Archive for the ‘Prints’ Category

Tra la la, la la la

Winter is over! Okay not really, but I have a rare and precious weekend in sunny California planned for February.  How to fit a fabulous three-day wardrobe in a carry-on bag? Sundress time! I only buy dresses that I can also wear to the office — okay not really, but let’s assume that I try — so I settled on these three awesomefest dresstastic dandies from Boden. All look good for walking-shopping-ice tea-in-sandals fun, with leggings if the day is cooler. Back home, where it is cold, I will try to wear them to the office in winter with tights and boots. In the summer maybe to work with slingback heels.  All have current colors (our Paris correspondent reports that coral is IN for 2012!). The prints and strike the perfect note of pretty without being fussy or affected (that note which is officially designated, in fashion notation, as “cute.”) All are machine washable and jersey-knit cotton blends that will wad up into little suitcase balls and lose their wrinkles in a hotel room shower. And hopefully,  all should flatter a busty little person with narrow shoulders and a little round belly (that shakes when she laughs like a bowl full of jelly).

I emphasize SHOULD FLATTER.  I had a deal for free shipping/ free returns, so I got six of them to try on and see how it goes. Boden is killer fabulous but notoriously temperamental with fit. Fingers crossed that one or two of them will work.

Also I love the pattern and color names! They sound like haiku:

Airforce Floating Floral, Mint Sketchy Floral, "Radish.

Khaki Spotted Shadow, Heather, Pewter.

Stay tuned for Part 2, when I try them on and post pictures. That is, I will post pictures if they look good (or at least bad in a good-enough way).  Otherwise Aki might have to bribe me to get me to post about it.








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What Black is Not

Is this really the best this kind of shoe can look?

Before you can get defensive, I’m not telling you not to wear black.  I’m not saying I don’t like you or your clothes.  I’m just saying: let’s think about this.

Black is not automatically the best shoe color. If you wear black shoes because it’s just your feet, what does this say about how you think about your feet? Why not wear a color you like there?  If you have lots of black shoes, and you limit what else you buy (black-only neutrals or black-affinity colors) to match your old black things, you are in a rut. Non-black neutral shoes are awesome.  Colorful sandals for summer are super-awesome.

Black is not always easy.  Without color you have less visual interest.  Your outfit is reduced to shape and form.  This can be marvelous — if you are wearing a well fitting, nicely styled piece like a perfect Little Black Dress.  But schlumpy, ill-fitting or out-of-date clothes just look worse in black.  A halfway-there dress is not forgiven its faults because it’s black.

Black is not compensation for bad accessories.  A black outfit diverts attention to whatever accessories you wear. So you can let your pretty, funky jewelry really sing. But: any “clunker” accessories (including a worn-out purse or shoes) clunk loudly against the “silence” of a black outfit. Wearing one black piece demands more of all the other pieces you wear.


Michael Kors. Silver shoes are versatile, energizing neutrals. Black with a cork heel doesn't make sense to me.

Black is not everyone’s best color. Black is a cold, severe color.  Most people look better wearing warm tones.  If you’re concerned that your face shows wrinkles in the wrong light, black tops make it worse — they cast shadows right where you don’t need them. (If you aren’t concerned? Just you wait.) Black sucks the shine out of hair and skin.  And if you have dandruff issues? I don’t need to tell you. You already know.

Black isn’t timeless.  Yes, a classic black dress will be stylish for more seasons than one in 2009’s mimosa yellow.  But in 2010, with so many other great dark neutrals to choose from, all-black looks about 10 years out of style.  Frugal is good (keep wearing what works!) but stuck in a rut (keep buying what you’ve always bought) is not.  Also: black cotton does not wash-and-wear forever without getting faded and pilled. And black leather shoes need to be shiny, rich and deep to look their best.  Black is not forgiving.

