Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Waste not, want not - and a project organization help

Tonight was declared cutting night.  I had my blue/grey plaid on my mind and I couldn't shake it loose.  (Mom brought me some wool plaid from her trip to Oregon this fall).  So, off to the cutting table we went. 

Having finished cutting my skirt, I was left with quite a lot of very pretty plaid.  Not - with the grey - a color I want to wear near my face, so not an option to use as a vest, even if my scrap drawers weren't bulging.  But!  My daughter looks amazing in grey and aqua... and I had a dress pattern that I'd altered for her in the fall and that I thought there just might be enough fabric for.  There was!  So ... she'll have a dear little dress, and I'll have a matching skirt.  (They don't match at *all* in style, only in fabric). 

I usually have leftover fabric, what with being fond of long full skirts, so having a pattern or two in my inventory that can make use of the scraps - when appropriate - is a money saver and prevents waste.  (I hate looking at the trashcan after cutting time, and I just don't have the space to keep more than a few drawers of scraps). 

What did I do with my projects?  I put them in big ziploc bags and toss them into my closet to be sewn up at a later date.  A fair few casual dresses belonging to my daughter are still in there, waiting for Mama to decide that her little girl needs to wear tinkerbell. 

Here's what that looks like: 

Lining, fabric, zipper, hem tape and pattern.  All ready to go.  :)  (The bright turquoise is the lining). 


A resolution:  Not to sew anything for my wardrobe that I don't truly love.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The dressy jacket

Item finished!

I learned quite a lot about sewing while going through this process... none of which were particularly *pleasant* lessons.  But I'm done, and Mom is going to look simply smashing in this tonight.  (Remember my mom's hair is about the same color as this jacket, if you replace the black with darkest brown). 


Sunday, December 18, 2011


I've been looking at colors and whatnot quite a lot lately... some things that speak to me:




Fluidity of line

I tried making some palettes on one of the color programs, and it went well enough, I suppose, but the flat colors feel so - flat.  When I see a flower petal or a piece of cloth, I'm attracted to the depth of color, not just the color itself.  This is probably why I like certain types of cloth (and certain weaves) and why I'm totally uninspired by others.  (It's also why I don't like kitch, as a rule). 

Water and trees and movement... these inspire me. 

Now to take that inspiration and move it into cloth.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Why does it matter if I'm wearing "my" style?

Why does it matter that we nail down our own styles?  Isn't this all a wee bit solipsistic?  Instead of navel-gazing, are we hem-gazing?  What's the deal?

The reason that it matters that we nail down our own style - even though it will continually evolve - is that having nailed down our style, we can forget ourselves in our clothing.  Having brought our style into the outside circle, we can walk ahead confidently, being ourselves, as true fully dressed as fully naked, and perhaps more so.

Clothing tells the world about you, tells it who you are.  So, nailing down what you want to say to the world is a good thing to do.  It's not just the world at large - it's your mirror.  Every time you walk past a mirror - do you look like yourself?

When I wear certain styles of clothing, I feel like I'm wearing a costume.  There's nothing wrong with costuming... but it isn't something that you want to do day-to-day.  And that's what I've been stuck on with some of my clothes.  I feel like I'm wearing someone else's things.  I don't look like me, I don't feel like myself. 

It's been baffling me... after all, didn't I make those things?  But the things that are most costumey are honestly the things that look most like my *mom* or other women I look up to, not me!  F'r instance, I have a lovely pair of button-up shirts.  I made them, so they fit me.  They're in my colors.  I'm quite fond of the buttons.  Everything should work out, right?  But no.  Because button-up, collared shirts. are a classic look.  You think "classic = everyone can wear it", and that's not true.  I look and feel awkward in classic tailoring.  If I'm going to have a button-up shirt, I'm going to have to modify it.  (Right now I'm thinking a collarless shirt would work, but I might have to give that up and stick with buttons up my back).   If I were working in an office I'd probably wear a shell or a blouse instead of a button-down. 

That's also the point of nailing down your style - sometimes you'll have to modify it.  If I were working in an office, I wouldn't have the freedom to wear floor-skimming skirts 90% of the time, which is what I wear at home.  I'd have to find something that brought that femininity (or that naturalness) into the office realm.  (I know how to do this if anyone needs help).   Even in the home, I have to consider practicality - I can't scrub toilets in lace, and it's usually too hot here to wear a wool cloak. 

When  you feel like yourself, you can act like yourself.  Being as true to yourself as possible is a good thing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I'm still working on it

Two sizing muslins.
I redrew the entire sleeve area and did some adjustments for back width. 
Cutting the slippery slippery fabric.  Lining included.  I will NEVER use regular lining fabric again, just FYI.

This is taking a *lot* longer than I had hoped!  I *hope* to sew up the sleeves this morning and be able to give this to my mom to try on and decide on final length today.  (She didn't want it quite this long, as it turns out). 

But y'all have been patient, and deserve an "in progress" picture.

There you are.  One sleeveless dressy jacket shell.  :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A pause in the action to talk about Aesthetics and Pinterest

I'm trying Pinterest out as an online lookbook.   So far, so good.  My aesthetic is very well defined.  The clothing I "pin" is all very similar in mood.  The "just for pretties" fit in that mood. 

The odd thing is that my "to sew" projects *dont'* fit that mood, they're much more structured.    My aesthetic tends to be art nouevea/edwardian/fairy tale and my sewing projects are straight out of the fifities. 

In other words, I think I've found the disconnect and some of the source of dissatisfaction with the things I create.  I need to stay conscious of my organic natural romantic bent - even while paying homage to my figure's need for structured outerwear.

This is the point of lookbooks.  Or one of them.  To see what you are craving, and to figure out how to get that craving integrated with your dailiness.  All is possible, one must merely make it work!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Skirt Ripples, two possible solutions

Two possible reasons for the ripples in my skirt zipper area.

1) The zipper area wants interfacing.  I would agree with this one - I see the most rippling on lighter fabrics, fabrics that are substantially lighter than the zipper fabric.  Found this in one of the sewing books I got this week for my birthday.

2)  http://gorgeousfabrics.com/blog/2011/12/06/there-are-no-hard-and-fast-rules-in-sewing/  Sew from wide to narrow?  No rippling?  Could it be that easy?

So... the next skirt I make - two changes coming up.  Also, I'm going to go back to the overlapped waistband with button rather than the waistband with hook & eye that I have been using.  I might also put a waist stay in - my waist circumference isn't very small, and it's more or less the same for 3-4" up and down, so I either have to fit the waistband *tight* (which can get uncomfy) or find my waistband moving up and down at a whim. 

Why yes, I have been reading the couture sewing guides.  How can you tell?  :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Dressy Evening Jacket

The next project to hit the sewing machine is a lovely little basic that my mom requested as her 70th birthday present. 

Very popular (and with excellent reason) with women of a certain age, the dressy jacket is a staple of the holiday/special occasion wardrobe.  One lovely jacket can take you through years of wear.  It can dress up a nice pair of jeans, sparkle up a pair of utilitarian slacks, or imitate an evening gown with a chiffon (or satin) evening skirt. 

Usually these jackets have black backgrounds with either brocade, embroidery, or jeweled enhancements.  Less is *not* more with this jacket - the jacket *is* the accessory. 

Mom has chosen black covered with silver brocade for her jacket.  It's going to go splendidly with her dark brown and silver hair.  (She's a Winter, so the cold colors look wonderful on her). 

While the evening jacket is most aligned with middle-aged and older ladies, there is no reason that younger women can't enjoy this classic style.  Younger women's statement jackets tend to be bolder and brighter in color, and more whimsical of pattern - either that, or they tend to much lighter and more feminine colors, and lace.  These were particularly popular in the late '80s and through the '90s.   Younger women's jackets also tend to be less formal in structure - as with most younger clothing. 

Regardless of your age, it's a nice thing to have tucked away to make basic clothing instantly fun and dressy.

