentially, Liz asked the question, "Are women wearing heels differently in 2010 than they might have in 1980?"  That is, are they rewriting old sartorial choices with new social meaning?

I hope the current fashions represent a recoding of femininity, because I, for one, do not envy Isabel Archer's "bumps in the road."

Prompts:
  • How do you interpret the revival of 1950s - 60s era fashion trends?  What does such a revival mean for women in 2010?
  • What do you think of the term "ladylike," an adjective which fashion gurus everywhere are already using to describe next season's throwback trends?  What does "ladylike" mean for you?  Why do you think it has so far applied to vintage designs?
  • Does this skirt look black or navy to you?  Would your interpretation of its color affect the way you'd style it?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Home Away from (Academia) (Home)

Draft:
Earlier Drafts:
I found this charming, oversized blazer on sale in charm central, Savannah, Ga.
A turquoise necklace in the bib style?  Count me in.
I've worn these sweet yellow flats with a spectrum of hues.

Composition:
strapless floral dress (ShopMamie)
linen blazer (Gap)
turquoise necklace (ShopMamie)
yellow flats (Target)

Usage:
Liz coaxed me out of hiding yesterday for a dinner and shopping date.  Given that I have spent the past week hibernating in T-shirts and devouring stacks of chick-lit novels, I was grateful for the outing.  I washed my hair and wore real clothing*.  It was awesome.

Equally awesome?  My hiatus from the computer has helped me feel at home with myself, stylistically and otherwise.  When I last posted, I was preparing to paint the very last room in the townhouse my husband and I had purchased in October and delayed updating 'til May.  Since that post, we've committed ourselves full-force to final renovations.  Now we're feeling at home in our first place, among our own furniture, with our own art hanging on the walls.  We sleep better at night, we host friends more often, and we devote dinners to real conversation, not to rattling off To-Do lists.  Nevermind that our second bathroom is still tiled floor-to-ceiling with dragonfly-inspired ceramic work.  It's fulfilling to feel ownership of something, flaws and all, I'm remembering.

Since reading - and relating to - Katie's candid post about body insecurities, I've become convinced that transferring my home ownership lessons to my clothing choices would revolutionize my self-perception.  Katie mentioned that wearing identical bridesmaid dresses invites body comparison; likewise, I've noticed that living in a neighborhood of nearly-identical brick townhouses invites neighborly property evaluation.  That's to be expected.  But the similarities between my street-mate's house and mine inspire me to make my space unique.  Even though I appreciate the hostas in her front yard, say, I enjoy my unruly azaleas because, well, they're mine.  They represent several Saturday mornings of my own sweaty, T-shirt-tanning diligence.  (I feel like there's a Robert Frost poem about this.  The property-owning and hedge-trimming, not the farmer's-tanning, I mean.)  What if I dressed my body out of a similar spirit of appreciation and pride of ownership?

For me, Krista's guest-post about maternity wear sealed the deal on this sartorial lesson.  I love that she dresses to celebrate her baby bump, reveling in her stage of life and appreciating her body's capabilities.  Even though I'm not in a baby-making headspace these days, her wardrobe advice for expecting moms makes me feel confident about dressing for my circumstances.  Admittedly, I've been stressing over composing professional outfits while I'm away from academia.  Right now I can't make the pseudo-professorial clothes work, not only because I'm no longer in the environment, but also because my heart's not in it.  I'm in a different place now, and Krista's post reminded me that it's okay.  I'm beginning to appreciate my body for its replace-my-reading-plan-with-DIY-projects accomplishments, and I'm starting to dress like this post-grad school phase of life is home.  For now, at least.  It feels pretty good.

*This dress might function best as a beach cover-up.  I'm still deciding.  For now, as long as the temperatures remain scorchingly high, I feel bold enough to go city-street public with it.

Prompts:
  • How do you best represent yourself during life transitions?  Do you find that your wardrobe choices change dramatically, or do you take comfort in keeping your wardrobe choices consistent?
  • What's your take on the body = house analogy?  Veteran homeowners, do you find that owning a house makes you appreciate it in different ways?  Have your property-owning responsibilities affected the way you dress?
  • From reading your blogs - it's great to catch up on your lives after being away! - it seems like many of you are also rethinking self-perception through clothing choices.  Please share the sartorial/life lessons you've learned this season!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What's in a Name?

