Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fashion: Suspicion, Armor, and Rebellion. And Oregano.

When I put something away in the kitchen right after using it, my brain often mocks, "Well, aren't you fancy. Who do you think you are?" It's a voice from childhood. Refusing to tend a home was part of Mom's identity--she was a Modern Woman and an Intellectual Woman, and for her, that went along with an abiding suspicion of housekeeping. There were inconsistencies, such as her avenging offensive on the floor with the vacuum, but in general housekeeping meant knuckling under to the sexist and plebeian standards of others. Putting the oregano away promptly was a surrender.

I mock Mom for this, and I mock my brain for trying to maintain the habit. Why reject the opportunity to have pleasure and comfort in your own home just because you might (gasp!) fulfill a community standard at the same time?

Yesterday I put on a denim dress that kinda fits me, and the green Dorothy earrings, and a green blatantly-fake-emerald necklace that I've been trying to find an opportunity to wear. And that didn't feel like enough color, with the necklace and earrings mostly being hidden by my hair and collar, so I grabbed the floofy-flower scarf and tried it on. And my brain demanded, "Well, aren't you fancy. Who do you think you are?"


It's been saying that a lot since the fashion experiment started. And it's not Mom's voice--you all know that I'm ready to blame Mom for everything, but she didn't model a lack of interest in putting together an outfit. A lack of joy, yes, but not a lack of interest. It's not the voice of the kids who told me day after day in school that I was ugly. I know that because I never gave them the chance to mock my fashion ideas. Because I mocked them first, alone, and put a stop to them, before anyone else got the chance.

In other words, it's my voice, defending me from what is no longer a threat. The voice mocking me when I put away the oregano is Mom's dysfunctional defender, unwittingly transferred to me. The voice mocking me when I consider the effect of a scarf is my dysfunctional defender. It thinks that mean girls are waiting around the corner and that I still need to keep my power close and my armor buttoned up.

It means well. I want to treat it gently. But it's being retired from an executive to an advisory position--Advisor on Fashion Rebellion.

Rebellion is what gets me past those nervous moments. If I want to do something "right" I don't have the confidence to go through with it. If I want to do something whacky, it's much easier. I often realize afterward that it really wasn't the least bit whacky, but that's OK--once the experiment has been completed once, I can do it again even if I'm (gasp) fulfilling community standards.

There's probably more to say. But it's been more than two weeks since my last post, which means that I've reached the "write something!" deadline. So that is all.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fashion: Chasing Color (What I wore Thursday)

So, What I Wore Tuesday was all neutrals. The same for Wednesday--a white knit shirt with a drapey front that I got from a Multinational Megalith, a beige/brown woven cotton thingie that I got from the sample sale at Webster's, freshwater pearls that Himself gave me some years ago (yay Himself!), a knee-length knit black skirt that also has a drapey front (Megalith), and the same black tights and black flats that I keep wearing.

The photo, left, is unexciting. But I really liked this outfit on me--the V shaped neck and rumply draped front worked well for my face and hair, and the vaguely suit-like impression and the pearls made me feel like a well-dressed little old lady about to go to a board meeting. The average woman probably wouldn't think of "little old lady" as a success, but for a person who loves old-lady perfumes, perhaps the appeal is unsurprising. I felt like a grownup. That's both fascinating and a little frightening for someone who's been dressing like a college student for over twenty years.

But I did notice an ongoing lack of color. So on Thursday I wore a red velvet shirt that I've had forever, possibly since my early twenties. Wearing this shirt is part of a long-term plan to put idle clothes to work or get rid of them. To reduce the eighties silhouette, I cut out the shoulder pads, and I plan to (gasp) throw it in the Delicate cycle rather than obey the Dry Clean Only tag. If it goes to pieces, then its fate is sealed permanently; if it doesn't, then I'll probably start wearing it more than once a decade. Either outcome is a win, though I'm hoping for the second, because I really do love the red. I love almost any red, but this dark blood-red with no touch of blue or orange is my favorite.

