Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday Hysteria and Hiatus ... Maybe

Every year at this time we present our Dickens Dinners, a full scale, costume epic at our little pub-style restaurant. We hold them on the last three Sundays in December. I always think that the seven-course dinner, formal tables, wines, costumes, sound system, staff, crackers, folding fans, musicians, carolers and all the other minutia will not make me sleepless and crazy this year.

How could I be so wrong? I am long gone, around the bend to Crazytown.

And in addition to the crazy, it all feels really weird because it has gone from 52 degrees to near 70 degrees the next day, and back to the mid-40s the following day with a low in the 20s that night. The outfit photo below is from day before yesterday. It was warmish when I planned what to wear, and at least 15 degrees cooler when we took the picture.

That's the reason my shoulders are up around my ears. Good thing this shot looked okay, because it was the last one I could manage as I was nearing hypothermia. Photo editing removed the blue from my lips.

You can learn a lot from photos of yourself. The goal was to add a little edge to the sweet Bisou-Bisou blouse and Peter Pan collar by adding faux leather pants. I chose the little Aldo leather pumps as a classic, lady-like grounding. The idea worked alright, but the peach camisole that I chose to wear under the sheer fabric makes my torso look blocky and thick. Perhaps a navy-blue or dark pink cami underneath would show through better, and be more flattering.

Photos really can point out elements you miss in the mirror, can't they?

I might not be able to come out and play again on Visible Monday until January. But if I can't, I'll be watching you all in your holiday splendor! 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Holiday Renewed, Recycled, Reused and Restyled ( ... or My Selfish Season)

(This post is dedicated to its muse, the indefatigable and dedicated Bella Q., The Citizen Rosebud  herself.)

This is absolutely the most difficult and uncomfortable time of the year for me to shop. Don't get me wrong ... I love shopping for my nearest and dearest, and delight especially in finding something for the Huz that makes him grin that special grin. But it is also the time of year when I am bombarded by all the neat stuff I've wanted all season! All the luxe goods; the jewels, the shoes, bags, perfumes ... they beckon tantalizingly like sailors' sirens. It's a constant battle with my lower self to avoid coming home with a bunch of bags filled with stuff for dear old Moi. Not to mention how hard it is on my pitiful budget.

Bella and a dedicated and fast growing legion of wise women all over the world have dedicated their shopping funds to the ethic of "shopping second-hand first." Or vintage, or consignment, but renewing and recycling and up-styling in gorgeous ways that have my constant admiration. But, I had not considered shopping for the holidays this way. There aren't many shops here that are much more than indoor garage sales, but in seeking them out, I have found at least three pretty snazzy resale shops in Fort Smith that offer holiday-shopper-selfishness-salvation and gifting opportunities as well!  Now that I've found these, there are bound to be more!

While looking around at these three shops, I came up with some (surely not all) categories of people that you can buy for in re-sale shops during the holidays ...

1. Your girl-friends or family that just live to prowl these places ... Gift Certificates for them!

You know them. The ones that always look effortlessly chic and at home in their clothes, and when you complement them, they tell you (smugly) that they got it at a vintage shop for some minuscule amount. They may be tough to choose specific gently-used items for, but how happy would they be with a gift certificate for their favorite resale shop?
Consider ... these certificates can go a very long way in terms of purchasing power, and you are helping everyone involved achieve a more petite carbon footprint.

This brings to mind a second category of giftee who might enjoy such a gift certificate.
How about one for your adorable and noble ecologically-focused friend or relative for whom every purchase should have sustainability cred?  Man or woman, this could work and really be appreciated!

2. Collectors of "vintage" accessories.

These women are easier to buy a gift for... the ones who love bangles, brooches, rings, watches, handbags, etc. from any era that is regarded as retro or in any way trendy.

3. Yourself.
Given all the temptation out there to pick up a little something for yourself ... how about splurging on something that catches your eye at one of these places? The damage to your budget and conscience will almost assuredly be less than it might have been, you get an almost guilt-free treat and, as above, you do some good ... or at the very least, no harm.

Think about it.