I'll keep you posted with the sewing progress!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The (new) White Blouse

It's done!  There were quite a few hiccups along the way.

Remember that I'd decided not to do the big tucks under the bust as in the first version - they were too much and were a touch gauche after some washing and wearing.  So I started things out with no tucks at all but clearly *that* wasn't working:

That's a lot of extra fabric - and I need every bit of waist definition I can get, since I don't have a ton on my own.

I started pintucking, and tucked, and tucked... and I could tuck more, but I do want some wearing ease - nothing worse than a too-tight non-stretch fabric that gapes.

LOTS of pintucks.

The lace I'd picked for my collar melted, I didn't find anything else that I liked particularly... so I left it off.  At the last, I decided to put a touch of lace at the center front, and I think it dolls it up sufficiently.

So with no further ado - my new white blouse.  :)

*Other comments:   Clearly I need a thicker skirt.  This is an unlined faux linen - great for the heat of summer, but obviously not working with this blouse.  I like the shape though, this is my go-to skirt pattern (also it's ridiculously easy).  Anyone know why my zipper does that?  It irons flat as a board.   A new skirt is my next project ... for myself, anyway.  And yes, I probably should sew some "normal" blouses too.  As for fitting, this worked okay but I think I'm going to need to cut the next size down next time, regardless of pattern.  There seems to be less of me these days....

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The White Blouse

I wrote about the necessary white blouse a while back, and I stand firm that this is a basic element in any wardrobe, even for those of us whose best color is not white. 

But MY white blouse has seen better days. 

Oh sure, when it was first made, it was pretty fine.  Not perfect, by any means... but for the first blouse I ever sewed? 

But the blouse has seen better days - and had problems from the beginning. Now it looks like this (and yes, it has been ironed recently):

I'm not entirely sure what happened there - other than a serious need for interfacing the collar - but... yeah.  Time for replacement!  And while I'm at it... there are a few things that need to be changed.

1)  I don't wear the belt.  It pulls the fabric all out of line.  It's just completley unnecessary.  Buhbye.
2)  In fact, I almost always tuck my shirts in.  This would be a lot better if it was a lot longer.  (Add 4" in length).
3)  I know that short women should wear their sleeves slightly shorter than most.  And unfortunately I knew that when I put this together.  These sleeves have driven me NUTS the entire time.  (Add 2" in sleeve length).
4)  The turned up french cuff?  Sort of cute, but in soft cotton, forever falling down.  Bye bye.
5)  Bringing up the collar a good bit (2") and adding some simple lace. 
6)  I added the tucks because a defined waist is something that I absolutely require for figure flattery.  But they're overkill.  They're going away at least until final construction.  If I change my mind right before I hem this up... I'll change things at that point.
7) I'm not sure why the sleeves cut up at the point they did... but I will attach them first this time, then put in the sleeve slice.  To my back/waist, not the front.
8) I put an extra inch in the center placket.  It needs a bit more room for balance.

I'm using a slightly thicker cotton shirting this time...

Oh, and you probably want to know what pattern I'm using, right?  :)  Folkwear 210.  I do like the Folkwear patterns, even if they need a solid lesson in interfacing.

So that's what I'm doing. I cut fabric this afternoon and I'll be sewing soonest.  Um.  Probably in about five minutes or so.  ;) 

Hopefully you'll have a finished object to see, with another 18mo of sewing experience utilized, very soon.

Friday, November 25, 2011

New Blog Direction - More personal

I feel pretty terrible about letting this blog lapse.  I have a lot to say about fashion, but saying it all at once in some sort of organized way isn't as easy as I thought it would be.

Instead of just talking randomly, I'm going to be posting up my own personal journey through the wardrobe game, and discussing the reasons behind the pieces of clothing that I post.  I'll also be talking a lot about sewing, because I sew most of my own clothing.  (Or I buy it at Penneys on sale - Mom clothes for the win!)

In light of where I started writing... and in light of my current sewing projects, the first post will be on the necessary white shirt.  (Will be up tomorrow).

I hope that this will keep me honest about my wardrobe needs and on track with my sewing for those, and not just after every pretty little thing.

Here's to a new beginning!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pretty Dress for a Pretty Girl

I made my little girl a dress today....

This should go well with her pink cast. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mutton Dressing as Lamb

Tonight I'm mulling mutton dressing as lamb.  How old is too old to rehash some really successful looks of your youth?  Must an almost-40-yo wear only sophisticated things, or can  you stay with a more youthful vibe?

I'm a short woman, and I have a sweet face.   (Think Mrs. Santa Claus, only with brown hair).  Other short, sweetfaced women tend toward looking cute well into their post-menopausal years.  There's an adorable woman at the school my children attend, she's even shorter than I am... she keeps her blonde hair dyed, cut pixie short, her makeup on, her heels high (not an option for me) and her hemlines mid-thigh.  Does she look inappropriate?  No.  She looks cute as a bug. 

Sometimes I'm good with that... sometimes I want to look more elegant. 

But for when I don't... when I want to wear the cute clothes... is it weird?  Am I too old?  Or should I just relax and let the cute reign? 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pretty Inside, Pretty Outside

Pretty is something that feeds itself.  When I feel pretty outside, I feel pretty inside.  When I feel pretty inside, I do things that foster pretty outside. 

I made myself a new nightgown...

Silk.  Not poly-satin.  Silk.  One of the beauties of sewing for oneself is that one can use much more expensive materials without driving up the final cost.  I'm sure this would have been a $100+ nightgown if I'd bought it - assuming I could find it to buy. 

Silk means that I *feel* lovely in it.  It sleeps like a dream, not hot and annoying like polysatin.  It fills all the needs of a nightgown for a woman like me - it is useful as an actual nightgown, it looks pretty for my husband, it's opaque enough to wear around my children if I forget my robe, and it's soft.

When I wear something like this, I feel like I'm worth something like this.  And then that attitude carries over into my other choices.  I found a pretty nightgown at an estate sale the other day - cotton with some nice lace - that had never been worn.  I picked it up for a dollar.  So now I have *two* pretty nightgowns.  Sleeping pretty!  What a concept. 

If being pretty is a worthwhile objective for any reason... if loveliness is something to pursue... then all areas of life are worth making pretty.  It *is* possible to be comfortable and lovely too, we've just forgotten how it was done.

Silk nightgowns - you have to start somewhere.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Or... "What do all those 'how-to dress' books mean when they're talking about dressing like a 'romantic bohemian' and what does that have to do with *me*?"

What they are talking about is your style of dress.  You will have noticed that policewomen and gypsies don't dress the same way?   And that some policewomen suit their uniforms and some look uncomfortable?  Yes.  Good.  This is what they're talking about. 

Some - even a lot - of what "style of dress" you end up with is determined by the shape of your face, the shape of your body, and your occupation.   I'm writing primarily for housewives, but let's face it... if you're taking a part-time job at the bank, it doesn't matter if you prefer to wear your hair loose and bangles up to your elbows, when you go to work, you're putting on a nice blouse and slacks or a fitted skirt.  You'd keep your sense of self (if allowed) by perhaps wearing a bolder print on your shirt and *one* bangle. 

Face shape, bustline and shoulders determine most of what collar options look best on you.  Go through a style book - or a sewing book, my Vogue book has a very completely list - and look at the options.   Fine tune by grabbing a camera and a friend and draping one of your neutral colors around your face, roughly in the shapes of the various necklines.  (Camera use, especially now that we don't have to develop the pictures or even keep them, is a *wonderful* tool.  Mirrors can lie!)  You'll find some you resonate with and some that you don't.

That gets you started on finding your style... you know necklines, you know colors... now what?  Well, now you experiment.  You'll soon find certain looks that please you and some that don't.  And you'll get surprises!

