Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween


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

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! 

  • 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,

Friday, October 29, 2010

Diverse Demographics & An Interview

Earlier Drafts:
These T-strap heels accompanied me to Saturday brunch with my parents.
This leather belt cinched together a hybrid dressy/casual look.

turquoise button-down shirt (Old Navy)
fuchsia cardigan (Loft Petites, borrowed from sister)
brown pants (Ann Taylor Petites)
leather belt (Ann Taylor)
brown metallic T-strap heels (Anne Klein)
turquoise cuff bracelet (Leighelena in Austin, Texas, purchased at half-price)
brown leather laptop bag (gifted from mom)

Happy Friday, all!  Will you excuse my photos today?  The Mean Girls scowl on my face is courtesy of the direct sunlight, which chased me around my home's perimeter for a half-hour.  I finally found relief in a sliver of shadow on the back patio, and, welp, here are the results.  Can't win 'em all.  If only my schedule allowed for late afternoon, instead of mid-morning, outdoor photos.

Anyway, I wore this ensemble yesterday for an interview at a local private school.  It wasn't my first time meeting the administrative faculty (more on that in a moment), so I opted for a comfortable alternative to my standard blazer, this berry-hued short-sleeved cardigan.  Aren't the shirred sleeves an interesting feature?  At first I feared the girlish detailing might read too juvenile for a professional setting, but I mitigated the cutesy-ness with the collared shirt, belt, and tailored trousers.  Looking "too young" is my personal paranoia -- is it obvious yet?  What's your take on this outfit's professional register?

Also, I kind of dig this color trio.

On the having-met-the-faculty-before topic: this semester I've been serving as Assistant Ballet Teacher in the school's extracurricular program. The students and their parents are delightful, which is why I'm hoping to substitute teach during the regular school day as often as possible while I continue job hunting.  Care to share your tried-and-true strategies for successful substitute instruction?  I'd welcome them!

My latest turn in the world of arts education has me wondering about dressing to suit student demographics.  See, in addition to instructing at the aforementioned private school, I also teach ballet at a not-for-profit studio in one of the city's lower-income neighborhoods.  In fact, I teach these diverse classes back-to-back on the same day.  It makes for quite the contrast, moving from an environment of privilege to one of profound need.  Although it's true that I spend class time in a leotard and tights, I arrive in layers of street clothing.  And my students have noticed.  At the private school, they tally the number of Ralph Lauren Polo logos on my apparel; at the non-profit, they ask why I deprive my arms of bangle bracelets.  Both sets of students are acutely aware and curious of sartorial choices -- theirs and my own -- so how should I address the disparities which such choices often reveal?  What adjustments in clothing, if any, would best demonstrate social sensitivity?

  •  Have you taught students of lower-income populations?  Of higher-income populations?  How did you dress for the classroom?  How did you discuss sartorial issues with your students?
  • Any substitute teaching tips?  I'm all ears!
  • What's your take on my latest interview look?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

(wo)Men's Wear


jeans (Macys)
white short-sleeved button down (The Limited)
brown vest (Saks)
black flats (Payless)

As much as I advocate for taking back traditionally feminine dressing as an empowering form of sartorial expression, there is something very appealing to me about androgynous clothing and adapting men's wear for women.  However, I have a lot of trouble making this Annie Hall-type style work, namely because, well, my body literally gets in the way.  As a woman who has trouble even wearing regular button downs without lots of adjustments or massive gapping problems, attempts to make vests or ties work on me usually fall flat (or rather, fail to fall flat).

Vests are one of my favorite things, and I particularly love when Anne-Marie wears them.  I've tried on many vests in stores, but the one featured here is the only one I've found that fits me.  My boyfriend doesn't like the length of it, preferring it to be cut closer to the waist, but I like it.  I would like to find one that does fit closer to the body and/or is cut higher, but as it is, I like that this vest is a little different.  Similarly, some might say that this vest would look better belted, to highlight my waist.  When I bought it, it came with a belt-like cord, but I found that it just didn't look right on me - nor did other belts help the matter much.  In keeping with the androgyny idea, I like that this vest smooths down my curves and specifically does not emphasize them.  However, my favorite thing about this vest is that I find it to be relatively versatile, as it works with trousers, jeans, sleeveless shirts, t-shirts, and blouses. 

  • Do you incorporate men's wear looks into your wardrobe?  What are your favorite pieces to wear?  What tips do you have for androgynous dressing?
  • Do you wear vests?  Have any tips for mixings curves and vests?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pants Prejudice


Earlier Drafts:
I wore this tee with a casual look, I started wearing this jacket again when I tried cuffing the sleeves, and these shoes were an important back-to-school purchase.

white and yellow striped tee (Gap)
navy blue jacket (Gap Outlet)
pewter toned chain necklace (H&M)
light gray trousers (Express)
yellow buckled slice wedges (Nine West)

You guys, I'm having a pants problem.  I'm having fun experimenting with skirts for work and trying out new casual ensembles, but I can't get myself interested in wearing my trousers.  This seems stupid because I really love my collection of Express Editor pants.