Following the same philosophy of Wear It Or Lose It, I added a pair of screw-on earrings that belonged to my mother or my grandmother or possibly both--I tend to forget these things. Matchyness again. Is matchyness in jewelry wrong? And wore it with, again, another knee-length black skirt, black tights, black flats, blah de blah de blah. Wearing earrings was another cool novelty. Much to my surprise, screw-ons seem to be less painful than clip-ons.

Friday was less matchy. I wore a boxy denim shirt trimmed at the sleeves and hem with purple velvet ribbon and little bits of beadwork, and a silk scarf with a floofy flower print in which red-pink dominated, and (whee!) a knee-length black skirt, black flats, and slate-blue tights. And the same red starburst earrings as the day before.

Am I going to keep a perpetual diary here? Actually, I probably am, though not necessarily recording every single day on the blog. I suspect that in six months I'll be very curious to see what I was wearing six months before. But just to finish up to date, today it was a brown linen shirt with an interesting shape--I'll photograph it someday, probably the next time I wear it--with black SkirtTightsFlatsBlah, the flowery scarf, and those green Dorothy earrings. Color! That's the top photo, of course.

So. Color. At least, color above the waist--I keep on wearing those black skirts. (I have three knee-length and one calf-length, and that's ignoring any lurking among the neglected clothes.) I feel as if I must have pages and pages to write about color, but...nothing is coming out. Not a thing. I guess I can't go all rambling philosophical every time.

So I will, for now, declare that that is all.

Images: Mine.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Food: Back on the Wagon

Did I mention that I fell off the low-sugar wagon? Yeah. Not so much fell as leaped, claws extended toward the nearest candy treat. Stress, work, travel to That City Where St. Cupcake Lives, and it all fell apart.

Saturday I'm starting again. I'm prepped. The sliced turkey, olives, and Greek yogurt are ready in the fridge. (Greek yogurt, you might ask? That's milk, and milk has carbs, you may say. Yes, I know, but a limited dose of the stuff worked well last time.) We've got plenty of teabags for iced tea.

So what's the plan? The same one that worked last time. Starting Saturday, no candy, no cake, no sugar-bearing condiments, no sugared drinks, no fruit juice drinks, nothing that's hiding sugar in its depths, except for:

  • One piece of chocolate, per day.
  • One bowl of Greek yogurt with one tablespoon of honey, per day.
  • One piece of fruit, per day.
  • One Coke, per week.
  • One full-on sugary treat (doughnut, cupcake, candy bar, whatever), per week.

I realize that that's probably a year's worth of carbs for a true low-carber.

Last time I did this I cut out the sugar, waited a few weeks, and then cut the simple starches. This time I think I'm going to try to cut them both at the same time, because I think that just extended the misery--once they were both pretty minimal, I felt OK and was no longer tempted to detach and eat the limbs of innocent passers-by. So, no potatoes, no white rice, no potato chips, no bread, and so on and so on. For the first few days, in fact, I'll probably also cut out the whole-grain, er, grains, restricting my bready eating to the crispbread that I make my turkey sandwiches with. I'd cut that out if I could, but I just can't; I've tried. Turkey without anything filling the role of bread depresses me.

Oh, and no milk. Lotta sugar in milk. Also, Himself thinks it makes me crazy.

So, turkey. And chicken. And pickles and olives and vegetables. Massive quantities of them, and zero effort to control fat. This is a single-topic diet. There will be butter on the vegetables and mayonnaise on the turkey-and-crispbread. (I just rushed to check the mayo jar for sugar. Nope. Thank goodness.)

Wish me luck. And best keep your limbs out of reach, for a little while.

Image: By Uwe Hermann. Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fashion: What I Wore Tuesday

The journey--and confusion--continues.

Tuesday I wore a calf-length black linen skirt, a brown heather crewnecky knit thing with decorative visible serger seams (architecture! yay!), black tights, little navy blue loafers, and the silver necklace photographed in the frippery post. You can see it all lounging on the Fashion Chaise in the photo there. (I've realized that the conflict between refusing to be pictured in my own blog and writing about a visual subject can be resolved by allowing my clothes to star in their own photos without me.)

