Monday, May 30, 2011

White

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

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

Brown

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? 

Hmm...

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!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Must Have Item #5: The Apron (and notes on daily clothing)

Just because we, as housewives, do a lot of dirty work, doesn't mean that we can't be pretty or well put together.  Besides, none of us is spending all day every day scrubbing toilets, painting, or doing substantial garden work.  So you probably do need one or two ratty outfits for bleaching, painting, washing the dog... etc.  (If you do a lot of whatever it is - like outside work - and your budget allows for it at all, give your task the dignity of proper clothing.   Heavy boots for working outside/with animals, comfortable garden dungarees for hours in your acre garden, etc). 

Beyond that - you can dress nicely.  Of course you should be dressed washably, particularly if you have small children or babies.  But folding laundry, cooking dinner, dusting... these aren't grubby chores that are going to ruin your clothes.  You can be cute, you can be pulled together.  You can be well groomed and neat.  Your clothes can match and be more or less in style.

Today's must-have item?  An APRON.  Not one of those cute little things that they sell in the vintage outlets and not one of the "kiss the cook" aprons made for a man.  Oh no.  You need a proper apron that covers all of *your* chest (aprons that cover only one side at a time are the bane of my existence) with a long enough skirt to cover whatever you wear on the bottom.  (I have ruined more skirts loading the dishwasher than any other task).

Aprons can pull your outfit together and protect it.  They can keep dirty little faces from staining your good clothes and help you hold the "just a couple" of whatevers that you're bringing into the house.  They are excellent for drying your hands in a pinch, holding your handkerchief, and confusing door-to-door salesmen. 

And aprons are where you can really indulge your taste for whimsy.  If you don't sew, they sell them on Ebay and Etsy and one can find them for reasonable prices. 

And to top it all off?  An apron means that you don't have to change out of your pretty clothes the instant you walk in the door.  You can stay gussied up for your husband!  Imagine that...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Style Tool: The Lookbook

A fun style tool is the lookbook.  You are probably all familiar with this from the days of cutting pictures out of magazines and pasting them into a notebook.  It's a good plan, but the computer age has done us one better. 

You can save virtually image onto your hard drive and make your montage on a document, then take a look.  Maybe print it, and put your printed pages into your notebook!  I am not advocating stealing other people's intellectual property - this is about personal use.

I find several different looks attractive, different moods.  But when I start making montages I see that they fall into certain groupings pretty naturally.  I have the romantic/natural that forms the backbone of my heartlook, and the chippercute that I find more useful for day to day.  (As an example, in my chippercute lookbook, I have several pictures of the wide, highwaisted shorts that were in during the 40s.  When I trim down, those will definitely find a place in my wardrobe, probably for gardening.  My dresses-mostly wardrobe doesn't extend to activities involving bending over repeatedly). 

When you start making lookbooks, you'll start learning a bit more about yourself, and the things that please your eyes.  What your heart colors are, what moods please you, etc.  It's a great starting place, when you're nailing down your style.

And since we're sharing, this is my first lookbook. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Must Have Item #4: The Pretty Dress

The next item on the "must haves list" is a pretty dress.  I hope that this won't be your only pretty dress!  You may substitute in your white blouse and dark skirt until you are able to find this special item, but certainly you can't live your whole life in one outfit.

What sort of pretty dress you choose is going to depend on your lifestyle and the events that come into it.  You must be honest with yourself here!  While your pretty dress can go to church or date night or most parties, only you know which you spend more time attending.

For instance, I attend a very casual church, but I go out to dinner with my husband quite regularly and we almost never attend dressy parties.  Therefore, my "pretty dress" is going to be mostly a date dress.  If the situation was reversed, and I attended a church that still dressed up... I would have a nice quiet dress that I could sparkle up when we went on the town.  Likewise, if we went to a lot of parties, I would choose something that could be accessorized with endless variety (the classic LBD*).   My really dressy dress stays in the closet most of the year, but it's stunning and I love it.

Your special dress should again, be perfectly fitted for you.  It doesn't have to be a timeless classic unless you truly spend a lot of time in it.  I don't know a woman who doesn't love to buy a new dress.  Simply make certain that your dress fits and looks good on YOU.

Next up:  The at-home wardrobe.