For this pants look, I tried to gain inspiration from a few looks I like otherwise.  I like yellow paired with light gray and yellow paired with navy, so I tried to incorporate both of those combinations here.  I put on the chain necklace to try to draw some of the gray upward and keep the tee from reading as too casual.  I did like how the yellow top helped the yellow shoes stand out, and when my vintage copy of Katherine Anne Porter's Ship of Fools arrived on the same day, in the same color palette, I knew it had to make it into the photo.  Overall, though, this outfit still left me feeling a little "meh."

A friend of mine did tell me I "look so cute!" in this ensemble, though.  So I'm wondering-- does this outfit look as average to you as it felt for me?  Or do I need to figure out a way to banish my pants prejudice so I can properly appreciate cute, pants-anchored looks?  Is my love for my skinny jeans unfairly pitting me against my old straight leg trousers?  Help!

  • How are you wearing pants this fall?  Do you have any theories about how to make looks that include pants feel more exciting?
  • I wonder if part of the problem might be that most of the ladies whose blogs I read also favor skirts/dresses over pants.  Have you seen any pants looks lately that I could use for inspiration?  Please share links!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Slight Alterations


burgandy skirt (American Eagle)
brown top (Wet Seal)
boots (Dingo via Zappos)
octopus necklace (gift from boyfriend via ModCloth)
purple cardigan (Marshalls)
glasses (Jill Stuart)

This wasn't the outfit I planned to wear today.  The outfit I composed in my head didn't work in person.  I'm curious how/where others put together their outfits.  Most often, I consider options the night before, then really put it together in my head while in the shower or while eating my cereal and reading gossip columns serious news.  Then I try the outfit on, make adjustments as need (like today, when I scrapped the whole thing and started over again), and then add accessories.  It's still relatively warm here in SSG Headquarters (note: whenever I type that, I picture a fashionable Fortress of Solitude), and I decided to take advantage of it by taking the possible/probable last chance for bare legs.

Also, this outfit made me think about the many different appearances one may have on campus during the day.  Tuesdays are "Twelve Hour Tuesdays," meaning that I usually spend twelve hours on campus.  During that time, I'll usually throw on a cardigan, take it off, repeat as necessary.  Usually by around 7:00, my hair is driving me crazy, so I put it up.  Thus, you can generally see me on campus with some slight variety in my look.

  • How do you compose your outfits?  Do you lay them out or plan them the night before?  Do you plan them in your head first or do you need to be in front of your closet?
  • How do you change your looks over a long day (or do you at all)?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Minor Miracle


black beaded headband (NY&Co)
white button down (SJP's Bitten for now defunct Steve and Barry's)
black cardigan (H&M)
black faux patent belt (H&M)
black dress with white embroidery, worn as skirt (Ann Taylor)
black tights (NY&Co)
black wedges (Lauren by Ralph Lauren)

This past Thursday I stood in front of my clothes and thought "Okay, closet, all I need from you today is a minor miracle."  I hadn't been feeling well.  Grading took up a lot of my time last week, so I wasn't fully prepared for the class I had to teach that day or the one I had to attend.  I had no idea what to wear, and I felt like my creative energy was sapped, but I knew I needed something that would get my day headed in a better direction.  Then it occurred to me that I could wear this dress as a skirt, even though the top doesn't fit well anymore.  I love the look of this outfit, but the dress also has a lot of sentimental value for me, so wearing it made me smile.  And then other things started to come together, too.

I realized I was in the midst of a good hair day.  I only had one activity planned for the class I teach, but that meant I had time to sit down with each student to go over their ideas for the next paper.  A few kids got to leave very early, but I think that overall, the class turned out to be much more beneficial than I'd anticipated.  I still felt braintired for my own class, and I was disappointed that I wasn't really able to participate... but I was there.  By the time I got home from a long day, I felt much worse.  For a few hours, though, I'd felt like myself, and that had begun with the outfit.

This weekend I came across this post from Katie at Interrobangs Anonymous, in which she shared this quote: 
Sometimes, she reflected, she dressed for courage, sometimes for success, and sometimes for the consolation of knowing that whatever else went wrong, at least she liked her clothes. – Emma Bull, War for the Oaks
Katie suggests that this aligns with her own dressing philosophy, and I thought to myself: yes, that is pretty much exactly right.  I do a lot of talking and thinking about clothing, and what it means to me, and what it means to everyone else, and I think that is all important.  Most days, though, it basically boils down to this: what can I put on that will make me feel like the best version of myself for today?  Most everything I do can be boiled down to this, really.  I'm trying to be the best version of me that I can every day, and sometimes when I feel like I've dropped far below that standard, clothing helps me to reach back up.

  • Do you ever ask for minor miracles from your closet?  Does it come through for you?
  • Does the quote IA Katie shared about clothing resonate as strongly for you as it does for me?
  • What are some things you do to try ratchet up your attitude or your performance on days that you're feeling a bit "off"?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mid-Semester Slump


Earlier Drafts:
I've found this purple dress to be more versatile than I expected, I wore this purple patterned top early in one of my first posts, and this gray cardigan gets almost as much wear as my gray boots.

black, purple, and gray patterned top (Target)
gray cardigan (NY&Co)
purple jersey dress worn as a skirt (Victoria's Secret)
gray leather slouch boots (Steve Madden)

You guys don't mind me being a little blurry, I hope-- Katie and I were experimenting with new photo shoot locations on campus, and we liked this brick wall, but we didn't quite get the camera settings right for the lighting.  I wanted to share this look though, because it's my favorite kind-- a brand new look that incorporates items I've had for a while but never thought to wear together before. 