Black is not invisible.  Black reflects less light than pale colors. It does not absorb all light from surrounding galaxies: a black coat is not a black hole.  Baggy black clothes do not obscure the outline of your figure.  They just make you an big old blob, but darker.  Black is a color, it is not anti-matter. We can still see you. 

Black does not match everything. I think black looks good when mixed with other dark neutrals (gray, brown, navy, olive).  Black can be hard to wear with bright colors without looking cartoonish.  White/light colors with black create a lot of contrast — “pale top / black skirt” (or vice-versa) draws attention to the “fault line” where the colors meet — usually across your middle. 

Black isn’t Youthful. When Coco Chanel made short, sexy dresses out of black fabric, it was revolutionary — because black was, until then, a mourning color.  The original Little Black Dresses were edgy for their time —  like punk-edgy.  Coco Chanel is an amazing fashion icon — but if she were alive today she’d be 127 years old.  You will not look youthful if you dress like Coco Chanel.

Black is not the Sexiest. I really don’t think. When I was young, black seemed dangerous.  Adult, in a forbidden way — young girls didn’t wear it; Mommies and Grandmas didn’t wear it.  Sexy black strappy undergarments were for sexy-time only.  Sexy like Debra Winger in Black Widow (I know nothing about that movie, I’m sure I’m just misremembering pictures out of my family’s HBO guide). Black may be a symbolic color of S&M-whatever bad-girl bondage stuff, but why? Isn’t black leather just dyed, fake leather? What story are we telling about ourselves when we reach for that as our idea of “sexy?”

Black leather is sexy like Fonzie is sexy. Is that really what we aspire to?

Is one of these color combinations less-awful than the other? If so, why?

All Blacks

If any of the New Zealand "All Blacks" Rugby team are reading this? You look great, guys. I'm not talking about you.

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Two Dresses

This is totally going to be me

For evening adults-only wedding at San Diego's famous Prado, July: Jewelled Party Dress, jersey viscose, $96.60

I have been pretty good about not spending money on clothes . . . two cute cardigans from Macy’s (“fever” brand, they run around $68 but go on sale in the $20’s if you keep your eye out).  Silver flats that I love.  And now, for upcoming Summer wedding/rehearsal etc., stuff, I finally pulled the trigger on Boden dresses! Today was “30% off free shipping day.” You probably already missed 30% day. But if anyone is interested in Boden they are pretty generous with coupon codes, so let me know. 

Also, Ann Taylor Loft is practically breaking into my house to leave me coupons.  Any other great deals out there?

Okay it will look better on a person

Drapey jersey dress, blueberry batik, finally in stock and today just $89

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J's look: Praga patchwork skirt by Free People, with interesting detail.

One of our regular blog contributors is wearing this Free People Skirt today (I think it’s this one). She is very tall, funky and fabulous, and also she works in a kind of artsy/techno job, so I think this might be the perfect skirt.  But she wonders if it’s “too Boho.” Well, I don’t know. (I do know that on me, this skirt would be too, “My Mom’s Gypsy Costume she wore for every Halloween the 1980’s.”)  My friend J is NOT “a Boho person,” she is an edgy, hip person who used to live in Prague for real.

This reminds me that adjectives are useful for describing things (Does the skirt belong to the category identified as “Boho.”) Adjectives are less useful for describing people (is this person Boho or not?)  Labelling people hinders them.

So I generally resist the shortcut, “I’m not the kind of person who ___,” or “I’m more of a ____ girl.”

Labels are categories.  Categories are useful when we need to quickly sort ideas or things.  But people are not ideas or things.  Categories taunt us: What to include? What to exclude? 
It’s big issue with moms.  Are you a working mom or a stay-at-home-mom? Are you granola or crunchy? Are you hip or funky? Moms are an exhausted, isolated, brilliant and busy bunch of women.  We crave definition and connection.  This sucks us into categories, fast.  And labels like “attachment parenting” (for instance), while useful in gathering and sorting ideas –hinder us  when we begin to agonize over whether we want to take on the label of “An Attachment Parent,” or whether a certain parenting choice is “AP.” At best we distract ourselves with mind games about who is in, and who is out.  At worst, we condemn and ostracize each other — and ourselves.