This wasn't a fashion triumph--it was all neutrals, and the navy blue, in particular, had no excuse for being there. I'm choosing to read it as black. But all the same, this outfit is a successful implementation of some of my goals.

First, of course, I "dressed"--I wore a planned set of clothing. And it all fits--it traverses my curves rather than drowning them in a heap of fabric. It's casual enough to wear on jeans occasions while looking far better on me than jeans. And it's comfortable enough to wear all day until I go to bed, though that means that I have to be careful not to splat anything on it when I eat dinner.

That extra care feels new. The book Overdressed (Elizabeth L. Cline) reminded me that there was a time when people took off their "good" clothes when they got home every night, and aired and brushed and neatly hung each garment, because clothes were scarce and expensive and it was important for them to retain their good-clothes status as long as possible. I don't know if people still do that very often. I'm embarassed to say that this Saturday when I changed out of the jeans and tee that I had worn for gardening, I not only dropped them where I stood, but later, since my hands were full and I was in a hurry to tidy, kicked them across the floor from bathroom to living room to laundry room. This is a far cry from the reverence that clothes once received.

I would never do that to a garment that I had sewn, or to most of the garments that I've been buying lately. I'm setting that as a goal for new clothing purchases: If I'd be willing to kick the garment across the floor, I shouldn't be buying it.

I probably won't be explaining that goal to salespeople.

Another goal is to consider who my money's going to. For example, I was feeling guilty for buying several garments from a company that I categorize as a Multinational Megalith, but then I realized that this particular Megalith offers an unusually extensive selection of clothing in plus sizes. I want to encourage that. But I also want to encourage fair wages. And safe working conditions. And environmentally friendly production and materials. And small businesses, both manufacturers and retailers. And high, non-disposable quality. And local business. Whee! Sometimes it seems as if I should have a scoring checklist for each garment.

WARNING: Linkyness commences. As usual, no affiliation.

Tuesday's clothes would have gotten a decent score on that checklist. I made the skirt with natural fiber fabric that I bought from a local shop (Fabric of Vision). I bought the crewnecky thing from another local shop (The Websters). It was made by a company (Odd Numbers) that appears to be small and independent, emphasizes environmentally friendly dyes and natural fibers, and produces designs that I like.

The necklace, as discussed in the frippery post, was made by (Catherine Hartley), and purchased from (One Of A Few), small businesses, though they weren't local to me. I think that I bought the shoes at a local shop, though my memory is fuzzy there. Only the tights violated most of the rules--synthetic fiber, made by one Megalith and purchased at another. At least I bought them in person instead of having them shipped.

All of this sounds picky and geeky. I've realized that the geekiness helps me to enter a world where I don't feel welcome or knowledgeable. Long ago, in a post about Bvlgari Black, I said "I prefer geek perfumery. I like things best when I'm the one with the extra knowledge." That's what's going on here. Reading books about fashion and having quirky, high-maintenance demands for the clothes that I buy make me feel more in control.

For similar reasons, I check seam finishes and other construction details when I'm in stores that sell serious costs-more-than-a-mortgage-payment designer clothing. Construction is the rare area where I have more of a clue than the average fashion shopper. It doesn't make sense for me to touch the stuff; I'm just there to learn from the colors and shapes and styles and then run away to cheaper retailers or my sewing machine. Nevertheless, I examine their expensive interiors--gently, and with clean hands.

(It's a little weird sitting here with that disembodied outfit lounging five feet away on the chaise. It looks more ominous in person, though still ladylike, as if it might get up and demand a glass of iced tea.)

(Otherwise, that is all.)

Illustration: Wikimedia Commons.
Photo: Mine.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fashion: What happened to the scarf case?

Remember? Remember how they used to keep all those fancy filmy scarves in a glass case at the department store, as if they were jewelry, because often they were as expensive as jewelry? When I was young and broke, I used to spend time eyeing them. Now that I'm old enough to wear one and possibly to be able to pay for one, the cases are gone and the accessories department is full of big floofy cotton gauze things. And purses the price of a car.


