Monday, September 30, 2013

Talbots Reverie

On Sunday I brought up the lone container of winter clothes that I have stashed in my storage unit. Not only do my spacious closets hold almost everything except for folded sweaters (in summer) and tees (in winter), but my wardrobe overall is much less seasonal than in years past.  Except for the hottest days which call for linen, and the coldest days which require actual snow boots, I tend to wear the same things year round.  This makes opening up the seasonal container less exciting, but I still discover things I bought right at the end of the season and never got to wear.

Tis also the season to get rid of the things that are hanging around unworn. I have a nice black velvet jacket that is just too small, see below: 


I cruised eBay for the same jacket in a 16 but couldn't find it. This led me to searching the Talbots site for a black velvet jacket, and they have one, but look at the difference:

Velveteen Blazer 

My six-year-old version has two sets of pockets with button flaps, buttoned cuffs, princess seams and nice ball/shank buttons. The new version has two patch pockets, no detail at the cuffs, bust darts instead of seams, and two flat plastic buttons in front. For the same price.

A cursory review of the new catalog reveals the same cost-saving simplification everywhere. No more welt pockets (so sleek and flattering), no pocket flaps, no seaming details. They still have lovely colors and fabrics, but the cashmere is thinner, the linings are acetate instead of rayon, and the pants don't have watch pockets. The quality is much more like Ann Taylor, which isn't a bad thing, exactly, but it isn't the Talbot's to which I was so devoted.

This makes me VERY reluctant to give up my velvet jacket. Maybe I'll lose ten pounds (above the waist), it could happen. The point is that it is no longer easy to replace an item in my closet without paying a LOT more for it. And I suspect that ladies of a certain age no longer want to dress like a Talbot's catalog. They want to look a little more stylish, a little less preppy. 

Maybe I should too, but this will be the end of a major era for me - more than 25 years of Talbot's shopping. I'll need some time to process it. :-)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Things That Are Not For You

Or me, in this case. I like to keep mini-lists on my phone; four financial goals, three restaurants I want to visit, two perfumes to sample. The newest list is Things That Are Not For You:

1. Wrap dresses: I've tried dozens, and they always gap or reveal too much.

2. Button Front Shirts: ditto.

3. Pull-On Boots: I just ordered ANOTHER pair, and the short versions make my ankles look like sticks. Like this:
My friend Michelle just made caramel apples and brought me FIVE. I am so happy.

On my ankles, they don't look so yummy.

Giving up wrap dresses and button fronts, isn't a big problem. There are plenty of dress styles that look swell on me, and pull-on blouses are just fine too. But I love those short cowboy-ish boots, and the boots I just ordered are pink suede and they are DOLLINK (as Krazy Kat would say).

Dusty pink suede, moderate heel, so cute I'm gonna die. Plus, well made, super comfy, on sale. Is a puzzlement.

Here's what I wore today, lifted directly from Pinterest:

Halogen blue skirt (eBay), Ann Taylor linen jacket, Talbots tee and my beloved Ecco nude heels. I might take this jacket to the tailors and have them take up the sleeves, or at lease see what it will cost. They have a cute lining and look nice cuffed, but I would be happier if they were the correct length. Oh, and new hair too, what do you think?

I'm reading (and enjoying) a new style book by Lois Joy Johnson called The Wardrobe Wakeup. She mentions the question of looking expensive, and catches at my concern about this style goal.  My fear is that inexpensive clothes look cheap, but conversely, trying to look expensive is a shallow goal, or at the least a first world problem. Money is the answer/money is not the answer. I would not be comfortable in what I think of as "status" items; a fur coat, a Birkin bag, anything where the logo matters more than the item. But I appreciate the value and quality of something well-made and thus expensive. The author's advice is to wear one expensive thing, like a vintage Hermes scarf or a nice watch or a really good jacket.

She also made the excellent point that wearing a simple stylish outfit is pretty easy, but putting together an offbeat look is hard, and if you don't get it exactly right, it is usually perfectly wrong. Heh. I'm all for easy.

This weekend I ordered a mixed media black ponte and faux leather jacket. I thought I'd be so on trend. When it came I looked like an extra from Springtime for Hitler. Sigh. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fashion Resolutions Part Deux

I eliminated a dozen things from my closet over the weekend, and we're three weeks into September and I haven't bought anything! That's mildly encouraging. Here's what I've worn recently, with comments about how it applies to my fashion resolutions. 

The weather turned cool, so I got to put boots on! This jacket and pants combo was just the right side of "office fussy", which made me happy, and the jacket's sleeves are the right length, ditto. It isn't a striking outfit, but it is professional without being dowdy. Talbots jacket and pants, with a Kohl's patterned tank. A higher heel would improve the line.

A favorite combo: sleek black rayon top and a heavy linen pleated skirt (both Talbots), with taupe boots and a modern necklace. I love all the neutrals and textures. 

I actually wore the jacket buttoned, which was a better silhouette. I like the double navy with the pink skirt. The shoes; I don't know, but I didn't like my other options. The jacket sleeves are cuffed to show the striped lining. I wore the necklace like so:

Overall, tasteful but not stylish. Accessories would have made the difference here. That necklace is a sentimental favorite, but I think it gets lost.