Of course we can (and should) judge what we see of a decision — of an idea, a look, a statement, a skirt. We just can’t judge the entire of a human person.  (When we do start to judge a person — as judges, as juries –we are careful about what we can consider — Race? Reputation? Gossip? Appearance? — and what we must ignore). In daily life, putting people into categories (are they good or bad? Cool or weird? My kind of friend — or not?) is a waste of time — and a dangerous one.  And the worst person to label is ourselves: Is this dress ME?  I’m not a BOOTS KIND OF GIRL. If I wore that I’d look like A SLUT.

Judging ourselves is a way to grab at masks, instead of accepting the complexity and dynamism of our authentic selves.  It limits our potential. It sets ourselves up for failure. 

My look: Sofft pumps, with interesting detail.

My challenge then is to judge and describe things — the clothes, the awesome Chevron stripes, the texture and the shape. And not to judge and describe people.  Things — especally clothes, especially style — need to work FOR us. They don’t define us.  They can’t exclude us.

And I’m saying all this because I want to say: I’m not much of a Gypsy Skirt kind of girl.  I’m more of a “interesting black pump” (what I have on today) kind of girl.  And that makes me feel a little stodgy and boring next to friend J.

But I’m challenging myself to express this without self-labelling.  I’ll let you know when I succeed. 


the American Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/

Catholic Relief Services: http://crs.org/
Doctors without Borders: http://www.msf.org/

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Purple and black watercolor top, jean jacket, pencil skirt, red Cole haan heels

Purple and black watercolor top, jean jacket, pencil skirt, red Cole haan heels

Since I posted my Argument in Favor of Prints, I’ve been thinking how hard to judge a print on its own.  It’s all about the outfit.  Since I’m now worried about being all typecast as the Woman Who Wears Florals, I gathered some print-inclusive outfit combinations in an attempt to demonstrate that I do not look dowdy and lame. I hope (there are more floral prints here, with color and camisoles  ). 

These pictures don’t zoom in on the print, but that’s kind of my point.  I’m going for the Overall Effect that you’d get seeing me walk down the street.  Opinions? I know this isn’t everyone’s style (this is all my business casual work stuff).   Would these outfits work better or worse without prints? how would you adapt them to your own tastes if you were to dress Robin-Business-Casual for the day?

Ann Taylor Loft cardigan, gray skirt, Circa Joan & David heels.

Ann Taylor Loft cardigan, gray skirt, Circa Joan & David heels.


Bellatrix floral top (probably about $6 at The Rack by now) with gray suit

Bellatrix floral top (probably about $6 at The Rack by now) with gray suit


My husband is 8 inches taller than me, which apparently adds 10 pounds when he's the one taking my picture. I do think this is cute, though.

No matter how much you love someone, it is hard to be photographed by them when they are 8 inches taller because it adds like 10 pounds. I do think this is cute, though.


Target skirt that got ruiined in the dryer, brown top, gray Talbots jacket

Target skirt that got ruined in the dryer, brown top, gray Talbots jacket. No I do not know where the baby went in this shot, weird.


Kind of animal-ish print, gray skirt, tortoiseshell pumps

Kind of animal-ish print, gray skirt, tortoiseshell pumps. Baby is just about to run into the frame, I cropped her out.

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When dmama ruled out all pastels the other day, I started thinking about color.  I like a lot of light, bright and fruity colors. Are those pastels?  In the spirit of research, I found a digram describing color along the three aspects: hue, saturation and color:



Layman’s summary: hue is yellow, blue, or red or what.  Saturation is whether the color is bright or pale (eg adding white).  Value is how clear or muddy it is (eg adding black).  If you look for white or gray house paint, you have to choose which color of white (warm or cool hues) — it’s will be the least saturated version (at the top of the paint chip).  Gray is any hue at its not-yet-black muddiest.