*The LBD doesn't have to be black!  It should be a basic neutral, suited to the dominant season in your area.  It should fit and flatter you, which may well let out the slim sheath dress that has probably popped into your head at this point.  My LBD equivalent is my new white dress, which changes personality with belts and accessories. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Must Have Item(s) #3: The Weather Appropriate Articles

Extreme weather - it happens to all of us.  How many of us are really sartorially prepared for the weather that we *know* is coming our way?

I live in Southern California.  Even living on the coast, I am guarunteed at least 30 days/year of 95+ weather.  Minimum.  Most of that will be with less than 20% humidity.  That's at bare minimum, and much of the summer (aka July-October) is too hot for yours truly.

It therefore behooves me to have clothing suited for hot weather and bright sun.  Long sleeves, light colors, thin fabrics.  Hats.  (Everyone here should own at least one wide-brimmed hat).

But even here, there are days where it is rainy and cold.  I also need something to wear when it's at it's coldest and wettest. 

I don't need gear for snow - but I do need gear for rain.  Proper gear for rain. 

So.  To the "must haves list" add a minimum of one outfit for the coldest, nastiest day you get whereever it is that you live and the hottest and most miserable.  Add a widebrimmed hat, warm gloves, and a jacket that won't let in the rain.  You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Must Have Item #2: The dark skirt

Your second "must have item" is a dark skirt.  It should be made of a heavyweight fabric, preferably wool or one of its many imitators and/or blends.   "Dark" means:  darkest green (deep forest or pine), darkest blue (navy or midnight), chocolate brown, charcoal grey or black.  It does *not* mean blood red, even the deepest of blood reds - although that might be an excellent second skirt in your wardrobe if blood red is a color that suits you. 

(You may substitute "slacks" for skirt here, if  you really really must.  However, a skirt is a touch more formal and a touch more festive). 

Again, the skirt must be impeccable in taste, in fit, and in repair.  No dropped hems, loose threads, or pulling waistbands please.  (I am *so* guilty of this). 

I'm going to surprise you a bit and say that a long full skirt is not appropriate for this item -even though I am all about the long, full skirt for daily wear.  Why not?  Because a long full skirt currently reads as very feminine and festive, and you want this skirt to convey a certain seriousness.  (You can offset the serious with accessories if you need to, but that's another story).  You may certainly have a bit of style to this skirt, but you don't want it to be "of the moment" - you want to wear this for years, not a season.

A pencil skirt is a *great* choice for this item, and is what I'll be refashioning my long, full green skirt into.   A long straight skirt is acceptable, as is a plain knee length skirt.  Anything more than 1" above the knee isn't going to play this game - 2" if you have long long legs and it will look like 1" on normal humans.  ;)  Try to stay away from fullness when choosing this skirt.  Again, a pleated skirt or an A-line would be a great second choice if you need something else in this vein.  (I'm saying this as someone who almost never wears a fitted skirt).

You can play with texture again if you like, but make it subtle.  Plain is *fine* for this skirt.  Quality fabrics will show themselves to great advantage, so if you're making a decision about budgeting, this is where you should think hard about putting a little extra. 

If you don't look well in white, I'd steer clear of a black skirt - go for one of the more subtle dark colors and let it warm up the white blouse a bit for you. 

You will be pairing this skirt with your white blouse for your most formal occasions, and with more festive blouses or sweaters or...  for less formal occasions.  Although the life of a housewife lends itself to more easily cleanable fabrics, having this in the closet is a lifesaver.  Do make sure it continues to fit!  That's the worst thing, reaching for your "do not fail" item and finding it won't button or has an inch of extra room in the waist.  You also want to take care of any cleaning or mending immediately -  again, you don't want to reach for this skirt an hour before your court date only to find that it's a mess.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Must Have Item #1: The white blouse

Today starts a series of posts about the "must have items" in every woman's wardrobe.  Even housewives.  As I'm writing this, I'm realising that my "must have items" need some restyling/reworking, so *please* don't feel like I'm pointing fingers.  Onward.

Must have Item #1:  The White Blouse

The white blouse must be of impeccable character and fit.  It can be either sporty or feminine, depending on your personal style.  It must be white, but if you don't look particularly well in bright white (I don't), do feel free to use texture and fabric to bring the white towards your personal coloring best.  Regardless, the blouse must be *white*.  You may well wish to have a blouse in your personal best not-white-white, such as ivory or bone... but one white blouse is needed.