Draft:

Composition:
gold tone earrings (Gift from MIL)
black tank (H&M)
black and white print skirt (Express from a lonnng time ago)
white canvas peep toe wedges (MIA)

Usage:
First: Thanks, everyone, for your feedback on the blog and IRL about the curly hair.  I know my belief that my curly hair is "unruly" is merely a suggestion ideologically indoctrinated in my mind, and your comments and suggestions have given me the encouragement I was looking for to continue working on embracing it as it is.

Moving on: Today was the last day of my German class, so I've directed my focus toward preparing to teach.  This semester will be my first as a TA at my institution, and I know quite a few of you have TAed before, so I wanted to ask you to share your thoughts on what you have your students call you.

Most of the TAs in our program have students call them by their first names.  I'd probably allow them to call me that without even thinking about it except that, since I spent four years teaching high school prior to returning to grad school, I'm used to being called Ms. Lastname.  I know there are some TAs and adjunct lecturers who ask to be called by their last names, so it's not like I'd be the only one going by Ms. Lastname, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts on it.

This is the thing, actually, that I'm most unsure about as I begin my teaching assistantship-- how to establish the appropriate amount of distance between myself and the undergrads.  I know what I will and will not wear to teach, and my rules for that are not all too different from what they would have been if I were returning to the high school classroom, where the line between teacher and student has to be as firm as the line between adult and child.  Establishing authority through clothing is, apparently, more comfortable for me than deciding what to be called.  This is complicated further, I think, by the fact that I now call many of my own professors by their first names (per their requests), even though I cannot call my mentor professor at my undergrad institution by his first name despite his repeated suggestions that I should feel comfortable doing so.

(I hope you enjoy the gratuitous Oscar close-up.  I was trying to get a good photo of these awesome earrings my MIL recently gifted me as well as the flower embroidery detail on the straps of this tank, but I kind of failed at both.)

Prompts:
  • As a TA, what did you have your students call you?  I'd love to hear anything you have to share about this particular question as well as the broader question of how you went/go about determining how much distance to establish between yourself and students as a TA.  And those of you who are real live professors now, have you changed your approach?
  • Where do you stand on my choice to wear white shoes with a predominantly black outfit?  I know you all like to abide by the "wear what makes you feel comfortable" non-rule, but come on, does this make me look goofy?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

High School Lessons: Look Good, Feel Good

Draft:

Earlier Drafts:
I wore this dress by itself here, and this outfit is basically a replica of this one I wore earlier in the summer.

Composition: 
eyeglasses (Kate Spade)
royal blue v-neck tee (American Eagle)
gold tone chain necklace with brown beads (H&M)
brown cotton jersey dress (Old Navy)
gold tone bangle (Ann Taylor Outlet)
tan heeled sandals (Born Concept via Marshall's)

Usage:
My favorite high school English teacher is the first person I can remember who told me that what I wear might make a difference in how I think about myself.  She did so by encouraging us to dress up on test days.  The advice, as I recall it, went something like this: "I know you kids like to wear 'comfortable' clothes when you sit down to take a test, but studies show that people who dress up on test days feel better about themselves and thus perform better on the tests."  I don't know what "studies" she was talking about, and it's entirely possible that she made that up, but I have come to adopt the principle behind her statement as truth anyway.  Most of us who blog about our style choices ascribe to some version of the "Look Good, Feel Good" mentality, and I can certainly make the connection to how dressing "up" for an exam could help one maximize one's ability to perform well on said exam.  We all dressed up for our high school teacher's exams (maybe we thought she'd grade us down or something?) but I've also been dressing up for exams ever since.

Today I was tempted to show up to class in shorts and a t-shirt (I told you, I'm getting used to this casual thing!), but instead I challenged myself to put together a new, "pulled together" ensemble because it was a test day in my German class.  I realize royal blue and brown as a color combination are not particularly modern or exciting, but since I have brown hair and blue eyes, I always think of these colors as ones which "go" with one another.  Plus, I had to wear a top dark enough and the right shape to cover up the dress underneath.  And while this isn't a very "dressed up" outfit for me in the grand scheme of my dressing history, I have been avoiding all accessories lately due to the heat, so putting on the belt, necklace, and bangle made the outfit feel polished and made me feel test-ready.  (Though the bangle came off as soon as I started trying to write.  How DO you ladies manage to get through the whole day with bracelets on?!)