So I picked a nice hue of blue from Chirag Mehta’s Color Wheel , and found the different colors of blue it can become:

I picked a nice hue of blue to start.  They very middle is a balance between black/white saturation and value.

hue is the aspect along the outer ring -- this one is blue. The middle of the grid is a balance between black/white saturation and value.


A "pastel" of the same hue: low saturation, low value. If you play with the wheel you can change hues and find other pastels (upper left corner of the grid).  Lavendar, rosebud, buttercup.

A "pastel" of the same hue: low saturation, low value. Play around with the outer wheel to find other hues of pastel (upper left corner of the grid). Lavendar, rosebud, buttercup.


If you move to the right (darker value?) of the same hue, it's less pastel-y and more gray.  These colors have more edge to them.

Move to the right for a darker value of the same hue. It's "muddy" instead of "clear." In interior decor this makes color more sophisticated, in clothing it gives them an edge.


Then move down down, toward black. Still the same hue of blue, now making a nice inky dark gray that still has some personality.

The bottom right becomes black and gray. The same hue of blue becomes inky and dark.


Still the same hue: The bottom left sector of the grid gives beautiful jewel tones.  Saturated and dark.

The bottom left segment of the grid is saturated but not muddy. These are vivid, clear jewel tones.


When we wear color, hue is not usually the most important point.   Most muted, dark colors look good with blue denim because denim is a dark, gray-ish color.  Vivid and bright colors are exciting but hard to match together because they compete with each other.  Dark neutrals (not just black but charcoal, chocolate, navy, forest green and khaki) coordinate with most colors, depending on the look you’re going for.

If you want to match a red shirt, for instance, think about how muddy/clear and bright/pale it is.  Then consider whether you want contrast. More contrast adds energy and makes an outfit or pattern more dynamic.  (This can be seen in examples of prints).  High contrast — especially adding white -next to color – tends to make a given combination of clothes (slacks, a top and sweater) more casual.  Lower contrast (pair similar values of different hues), is visually “smoother” and more elegant. 

Examples, using same tops with different camisoles:


Chatham blue velvet jacket that dmama scored from thriftstore. Print Classiques Entier silk top.  Dark camisole (Shuttle Gray) is dressier, white is more casual.

Chatham blue velvet jacket that dmama scored from thriftstore. Print Classiques Entier silk top. Dark camisole (Shuttle Gray) is dressier, white is more casual.

Pink shirred-neck t-shirt.  Dark camisole for a meeting; White for a picnic.

Shirred-neck t-shirt (color: Amaranth). Dark camisole for a meeting; White for a picnic.


Same Sweet Pea top (Color: Lake Como). On left with gray camisole and cardigan, on right with white.
Sweet Pea top (Colors: Lake Como, Axolotl, blumine). On left with gray camisole and cardigan, on right with white.

It’s hard to analyze outfit components alone, since so much of a “look” is about how it all goes together. So I think there are a lot of ways these ideas can succeed or fail depending on what else is going on.  Another big component is contrast with hair and skin color . . . probably deserves a post of its own!

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Nice Rack

Robin experiments with "batwing" sleeves; Aki is meh on a beautiful blue-colored print she dismisses as "too loud."

Today is Aki’s birthday (not yesterday’s advance, Hugh Jackman-rationalizing  PRE-Birthday).  In the spirit of festivity, and to get a sneak peek of what 37 looks like (I have a few months left), I met up to hang out at the Olympus day spa and hit up the Nordstrom Rack. 

We can’t say much about the Olympus Spa, because it is all-women, and men read this blog , so we are sworn to secrecy. Let’s just say it is NOT about clothes and we could NOT take pictures.  But I will say this: Aren’t women beautiful, in all our varying and bumpy glory?   I don’t just mean the “cute” ones or the “young” ones (it’s hard to tell who’s who when everyone wears a shower cap and naught else).   All of us, apples and pears and lemons alike, have amazing bodies with some great features.  We sure come in all shapes and sizes, it is really something. Also you never know who could be sporting some particularly fabulous boobs.