My daughter surprised me, because I couldn't imagine anyone born of me that would look good in uniform.  Small necklines, peter pan collars, neutral hues... well, my 7yo works them.  It's... startling.  That's not her main look, being that she's a 7yo girl and doesn't have to wear it, but it's something that she sometimes enjoys.  And most of her things look better a bit tailored.  (She's working the 80s retro look so hard that it makes me blink, and that is largely an edgy uniform look).

I, on the other hand, look entirely out of place in uniform.  I like flowing lines and bright accessories.   I don't do a full-out bohemian, because so seldom in my life am I in a place that suits an armful of bracelets - and I'm short, so a billion accessories overpower me.   I would call my look clean and romantic, with a natural edge.  You're never going to find that in any style book!  You *have* to find your own look.  Start with the basics and work up.  Experiment and play.

And that's where a lookbook comes in handy and where a camera comes in handy.  Create a lookbook - make a big  pile of looks that you resonate with.  Try a few things in your wardrobe on that look similar, take pictures.  See what works and what doesn't.  Figure out how to incorporate those looks with your occupation, and go from there. 

Then you can name it, and then you can understand it, and then you have a great starting tool when you shop or when you sew.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

High Contrast vs. Low Contrast

Here's a place in the color scheme that I've never heard discussed, but it's key to how well your colors end up looking on you.

Some people look best in high contrast looks - wearing their most intense colors.  Some people look best in their least intense colors, in a more monochromatic outfit.   You have to play with this to notice it, but if you're still feeling "off" about your colors, this is a place to check.  Go all-neutral (or all soft colors) and then spike it up to the power suit combo (a dark neutral with a bright) and see which looks better on you, which brings your features to the fore most effectively.

I think the reason that this is seldom discussed is because it's tied directly to age and complexion.  If you're getting a lot of exercise, and your complexion is naturally pink and flushed, you'll look younger than you are, but age does take its toll.  My mom is a Winter, and she spent her life in high-contrast looks.  Now, at almost 70, she's had to tone that down and wears pastels and ices most of the time.  That's because her skin and hair have faded, so her personal color intensity has faded.  In a similar vein, as a teenager I could wear flourescent green and orange... haven't been able to pull those off since I was 25! 

This doesn't change your base colors, it just changes what colors look best in the body of your outfit.  I can still wear a flourescent green print... in a scarf.  Mom can still pull off some pretty fierce accessories.  

Contrariwise, because I am in my 30s and have dark hair/ruddy skin/blue eyes, I wear high contrast colors.  if I wear an outfit made entirely of soft colors and neutrals, I fade out.  Even if those neutrals are "my" neutrals, even if all of the colors are "mine".... if I don't put *something* with some kick in there, I disappear.   BFF, who wears the same season that I do, glows when she wears the same set of colors that make me disappear.  It's very individual.

You will see celebrities do this all the time.  I've said that I won't name names, because I think celebrity culture is disgusting... but I assure you, if you keep your eyes on a few notable high-contrast and low-contrast women, and watch them when they step out of that character, you will quickly notice how it works (or does not).

The high-contrast and low-contrast are *not* about jumping into colors that don't suit you... and that color  pop (or not) doesn't even have to be near your face.  I can wear a neutral top and a bright bottom and it works well, and my "all neutral" look tends to have a bright accessory.  So this isn't about skimping on the colors that look well on you... it's about figuring out how much punch you need.

Of course every woman is going to have punchy times and unpunchy times... again, this is very individual.  It's something to think about when you're trying to perfect an outfit, not something to make into your uniform.

And speaking of uniforms, which we will do more at length later... do know that we all have lines and looks that suit us and those that do not.  It's not just color!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Letting the Little Ones Be Joyful

Joy is part of loveliness...

I am working hard, preparing my little girl's wardrobe for back-to-school.  Being generally displeased with the conventional offerings, I do a lot of sewing for her.  Certainly I try for practicality - at least *some* practicality - most of the time, but a girl can't just have practical things, right?  :)

We went to the fabric store, and were wandering about, and she brought me fabric.  It was on sale.  It was her color.  It was sparkly... but is also a linen blend, so it will be cool in the early (and hot!) months at school here. 

So... I made her a dress.  Yes.  It has sequins.  And yes, I intend her to wear it to school, not save it for church (our church tends toward casual dress, particularly at the service we attend).  Yes, it will probably get stained.  But ... she's lovely.  And she's *happy* with it.  She gets to be pretty and pink and sparkly - and how many of us would secretly like to wear something sparkly and pink to work/the store instead of what we do wear?

There are enough years in her life to find classic looks, understated elegance and subtlety.  Now?  Let her have some fun. 

Oh, and I have fun too.  Did you figure that out already?  (grins)

Le picture!

There will be a matching jacket, forthcoming from my sewing machine.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Loveliness is not just in clothing

In the search for loveliness, we cannot ignore the aspects of life that are not merely external.  Shall I say "merely" in speaking of externals?  I shall... because however important beauty is, inner beauty is much more so.

Things that I am working on now, and that I am interested in, include improvements to my health, and improvements to my comportment.  I am making an effort to have better posture and better manners.  Surely no matter how one is dressed, if one has poor manners and slouches, one cannot be said to have achieved loveliness. 

Loveliness is important.  Our world continues happily on its path to ugliness and disorder.  Putting my attention to the things that I can improve - and then not merely putting my attention on them, but actively working to improve those things which I can control, is my contribution to my own sanity and to the world at large.

I am spending a great deal of time at the sewing machine, translating my vision of beauty into clothing that can be worn.  My flirty skirt from the last blog was a great hit... with me.  It makes me happy when I wear it, and that happiness spreads out to the way I think, act and speak. 

Putting my "back" into working out in ways that improve my posture, thinking of cherishing foods to add to my diet, being more "in the now", spending more time in prayer... these all increase loveliness. 

Someday  I'll write that piece about purple and orange and go on to discuss all the beautiful textiles we've been given in this day and age... but for now, rest assured that though I have been silent, I am not inactive.

More tomorrow!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I haven't posted in far too long

But I did want to post this picture ...  I love this skirt already, it feels like nothing at all on.

Why, exactly, do we ignore the wisdom of the past in dressing ourselves?  I might be wearing a lined skirt with a petticoat, but I assure you, since all three layers are see-through light, I feel lovely and cool.  My tshirt is far warmer!

Cotton - it's your friend.  :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Speaking of lovely things

My best friend forever* is seven months pregnant.  I made her a maternity outfit that should last her for a month or so... I couldn't resist this beautiful butterfly fabric. 

She is SO lovely, inside and out. 

Just thought y'all needed to see something really beautiful today.  :)

*When I say  BFF, I mean it - we have been friends since we were 13. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Colors that are speaking to me

I was tossing and turning last night, so to entertain myself, I brought up some colors that are speaking to me right now.

It's always a good idea to put those colors on paper - or in some visual media - so you can take a good look at what's going on.  Fashion designers, seamstresses, artists - they all have their palettes.  It's permissible to look at your own, and a good way to see what works together and what just doesn't.

(photo credits, if not my own, will be at the bottom)

Midnight blue.  I am feeling the midnight blue at the edge of this bowl.  Actually, I'm feeling a lot of the colors in this bowl.

Fawn/honey/light caramel... I bought a bit of linenlike fabric to make a skirt with, and I'm looking forward to this foray into the brown family (yeah, this is what that looks like in my world).  This is totally not photographing well.... must find something more clearly this color.This is better.  :)
Cream.  I am always about the cream, but I'm feeling a richer cream right now.
Green!  I am feeling a light clear vivid green right now.  As well as my usual pine green. 

The pine green is in the background here, but I am in love with pink satin ribbons, which is the point here.  :)  Baby pink... girly much?

  1. Another unexpected vivid - and one I don't wear very well.  But something is saying "tangerine!" to me right now.  Who knew?
 This is a good start, I need to look at these and try to find the common thread - other than the bowl, which is clearly making me much happier, visually, than I thought it would!!