And since Katie bravely acknowledged the presence of some insecurities yesterday, I want to follow her lead by talking briefly about my hair.  Another thing I liked about this ensemble is that it actually worked my hair into its cohesive look-- I think my mane of brown waves work with the brown belt and skirt on bottom to create an interesting frame for the blue tee.  I've been trying all summer to embrace these waves, even though their unruliness runs contrary to the put-together-ness I normally associate with myself.  But some days I'm just not buying it, and I want to revert to my old blow-dry-then-straighten hair frying ways.  I'd consider this a "good hair day," but some days I grow so frustrated with all this hair that I'm tempted to shear it all off and return to a chic short do a la Anne-Marie.

Prompts:
  • Is there any advice you got in high school that you still follow to this day?  Why do you think it has endured?
  • Do you find that you feel more on top of your game mentally and emotionally when you look "put together," or do you feel just fine in whatever you're wearing?
  • Do you want to share your own hair woes?  Feel free.  I promise you that any thought you've had about your own hair, I've already had about mine.
  • Have you submitted a look to the In Professorial Fashion Wonder Woman Pose Conference yet?  I'm trying to show you my best WW pose here on the left--  what blue eyed brunette doesn't sometimes want to channel her inner Lynda Carter? (When I was a kid, I used to punch out the bottom of disposable cups and slip them over my hands to make WW wristbands.)  If you haven't checked out IPF, please do-- in addition to D-Med and A-Dubs who frequently comment here (thanks ladies!) they just introduced E-Jo, who poses with her dachshund! : )

Monday, August 16, 2010

Body Insecurities

Draft:


Composition:
royal blue bridesmaid dress (Exquisite Bride)
silver heels (BCBGMaxAzaria)
chain and pearl bracelet (gift from bride)
on nails: OPI Russian Navy Matte

Usage:
Apologies for my extended absence.  Due to several factors - including, but not limited to, traveling, recovering from the constant motion of this summer, and my general laziness - I haven't been in this corner of cyberspace.  However, there is one other reason that made me a bit gun-shy regarding posting.  You see, I've been going through a small bout of body insecurity. 

It's funny - after writing those words, I feel like I've betrayed some of the general precepts behind this blog and others like it.  After all, we've discussed loving our bodies just as they are, and we've celebrated our varying shapes, sizes, and styles.  In fact, one of the things that I love the most about the fashion blogging community is the body-positive environment it presents.  However, this atmosphere of body confidence, while refreshing and something I wish to see more in the media, also creates a space where discussing insecurities about our bodies, the things that we may occasionally wish we could change, becomes taboo (at least it seems that way to me).

Now, the type of body insecurity that I'm feeling right now is nothing extreme, consuming, or even particularly acute.  Just a run-of-the-mill occasional dissatisfaction with the way I look right now.  Pangs that I think everyone feels at one point or another to be thinner or curvier, to be taller or shorter, to have a smaller nose or longer legs, to have more muscles or thicker hair, etc.  These sporadic desires to just be different are, I think, natural and human.  When they become all-encompassing and cause people to take drastic, self-destructive action (as opposed to healthy steps - like if you want to lose weight and you start eating healthier versus developing an eating disorder) or when they really cause self-esteem to plummet, that is when body insecurity becomes dangerous.  Otherwise, I think it is just part of the ups and downs of life.

The reason I chose this particular outfit to post has nothing really to do with the outfit itself.  I actually think this dress looks quite nice on me.  The color really suits me, it highlights my curves, and I really liked the jewelry the bride gave us.  One thing, though, that bridesmaids dresses do is invite comparison between women.  When four women are standing together wearing different outfits, the eye may not naturally take in their varying shapes and sizes as much as it does when they are wearing the same dress.  The four women wearing this dress did, to some degree, represent different shapes and body types.  However, I was definitely the biggest one of the four - not to say that I am large because I am not - but next to three other women wearing the same dress as me only four sizes smaller, one notices it more.  Or rather, I noticed it more. 

Please note: this is not what "set off" any insecurities.  Nothing in particular acted as a trigger.  Just part of an ebb and flow of my ever-changing self-image.  I'm not worried about it, and I know it will soon pass.  I can change what is in my control, and I must accept what is given.  I will never be a size 2.  My nose will always be a bit larger than I want it to be.  My hair will always be baby fine.  But change that and you change what is uniquely me.  And I don't want to give that up.