From the spa, we went to the Nordstrom Rack.  I don’t much like the Rack, because like any discount scene, everything is crammed together and it overwhelms me.  But in the spirit of meeting halfway between the Nordstromexperience and the thrifting/ experience (okay maybe not exactly half) we gave it a shot.

What I learned:

1. It’s sad to see something at a steep discount  when you paid full price for it months ago. That beautiful lilac and mandarin print silk blouse by Bellatrix in my prints post ? Was $29, I probably paid $59 or so at the half-yearly sale in May.  I tried to console myself  by thinking of how many times I’ve wore it since then — I’m not about to buy a sleeveless springtimey silk floral top in September — but ouch, that price.

2. Bargains are a cruel temptress.  More than once, we found ourselves ambivalent about a $50-ish top until we realized it was originally $198. OMG A TWO HUNDRED dollar shirt! Look at it? Is it cute? Could I pull it off? No, no, no.  Value must measure worth.  Think about how you’d wear it and whether you’d really love it, not about whether you can impress everyone by saving $148 (that you would never have spent in the first place). I kept myself in check with my “half-again” rule: If it’s tempting at $50, would I pay $75? Don’t buy it just because it’s cheap (or “cheap.”)

3. [Lilac-and-tangerine silk Bellatrix top aside] most things end up at the Rack because something is a leeeetle bit weird about them.  The great stuff sells out at the regular Nordstrom.  Many things look tempting on the hanger but as you can see below, weren’t perfect enough to take home. Of the good/recent stuff, prices were around 40% off — maybe $5 less than the same items had been during the Anniversary Sale .  And virtually everything was out of season — and since I’m not going to Wear it Tomorrow if it’s peep-toe or sleeveless, I can rule it out.


Ella Moss top: I loved the floral, Aki loves this brand. No love for the weirdly placed ruffles, though. And no, pervs, I'm not showing you my bra strap. I'm demonstrating how it looks like a Stegosaurus.


Randomly found a Cardinals shirt! Love the Cardinals, love vintage-look athletic motifs, love this super-soft thick cotton. Pleasantly surprised by the raglan sleeves. But I decided I wouldn't really wear it enough to be worth $17.95. Good thing, because I later discovered this was from the Boy's Department -- They also had the Tigers, White Sox and Mets.


Suzi Chin Maggy Boutique. Great bust ruching and offset waist, nice black-on-gray detail. Too much wtf in the sleeves and neckline for me, especially at $60.


Aki in a beautiful purple print from Sweet Pea. She said it was too low-cut and didn't like the floral.

I love this weird shade of blue but don't like the floral. Too granny. Aki rocks the clingy Calvin Klein paint-splatter print tee, but doesn't like the shoulder ruffles.


I love this color purple, but the Sweet Pea top is a little maternityish. Aki is GORGEOUS in this stripe, look how slimming the torso is! But she doesn't like the shoulders, and correctly notes that the pastel/neon palette is "too 80's."

Cute gray jeans (those are security tags, not a funky belt) that match my Cardinals tee. Wait, is this $90 worth of cool in one outfit? No. Put it back. Cheap is not free!


We checked out shoes, hoping to find the perfect boots for fall jeans/cords , but ACK do discount shoe racks make me dizzy! And they are not cheap enough to be worth it.  We also checked out the kids stuff — I was iimpressed with the great selection of cute-cute toddler girls’ items from the 2008 Pumpkin Patch line.  But in the end, we left with no purchases — we got burnt out, spas will dehydrate you like that, and bailed for cheesecake the Starbucks across the street.  Nothing to show for it this time but pictures.  And happy birthday, blogsister! For mine, we’re in Tacoma and the theme is “Christian Bale.”

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