I've had a busy week, and I haven't been able to post for quite a while because my computer was getting repaired (thankfully, under warranty!).  I hope you've all been doing well since my last post and that those of you working/studying in academia are surviving that mid-semester slump.  I'm at the point in my semester where I have to make a daily list of things to accomplish and cross them off one by one.  If I don't do this, I start to feel really overwhelmed by how much I have going on during any given day and how much I have yet to accomplish before the end is in sight.  On the day I wore this outfit, for example, I was on campus from 8am to 9pm!  It was super rainy, too, so I was glad to be in a moveable, comfortable outfit that made me feel good even through the long day.

Happy weekend, all!  

  • How frequently do you come up with new "looks" using items you've had for quite some time?  Do you get as excited as I do when you create a brand new outfit by "remixing"?
  • What are your strategies for getting through overwhelmingly busy periods at work and/or school?  Do you cut back on your blogging/blog reading during those periods, or do you use blogs as your mental escape?  I've still been reading all of my blogs, but I haven't had a chance to comment as frequently as I usually like to.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Red, White, and Meeeow!


jeans (JC Penney's)
white long sleeved shirt (Old Navy)
red scarf (street vendon in NYC)
animal print flats (Minnetonka)

After the controversy over my last post - and the ensuing questions about appropriate attire for being seen around one's department in an unofficial capacity (not teaching, not for class, etc.) - I thought I'd post an outfit that I think pretty adequately represents my normal departmental attire. 

First, though, a few notes about our departmental culture and my current position within our department.  I mention these things because I think that departmental context is absolutely key to reading clothing.  First of all, I'm a graduate student still in coursework.  I used to work as a graduate assistant in an administrative position, and I began a TA-ship this year, but I have a course release for this semester, so I have few formal obligations on campus.  So when I'm actually around campus, I'm attending class, meetings (with professors, reading groups, and as part of a big departmental service obligation I took on this year), or talks...or I'm just doing work in my office.  Our departmental culture values style - we have some great female professors for scholarly and stylish role models - but it also tends to be a pretty welcoming, laid back department. 

That said, I have few reasons to really "dress up," and our departmental culture doesn't really require it.  So I try to look casual but still put together.  I consider this look to be representative of my current "uniform."  If you see me around our department, I'm probably wearing a long sleeved t-shirt or another type of simple top, jeans (usually a medium to dark wash), and flats.  If I have time that week, I paint my nails during a reading break (this week: OPI An Affair in Red Square).  Most often, I throw in some bright colors or prints.  Sometimes, I'll substitute the flats for heels.  I usually wear my glasses, but every once in awhile, I'll wear my contacts.  As for this outfit, I've mentioned before that I love the combination of animal print and red, and I think that the combination of the bright scarf on top and the fun pattern on the bottom gives this basic uniform a little personality.

  • We've discussed uniforms (or lack thereof) before.  Do you have a casual "uniform"? 
  • How do you dress around your department when you're not there in an official capacity, say just doing work in your office?
  • How do most people dress in your department (or work place)?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reviving Old Clothes

Earlier Draft:
These light wash boyfriend jeans are some of my favorites.  Our blogging friend Caitlin considers the dark wash versions her fall must-haves, too!

grey patterned secretary blouse (Peppermint via Ruche)
boyfriend jeans (Gap)
brown leather belt (borrowed from sister's closet)
taupe rosette clutch (borrowed from sister's closet)
brown metallic T-strap heels (Anne Klein)

Last weekend I traveled south to visit my parents.  Besides shopping and doing craft-y things with my mom, I spent a good portion of the time rummaging through old clothes in my former closet and my sister's.  Given that, while rummaging, I proclaimed "I can't believe I left this behind!" and "Why didn't I wear this?" with frequency, it's safe to say my perspective on clothing has evolved in recent years.  Garments I once regarded as stuffy or lame or unwearable are now gems I can't live without.

For instance, the taupe rosette clutch I toted to brunch with my parents used to be one of my least favorite items in my sister's closet.  Probably my high school self considered it immature; my current self thinks it's a lovely, go-with-everything, vintage-y (re)find.  And the wide belt I wore to the same brunch?  I distinctly remember declaring it unattractive, more suitable for my brothers than for me and my sister.  Go figure, last weekend it seemed like the perfect accent for my feminine secretary blouse.

Have you noticed similar changes in your perspective on clothing?  To what do you attribute these differences?  To revived trends, to your own creativity, or to something else?