The blouse must have a collar.  A traditional collar, a lace collar, whatever works for you - but this is not an inexpensive shell that you wear only under a suit jacket.  (Does anyone still do this?).  This is also not a tank top or a turtle neck.  While the blouse should be able to live under a jacket, it must also be able to stand alone.

This blouse must have long sleeves.  Again, the blouse must be able to stand alone at need. 

Why, you say, must I have such a blouse?  Because this blouse is what you will wear to funerals, to court if little Johnny breaks a window, to meetings at school, to make a presentation at church or the PTO... you get the idea.  For some of those functions, at some times of the year, you will not need or want a jacket over it.  (I live in SoCal, I usually don't want a jacket over things).  Also, if it can stand without the jacket, you can wear it to more festive occasions, like weddings or church or recitals... you get the idea.  It makes a more flexible piece.

I usually feel like "Oh I don't need that..." - and then someone dies and I have nothing to wear that fits and I have to try to fit in shopping to the crazed 24 hours before the funeral.  Or some other fashion emergency.   Seriously, this is having an extra loaf of bread in the freezer, practicality wise.  You *will* wear this blouse once you own it and get it out of the closet a couple of times.  You will. 

I made myself one last year... which I am currently not happy with and need to remake... but that aside, when I was wearing it I was so happy.  I always felt appropriately dressed.  None of that self-questioning, "am I doing this wrong?" nonsense.  Just - you're right.  You know you're right.  Go do what you need to do and forget about what you're wearing.  (Which is the *point* of dressing for occasions - to do it right so that you can focus on the occasion not the hemline).

Next Up:  The Dark Skirt

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Church Dresses: Sunday Best

Do you remember your Sunday Best?  I do.  I had a dress, sometimes two, that I kept for church.  That was the only time I wore it, except maybe for holidays.  At Christmas and at Easter, you'd get a new one, and one of your old ones would be retired - to the give-away pile, to "school clothes", somewhere.

Grown up ladies had their Sunday Best too.  So did grown up gentlemen.  They always looked so nice on Sunday - even though you'd seen them in that dress for the last six months of Sundays.  (Gentlemen wore their Sunday suits for decades sometimes). 

One day our sleepy little church got a firey new pastor.  He was gifted of the Lord, and our 300 person church grew to 2000 people in less than five years.  (I live in a populous area, don't be too excited).  With the new pastor, came new people - and that was when the 80s were in full bloom, with prosperity and conspicious consumption.   Suddenly how people dressed started to change.  Fashion hit church clothes.

I remember when the folks who couldn't afford the flashy new duds started looking a little faded next to the other folks.  They hadn't before.  Maybe I was just too young to notice, maybe it was times changing.  But there did creep in the look-ism that has nothing to do with church, nothing to do with God.  Sunday Best, making an effort - it's not about competition.  It's about showing respect for God's house and fellowship with God's people.

Now I go to a non-denominational church, and I go on Saturday night because Sunday services are just too crowded.  Mostly, even the ladies wear jeans and tshirts.  Christian tshirts.  But tshirts.  (I went back to my home church for an AWANA event the other day.  The other ladies were dressed like me... skirts and blouses and long, long hair.  I was like, "Oh, there's where y'all are!")

It's a good thing that people come to church without feeling like they have to be in a fashion show, without feeling like they have to have special clothes.  But I miss Sunday Best.  I miss men knowing to take their hats off.  I miss... I miss the effort, I miss everyone making church an event, even a small one.  And I think we're the poorer for it. 

We don't make an effort at all these days, and never pulling ourselves up lets the baseline creep perpetually downward. 

If then, a few people lowering the bar lowered it gradually for everyone, a few people raising the bar will gradually raise it for everyone.  Right?  Are you with me?  Let's raise the bar.  Bring back Sunday Best.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Other stumbling blocks... self worth, job's worth

This has been written about so many times, in so many forms, that it seems trite to repeat it.  But I got into this dump, and I think that nearly every mother I know did the same. 

Post-partum scruffies.  We've all had them.  The "well nothing fits so I'll just wear the husband's clothes combined with my old preggo stuff, and soon I'll go shopping for myself, but just not right now".  Soon is first thought of as a few weeks, then a few months, and then a  year later, you're find yourself at the park wearing holey shorts and a stained tshirt.  I know I'm not alone on *this* one. 