And if you are in or near Fort Smith, Arkansas, I'd point out these three places as great examples of holiday shopping spots for Thrifters, Restylers, and Vintage enthusiasts. ( They all offer Gift Certificates!)

On the west side, in the old down-town area:

Emi-Lee's on the Avenue,
Upscale Resale
315 Garrison Avenue
Fort Smith, AR 72901      479-452-5488

There are cases full of great jewels and accessories, from the merely glitzy and glamorous to the truly grand. In seconds, I'd found half a dozen things I wanted.
Look carefully, 'cause solid upscale brands abound, and there are some very pretty things everywhere you turn. These women, led by owner Dawn Howell, know how to merchandise.


Material Girl
11 North 3rd
Fort Smith AR 72901 479-651-9078

Just around the corner from Emi-Lee's, you'll find this very welcoming and charming shop. It's full of great finds, and I particularly liked some of the handbags! They are both consignment and a boutique, with some great values on makeup items (new, of course.)   You'll meet the team, consisting of Desiree Jeffrey (manager-daughter) and Patti Williams (owner-mom) and they'll make you feel welcome.
Patti let me know that there is a First Thursday, open-till-8:00pm evening for shops in the area, coming up on December 6th. There will be sales and drawings for Christmas goodies!


A new kid in town, and on the east end of Rogers Avenue:

Pretty Woman
8434 D Phoenix Avenue
Fort Smith, AR 72903 479-226-3399

The first thing I saw when I first visited this shop was a rack with the cutest faux fur vest ever, and it would have been mine had it been in my size! It was on a rack with a lot of other great things, and the owner, Belinda Adams, is growing her stock every day. She has lots of well chosen jewelry and accessories besides lots of sizes of clothing, and she is specializing in Plus size fashion! She has a real understanding of the ecological and social value of contemporary thrifting (and offers complementary cookies for her customers! I love that.)


On another subject entirely: Last week's post about Faux Flat Boots ...
Here I am, showing them off for Patti's Visible Monday . Come see all the stylistas, fashionistas, restylistas and vintagistas in our natural habitat ... the Outfit Photo!

Have a great week, and drop a note to let me know what you think about any of the above!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Flat, Faux ... Fabulous!

Okay.  I give up.  Sort of.  All you taller-than-me folks who are so jazzed about flat boots ... you win.  Again, sort of.  I bought some.  Well, almost.

I am a high-heels kind of girl. The last time my height was measured, it was 5' 0" and I am hanging on to that with both hands, considering how much of a toll my age has taken on my frame. I work in heels. I play in them as well, and that tells you a lot about the kind of activities I enjoy. My physical proportions look so much better when I am in heels, and I know how to walk in them without clomping, teetering or slumping. I have even run in them. When I am not in heels, I take care to keep the muscles and tendons in the backs and fronts of my legs supple, stretched and toned. I don't have the prettiest pins, but they are fit, and to quote David Lee Roth, "I ain't the worst that you've seen."
And if you are one of those people who insist upon relating horror stories about the evils high-heels contribute to foot problems, back problems and the objectification of women, spare me... please. I've been a card-carrying feminist for more years than some of you have been alive, and I've heard all the medical and social warnings before.

But I have noticed, with rising alarm, the proliferation of flat boots on young women and old. In a recent post, I rejected them out of hand as a trend I would not follow. I just don't think they do a lot for some women. Like me. But some trends just take getting used to, and I've been watching women of all sizes, shapes and ages wear them, and mostly managing to look cute. And suddenly, my go-to, high-heeled suede boots looked a little more than "last year" with jeans. Less than modern. So I decided to stop being stodgy and at least try some on.

My first instincts were right. Lots of them just pointed out how short I really am, many of them made me look wider than I think I am. And while some didn't do any particular harm, they did not flatter. All of them messed with the proportions I'm used to seeing in the mirror. Worst of all, my backside didn't look right in flat boots! So I did what anyone with any sense would do, and gave up. I'd rather try on jeans all afternoon, or repeatedly hit my head against a wall.

But finally, love struck in the form of a pair of tall, black, fold-over boots from "Call It Spring". They're the kind that look like equestrian boots with half-chaps. I put them on, looked in the mirror and knew I had found the ones I wanted.