  • Have your styling habits changed in recent months or years?  What moments or experiences do you think caused the changes?
  • What garments will you or won't you wear today that you wouldn't or would have worn years ago?
  • Have you, like me, revived old pieces from past phases of life?  Or would those old garments carry a stigma for you?  I ask because an older friend recently told me she couldn't bring herself to wear 1960s-70s throwback styles because they remind her too much of who she was in that era.  I laughed, but maybe I shouldn't have.  Later in life I might feel the same way about current styles.  Who knows.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Everyday Costumes


tan tank top (Old Navy)
blue and white peasant skirt (H&M)
brown boots (Dingo via Zappos)

Weather here at SSG Headquarters has been abnormally warm through the first month of fall.  Recently, temps hit over 80 degrees.  When we're all dying to pull out our fall clothes, especially to boot up, the return of (or lack of departing) summer weather puts a damper on our seasonal aspirations.  Still, it being October and all, I didn't want to return completely to the carefree stylings of summer.  So I wore this long skirt, paired with a tank top for the heat, and insisted on boots for more of a fall feel.  Simple and cute.

This outfit is by no means over the top or really anything special.  However, I characterize it as "costumey" for me, as it doesn't really fit into my normal style.  This is the only long skirt I own, and it is the only peasant skirt I have ever bought or probably even considered buying.  I purchased the boots recently, looking for something outside my normal shoe comfort zone, and I quickly fell in love with this super comfortable pair that I've found goes with a lot of different outfits.  I thought of Anne-Marie when I bought them, and lo and behold, she owns a very, very similar pair.

I wear my hair straight about 80% of the time, but on this particular day, I thought that waves fit the western, laid back look.  I loved wearing this outfit, but it definitely diverges from my usual starched and simple style.  My boyfriend even commented that I looked like I belonged on a California campus, someone he (or anyone else) would never usually think about my wardrobe.

  • How do you define "costumey" looks?  Looks that are just over the top?  Do you agree with my definition - looks that don't fit into your normal style code, and thus feel like "dress up"?  Or do you have another definition?
  • Do you like trying on other looks?  How often do you experiment?
  • What are some ways you've gone out of your style comfort zone?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Downplaying (the blogging) and Updating (the clothing)?

Earlier Drafts:
I wore a summer variation of this outfit here.

grey button-down shirt (Gap)
black pants (Gap)
fedora (Target)
black belt (ShopMamie)
nude suede heels (Seychelles)

On Tuesday I mentioned that a last-minute interview awaited me after my return from Texas, and I had every intention of posting about the outfit I wore to it today.  Academichic has hosted a fabulous interview attire round-up this week -- what better time to join the conversation?  However, the current state of the job market and my tenuous personal prospects have me paranoid about detailing an interview for which I'm still awaiting a response.  Is that irrational?  It might be.  My fear of being discovered by a potential employer on the blogosphere is likely unfounded.  Still, mind if I wait 'til next week to share?

Relatedly, do your employers or superiors or even students read your blogs or know you keep them?  Does that knowledge affect your professional relationships?  If so, how?  How do you address questions about blogging in work environments?

In the meantime, I'll share an outfit that has become my transitional fall-back during the unpredictable early autumn chill.  I built a version of this ensemble in August, when sleeveless tops were still wearable and fedoras felt smooth in a "Summertime and the livin's easy" sort of way.  The fedora has followed me into fall because I'm growing out my hair, and the current awkward length of my locks necessitates a hat.  (The in-between stage of growing hair is a real drag, isn't it?  But I'm certain there's a useful life-lesson metaphor to it.  Something about having to endure awkward phases while achieving one's goals.  Hm.)  In the coming months I plan to break out my cloche hats and knitted beanies, but I'm in no hurry.  Winter will require me to wear hats from December to March, after all, so I'll eat my fill of them eventually.  Have you adapted any summertime outfits for autumn?

Happy Weekending!

  • Do your colleagues, students, or employers know about or read your blogs?  How do you address questions about blogging in work environments?
  • I already asked this question, but I'll restate it here: have you updated any favorite summertime outfits for fall?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Work From Home Wear


Chicago Marathon tee (runner's expo)
new to my closet medium wash skinnies (American Eagle)
black leather belt (Gap?)

Some days when I work from home, I get up early, shower, get dressed in a cute outfit and shoes, and sit down to type.  Pulling my outfit together helps me feel like I'm bringing my "A game" to my writing.

Obviously, this was not one of those days.  I'm doing a lot of work from home this semester, so I've been spending a lot of time in jeans, tees, and bare feet.  I still get up early and shower, but I usually forgo makeup and hair products.  Most of my time at home is spent reading and lesson planning, both of which I can do on the couch, so that's where my husband usually finds me when he gets home from work.  When end-of-term paper writing time comes up, I know I'll be stationed at the table with all my materials spread out around me, and at that point, "getting dressed" plays an important role in getting me going.  Right now, though, I'm enjoying the fact that one of the many privileges of being a graduate student is spending time in my own space.

I know this outfit is not particularly "stylish," and some may even consider it a step backwards in my goal to dress better in the casual register.  I still felt good in it, though.  I know most ladies aren't tucking in tee shirts these days, but I still think it looks better, and I like the faded detailing on these new jeans I purchased to back up my favorite dark skinnies.  My feet always get cold, though.  I have a few pairs of fuzzy socks that I rotate between, but I think I might be in the market for slippers for the first time in my life.  Or maybe some sherpa socks?  This past weekend was the Chicago Marathon, so I broke out my marathon tee to remind myself that even though it's been seven years, training for and completing that race is still one of my proudest accomplishments.  When I was reading Ngugi's Grain of Wheat earlier this semester (a novel set in the context of Kenyan Independence), I was struck by  how strongly my own attitude toward running resonated with of one character's reflections on it.  Ngugi writes, "He had even developed a theory about such races.  'They test how long you can endure hardship,' he used to say. 'You say to yourself.  I will not give up: I will see this to the end'" (229).  Distance running has helped me develop the belief that I'm capable of seeing things to the end, and that belief has been instrumental to my success so far as a graduate student.