*Fabric pictures other than my own are from Vogue Fabrics (voguefabrics.com).  The green is apparently the "green" screensaver for Windows Vista.  The pink ribbons are for sale at Statuary place.  The carpet is from coverdale UK.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Little things

I'm sorry for being absent... I should write color posts for orange and purple and start on my fabric series.  But today is about other, little things. 

I am *so* in love with vintage lingerie right now.  I saw this picture on Casey's Elegant Musings - it's one of her sponsors.  (And it's been sold, if it wasn't substantially too small for me anyway).  Eeek.  This is soo beautiful. Doesn't it make your teeth hurt?

I wanted to point you to a tutorial for hair, I believe I found it off of Casey's Musings but have lost it... it was great.  I took a picture of my hair up, but it was over exposed (I sat too close to the window) and you can't see any detail.  I'll post it so you get a vague idea.  I felt very brave, being pretty in public (ROFL) but I got several compliments from strangers, which is always a good feeling. 

Something important to hold on to... just because you're not perfectly thin or rich ... you can still have beauty.   What you are beautiful while wearing will change with time, the embracing of beauty need not.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Pink is the only pastel that will get its own color discussion, and that's because pink is, alone among pastels, very much not "light red".  Red connotates danger and lust - pink leaves you thinking of rosebuds and soft fuzzy sweaters.  Pink just doesn't read "red plus white" at all - and thus, it gets its own color discussion.

Not only does pink, the most touchable of all colors, have its very own personality, it has its very own colors, from dark to light.  Fushia is pink, not red, and not purple.  So is coral.  Coral and fushia are distinctly *not* red or purple - they're PINK.  Very, very pink. 

Pink is "girl".  Far more so than blue will ever be "boy", pink is girl.  Pink can be, in its bubblegum shades, quite frighteningly girly.  And we read so much softness, sweetness and feminity to pink that some women just won't wear it, feeling that pink is only for little girls.  (These are usually the same women who insist that they should wear rather a lot of black.  Let's face it, pink and black is a somewhat perverse, albeit attractive, combination of colors.  Vive la punkette!).

When you want to be touched, wear pink.  It's approachable, touchable, and soft.  Even the hottest of pinks is less aggressive than red.  Have you ever heard the advice to a soon-to-be divorcee to wear a pink suit to court?  Pink reads defenseless. 

Pink is a fun color to pair with other colors, as people just don't expect to see it alongside brown, red, or even most greens.  And that's a pity, because you can really amp up the softness (or romance) of those colors by adding pink. 

Summers (cool/soft) and Springs (bright/clear) have the most pinks to choose from.  Summer gets the cool pinks, from pastel through fushia.  Springs get the warm pinks, from seashell through coral.  Autumn has a difficult time wearing true pink, although there is a dusty mauve that is quite wearable, as well as some of the softer peaches.  (Peach tends to read more pink than orange, at least emotionally).   Winter has only two pinks - hot, dark, pink and ice pink.  ("Ice" is a color that is purest white with one small drop of whatever pigment - it's very cold, and not at all pastel).  Winter and Autumn will have the easiest time wearing pink in prints rather than in whole garments, or by using fabric to emphasize the coolness or dustiness of the tone (aka satin for Winters and wool for Autumns).  As usual, individual skin tones affect wearability a great deal.

Just because your daughter wears a color, doesn't mean it's not for you.  If your deepest heart craves a little softness... try some pink.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Yellow.  Yellow is the color that you wear when you want people to look but not touch.  Come see me, come talk to me, don't put your arm around me.  Casting a play?  The gleeclub chair, perky and cute and everyone's friend... she needs a yellow dress.  Yellow is absolutely the consumate wallflower color - but the wallflower that organized the party and that everyone talks to.

Yellow, like red, is an attention getter.  It's a youthful color in all of its incarnations, and it looks best on young complexions.  (This is particularly true of caucasians - I haven't been able to wear "my" yellow in a whole garment since my teens.  Darker skinned people can enjoy yellow for decades more).  Yellow is a competent color.  You expect good things from a person wearing yellow.  It's a cheerful color - something of the polar opposite of grey.

Yellow is best in fabrics that reflect the tone.  A light yellow should be worn in a satin or crisp fabric, a deep yellow in a wool or fuzzy sweater.  Yellow is best paired with other, cooler colors.  Imagine interviewing a young lady for an accounting position, attired in a grey suit with a lemon-yellow blouse.  Clean, awake, classic.

As someone past the first flower of youth, when I want to wear yellow I make sure it's part of a pattern or a trim.  Imagine buttercup yellow embroidery on a cornflower blue dress - so simple, so European, so clean and cheerful.  Or a snow-white dress flocked with yellow polka dots?  A butter yellow loose-knit sweater over chocolate suede?  Don't get me started.  :D  I can pair colors all night long... and then where would we be?

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Red is fire, red is romance, red is sex. Paint your restaurant red, and people eat more.  Red is heat.  Red is drive, red is go-getting, red is perhaps *the* most consummate "power color".  Even a tiny drop of red in an outfit is what people will look at.   Roses and valentines and blood and passion...

People either love to wear red or are somewhat nervous about it.  Everyone has a red that they can wear, even something fairly close to "true red".  It's a matter of getting the undertone just right.  Brick is an autumn tone, geranium or poppy are spring tones, true ruby is winter, and summer wears wine.  If you get confused, pair the color in question with colors that you know you can wear.  If it clashes, throw it out.  Your colors should harmonize, even if they don't "go". 

Red is a real eye-draw.  You WILL look at red.

Wearing red says "I want attention".  Even putting on red lipstick can be a huge thing for a woman, much less wearing a red dress.  When you walk into a room wearing red, you are taking control of that room.  Red demands it.  How many politicians own a wardrobe full of red ties?  How many countries' flags incorporate red - red representing the blood of their fallen in battle?

I think that wearing red is something that every woman should try once in a while, and it's possible to wear the more muted reds to get your feet wet.  However, no one should force themselves into a bright red dress if that's not where they are - it's a big step.  It says, "I'm brave".

I really really want to get that across to my readers (all five of you).  Anyone can wear any color that they want to wear, produce any connotation with their outfit.  It's a matter of choosing tone, combination, fabric, line... it all goes into the final product.  Color is tremendously important, because color makes-or-breaks the outfit at the most basic level.  A kindergartener knows if your dress is pretty or not based on its color - and knows whether the dress is wearing you or the other way 'round.  Color brings out the best in your skin and your eyes, it makes people respond to you instinctively. 

An autumn who can't wear the ruby red that she dreams of can instead wear an equally intense green.  Or she can wear a brick red and indulge in red leather accessories.  Autumns have an easy time wearing an entire outfit of their red, perhaps because the red is a quieter tone.  Springs have a dreadful time finding the bright clear reds that they can wear, but because of their high-contrast blues and turquoises, what red they do find will -pop-.  Summers can manage most cold/blue reds - and winter, though she has only a few reds, has the true ruby. 

Everyone gets something good, we just don't all get the same good thing.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mistakes were made...

Because I do my own sewing, and because I have such a dreadful time in the stores finding things that suit me, sometimes I end up with some rather alarming outfits comprised of things that almost work.  I'm embarking on this visual notebook not just to tell on myself but to take my knowledge and apply it to future acquisitions.  This is the first installment, comprised of what I'm wearing today.   You can't learn - *I* can't learn - without making mistakes and analyzing what went wrong and how to change things.

You can do this too!  I used the paint program that came with my windows software and made *boxes* to change things around.  Not compex, we're not looking for photoshopping wonder, we're looking for basic line.

mistakes1 mistakes2
I like the color combination - wearing pink and blue together for me is about like a free makeover.   You can't see my face and both colors simultaneously or I'd show you what it does.