Some of that comes from not liking your new, motherly body.  Changes happen.  Some are reversible.  Some aren't.  And some you'll deal with when you get a full night's sleep.  It's hard to get back into the game when the game changes so radically.

Another part of that comes, I think, from not valuing ourselves at home.  When I go out, I dress up a bit.  Even to the store.  That's fine and normal, so far as it goes.  But when my base dresscode is the clothes I should really be saving for painting - yikes.  That says that you don't really value what you're doing at home, that it's not important enough to dress for.  Only other people are worth tidying up for - and your husband is rarely categorized as "other people". 

Flylady is all over that, encouraging ladies to have a dress code for home, something that looks cute and is functional.  "Looks cute" is surprisingly not hard to accomplish - but feeling that your at-home clothes are worth spending on, or that anything that is going to get dirty so often is worth washing and maybe ironing... that's something we've moved far away from.

Once upon a time, anything that was worth doing was worth doing well - including getting dressed for work.  Work at home was still work, still valued, and we tidied up.   Certainly at-home clothes are more washable, more comfortable, and probably not as well accessorized - but if we give up on all of that, we get in trouble.
If you never make yourself pretty, you stop thinking of yourself as pretty.  If you stop thinking of yourself as pretty, so do others.  It becomes a nasty cycle, where self-maintenance takes the biggest hit.   And since we *are* worthy, and we do want to be lovely... that's not a good plan.  Then one day you have to go do something important and you find you have nothing to wear.  Like me, every time I get called to a funeral - uh, somber dress clothes?  Um. 
(Remind me I want to make a "must have" list of clothes/outfits)

So, if keeping the home is worth doing - let's do it in style.  If our husbands are worth pleasing, let's please their eyes.  If our kids should know that mommies are beautiful, let's show them how it's done.  We do have to DO it...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Old foolishness standing in our way

I hope I'm not the only person who has ever done something foolish with their looks - played with them for power or attention - and doesn't, now, quite know what to do about inhabiting their own bodies.

When I was a teen, I explored the sudden change from ugly duckling to swan - the power of inciting lust in the young gentlemen in my peer group.  I explored that, I exploited that.  It was much like the friend of mine who sprouted nearly a foot the summer before and was suddenly picking up multiple people at once.  One day you feel like nothing, and the next day the rules have all changed.

Was it a good thing or a right thing?  No.

And now that I'm an adult, a conservative Christian woman, committed to not causing my brothers to lust, committed to loveliness, not seduction... now what?

I know there is a difference between being lovely and being sexy.   But when I put on the pretty clothes, tighten up the belt, sparkle up the ears - my frame of reference is trying to get attention for my sexuality.   I don't want attention for my sexuality - I want to be a flower of femininity.  I know that when I hit it right - people enjoy looking at me.   That's a nice thing to do in this world, be something pure and lovely, right?

The block is in my head.  The discomfort is in my head.  It extends from using proper body posture to even being slightly uncomfortable walking on busy streets (which I have to do every day to pick my kids up from school).  It makes me feel like I'm being "too pretty".  You know that wrap dress that I put a picture up of last week?   I read on the pattern reviews that people wear those to weddings and get rave reviews.  Do you know what it was meant for?  A housedress.   Something casual, to pick the kids up, mop the floors, chill out.  Times have changed.

What would it be like, to not merely dress femininely - skirts or dresses - every day, but to dress beautifully every day?  To put on the lipstick, the perfume, the earrings... even just to clean the toilets or wash the dog.

How would that change things?  Would it break down the barriers inside?  Would it change things up?

I don't know.  I know that I crave beauty, I love to look at beauty.  I love to look at beautiful people, I love to look at beautiful flowers and buildings and trees - and I want to be part of that.

This matters.  Perhaps it only matters to me, but this matters.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Insight: Sarah

Genesis 12:14 And it came to pass, when Abram was in Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. 

Genesis 20:11 And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake.

You remember the story, yes?  Sarah was so beautiful that Abraham (Abram) told her to lie about their relationship.  She was taken - even past menopause - by kings of the land because of her great beauty.  Did Abraham tell Sarah to put on ugly clothes?  No.  Her beauty was so great that ugly clothes might not have mattered - and obviously a woman from the family of a rich man isn't going to be wearing shabby clothing.  He also doesn't cast blame on Sarah for being too beautiful, or for being seductive.  Sarah was just going along, doing the tasks that came to her hands, living her life.   And she was stop-the-chariot stunning.