Work Cited:
Ngugi Wa Thiang'O.  A Grain of Wheat.  Heinemann/Pearson Education Limited: 1967, 2008.

  • If you have the opportunity to work from home, what do you wear?  Do you alternate between casual and "dressy" attire based on the tasks you'll accomplish that day, or am I the only one who does this?
  • Do you ever stay in your pajamas all day?  Sometimes I can stay in mine for a few hours if I'm planning to take a break by heading to the gym, but I have to shower and get dressed or I find it hard to stay productive.
  • Do you have any suggestions for warm, comfortable around-the-house footwear?
  • What non-academic activities do you participate in that help you in your studies?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Travel Switch

patterned dress (Target)
grey scarf (gifted)
grey boots (Old Navy)
navy bag (Target)
frames (United Colors of Benetton)
silver hoops (Fossil)
silver monogrammed bracelets (gifted)

Sorry this post is coming to you late, readerfriends!  I spent yesterday traveling and returned home to a last-minute job interview, so I'm slow to begin today's tasks.  Not to mention, I didn't wear this outfit as planned during my weekend trip to Texas.  The switcheroo worked out well, except that I'm tossing my original, prepared-well-in-advance post about the dress's airplane-riding merits out the window.  Here's what went down:

Last week, I packed this dress and these boots for my return flight from Austin.  My suitcase contained enough tops and shorts to last me all three days of ACL, so this patterned frock was my intended leftover for a day of traveling.  So were the coordinated scarf, bag, and boots.  However, after arriving and inhaling that good ol' Southern humidity, I had a change of heart.  Wasn't an outdoor music festival the ideal venue for celebrating the last of summer's bright prints?  Why force fall colors and fabrics in 80 degree weather?  So, in favor of lingering in summer longer, I switched out my intended drapey burgundy tee and boyfriend jeans for this cheery frock.  I wore the boots with it, but I ditched the scarf and bag.  My motivation was simple: wear warm weather clothes while there's still time!

Are you like me, slow to retire summer's colors and fabrics, or would you have found a way to wear an autumnal look to the concert despite the weather?

Also, the change-up has me wondering about the evolution of my packing habits.  When traveling, I don't typically prepare outfits for each day.  Instead I prefer a mix-and-match method: in which everything in my suitcase goes with everything else in my suitcase, and I can pair according to each day's mood.  However, for this trip, I did prepare an outfit for each day; I planned each look down to the jewelry, in fact.  And it backfired!  I reverted to my old mix-and-match habits despite my attempts at sartorial organization.  Maybe I'm not meant for pre-planned ensembles?  Are you?  Under what circumstances would you pre-plan your looks for travel?

  • When traveling, do you pack so that your clothes and outfits are interchangeable?  Or do you pack according to an outfit schedule and stick to it?
  • When do you retire your bright "summery" prints and lightweight fabrics?  Are your choices temperature dependent or not?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tights or No Tights?

Earlier Drafts:
I celebrated this dress as a one-and-done outfit this summer, and I modeled this gray cardigan with my black shift dress.

black hoop earrings (gifted by my MIL)
teal cami (Old Navy)
printed jersey dress (NY&Co)
gray cardigan (NY&Co)
teal Mary Janes (Seychelles)

This dress doesn't photograph very well, but some of the swirly stripes are teal and the rest are black, gray, and white.  I like trying to bring out the teal, so I've worn it with this teal cami and with my turquoise cardigan in the past, but I like it even better with my new favorite shoes!

I broke out my boots a little early, but I'm still resisting the switch to tights.  When the temps start to drop, I also try to avoid wearing a coat at all costs.  We live in a fairly moderate climate, but nonetheless, I'll be in pants/tights and coats from at least November through February, so I like to hold off on them as long as possible.  I don't think this is necessarily because I dislike cool weather, though I do prefer it when it's warm.  All summer, I was hoping for jeans weather here and there.  I get tired of wearing the same items day in and day out, so I try to keep mixing it up until the weather absolutely forces me to make the transition.  I actually prefer cool weather dressing because there are so many more opportunities for layering, but I guess I don't want to layer up until it's necessary.  I'm also curious about how many of you wear brightly colored tights.  I don't own a single pair!  Maybe adding a few pairs to my wardrobe would shift my attitude toward them.

The alternate title to this post was "Look, no belt!"  Nine times out of ten, I belt my dress+cardigan ensembles, but I felt like stripe of black across my midsection would have interrupted my attempt to draw the attention toward the gray and teal in the pattern.