First mistake:  The fabric choice for the skirt.  Denim?  Good.  Denim with wee embroidered flowers in a rainbow of colors?  Fabulous on the bolt, not so fabulous as a working item in my closet.  I should have saved it for my 7yo daughter!  (Much of the last two years of sewing has involved learning lessons about "oh that's so CUTE" and why that's never a good item to make into clothing for an adult).

Second mistake:  The length. Finding your best skirt length is a trial and error process... this would be an error!  The process considers not only the leg flattery aspect but your overall proportions.  I'm not un-fond of my calves, although they're curvy... but this cuts me off.

Third "mistake":  This gets quotes because it's not as much as mistake as a total change in direction.  The waistline needs to go up!  I have a long torso and short legs - moving the cut-point up makes my legs look longer.  (Or, since you can't see my legs at all, let's just call it more balanced). 

Fourth mistake:  The small circle neckline isn't good for me.  It needs to be wider - either much wider to the sides or deeper.  This looked "okay" in the dressing room, and I spent $10 for this blouse, but.. meh.  It IS a nice blouse on a hot day.  (Indian cotton). 

Fifth mistake:  I could really use two more inches on those sleeves - or two less.  Not a great place to hit my arm.

Conclusion:  Skirts with high waists and long hems are on my "to sew" list.  Sticking with basic colors for my basic items.  Steering towards higher quality and less-cute fabric.  Interesting necklines good - round and small not good.

I hope you guys enjoyed this post.  Anyone wishing to contribute pictures for similar workup should contact me.  :)  I will be doing these again, and occasionally some good outfit pictures as well.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Does anyone remember the home seamstress?

Do you remember the home seamstress?  I don't mean ladies, like myself, who sew for themselves (although we're a rare lot these days)j, I mean ladies who professionally sew out of their homes for other people.

I am old enough to remember when everyone's mom had some clue about sewing, and old enough to remember the occasional matchy-matchy outfit for holidays (Laura Ashley Mother and Daughter dresses, anyone?).  My peers all remember the torture of sitting around for hours in the fabric shops, while our moms browsed. 

I remember sitting on the floor of someone's spare bedroom while my mom got fitted for a dress or a suit.  Even though my mom's figure is close to the standard RTW proportions, personally made clothing always fits better.  Mom loved to go to the fabric store and pick out special things to create her work wardrobe, and she'd brought quite a bit of silk home from our year in China.  Mom's new garments seldom cost her more than they'd have cost if she bought them at a nicer department store, and they were one of a kind.  That was the whole point of making your own - or having it made - it looked better and cost about the same.  (This was true of most women up until cheap, perhaps even disposable, fashion came into being.  I think there is a wave of push-back on disposable fashion, and I'm thrilled about it).

My wedding dress was made by a home seamstress.  I got her name and number by the simple expedient of asking the fabric store.  She'd gone through the courses at our local junior college, and she was quite talented.  More's the pity that it was her post-retirement hobby/pin money... I'm sure she's passed away by now.  Since Mom had brought the silk from China, my lovely dress cost me $300.  Yes, that's right.  A perfectly fitted heavy silk brocade dress, $300. 

A similarly poofy dress was running about $2000 back in the day...

But are those seamstresses still around, and if so, have they their hands in on sewing adult clothing?  Both seamstresses that I know sew children's clothing (for boutiques) or home decorating things.  The only commercial place that I know of that does anything like it is the local dry cleaner, who is happy to do minor adjustments to your pants or the prom dress/wedding dress stores, all of whom have alterations staff.   

If I weren't a housewife with few outside occasions, I might well investigate a seamstress of my own.  Instead, I slowly, slowly sew my own wardrobe.  There are mistakes, there are learning curves, but there is something approaching fit - and as someone who has a multitude of fitting issues, that's huge.

And that's something that's been overlooked in these  years of disposable fashion - the fact that clothing that does not fit, does not look good.  A post for another day...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Green is life, it is living things.  Green usually evokes nurturing, growing things, but can occasionally be quite poisonous.  (Green and grey are an almost invariably poisonous mixture, unless one or both colors are very dark, and it still feels a bit deadly.  Not necessarily unattractive, but not a bouncy combination for certain). 

Green has a few neutralish colors - pine and khaki - but is, essentially, going to be a "look-at-me" color most of the time.  Green is not a safe color.  It's a color that people find reassuring when you wear - but wearing it always seems a bit edgy.  Green isn't expected. 

Green is seldom worn on its own, and so it's imperative to pair green mentally with the color with which you wear it with.  It's an emphasizer.  Green + Blue = soothing, watery, calm.  Green + Yellow = Bright, spring, eye-attacking.  Green + Red = holidayesque.  Green + Grey, poisonous.  Green + Black = edgy/dangerous.  Green + White = super clean and springy and young.  Green + Pink = Gardeny, a walk with the roses.  Green is also an emphasizer of styles - and it's *never* forgotten.  Don't forget the nurturing powers of green - can't you just see a mother, in a soft dress in a floral with a green background, or a dark green sweater or skirt, sitting by the playground and watching her children?  Wouldn't that be a wonderfully trustworthy person?

Green is a very powerful color to wear, emotionally speaking.  Speaking in color flattery, green is primarily about Springs and Autumns, but really greens vary so much, it's just best to hold the fabric up to your skin to see how it blends.  Warm/clear? Warm/muted? Cool/bright?  Cool/muted?  Pine works for most women, regardless of skin tone. 

Green dyes beautifully most of the time, but it bleaches out unfortunately. I have a lovely silk jacket in my wardrobe that's been bleached out on the shoulders... probably ought to cut it up for use as a purse.  It's a splendid color in virtually any fabric. 

I like green.  :)  I think more people could wear more green - it's a fun color, and it's a happy color.  So... go out on a limb!  Try some green today.  :D

Monday, June 6, 2011


The color blue always evokes water.  Blue is the most expected color, at least in the West. 

Some shades of blue, such as navy and denim, function as neutrals in the wardrobe.  Denim blue looks good on almost everyone, so does navy.  Yet blue itself is not a true neutral - nothing differentiates cornflower or cobalt except for saturation, and no one would call those colors neutral!

Blue is a tricky color to match.  Have you ever heard the words, "Everything matches navy... except navy"?  True words.  Turquoise is just the same, to my sadness (and yours, if you could only see the number of turquoise things in my wardrobe).  It's all in the amount of secondary colors in the blue - whether yellow, in the case of turquoise, or grey, in the case of navy.   And this is the reason that we don't wear denim with denim - it just doesn't quite work most of the time.  The slight mottling that the denim washes produce only bring this attribute to the forefront.

It's generally a better idea to wear blues together that are far apart on the spectrum.  A light blue with a dark is a classic combination.  Bright blues usually look best with other colors rather than more blue.  Blue and red is the color combination of politicians.  Want to be someone comfortable for men to talk to?  Take Edith Head's advice and wear a quiet shade of blue with white accessories. 

Like grey, when you hear all this quiet advice about blue, it's tempting to put it to the side.  The modern psyche wants excitement, daring, not safe.  Yet blue is one of the most useful tools in your utility box.  It makes a great platform for the edgier colors - imagine a nice blue skirt and a yellow blouse, for example - or wear something really extreme, such as magenta, with navy.  Navy blue makes a great black substitute, and wearing blue when people are expecting black is always fun.  When you have a "safe" color like blue, or a "safe" color combination, you can reach further out on the stylistic tree branch without falling off.   Blue is not always safe!  Consider sapphire or cobalt or turquoise - none of which can be called quiet.

Blue wears well in most fabrics.  It, again, can really shine with a quality fabric - and is one of the shades where you have to consider fabric content when matching, as well as saturation and hue.  When in doubt, it's better to move your to-be-matched farther apart rather than closer together - satin and wool rather than linen and cotton, for instance.   (I am aching to do my fabric posts, can you tell?)