So I bought this used/vintage (where is the boundary?) scarf on that trip to Portland, at...I think it was Magpie. It seems to have a paintery theme--see the closeup? I like it. It somehow makes me think of a Hitchcock movie.

But I want the scarf case back anyway.

That seems to be all.

Photo: Mine.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fashion: What I Wore Monday

Monday, I wore slate-blue tights, a royal blue shirt, a knee-length blue denim skirt, and black flats.

Why am I telling you this? Because I want to record my tentative fashion forays in words. I can look at a picture of clothes and say, "Ooh, pretty!", but that visual experience is unsatisfying; I need to ask questions and answer questions and ramble and enthuse. Why is it pretty? Why does it work? What does it mean? Hey, my grandma had a coat like that!

I was all matchy on Monday, or at least color-themed. I think that matchiness is out of style nowadays--"nowadays" being, oh, post-1987. But I enjoy it. Enjoyment of my clothes, of any kind, motivates me to "dress"--to wear a planned combination of clothes rather than grabbing a random tee and a pair of Mom jeans.

"Combination of clothes." Heh. I dislike the word "outfit". Because it feels girly? Because it's part of the fashion world that I've rejected up to now? Because Mom's outfits were set in stone, so that poor malachite necklace was forced into a permanent monogamous relationship with that slightly-faded boatneck top, never to see the world in any other company?  But I can't think of a better brief way of describing, "a planned combination of clothes." It's a useful word.

So. What is there to say about Monday's (gulp) outfit?

Most significant to me was the fact that the skirt was short. Short-for-me; just about at the knee. In the past few years my skirts have been drifting longer and longer--I often need to lift them in order to descend stairs without tripping. It was liberating, pleasantly weird, to display the bottom half of my legs to the general public.

My slate-blue legs. Hosiery is another area where I've rarely stepped past the entrance hall of the feminine universe. When I wear a skirt, I'm usually wearing black tights, the sturdy kind that hold up to many washes. Once in a while, it's beige tights. When I was in Portland, I bought myself a pair in slate blue and another in a sort of tweedy gray. (Such daring!) I eyed the fishnets and polka dots longingly; I really think it's only a matter of time, maybe very little time, before my legs are (occasionally) patterned.

That will require that I learn to launder less-sturdy hosiery, however. Or that I become fabulously wealthy so I can just throw hose out after one wearing--a policy that sounds less shocking when you consider that the things seem to be built to ensure that you only get one wearing anyway, which is part of why I went to the sturdy tights in the first place.

Um. What? Oh, yes. Laundry. And the whole topic of maintenance. "Dress"ing requires that I do some maintenance on my clothes, and for a person who rarely even bothers to snatch things out of the dryer before the wrinkles set, that's a pretty big demand.

The other significant fact about Monday is that both my shirt and my skirt fit me. I tend to wear clothes so large that I can pull them on without un-doing the fastenings, so large that when I change position, such as sitting down so that the stomach is repositioned in a poofier way, the fabric just gives way without offering any resistance whatsoever. I think that this is what people mean when they sometimes say, "I don't like my clothes to touch me." Monday's clothes touched me. Aiee!

Clothes that "fit" are often less comfortable than clothes that are wildly oversized. And that's a big element of my past resistance to fashion--why would I want to wear uncomfortable clothes in order to look better for other people?  I find myself wanting to rush off and find quotes on the topic. C.S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia, on the idea that your "best" and most festive clothes should be your most comfortable. The Little Mermaid, with all those words about beauty requiring pain. An Episode of Sparrows, where Lovejoy's pride drove her to wear her best shoes long after she'd outgrown them.

OK, that's probably another post. Right now my pain-for-beauty issue is all about shoes. (Well, and earrings, but that's also another post.) Heels. Like many women who are sufficiently plus-sized to have trouble finding the clothes they want, I love cool shoes. I just love them in the abstract, because I'm not willing to have uncomfortable feet. I would love to be able to wear heels wherever and whenever, but I'm just not sure if I want to endure the pain required to get "used to" them.


That seems to be all.

For now.

(Oh, except--that's the "Cthulhu on a supermodel diet" vintage pin. Cool, huh?)

Photo: Mine.