  • Have you made the transition to tights yet?  Do you make the switch based on temperature, time of year, or something else?
  • Where's your favorite place to purchase tights?  I'd like to find a few fun pairs, but I'm not looking to spend more than $10 per pair.
  • If you dress differently from one season to the next, which is your favorite season for which to dress? 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Earlier Drafts:
After buying this linen blazer in Savannah, Georgia, I dubbed it one of my wardrobe workhorses.
These western style treads helped me kick off boot season.
This brown tote is too large for dinner outings, but perfect for airline travel.
These frames make me look like my mom.

olive green strapless jersey dress (Cannot remember!  Likely snagged at TJ Maxx, since I bought it with my sister, and that's where we normally shop together.  After years of wear, it's tagless.)
linen blazer (Gap)
boots (Steve Madden)
brown tote bag (gifted via Target)
necklaces and green cocktail ring (F21)
frames (United Colors of Benetton)

I have a hunch this ensemble was subconsciously inspired by one of my former English teachers.  It's uncanny how I've mimicked her in these photos.  Long, drapey base layer, slouchy jacket, layered jewelry, thick-rimmed frames -- even the way I'm standing in the left most photo, tall and with my weight on my left foot, recalls her usual stance at the front of the classroom.  It seems she's made an impression on me.  Do you ever find yourself adopting others' mannerisms or dressing styles as your own? 

My outfit may have been incidentally inspired by my teacher, but it was prompted by a plane trip to Texas.  Yesterday morning I hopped a flight to Austin, hot on Clare's heels.  Over the next few days I'll be visiting various family members and attending Austin City Limits Music Festival for the second time.  I'm so excited!

I'll cut to the chase, though:  I chose to wear this dress not because it's the most figure-flattering garment in my closet (it's obviously not), but because wearing it feels like being wrapped in a cozy blanket.  Which is exactly how I prefer to feel on a chilly, non-stop airplane ride.  I added the blazer for warmth -- and because it didn't fit in my suitcase -- not for aesthetics.  And the boots?  I wore them for practical reasons, too: I don't enjoy sporting open-toed shoes while jet-setting, and I especially dislike having to traipse barefoot through airport security.  So, yes, my feet are swathed in thick, unattractive (yet comfortable!) cotton-blend socks inside those booties.  Since my flight departed at 7 a.m., I'm hoping no one but the airport security officer saw them.

Assembling an outfit based on practicality is a departure for me, as is wearing a frock for airline travel.  I normally wear pants, as you can see here and here, but I kind of dig this new look (especially sans blazer).  What say you?

  • What's your favorite item to wear for airline travel?  What's your footwear of choice?
  • Have you ever worn a dress while traveling?  How'd it go?  Do you prefer the one-and-done ease of a dress, or the comfort of pants and jeans?
  • About that first question: have you ever found yourself subconsciously mimicking others in your dressing habits?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Katie No-Feet


Earlier Drafts:
I wore this dress for my MA defense last spring.

pink dress (H&M)
white, pink, and orange animal print belt (Cache)
black opaque tights (Target)
black flat/wedges (Payless)

As readers of this blog know, I love unabashedly feminine outfits (and thank you to Sal over at Already Pretty for a great post on the subject last week).  I love florals.  I love heels.  And I love pink.  I wore this raspberry dress to my MA defense because it was perfunctorily professional but it was also in-your-face pink.  In other words, it captured my sense of self, making me feel comfortable and confident.  Also, the three people at my defense - my advisor, my reader, and our program's director - knew enough about me and my style that I knew they wouldn't think twice about my sartorial decision.

Now that the temperatures are dropping and the leaves are changing, wardrobes tend toward darker colors to match nature's ensemble.  Pinks and pastels are taboo, packed away until spring.  However, I really wanted to make this dress fall-appropriate.  My inspiration for this project was Halloween, probably my favorite part of fall. 

Taking away the matching belt that came with the dress, I added a belt that comes with another dress.  It's a white based dress with a bright pink and orange animal print.  The pink ties it to the dress, but the orange adds an interesting fall-y color contrast, while the print breaks up the pink color block.

To complete the outfit, I needed something darker on the bottom, not to mention something that would keep me warm.  The opaque tights add an appropriately dark element to the dress, really solidifying the fall/Halloween look.  However, they also blend in with the shoes that I wore, black flats that have an ever-so-slight wedge.  The combination makes me look like I do not have feet.  At first, I thought I should change shoes, but I found that I actually liked the effect.  It adds an uncanniness to the outfit that both fits with the Halloween theme and interestingly draws attention away from and even diminishes the very feminine look of the dress.  Though that wasn't my intent, I like the way that the accessories change this dress from a girly-girl staple to a still feminine but oddly spooky ensemble.

  • Have you ever added an element to your outfit that makes it look uncanny?
  • How do you adapt different seasonal looks for fall?
  • In the second picture, I tried to do the melancholic-look-away-from-the-camera pose that lots of bloggers do which looks so great on their blogs but makes me look sleepy (a generous adjective to describe my face in that pic).  Any tips for blog picture poses?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Earlier Draft:
I wore almost the same look (with tights) in the first outfit post on our blog!

navy and white printed dress (Target)
gray woven stretch belt (Charlotte Russe)
gray slouch boots (Steve Madden)

As I mentioned when I posted this look the first time, I think it makes me look wide.  I don't really care, because I like wearing a low slung belt once in a while, and I'm actually kind of disappointed in myself that I haven't found more ways to wear this belt since I got it.  I like the gray and navy color combination, and this dress feels like the right length to wear with these boots, so I enjoy wearing this outfit.  There are a few things that drive me crazy about it, though.  The fit and length of the sleeves is not good.  I wish they were an inch or two shorter and not so gapey.  I love the print on this dress, but the mis-matchedness of it drives me a little crazy.  The print does not line up on the sides, on the two pockets that are on the chest, or where the fabric changes around the neck opening.  (If I had ever studied clothes for real, I'd know what that is called, but I have no idea.) 