1 Peter 3 holds Sarah up to us as the model of a good wife, and the model of proper wifely adornment. 

What does she do?  She obeys him.   She respects him.  She gives him her best.  You can't be beautiful without beautiful character - that's certain, and there will be bloggage about that later.  But do you think that the people wandering by are noticing her character?  That's not what the Bible says.  It says they're noticing her FACE. 

Just something to chew on.

I wonder if Lydia, the seller of purple dye, wore shabby clothing?  I doubt it, somehow.  Wouldn't have been good for business.

Things that make you go "hmm".

Posture and Modesty

One knows that good posture is key to being pretty.  Good posture is also key to good health and avoiding injury.  Open any traditional book on women's clothing or even etiquette, and you're likely to find a chapter on achieving good posture.  If you exercise, you'll be encouraged to develop good posture.  If you dance, you'll develop good posture.

But for some of us, having good posture is a little uncomfortable.  I am not speaking physically of course - any new muscle movement is naturally uncomfortable.   I am speaking psychologically. 

It doesn't make sense, theologically.  Standing up straight is what we were designed to do - our Creator is unlikely to be vexed by it.  We kneel to Him, but slouching isn't in the Bible!

And yet.  And yet. 

(Here's where the generalities become more personal)

Is it only me?  Does anyone else feel like, when they're standing the way they're supposed to, they are spreading themselves for the world to see?

I know I shouldn't feel this way.  While modesty and humility are virtues, there is nothing virtuous in curling up in a ball.  I didn't add to my figure, everything I have is original equipment -  and that means that God made me this way.  Having made me, we can therefore assume that the way He made me pleases Him.  Should I cause harm to the body He gave me because I am ashamed of His gift? * 

Why am I ashamed of what He's given me?

And that's going to be the theme of this week - we're going to talk about shame vs. modesty, and how to dwell in simple beauty instead of pride *or* shame.

*  We are clear here - I'm talking about good posture, not a string bikini.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ooo! Resources! FREE resources - the best kind. :)

I do most of my clothing acquisition via sewing these days... so when I saw the "free pattern month" I had to let you know about it. 

http://grosgrainfabulous.blogspot.com/ is running a free pattern month - a free pattern every day! 

More Personal

I've been very... editorial... in the first two posts.  That will be some of my writing here, for sure - I have a lot of thoughts on beauty, and I notice them being shaped as I write about them.  The Lord just won't leave me with a bad concept, not when I'm about to make it public anyway!  (Which is *awesome*). 

But we have to get personal as well - and hey, Candy* (http://myblessedhome.blogspot.com/) is running a week of feminine dress - so why not put up some pix?  And then my self-critique.

Here's today: 

Things I like about this:  I love the colors.  Happy about the beaded belt... that's pulling the coral and turquoise together well.  (Be warned, I really like two bright colors in one outfit, and turquoise and coral are my two favorite colors). 

I'm not excited by my hair - but pulling it all back is practical, it's 85 today.  I do have it "covered" by a large double comb over the crown of my head above my bun.  I'm not happy with the expression, or the weight - but I'll work on happier faces and am working on the weight too. 

Here's the shoes (and the bottom of my skirt, lol).
I have a bad foot, so it's flats only around here, and no flipflops (cry).  But it's warm most of the time and I run to warm feet... so yesterday I went out looking for walking sandals.  Picked up two pair.  I'm thrilled -more thrilled at how well everything in that store fit my feet, I will definitely be back.

....I am editing Feminine Dress Week to one post so it's not so overwhelming... I don't want this blog to be quite so "look, pixies of Hearth".  It's supposed to be more philosophical and general....

This is my new go-to dress.  I made it up for Easter. 
It was hard to make - this took me three solid days of sewing and cutting.  Or was it four?  At any rate... not easy, but I'm looking forward to being able to wear this for a very long time, in a myriad of ways.


