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Posts Tagged ‘Style’

I recently met up for coffee with my good colleague JQ.  As we sat reminiscing about the days of yore long gone, we paused to look at ourselves with our matching baby strollers, she in her Ohio State sweatshirt and New York Yankees baseball cap and me in my $6 Old Navy T-shirt and a mullet and wondered aloud, “How did we get here!?”

me, with a then 8 month old and JQ with a days old newborn

me with a then 8 month old and JQ with a days old newborn. I'm wearing a Mariners sweatshirt and cap.

I don’t know about you but I seem to always have a constant battle inside, between the person I look like and the person I know I am.  Thinking back on my life I can only recall a couple of instances when those two identities converged and I felt the best that I could be. One was during the latter part of college and early career when I was in my early to mid-20s, and the other was during my late 20s and early 30s when I worked side by side with JQ at the University.

me in michael stars and Buffalo jeans, JQ in zodiac leo shirt i bought her. (My Bally purse was over $300!!)

We were young, single and carefree. We made just enough money to support our Michael Stars habit (I swear to you at one point I had about 20 Michael Stars shirts hanging in my closet), we shopped at Nordstroms and Anthropologie but also at the Gap or thrift, mixing and matching as we pleased, fashion rules be damned.  My favorite piece of clothing of JQ’s was a pair of swooshing windbreaker pants in pale blue from the Gap, complete with embroidered flowers down one of the back legs. Sure, we wanted to look cool and hip but I also think we wore some outrageous or obnoxious pieces just out of spite or just to entertain each other, like our own little private joke.

my shirt says "eye candy" (AND $92 at Nordstrom), in raglan sleeves that I love. JQ in michael stars

The other hobby we had was to make fun of the academics we encountered every day. Most of the young women were fun, intelligent, motivated, and absolutely wonderful people.  What struck us was how strange it was that the majority of them seemed to have completely given up on how they looked. JQ and I lovingly called these people “Mrs Spitzer” or “I give up” or “Christmas Sweater.”  These were vibrant women in their 20s, 30s with perfectly pretty faces walking around wearing high-waisted tapered pants, or sweatshirts with wolves or dolphins on them.

me in INC shirt, halogen jeans and steve madden boots. JQ in michael stars

Years passed.  We matured, married, had babies, and left the work force.  We started to worry whether something was appropriate for our age, income or lifestyle and we got less and less daring. We now sit in coffee shops with our spit upon T-shirts and rolled up jeans… Have we now become Mrs. Spitzers!? No, not yet. No. But we are close. The irony is, we might even actually dress “better” at this point in our life because we’ve figured out some fashion rules that work for and against us. But we had so much FUN back then, didn’t we?

me in shirt from anthropologie, skirt from brass plum! JQ in something similar, I'm sure

How can we recapture the spirit of our glory days? How can we still look good AND feel good but also keep a little crazy? Yes, our drummer only has one arm now and our guitarist is dead, but I think it’s time we reunited and go on a comeback tour. We will be back, just you wait and see.

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Hello, I’m deathmama.  You may not know it from the way I look today but I’ve put a lot of time and thought into this question over the years. I dress to look and feel good, for myself.  I don’t dress to be trendy, fashionable, or to attract attention (though there were times in my past when I dressed for all of those reasons!).  Now at 36, I just want to be comfortable but not look like a total cow.

To achieve this, I’ve had to impose some rules for myself.  I’ll be using this blog to throw out these little thought nuggets from time to time. Here’s the first one.

Only keep what you wear

It’s harder than you’d think but saves a lot of time and grief later. If I haven’t worn it in a year I probably will never wear it.  There’s a reason why I haven’t worn it.  It’s too small, it’s too loose, it’s not the right color, the fit isn’t quite right, the fabric feels weird, there’s a stain on it, the button’s missing, etc.  If something in my closet looks good only on the hanger but not on me, then it has to go.  I realized this when I did my big closet purge of 1997.  I had so many sentimental pieces.  A book I was reading at the time (“Simple Isn’t Easy” by the late Olivia Goldsmith and Amy Fine Collins) said something like “It’s not a diary, it’s your closet!” which struck a chord with me then and stays with me still.  Clothes are for wearing.  I don’t have a lot of time thinking about what to put on each morning.  But if I know that I can wear everything I own, then I only need to reach in and grab a top, bottom and go.  I already know they work on me.

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As soon as I mention “Fashion Rules,” people start arguing with me.  I guess rules beg for resistance.  I never was trying to impose a ban on clothes I don’t approve of (except MAYBE visors . . . more on that later).  I’ve noticed that everyone has their own self-imposed fashion rules, anyway.  Our UNwritten rules about what we’ll wear often don’t make sense and usually hold us back.  And most of us are walking around unhappy with the way we dress.

My story: In 2008 I went back to work after 18 months home with my kids.  It was time to give away my maternity clothes (hard to do — I love those stretchy waists, and for reasons that are sort of difficult, I can’t have more kids). I started unpacking my old work clothes and realized: 1. They were stretched out, worn out and didn’t fit and 2. I never really liked them in the first place. They represented a time when I didn’t like my job and fought the requirement to dress professionally. Sometimes I wore the same thing two days in a row because no one noticed me anyway.  These were bummer clothes.  

In those days — the “what can I get away with” days — I had unwritten rules that limited what I would or “could” wear — this was in my Business Casual (lawyer) wardrobe:

ROBIN’S OLD (BUMMER WARDROBE) RULES

  • No heels.
  • No pantyhose.
  • Actually just wear boots with thick athletic socks, or sandals in summer.
  • But not heels.
  • Nothing that tucks in.
  • Nothing that needs to be ironed.
  • Actually, let’s stick to knits.
  • Nothing that doesn’t match my one pair of black boots.

As part of my obligatory Mom-goes-back-to-work daydreaming, I was browsing catalogs.  There are a lot of cute clothes out there, and it started to dawn on me that maybe I could wear them.  Could I actually Dress Well at a new job?  Could I wear a suit without looking like an elderly high school principal (I’m 36?) Could the clothes I’ve resisted all my life –heels and skirts, nice handbags and blouses – actually work in my favor?

Did I have a prayer of ever pulling it all together?

This was a bigger revelation than it sounds.  It actually kind of changed my life and the way I think about myself.  I became a devoted disciple of What Not to Wear, and I adopted their idea of “rules.” Here was my first list:

 ROBIN’S NEW SHOPPING RULES (August 2008)

  • No juniors department
  • No. Polyester.
  • No clothes from Costco, Target or Fred Meyer. At least until next summer.
  • Try EVERYTHING ON before buying. No catalog/online sprees.
  • Buy pants and skirts that look good in the butt and get them hemmed (they are always too long)
  • Dark neutrals other than black
  • No elastic waists — buy clothes that fit and then don’t gain weight
  • No schlumpy sweaters (I got rid of this Used-to-be-beautiful striped cardigan when I realized it looked just like an awful one someone was “too attached to” on What not to Wear).
  • Keep copies of InStyle and Vogue in the bathroom so I get used to people looking stylish

Since then I’ve added some rules and ignored many.  More on that to come . . .

Dressed and ready for new job!

Dressed and ready for new job!

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