Blue is water, blue is safe and comfortable... it is not a neutral, but it plays like one.  BLUE!  :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011


What do you think of when you think of the color grey?  Or gray?  We can't even agree how to spell the word!  I think that nebulousity, to form my own word, is the essence of grey's nature.  It is the in between.  It is the spirit world, the mist, the mystery.  It softens, it cools, it brings mellowness... it is a remote color.  Not a particularly approachable shade, grey - although it's highly touchable.  (The opposite of yellow, which is highly approachable and highly untouchable). 

Grey lives for wool.  There is no better fabric to convey "grey" better than a wool.  Whether we're talking about a soft grey suited to a foggy spring morning or a charcoal grey suit straight from Wall St., grey is all about the wool.  Grey in cotton almost invariably means workout clothing.  Grey in satin or silk?  The ice maiden lives. 

To me, grey is far more gothic and supernaturally scary than is black.  It's the in between that leaves much to the imagination.  Ghosts are grey. 

If I am going to use the CMB seasons (which I sort of want to move away from, especially if I ever do copyright this stuff), grey is all about the "Summer" season.  Certainly other seasons can wear grey.. but summers *own* it.    Summers are cool and muted - and what is grey, but both of those together?   Warmer seasons can generally manage to deal with charcoal grey, and sometimes a grey-brown.  Winters can wear the clearest and coldest greys.  Grey is the color that I recommend to summers who want that edge of mystery.  Pair grey and purple, and you are *all* about the spooky.   Grey and yellow?  All business, a sharp edge.  Not expected, but intense & reliable.  Grey is *fun* to pair with other colors, you can really get some good mental dichotomies going.  It's a "ol' reliable" but it's been out of the mainstream for long enough to not be expected. 

Grey is of course a neutral color... there are many many shades of it, and all of them look best in good fabrics.  Grey does very poorly in poor fabrics, think of an old grey cotton tank top, even without stains... it looks stained just from wear.  A grey wool skirt is going to look grand for the next century, to contrast.   Grey is ill-advised to be in the highest of fashion.  Its natural mystery has to be forced into the lines of fashion, and that forcedness shows by going out of fashion quickly. 

Grey is not for children.  This makes me antsy, as my daughter looks amazing in grey.  But little girls (and she is seven) do not wear colors that can be associated with death and mourning.  Elders *do* wear grey, and rock it.  The softness of grey suits most as the skin softens with time and the hair takes on a cooler hue.   This does not mean that grey is about age, although it can be a color that conveys a certain conservativeness and authority.   It can also simply be used to soften another color in the outfit, bringing it into balance.

Grey - the color of mystery and the color of the conservative.  Ambivalent, indeed.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Blog mutterings

Where am I taking this blog?  The last week of posting was written in one fell swoop... and it felt good to write it.  I was happy to start working on my thoughts about colors.  It's a bit like writing a book, and I'm starting the subheadings.  Yay for that, right?  Except now I feel like I have to put out a bunch of stuff on color, and not skip 'round to fabric or philosophy or... what have you.  Also, I was hoping for a somewhat interactive blog.... which it doesn't seem to be.  I haven't written anything since "White" because it just felt so forced, and it didn't flow, and half of what I know about white didn't get put down, and ... I wasn't pleased.  But how am I going to write about Grey, the next of the neutral colors, or start down the road to Blue or Green, if I don't have the passion?

I have been the unlikely "Fashion Dictator" to many of my friends. Much like Dr. Ruth giving advice on intimate matters, I seem like an unlikely person to give fashion advice.  I am short, stout, and far too frugal with my own clothing.  In my defense, it's virtually impossible to dress myself well unless I'm making my own clothing, and I'm on the beginning of that journey - I'm still figuring out how to fit my figure, for heaven's sake.  (My poor efforts are much better than storebought, regardless).   I could use a few handmaidens if anyone is passing them out - not to mention a dedicated sewing space and a lot more time!

Yet I've been studying fashion - or, should I say figure and coloring flattery - since I was a teenager.  I not only know what colors and styles look well on a person, I can tell you why.  Those friends who have gone shopping with me have returned surprised... they didn't know how beautiful they really were.   And most of them are permanent converts to the colors I've introduced them to.

We dress ourselves down so often, we fear the gorgeousness... that we forget how wonderfully made we are.  Our comfy clothes aren't the sexiest things on the block, but they're comfy.  The cheap tshirt stains quickly, but we just bought it so why replace it?  I am the **last** person to talk!   Of course if ideas were realised instantaneously, I'd have a wardrobe to die for... but since I have to sew most of it, it's a pain.  I can barely keep up with the major needs in my wardrobe, and I end up looking a bit down at the heels.  -sigh-

Adding devotion to the mix only serves to increase the dichotomy in our minds.  On the one hand, we have the Proverbs 31 woman and all the women in the Bible who were lovely in body as well as soul.  On the other, we have the instruction to not go emphasize our outward grooming to the exclusion of our inward heart.  And some of us (-points to self-) just feel guilty spending money on clothing that could be put towards other, more worthy, ends.  Please the husband by looking nice, please the self-identity by being plain. 

I add hair-covering to the mix, and I do it poorly.  I'd dearly love to cover my hair the way the Jewish ladies do it - they have so much flair and do it so well.  But at the same time, my hair is pretty and it's hot most of the year, so I don't want to go that far.  Plus I have this random horror of ever imitating anyone, for any reason.  I don't want to look like what I am not.  And have you ever covered ALL of your hair in a public venue, in these days after 9/11?  Ugh.  Then, my smaller coverings slide out constantly.  I'm forever putting them back in, my kids are trained to pick them up for me... and the ones that stick are barely covering *anything*.  Yet, I'm committed to covering. 

Anyone ever read the Dr. Doolittle books when they were children?  Do you remember the PushMe-PullYou animal?  I feel like that, a lot. 

But maybe this was helpful.  I've been in a quiet zone for the last week and ... well, maybe that's over.  No promises, but I do hope to get back to posting regularly, and soon!

On a more personal note, school is out for my kids this week, and after all is said and done, the week after *that* is going to start some sewing time in the afternoons, which should hopefully break my backlog of sewing projects and my silence as well.

Monday, May 30, 2011


If black is the hardest neutral to convince people that they shouldn't wear, white is the easiest.  And that's something of a pity, because white is the easiest neutral to scootch to wearability.  *Everyone* has a shade of white that they can wear, and that shade of white is usually close enough to true-white to fool the eye of the beholder. 

White brings thoughts of cleanliness, innocence, purity, something unspoilt.  White is for babies, brides, nurses and scientists. 

White varies more than any other color with fabric.  Even pure, brand new out of the factory white - if you hold up wool, indian cotton, polyester uniform cloth, linen and satin... it's all a bit different.  And a year later?  Substantial differences in color. 

I don't wear pure white particularly well - but I'll wear indian cotton and my skin will show through and it works a bit more.  Age cotton a tiny bit?  It's all good.  And again - make white a bit more natural (flecks of brown, undyed cloth vs. bleached) and it becomes progressively more wearable. 

White is an extremely "rich" color - it shows the fabric it lives in off to advantage, and good fabric in white really shines.  It reflects heat, and is great for hot hot weather.  A long sleeved white shirt is a *must* in any sunny climate. 

White - it's all about the possibilities.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Universal Colors, difficult colors, and aging and coloring

If black isn't a universal color, and white isn't a universal color, what is?

There are a few colors that look not-horrible on virtually everyone.  Not, perhaps, entirely flattering - but "not-horrible".  The ones that come to mind are light red, turquoise, peachy-pink, pine green, beige, medium navy, winter white and charcoal grey.  (Winter white is a slightly ivory white.  It's not as yellow as true ivory, but it's not as cold as pure white). 

The color that, in my opinion, is most difficult for every season, is yellow.  Each season has one shade of yellow that can work, but most caucasian women have difficulty wearing more than one -extremely specific- shade of yellow past their teens, and sometimes not even then.   In fact, most women find that there are some shades that they could wear in their youth that simply no longer work for them.  As someone who lives in bright clothes, I've had this happen to me more than once!  If it's a color that you love - wear it in a print or use it in accessories.