Love the skirt and sandals and the orange tank, but that sweater silhouette is not my friend. I'll keep it for casual wear and to take to the movies. I tried this outfit with a narrow belt, which helped but didn't save it. Everything looks a little dragged down.  I have a crisp 3/4 sleeve jacket that would have been better. And I wish the bracelet I'm wearing was a necklace instead!

I'm getting my hair cut next Monday - yay! and I'm going to go short again. The bob feels unreliable. Sometimes I get it right and it's cute and modern, and sometimes it fights me and I hate it. A little shorter is easier, for me anyway.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Fashion Resolutions

1. Not to buy any more clothes (except underwear) at Macy's and Lord and Taylor.
2. Correspondingly, to shop at Nordstrom. And maybe Banana Republic.
3. Revise my list of shopping questions.
These activities should feed the following goals:
1. Find balance between my work wardrobe and my play wardrobe.
2. Thin out my closet by 25%.
3. Eliminate anything that feels cheap, tight, fussy or sticky.
Some explication ensues. Over the weekend I reviewed blog photos for the past year. Hey, most things look pretty good. Also, Heather is correct that the camera isn't always the best judge (though generally a better one than my optimistic eyes). A couple of outfits need a little proportion adjustment. I have two full Boden skirts that I think are not sleek or simple enough; some gathers, some ruffles. I will consider selling those. I have a few tops and jackets with puffy sleeves, or with gathers at the armscye; I think those also have to go.

One particular top, the Ann Taylor black chiffon blouse, is problematic. I realized that every time I wore it I felt hot and sticky, probably because it is polyester and not silk. I need to wear it in cooler weather and review. I feel warm and flushed often enough these days without the assistance of my clothes. I'm also a little annoyed with elastic sleeves. I think this is a costcutting measure on the part of the manufacturer and it pisses me off. I don't like having marks on my arms just because my sleeves ride up at my desk.

My denim shirts aren't bringing their A game either. I want a denim-looking shirt that isn't denim weight, one that is long enough to tuck in, but with vertical darts or seams at the waist so there isn't a huge excess of material there. I saw a really nice version of this shirt at Nordstrom and Pinned it. One resolution I would like to make is not to buy any more button-fronts, but sometimes I am helpless in the face of a J. Crew "perfect" shirt.

I'm tempted to swear not to buy anything with a collar, period. I have loads of jackets and many of them are making me feel (at work) a little dated. Oddly, I like the idea of wearing them as play clothes, with bright jeans, or as outerwear with a warm scarf in the fall. That is part of the balance issue I refer to. My play clothes are minimal because I don't want to stain or damage my work clothes, and my work clothes feel a little "office fussy." Moving 25% of my office wear to the minor leagues will be a good start. I'm trying to decide whether a physical separation in my closet would be helpful (or just fun - I do love organizing things). Putting on a blazer stood me in good stead for years, but I think I need to upgrade my work wardrobe again.

And that's the final thing I realized: that I've been here before.  In the past I have upgraded my shopping habits, my fashion goals, my work wardrobe, and my style goals. It is actually a great feeling to think that I've done this before and it worked out well.

Today I wore a Talbot's top and skirt, and my lovely Everybody sandals. I can say with confidence that I love all the sandals I bought this year (can't say the same for the shoes, sadly).  I wish this top had just a little more definition in the waist. And damn those elastic sleeves!
To be continued: revising the shopping questions, and, what does "looks expensive" mean, anyway?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Change Agent

I looked for an image of a shed snake skin, but they were all surprisingly icky. This was intended to illustrate the feeling I've been having of wanting to remake myself in some way, shed some of the wardrobe bits that feel fussy or cheap or the wrong side of quirky. When snakes moult they emerge gleaming, bright and glossy, but it's hard work and takes some time.

This was spurred, I suspect, by my comparing myself to someone I literally have never seen, but who in my mind is is bit more effortless, a bit more elegant, a bit simpler in her personal style. Not minimal exactly, but with no sense of working at it. I am conscious of the constant trying to get it right.

I recently read a great post at Wardrobe Oxygen about the feeling that your "true" self doesn't match what is most flattering on you. The plaintive query came from someone who felt a bit punk rock but received the most compliments in more girly, vintage ensembles. She wondered how to find balance between how she felt, how she wanted to be seen, and how she was perceived. Complicated. The response from Allie was great, and the many comments showed this is a common puzzle for women.

Two days ago I wore a long, ocean blue swing tee with black linen pants and a long simple necklace. I felt so elegant, comfortable and expensive (a very nice feeling), but I know that visually, a swing silhouette is not my most flattering choice. Which is why I have no pictures to show you.

Yesterday I wore this: 
My Apt. 9 dress, a boysenberry linen jacket, a wide brown leather belt and my nude Earthies. And it's cute. The colors are nice, the fit is swell, the proportions are perfect. But it didn't speak to my fashion fantasy.

My fantasy makes me want to throw out this dress and most of the little jacket/skirt/dress/cardigan ensembles I own. Shed my current snake skin and revel in my gleaming new look. I have a few things in my closet that are perfect for that imaginary woman. But the truth is, I'm not sure that woman has enough variety in her wardrobe for me. I like almost every color in the palette, not a carefully chosen three or four. Not to mention that some of my cheapest purchases are my very favorites.

OK, you're wondering, does she have a POINT? And I guess it is that I feel a bit itchy in my fashion skin, and I wonder if larger changes should be contemplated as we enter a new season. Hmmm.