Prompts:
  • What do you feel insecure about?
  • How do you overcome insecurity about your looks or really about anything at all?
  • Has blogging changed your self-image at all?  Does it make you more confident about your body? (I think it has in my case).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Submission Sunday: Krista

Intro:
Since we're interested in the many different kinds of wardrobe choices women make, we're thrilled to share a post from Liz's lifelong friend (and regular SSG reader), Krista, who was willing to write about her experience with maternity dressing, which none of us here at SSG have experienced ourselves.  Krista studied Political Science in undergrad and has spent several years working in the non-profit sector, and Liz would describe her style as timeless with a modern twist.  Recently, Krista has demonstrated that dressing well is still important during pregnancy, and we're excited to feature some of her tips for maternity dressing.

Draft:

Composition:
black dress with ruffle detail (Liz Lange for Target)
green sandals (BC Footwear via Nordstrom Rack)
necklace (J Crew)
metallic skinny belt (Gap)
(Photo taken at 38 weeks pregnant)

Usage:
I recently gave birth to my second daughter in as many years. That means I’ve spent a good portion of the last few years wearing maternity clothes. It’s not always easy to feel stylish when pregnant, but I’ve learned a few things along the way that I wish I’d known before I began investing in a maternity wardrobe.

Dresses: I practically lived in dresses during both my pregnancies, especially in the warmer months. They’re comfortable, versatile, and you’re unlikely to grow out of a dress. There were plenty of shirts that fit me during only part of my pregnancy, but almost all of my dresses looked great for all nine months. The dress I’m wearing in these photos was one of my favorites.
Invest in basics: It’s worth the money to purchase a few quality basics for your maternity wardrobe. I didn’t do this during my first pregnancy and I spent nine months wearing pants I hated. Never again! I wised up the second time around and bought three pairs of pants I loved and that made me feel good. Other good basics include anything that’s easily layered – tank tops, t-shirts, cardigans, etc.
Accessorize! Accessories can make an otherwise boring outfit stand out. Yes, pregnancy might sometimes make you feel fat and unattractive, but that's all the more reason to spend a little extra time on your appearance. In this outfit I added the belt to help emphasize my belly and the green shoes to add a pop of color. The necklace pulls the outfit together.
Leggings, leggings, leggings: For the pregnant body, leggings are both cute and practical. Even if you wouldn’t wear them when not pregnant (I probably wouldn’t), they make great sense during pregnancy. They’re incredibly comfortable and can be very flattering when paired with the right tunic or dress. On cooler days, I often wore them under the dress pictured here.
Fitted is often better: Some women are tempted to cover up during pregnancy. Don’t! Particularly as your belly bump grows bigger, show it off. A fitted top or dress will make you look smaller than one that’s loose and oversized. Belts under the bust line like I’m wearing here are a great way to show off the belly. Also, maternity shirts with side ruching are particularly flattering.
Size up: Maternity fashions have improved greatly even in the two years between my pregnancies. But it’s still not always possible to find the right outfit for the right occasion. Consider buying non-maternity clothes in a size larger instead of shopping in the maternity department. Or use items in your existing wardrobe that still fit, like jackets, sweaters, and empire waist tops.

Prompts:
  • Do you have any other tips for maternity dressing?  Please share them!
  • Pregnancy is one obvious life event that requires one to develop new dressing strategies.  What are some other life events that have forced you to find new ways to style yourself?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Possible Summer Trend Overload

Draft:

Earlier Drafts:
I've admitted to wearing this tank (far too?) frequently this summer.

Composition:
eyeglasses (Kate Spade)
pink coral beaded necklace (Old Navy)
navy striped tank (Gap)
turquoise ribbed cardigan (Old Navy)
linen khaki colored shorts (Gap)
nude heeled sandals (Born Concept via Marshall's)

Usage:
First, let me list for you the summer trends/previous posts to which I can trace back my styling of this outfit:
1) I like stripesKatie likes stripesAnne-Marie likes stripes.  We all like stripes!
2) Anne-Marie claims nude shoes elongate your leg, and she identified one of her pairs as her "summer staple."  Plus, I think these new shoes I picked up from Marshall's look like a Liz-ish version of the other shoes she's been rocking all summer-- her chunky nude/tan platforms wedges.  (Remember when I said I couldn't find the left shoe?  I found them waiting for me at a different Marshall's!)
3) Katie has done shorts with heelsAnne-Marie has done shorts with heels.   Once, they even inadvertently coordinated their shorts-with-heels looks.  So I finally worked up the courage to try it out.
4) My turquoise beaded necklace has become my summer statement piece, and I've been wearing it with everything, so I picked up this more-pink-than-it-looks-in-the-photo one for $3. 
5) The turquoise necklace also inspired the choice of the turquoise cardigan.  I have been loving turquoise and navy together since I wore the necklace with a navy dress, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this color combo even though I haven't seen anyone else pair turquoise with her breton stripes.