The old tradition that young girls and older ladies wore pastels, extremely bright colors were for girls in their teens and twenties and rich colors belong to everyone in between isn't far from the truth.  As your skin brightens or softens with age, your coloring changes.  It's not like you'll suddenly become a different season, but certain colors stop working for you and you will likely either move to the softer side of your palette and/or start wearing some colors from other, similar seasons.   Start taking a lot of exercise and you might see that trend reverse!

Friday, May 27, 2011


Black is the trickiest color to pull away from most folks.  Not only is it the most basic of colors - everything goes with black - but its connotations are sunk firmly into a lot of people's psyches.  Black is the basic of basic - get yourself a black fitted dress with classic lines and you can wear it for a decade.  A wardrobe full of black = a wardrobe you don't have to think about.

Black is tough, black is cool, black is mysterious, black is goth, black is naughty, black is the color of the night and all the things that go with it.  Black is an absolute.

Unfortunately, all that absolute washes a lot of people out.  Personally I can't wear much black at all, even well away from my face.  It's just too harsh for me.  Most people notice that it's harsh, but they like black anyway, so they power on the makeup and go forward.  Or sometimes they let their clothes do all the talking.  (One never wants to let ones clothing do the talking - clothing serves to make you look great, not the other way around). 

Black contrasts with light hair impressively.  Most women with hair colors that contrast with black don't have skin that looks well in it... but they don't care. 

Almost no one who can wear black needs to hear about "why black" - so let's talk about how to replace black in your wardrobe if you're one of the majority who don't wear it well. 

First - determine what purpose black is serving in your wardrobe.  Is it just a dark-neutral that you can hang out with?  Is it the emotional connotations (tough/goth/cool)?  Why do you love black so much?

Second - determine what colors *do* look good on you that serve a similar purpose, whether it's all-purpose utility or "I'm a tough gal".

Third - accessorize.

So - if I was counselling a Summer (soft/cool) who liked wearing black because it made her look and feel tough, I'd probably put her in denim.  Summers look amazing in navy blue!  Then I'd pick out some black leather accessories, preferably slightly distressed (so they weren't shinyblack) and some "tough" jewelry, and set her loose on the population.  Still looks tough, doesn't look washed out.   If it was an Autumn who just wore black because it was so very basic, I'd turn her towards chocolate brown or charcoal grey.  A Spring who loves black because it contrasts so beautifully with her blonde hair?  Time to find some midnight blue. 

There are *always* ways to get what you want emotionally and still look glorious.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Beige and oatmeal, chocolate, cocoa, sepia and camel.  Brown is the color of earth.  Brown connotes warmth, it is the essence of warmth.  Even “cold” browns (heavily mixed with grey) or rosey browns (mahogany) still read warmer than the colors that they are mixed with. 

Brown is the color of the hearth.   There are four families that are wholeheartedly neutral, in whatever shade – black, white, grey and brown.  Brown is the one that fades into the background most easily, and yet its darkest and “brightest” shades have the most punch.

Add brown to a color and you warm it and tone it down. 

Some women can wear brown beautifully, and some have trouble.  Using the CMB seasons, you’ll find that Autumns can live in brown – but Winters and Springs have to be very careful.  Summers wear rosy browns or grey-browns.  (This warrants a brief byplay – Winters are cool and clear, Summer is cool and soft, Spring is clear and warm, and Autumn is warm and soft ).

Winter has little brown - there is a black-brown, greige (a grey/beige blend) and taupe (similar).  Spring has camel (taken under advisement) and accessorizes well with brown, but doesn't wear it well as fabric (some say there is a golden-chocolate-brown that works well, I say if you find that fabric, buy the bolt, for you'll never see it again).  Summer can wear rose-brown, like mahogany, and some cold grey-browns.  Autumn can wear virtually any brown.  You'll see this when you hold the colors up to your skin.  As a Spring, I look positively ill in most browns.  My friend D... well, she's the one who introduced me to the possibility of brown being flattering and not merely neutral.  I remember a chocolate brown that made her skin look like it had just been dusted with gold ... amazing. 

How does that play out in real life?  I find, as a Spring who is allegedly able to wear “clear browns” that such a color is virtually impossible to find in dyed fabric.   When I want to harness the earthy neutral that is brown, I wear undyed linen – something nice and heathered with flecks of brown – and then I accessorize with leather or wood.  You’ll often find me in ivory doing the same thing.   "Natural" is often the way to wear colors that don't quite look well on you.  Leather, fur, undyed cloth - somehow they have a bit more life and depth than dyed goods, and that can save you.  (Honestly, "natural" is where it's at for most women).

If my mom, who is a Winter, wanted to wear brown, she’d probably wear one of her best neutrals and likewise accessorize, except that where I would use warm middle of the road colored wood, she’d be best off with ebony and bone. 

I think that really brings us to a good rule of thumb – if you’re trying to wear a color that’s not really “you” – blend it with colors that are.  My neutrals are ivory and charcoal, so that’s where I’d start.  Mom is black and white.  My daughter is off-white and grey, and she looks terrific in anything with a pink cast.  You can get the feel of the color that your heart wants without sacrificing the way you look in your clothes.  And that is something that we’ll discuss extensively tomorrow, when we talk about black.  If there is one thing that I have to fight with people about when it comes to showing them what works for them color-wise, it’s giving up the black!  We’ll go over that tomorrow J

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How to work with color - color classifications

There are several classifications of colors (neutrals, brights, pastels) and families of colors (yellows, blues, greens... etc) as well as intensities, contrasts, and more.  Hardly a one-post conversation!

Since we talked a bit about the CMB color seasons last time, I'll say that most seasons have an off-white neutral, a near-black neutral, a brown neutral and a navy.  Winters have the pure white and pure black.   A good priority is to find out which of the neutrals are your neutrals.  Interestingly (to me at least), the brown-neutral that CMB cites for Springs (which I am) is a camel.  But I've never seen a camel, in person, that looks good on me.  Usually the camels that I see look good on Autumns.  But one night I was watching an old movie and I saw two women come in - one was a blonde spring and the other was a redhead (autumn, albeit a delicate one).  They were both wearing light camel... but the tones of the camels were different, and the blonde looked great in hers.  Since the original CMB was written in the late 70s, I would guess that there were more options in the neutrals... in 2011, you're well advised to be very careful with camel if you think you are a Spring!  Virtually any season can wear any color family, it's the tone that changes everything. 

Middle of the road neutrals (brown/grey/soft navy) blend in and disappear.  Light or dark neutrals (ivory/white/black/charcoal/chocolate) make more of an impression.  All neutrals somehow look more expensive than brights and pastels, more's the pity.  Neutrals are where it's at for backbone of the wardrobe clothing, which is a lesson that I'm learning quite unwillingly.  (I do like my brights!)  Neutrals are very good for slimming the figure.  For instance, today I'm wearing an ivory linen slim skirt with an ivory peasant blouse and put over it a denim jacket when it was pick up the kids time.  That made me (visually) into an ivory column, and was slimmed further by the dark blue of my jacket.  A straight line from ankle to collarbone - it's a good thing.  All of those neutrals made for a casually elegant outfit that I'd wear pretty much anywhere with confidence - and that's the type of outfit I aim to fill my wardrobe with.

Secondary colors in fashion aren't the same as secondary colors in art.  The secondary colors in fashion are the soft colors that can sometimes be used as neutrals but which make more of a statement.  Goldenrod, brick, olive, plum, cadet blue... that school.  You can have a suit of that color, but it tends to be a bit much.  A jacket or a skirt, either one, looks great.  They blend well with neutrals, perking things up a bit without standing out.  The cost of those colors is in finding the ones that work well with your coloring and the fact that they tend to be a bit trendy.