Yet, this outfit gets the most compliments, hands down, of anything I ever wear.  People I don't know compliment it.  People that have never said a word about anything else I've ever worn compliment it.  People who usually think I "try too hard" have complimented it.  One male classmate whom I adore, but who must be one of the least fashion conscious people in the entire world complimented it.  (He liked what he considered its celtic looking pattern.)  Sometimes the compliments are decisive, like when two of my officemates were chatting and one of them stopped mid-sentence to say "You look so cute today, it's ridiculous!"   On this most recent wearing, I also got "what a fun print," "this is my favorite outfit that you wear," "I think those boots look great with skirts," and "great belt!"  Usually it is women who compliment my style choices, but this outfit gets compliments from men and women alike.  Sometimes it's like people don't even know why they like it, and they issue a statement that might be punctuated like "Liz, I really like that outfit?"

I don't know why they like it so much, either.  I mean, I like it, or I wouldn't wear it.  It's fun to have an ensemble stored away that you know will elicit at least five compliments anytime you leave the house in it.  (I counted twelve on one of the days I wore it in the Spring.)  I just wish I understood why this outfit is so appealing to everyone, especially since I don't think it is stereotypically "flattering" to my body, and the top half feels like mismatched print mania.

  • Can you help me?  What's so great about this outfit?  If I have "nailed it" here, I wish I knew why, so I could figure out how to apply these strategies to other outfits.
  • Might there be other reasons for why the outfit gets so much attention?  Does it seem radically different than other things people are used to seeing me in? 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Weekend Wear?

Earlier Drafts:
I last wore this ruffled blouse with a pencil skirt.
I paired this purple cardi with a neon shirtdress.
I really should wear these cargo pants with something other than this top.
I count these nude flats among my wardrobe workhorses.

ruffled blouse (thrifted)
purple cardigan (Martin & Osa)
belt (Ann Taylor)
cargo pants (Target)
nude flats (Jessica Simpson)
red lipstick (Maybelline Color Sensational in "Are You Red-dy")

My attempts to dress less, erm, sloppily on days off have resulted in overcompensation, I'm afraid.  I wore this get-up over the weekend to grab pizza with my husband and a friend, but both of them teased me for being "too dressed up" for a Friday night.  Those rascals.  However, since they're both clothing-conscious themselves, I've given their critique some thought.

Maybe it's the shirt's ruffles, or maybe it's the layered cardigan, or the skinny belt, or the fact that I'm not in jeans, but I can see why this ensemble would read as too stuffy for a pizza-and-wine type of evening.  In my pursuit of balance between the casual and the professional, then, I'm wondering about your typical weekend wear.

Tell me, s'il vous plait ... 

  • What do you normally wear on weekends, or in any casual/non-professional setting?  Do your dressing habits shift dramatically, or do you maintain continuity between your "off work" self and your workplace self?  (Asking this question reminds me of my dad, who, upon returning home from workdays, announces routinely that he's weary of wearing his professional "costume.")
  •  Do you associate specific garments with weekends?  What are they, and why do these read "off work" to you?
  • Would you have worn my outfit, or a version of it, on a weekend?  Would you have worn it to work?  What's the ideal context for such a get-up?
  • Unrelatedly, but still on my brain: does the juxtaposition of the cargo pants with the ruffled blouse make the outfit more or less appealing to you? 

Monday, October 4, 2010

Boot Up!

Previous Drafts:
I declared these boots the more stylish cousin to the ubiquitous Uggs, and I over-accessorized with this belt back when I bought it in the Spring.

eyeglasses (Kate Spade)
black cami (Kohl's)
blue oxford shirtdress (H&M via sister's closet)
black leggings (Target)
gray leather slouch boots (Steve Madden)

I have so many random things to say about this ensemble that I'm not sure where to begin... but I'll just jump right in.

Do you guys watch How I Met Your Mother?  I still DVR it even though I think it peaked a few seasons back.  When I prepared to put these boots on last week, I thought to myself "Time to boot up!" as a riff on Barney's "Suit up!" catchphrase.  This personal joke I had with myself seemed even funnier when I realized that one of the reason I liked this shirt dress the first time I saw it on my sister was because it looked like she was wearing a men's oxford shirt, which made me think of some of my favorite 80s movies.  Why are the women in those movies always sleeping in a man's oxford shirt? Wouldn't that be uncomfortable?  Or did my 8 year old self assume they were sleeping in those shirts, when actually they put them on after getting up from sleeping in nothing?

This was also my first attempt at wearing leggings, which I picked up for $5 at Target last week as an inexpensive way to try to develop my casual styling skills.  I found myself nodding my head when Sally suggested that black bottoms and colored tops don't always bring out the best in one another, so I worked to try to incorporate the black leggings into this look.  I left the top button undone to let my black cami peek out, and I grabbed my snake print belt to try to incorporate the gray of my boots and the black of the leggings into the overall look. 