In this pic I'm not all gussied up for Easter, I'd just finished it.  Covered with my favorite cover - a brown lace headband that matches my hair almost perfectly.
.................
This was the first dress I ever fitted... while it's far from perfect, it's still a great dress. 
Making your own clothes is fun and easy - I highly recommend it.  Um.  Maybe not "easy".  But it's fun and you learn so much.  And you get to have *so many more * options.  This is a classic dress - it came out in 1952.  It's a wrap dress, falls over your head like a serape and buttons in front and back.  I've made two so far. 
.........................
Here's today's outfit.  Today's itinerary - dentist, errands, go watch the spelling bee that my son is in this afternoon.

This is my favorite skirt.  As I've been making my own clothes, I've been taking mental notes about what works and what doesn't - and why. 

This skirt works because of the length and hem width.  You see in the picture that I have very wide shoulders (and am quite short).  Thus, the long skirt with the wide hem balances my upper body perfectly. 

This skirt has a few flaws - I got overambitious with fitting the yoke - it fits like a glove, but doesn't work with the skirt as a whole.  Another flaw is fabric selection - this fabric is *so soft* and *so comfy* - BUT it faded at least three shades within a month of use, and it's such a soft fabric that my zipper looks odd.  A much shorter zipper will be in order next time. 

Here I am wearing the shirt over the skirt.  Generally I do it the other way 'round, to emphasize my nearly-nonexistant waist.  Even when I trim down (God willing), I have a very small hip-to-waist ratio, so I either emphasize my waist or add significant poundage.  But this tshirt is fitted enough that I think it works.   Anyway the tshirt fabric is thicker than the skirt, and that just looks odd tucked in.  (Another lesson in fabric selection!)

Now, picture me in "standard American dress" - jeans and well, probably the same shirt.  ;)  Suddenly you're seeing all the parts of my body that I like least, and focusing on them - sooooo unflattering.  I wish I could say that I am dresses-mostly because of religious reasons, but it's because I really don't like pants.  (I am honest for religious reasons - grin)

This week of posting pix of myself in my daily clothes has made me want to significantly up my game.  I'm *always* dressed in skirts, but clearly I could do a bit more in the accessories department. 

Today's cover was the brown net headband and I'm wearing sandals.

* Since I've posted this, someone got all hater on Candy AGAIN, and she took down her site AGAIN.  So not cool.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ambassadorial Regalia

You are an ambassador for Christ.  You are also an ambassador for your husband, and/or your family.

When you are seen, so are they.  In the case of our Lord, seeing Christians is the only way that the World will ever see Christ.

How do you want to portray Him today?
How do you want to represent your husband today?

I know *my* husband gets annoyed with me when I don't spend enough time/money on my own clothes - it's so easy for housewives to end up looking like rag-bags.  I represent him.  My appearance tells other people about him.

You know it doesn't take much money to make a good appearance.  It does take some time and effort - and for me, a little letting go of "but it's not completely worn out yet!"

There is a *difference* in careful, conscious dressing and being wasteful.
There is a *difference* in dressing to represent Christ and your husband (or family, if unmarried) and dressing to advertise yourself.

As Christian ladies, especially ladies in this dreadful world of ours... let's be mindful of the latter.  Our Lord CREATED all beauty, we don't need to be ashamed of it, and we don't need to use it to grab attention.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Introduction

Why another beauty blog?
Why another blog about Christian women and “how-to-dress”?

I love beauty.  I love being beautiful.  We, as women, are created beautiful.  I believe we’re also created with an innate connection to beauty.  We make things around us prettier, we make ourselves prettier.  At least – we do these things when all is right with our world, inside and out.

The world around us, dear sisters, is ugly.  I don’t have to tell you that.  You have eyes.  Individually, we can’t do much about that, but together?  Can we not emit a sweet fragrance of loveliness that draws a world-weary public to us – and thence to our Lord?  What if – Christian women were sweet flowers in a bed of thorns?  Kind, gentle, smiling, sweetly scented. 

I am not speaking of sexuality.  The connotation of feminine beauty and sexuality has done much to damage beauty and her reputation. 

My goal, when I dress to go out, is to be like a flower.  I don’t want to incite lust – what I want is to incite delight, if I am noticed at all.  “Oh – pretty!”  Little girls used to have that squared away, but we have brought them down as well, and now it seems only *very* little girls are allowed to simply be pretty, enjoyable to the eye. 

It is, in fact, entirely possible to combine prettiness and modesty!  We will be tackling that on this blog.  *I* will be tackling that in real life. 

Let us bloom together!