I've reached that point in the season when I normally despair about having run out of good styling ideas, and I can empathize with those of you who have shared similar sentiments on your own blogs, but that hasn't happened to me this year.  I've only been out of the office for two weeks now, so I'm still enjoying experimenting with my "casual" summer clothes and finding new ways to wear them.  It could just be that we're more familiar with one another after 5 weeks of class, but I also feel like my (mostly undergraduate) German classmates are responding to me differently now that I've been dressing a little bit more like them.  These days they joke around with me even though they think I am terribly "old."  For example, when our instructor told us the German music video she was showing us was from 1992, they said "Oh, so when Liz was in high school."  They weren't that far off, actually, and my high school teacher did show us the video, but I didn't tell them that.

The jury is still out for me on shorts plus heels.  My legs are so long, and apparently my shorts are so short, that I definitely felt like this ensemble tipped toward streetwalker territory.  I admit that I intentionally wore the glasses to mitigate this effect because-- streetwalkers have good vision?  I don't know.  I wore the cardigan to cope with our classroom's a/c, and because it was a stormy morning, but I was pretty reluctant to take it off.  This much leg plus bare shoulders felt like way too much.  Perhaps, at the very least, this pairing proves Anne-Marie's suggestions that nude-ish shoes elongate the look of your leg!

Prompts:
  • Now that we're getting closer to fall, what can you look back on and identify as your favorite trends this summer?
  • Do you ever endeavor to wear a lot of trends at once or is this total overkill?
  • Do you find that you tend to dress more and more like your friends the longer you know them?  I've noticed this tendency with all of my friendships (maybe I'm just a huge copycat?), but the fact that the 3 of us have been blogging about our clothing choices seems to have sped the process up considerably.
  • Have you been inspired to try out any new trends or styles after seeing them on our blog?  If so, which ones?  And did they work for you?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bra Straps: Your Thoughts?

Draft:

Composition:
tortoise shell new Wayfarers (Ray-Ban via Zappos)
green and white striped tank (via my sister's closet)

Usage:
My apologies for being MIA for the last week and for still starting this week off without a decent outfit post to share!  I spent this past week at the ATP World Tour 500 tennis tournament in Washington, DC, part of the series of men's tournaments that lead up to the US Open in NYC.  As you can see in this photo, I met Patrick McEnroe at the tournament, and he was kind enough to sign my copy of his recent memoir for my grandmother.  She'll love it, and he was very friendly, but this post isn't about that.  I used the photo for this post because my bra straps are showing.  While this tank merges my two favorite trends this summer-- stripes and stealing from my sister's closet-- it also accentuates a summertime dressing hurdle that I just can't get over.  I hate visible bra straps on myself, and I almost always avoid wearing tops with thin or spaghetti straps because I don't have a strapless bra I love.  I thought the racerback bra was working here but this picture reveals to me that it wasn't.

The tennis tournament is fun for me mostly because I love ATP tennis, but to a lesser degree because it is such an unusual dressing environment.  It is super hot at the tournament, and there's very little shade, but it's still a place "to be seen" on the DC social calendar, so people tend to dress up.  None of you will be surprised to find that I observe the sartorial choices of the women in attendance nearly as carefully as I do the tennis matches.  So after my week at the tournament, I can report back with two interesting observations:
1) There are many more fabulous flat sandals on the market this year than last.  In 2009 I saw flip flops almost exclusively, though they came in quite a few styles.  This year, wearing my beloved rose gold t-straps almost every day put me in good company.
2) I may be the last young woman alive who has not embraced the visible bra strap.  I noticed last year that it was evidently "okay" to wear a regular bra with a spaghetti straps, but this year the "trend" was even more ubiquitous.

I don't think my disdain for the visible bra strap is due to modesty, because I'd happily wear a spaghetti strap top with an appropriately fitting strapless bra.  I try not to use words like these, but I think I'm still mentally stuck in considering the visible bra strap to be "trashy" or "tacky."  However, the women at the tennis tournament seemed to deconstruct this notion, because plenty of the ladies who were clearly trying to look "monied" were proudly sporting visible bra straps.  So I'm dying to know where you all stand on this one.