I wore this look to a mostly social event for my department.  Our program's new director wanted to give each of the professors a chance to introduce their work to the grad students, which would also give us a chance to speak with them informally.  I thought it was a great idea!  Even though I know most of our professors from my years in the office, and I know their field specialties, it was still fun to hear them paraphrase their current research projects in their own words.  I also enjoyed looking around the room and thinking, "Look at all this great style in one room!"  I wish I had photos to share.

Chatting with the professors afterward also felt a lot less intimidating than trying to schedule an appointment to meet with someone because you admire her/his work.  I was able to arrange a meeting with the professor I've been trying to track down since she returned from leave, so my attendance was a success.  The friendly vibe of the event was underscored when our program's director came up to me during the socializing portion and said "Liz, I want to talk about this outfit."  Her opinion?  She felt like the dress was bright and thus read as "Spring" attire while the boots and leggings read as "Winter" attire, and she didn't "get" the inclusion of the belt.  LOL!  I tried to explain that I don't really dress for seasons as much as for temperature, and I admitted that it was probably still a little warm for leggings+boots, but that I was ready to try something new.  Her final verdict was that she liked the dress, and she liked the boots, but she thought I "had a lot going on here."  This made me appreciate my decision not to wear my clear acrylic beaded necklace, which I had considered before deciding that would be too much.   Then we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of pantyhose, tights, and leggings.  In case you were wondering, she's a fan of Hue.  : )

  • Have you made the leap to boots yet?  After I wore them three days in a row during last week's cooler temps, my sister asked me, "Is this boots week on SSG?"
  • Are the black leggings providing too stark a contrast here?  Might I have looked less seasonally confused if I'd worn charcoal or navy leggings instead?
  • Have you ever worn a man's oxford shirt for sleepwear or loungewear?  Is this actually comfortable?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Rainy Day Casz

Earlier Drafts:
I wore this classic white button-down on a return flight from summer travels.
I wore this vest in an outfit I'm almost too embarrassed over to reference.  Let's call it a lapse in judgment, shall we?  Or, better yet, a "teachable moment," because I won't make that mistake again.

white button-down (Gap)
wool blend vest (Old Navy)
dark wash boot cut jeans (Banana Republic)
black flats (Zara)
gold necklaces (gifted)
bracelets (thrifted and/or gifted, can't recall)

Yesterday's day-long downpour posed a dressing challenge for me.  The temperature had dropped too low for capris or shorts, and, as much as I fancy my polka-dotted galoshes, I wasn't mentally ready to flip the boots-plus-jeans switch.  Actually, I typically wear dresses on rainy days.  Jersey dresses and boots.  No soggy hemlines to contend with and all.  However, since I've been in dress overkill mode lately -- having worn frocks here and here and a few days in between -- dresses weren't appealing to me.  So what's a girl to do but call on her closet classics?

For me, a white button-down shirt and a well-fitting pair of jeans solve nearly all wardrobe dilemmas.  Uncomplicated and understated, the combination epitomizes casual elegance in my book.  You might say, as Katie did yesterday of her jeans and tees, that it's a way to downshift sartorially without stalling out.  (Does this analogy break down, drivers of manual vehicles?)

By the by, I managed to sport jeans despite the wet weather by fashioning some good ol' fashioned cuffed pant hems.  Nothing innovative here.  Nothing too chic either.  But I did remain dry while puddle-jumping.  I unrolled the cuffs after stepping indoors.

Anyway, speaking of Katie, her post yesterday helped me identify my own refreshed perspective on dressing casually.  Like hers, my recent months have been low-key.  While job-hunting and tackling home DIY projects, I've been marinating in the world of anti-professional style.  Not that it's foreign territory to me.  As much as I hope Liz's dressing habits are contagious, I've not yet caught the professional attire bug.  But when I was busy with work and school, and supposed to "dress up," my version of "casual" was downright sloppy. Tanks and sweatshirts, and not cute ones.  My weekends and off-hours were like collapsing at the end of a very confusing, pseudo-professional sartorial sprint: I gave up.  The awkward effort of merging my rookie student style with an aspirationally adult style exhausted me.  Now, after time away, I've come to regard "dressing up" and "dressing down" as distinct yet equal counterparts.  Neither one is necessarily more "mature" than the other.  Rather than neglecting casual style entirely, or allowing professional style to absorb it, I'm trying to distribute my attention evenly between the extremes.  One result?  I hope I'm generating more creative, intentional-looking casual outfits.  Perhaps the above ensemble is evidence?  After all, it was a dreary "off" day, and I didn't wear a hoodie.  Or even my usual one-and-done jersey dress.  Hooray, progress!

Happy Friday! Oh, and Huzzah for October!

  • How do you dress on rainy days?  Any go-to items or favorite combinations?
  • How do you wear classic white button-down shirts?  Do they serve double-duty in your closet as they do in mine, acting both professionally and casually?  Or do you reserve them for one or the other style?
  • Liz and Katie have both recently written about their professional versus casual dressing mindsets.  How do you describe your personal style on a scale from one extreme to the other?