Brights are self-explanatory.  This is where you find your "power colors".  Mine is turquoise, my mom's is red.  BFF's is coral.  What's yours?  They get in your face and they say HI HIHIHIHIHI.  The brights are the focal points in your outfit no matter what you do.  That's the point of them.  Find YOUR bright colors, and work them.   The downside to brights?   Again, they can be very trendy.  Also, unless your fabric is of highest quality, the brights soon fade - and since they're eyecatchers to begin with, you'll be remembered as having owned that particular piece of clothing.  You can be the girl in the red coat (oo la la!) but know that at some point you're going to have to rotate it to storage at the very least.

Next up, a series devoted to discussion of specific color families.  Pardon me while I tie one hand behind my back, I tend to get a wee bit over enthused when talking about color... :D

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Colors and YOU

Personally I am a proponent of the basic "Color Me Beautiful" school of color philosophy, with some additions/subtractions - and the absolute caveat that we're talking about the first edition, not the second edition with the transitional seasons.  (I know a couple of people who are in transitional seasons, but it's much easier to start with one basic set of colors and then add or take away just a few - besides, transitional seasons tend to be a transition for a reason, not  your permanent existence). 

Regardless of what school of color preference determiner you use, the way it works is that it makes *you* look better.  How you tell if a color is right for you?  Put it up to your face, without makeup - and without hair dye.  If you've dyed your hair a color other than its own rightful color at about 21 years of age (I was a blonde when I was born - that totally doesn't count!), you'll want to cover it up.  You hold the color up - if it makes your blemishes disappear, your skin brighten, your eyes pop... it's "your color".  If it makes you look worse, it's not your color. 

Some folks are better at looking at this than others.  It's a plain fact that some people can see color variations that other people can't.  You've seen (and maybe done) the color perception test... it's that kind of thing.  No fault to you if you aren't one of the people who can see it - you just shuffle around your friends until you can find one who is talented in this area.  In my friend groups, I'm usually the one who does this.  It brings me joy to do so, I love seeing my friends looking their best.

The really bad news for most folks is that... sorry guys... most people don't look good in black and white.  If you're one of the ones who truly makes those colors work, the easiest test in the world is wearing them together.  If you can wear a plain white shirt with black slacks, or a black and white stripe and not look like you need a serious lipstick and eyeliner transfusion... well, then you feel free to wear them with abandon.  The rest of us have to be *very careful* with them, and that confuses a lot of folks.  (Those who can wear them are Winters, by the CMB rules).  (Oh and yes you must do this test without a shred of makeup or jewelry and you must cover your hair with a towel.  We all know blonde hair contrasts nicely with a black dress... but what does it do to the woman underneath?)

I'm not sure where to take this from here... shall I discuss the seasons or go into the neutrals  plus accents? 


Monday, May 23, 2011

Prerequisites to Loveliness

Beauty can be found anywhere... but loveliness has some prerequisites.

When I want to arrange a bouquet of freshly cut roses - where shall I put it?  Shall I put it on a table piled high with papers and empty boxes of take-out?  Would that be lovely?  Certainly a vase full of roses is going to improve any situation, but will it hit the mark?  No.  It will not.

Likewise, shall I put lipstick on while my hair is unbrushed?  Will a pretty dress help, if the pretty dress is covered in stains?   (Beauty may still shine through... and the effort will not go unnoticed, exactly the same as flowers in a mess - but it's still a mess, and so am I!)

Neatness and good grooming have been left by the wayside in our modern life, and they should be paid some attention to.  Certainly that's not all there is to loveliness, but it's a step we must take if we truly want to hit the mark.

Part of the gift of loveliness is the effort that the giver makes - either a well-dressed room or a well-dressed woman is proof of effort and thought.   Contrariwise, perfection is too much to ask on a daily basis.   Aim high, don't beat yourself up, and slowly the base standard will raise - in either housework or self-care.

Something to mention at this point is that sometimes - certainly for myself - the effort in clearing off the table is something that happens *after* I put the vase of flowers down, because that beauty encouraged ME enough to get to work.   Likewise in personal grooming and other self-care.  *NEVER* tell yourself that you can't have flowers until the table is cleared - put the flowers down and work out from there.   Not beating yourself up while retaining the highest standards is a trick that I think few among us have managed, but it's something to be sought after.

All improvements, where ever they are - are still improvements.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Beauty Soothes the Savage Hearthy

Today, I gave myself permission to give in to Beauty - and it made my day.

It all started with a bowl...

You see, I'd had my eyes on these bowls for the past six months, and on Friday, my husband and I bought them.  Isn't it beautiful?  Such a lovely shade of blue... and much prettier in person and in focus.

Today, I was having tea and snacks with some galpals in the Secret Garden - and I was bringing the goodies.  So, I decided to use the pretty bowls, even though they *might* get broken in transit (they didn't). 

Having decided to use the pretty bowls, I changed out of my utilitarian tshirt and denim skirt and into my pretty red wrap dress and white jacket.  I pinned on a brooch that BFF's husband made for me, put my hair up and used a rose as my "cover", and put on some red lipgloss.  I know I was just eating cookies with the girls... but why not?

Then I gave myself permission to go to the Secret Garden beforehand and get everything set up.  I picked flowers and made an impromtu (and disposable) bouquet on the tablecloth.

It was lovely.  The girls loved it - and it turned out that one of them had lusted after the same set of dishes for just as long as I had -and had *also* finally given in to temptation this weekend!  But what I wanted to get at was not the effect on the viewer, but the effect on *me*. 

I was feeling fritzed and fried and tired before I pulled out that bowl, but by the time I finished putting on the lipgloss, I was chilled out, relaxed and getting happy.  By the time I finished arranging the flowers, I was in my happy place. 

Beauty matters to me.  It made me so happy just to be pretty.  There's no competition here, just "oo!".  And anyone can play. 

Another friend said today that he'd always be the something of the same young man he was 20 years ago.  I will always be something of the same girl I was years ago.  The girl who spent an hour every Saturday filling vases around the house and getting all the flowers arranged "just so" is never going to stop being part of who I am.  The girl that smiles when she sees a pretty pair of earrings or squees when her friends wear that perfect shade of green, the girl who went to Sunday school and strolled arm-in-arm with her bestie ... she's always going to be part of who I am.

Beauty... matters... to me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Must Have Item #6: Loungewear

Surfing the net this morning and I came on the following post:  http://3hourspast.blogspot.com/2011/05/finished-object-housecoat-1939-or-my.html

It reminded me that one of the foundations of any wife's wardobe must be something that is "comfortable enough to wear after a bath, pretty enough not to frighten the husband, and modest enough not to shock the children".

Of course my own wardrobe is sadly lacking in this item... I have a few stand-ins, but nothing I really feel totally pleased about.   It goes on that very long sewing list in my mind, as I don't think that the offerings in most stores fit the bill. 

Think about this:  Every day, you take a shower.  Unless you immediately throw yourself in bed or in your daytime clothes, you have a sartorial problem.  Personally, I slather on half a bottle of lotion after showers, so I'm sticky and disinclined to wear "real clothes" until I absorb a bit.  Likewise, I don't always want to jump out of bed in the morning and jump right into my daytime clothing.  And sometimes it's been a long day and I want to get in my jammies but I don't particularly want to sit in my living room in them... especially in front of my pre-teen son and a wide open window.

Vintage items or patterns can give us a boost in these areas of concern.  After all, the gracious woman of times past (aka a woman with leisure and money enough to afford such things) wouldn't be found dead in her nightie sitting and reading a novel on the couch with the children still awake.

A dressing gown or a housedress (a NICE housedress, I'm sure I'm not the only one scarred visually by the muumuuesque housedresses of the 70s) is a solution to the problem, if one chooses the pattern and fabric carefully to allow for an absence of supportive undergarments.  There are other solutions as well - but one must *think* about the problem!