Prompts:

  • Do you wear a regular bra with tops/dresses that have thin straps?  If so, do you try to minimize the appearance of the bra by wearing a nude one or one that matches the straps, or do you wear a brightly colored bra that you think is cute?  (I saw a lot of this, too.)  And does the thickness of the strap matter to you?
  • What's your reaction to women or their outfits when their bra straps are visible?  I hate it on myself, but it doesn't "bother" me nearly as much on other women (as long as they're not at work), though I don't know why.
  • Anyone care to weigh in on why bra straps are becoming more acceptable to the masses at the same time that visible panty lines seem to grow ever more abhorrent in the public opinion?
  • Have you discovered the holy grail of strapless bras, and if so, where should I go to find it?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Plane Jane

Draft:


Earlier Drafts:I'm basically obsessed with these wedges.

Composition:
white tank top (Old Navy)
long navy shorts (the Limited)
coral cardigan (Target)
green ruffled t-strap wedges (Steve Madden)
silver flats (Payless)

Usage:
Oh air travel, an anxiety provoking and stylistically challenging venture.  I know that Anne Marie has tackled this topic previously, but here's my spin on it.  I'm about to head off on my last journey of the summer - a short family vacation.  I have to admit, I am a recently reformed poor plane dresser.  Meaning that I generally wore t-shirts, flip flops, and the occasional pair of sweatpants (gasp!) while flying.  However in recent times, particularly since starting this blog, I've put more thought into my travel clothes.  This trip's composition nicely encapsulates my attempts to reform and reorient my travel wardrobe.

I think that my general style philosophy of keeping it simple and classic works perfectly for travel.  Tried and true shapes and silhouettes keep things comfortable but still effortlessly composed.  Normally I wear pants on planes since I tend to be cold, but considering the oppressive heat overwhelming SSG Headquarters, I knew that I would wilt even just wearing pants on the way to the airport.  These longer shorts (do they qualify as capris?) work as a nice compromise.  The white tank will work for the airport journey, and the coral cardi adds feminine flair while providing a utilitarian service.

Now my dilemma lies in the shoes (naturally).  Flats are my airport staple.  Easy to slip on and off for security, just as comfortable as flip flops, but more put together.  But after seeing Anne Marie's bold decision to travel in heels, I really wanted to try it out.  I love the way the wedges make my legs look great while adding more color to the look.  So I might chicken out and throw on my go-to silver flats.  I'll update you all on the final decision.

Prompts:
  • What kind of shoes do you travel in?
  • How does your wardrobe change for different kinds of travel - car, bus, plane, train, etc.?
  • What are your travel staples?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dressing For the Job I Have

Draft:

Earlier Drafts:
I showed you this bag when I went out to eat with the girls, I love these skinnes, I talked you through my purchase of these sunnies, and these wedges have become my official shoe of the summer.

Composition:
Ray-Ban New Wayfarer sunnies (via Zappos)
white and purple print top (H&M)
cream leather bag (Kate Spade via ebay)
dark wash skinnies (American Eagle)
white canvas wedges (MIA)

Usage:
For the past two years, my job as a graduate assistant has been to assist in the office in whatever capacity I'm able.  It would have been easy to show up in jeans and a cute top every day, and I'm sure no one would have thought twice about it.  But I've always believed in dressing for the job you want, not for the job you have.  Since I want the job of an English professor, I've been dressing like one for the past two years.  You guys know this.  You've seen the type of outfits I put together.

But this past Friday was my last day of work in the office before I got to switch over to a teaching position, so I thought I'd celebrate the end of my office responsibilities by dressing for the job I now have rather than the one I'm working toward.  As of Friday, I'm officially a PhD student on summer vacation until the end of August, so I wore exactly what I felt like wearing.  I resisted the urge to think about whether I looked professional enough or whether I'd be taken seriously in my outfit.

I don't think anyone in the office really noticed that I was dressed any differently.  But thinking about dressing for the job I have was a fun way for me to celebrate how excited I am to start teaching again as a funded PhD student.  It's generally against my nature to go out of my way to pat myself on my back, but I've been working on taking ownership of my accomplishments ever since I completely crumbled under the pressure of receiving praise during my Master's defense.  I know I'm lucky to have been admitted to the PhD program-- but if I continue to act like it's only luck that got me here, I'm going to have a hard time convincing people to take my ideas seriously.  It felt good to get dressed with the attitude that what I wear doesn't matter much because I've already earned my spot in this program, even if it was just for one day.

Prompts:

  • How often do you dress for the job you have versus dressing for the job you want?
  • Have you managed to strike a balance between being thankful for the opportunities you've been afforded while also taking pride in and ownership of your accomplishments?  If so, any tips?