I have faux-fur, and faux-leather, and now I have faux-flat boots. Underneath the faux-fold-over-half-chap, there is a little 3" wedge, cleverly disguised as a flat boot ... designed just for women like me who just aren't ready to give up their heels.

There you go. Another life lesson, at advanced age; faux can be just fine!

I love them so much that I'm using their picture to link up with all the brave beauties at Patti's Visible Monday .

Monday, November 19, 2012

Just Look at Yourself ! ( Sometimes it IS the Camera...)

Some of you may have noticed that I'm not quick on the uptake. Not only do I frequently have insights that everyone else discovered years or decades before, but I then publish my own slowness where the world can verify that, indeed, I am not the brightest crayon in the box. This is one of those epiphanies.

I have always hated the way I look in photographs. Not that I'm all that crazy about how I look in the mirror, but I'm genuinely shocked by how much I don't look like me in snapshots, as I see myself. I've always known that a mirror reflection is horizontally opposite from the way you are seen by others. (You did know that, right? Some people don't figure that out for a while.) So, for years, the way I got around the inevitable dismay was to duck having my photograph made. But since the onset of so much social media, and the irresistible lure of imposing my style opinions on the internet via blogging, I have been forced to face up to my own garden-variety dysmorphia, because I need decent pictures of my own mug. This has become a personal growth issue.

One of the easiest ways to avoid actually being in the family photograph is to be the one who takes the pictures. And to keep on being that person depends on the ability to take a decent shot. So, for that reason, and others too removed from my point here, I had to learn a little about photographing people, and that meant cameras and film (in the old days, now cameras and pixels.) And for that reason I really ought to understand why photographs can go horribly, terribly wrong. I always used a large format camera and a portrait lens (85mm), but the years passed and I forgot most of what I learned and began using a point-and-shoot digital, charmed by the ability to dink around with my photos without smelling like darkroom chemicals.

Dear readers, I know that at least a few of you have a similar aversion to your own image in photographs. And that there are a lot of how-to articles that will teach you how to make them look better, and they are very valuable. No doubt. Read them all. But many assume a 35mm SLR (single lens reflex camera) and ignore the fact that the distortion of the usual wide-angle lens (found on most point-and-shoot digitals) make you look strange to begin with. I should have known that. And I found a site that demonstrates focal length distortion with satisfying clarity.

With permission of the photographer, Stephen Eastwood, I present to you a dramatic example of why your pretty face sometimes looks a little ... odd. He uses SLR lenses here, and focal lengths for digital cameras are described numerically with a different system, but the general principle is the same. Check this out.

For a better, bigger look at these go here .
They are the same woman, but using lenses from 350mm to 19mm.
And for Mr. Eastwood's article, on a different use for these examples: here

See, it isn't just you. It's really the camera. Wide-angle lenses are NOT for faces, unless you really want to see how you'd look as an alien, or squeezed through the birth canal again, only this time as an adult in full makeup. I feel so much better now. The effect isn't usually this dramatic, but little distortions can make you look a lot different.

I found, by Googling around, most sources suggest that the way to avoid this with a point-and-shoot camera with an optical zoom lens, is to stand back, away from the subject, then zoom in. Mine, zoomed out just a little more than half-way, works out to an approximate 70-80 mm (about the same as a traditional SLR portrait lens,) which works just fine.

Additionally, place the person you are photographing in the middle of the frame. There's less distortion in the center than at the edges of a wide-angle lens. You'll have to crop your picture with a photo editor, but you'll look better. There's a lot of variety in digital cameras, with and without zoom, so see what features yours has if you use one.

If there are any experienced photographers who can give me any more tips on avoiding this distortion (or correcting any of the above if you find error or misunderstanding) I'd be most happy to hear it!

So, even if this is old news to most of you, I'm still convinced that there are at least a few of you that might find this enlightening. Shhhh. We won't tell anyone ....

Here I am, ready for a change, for Visible Monday  at Patti's. More High-Low (Kirna Zabete for Target) and an odd little Bisou-Bisou tuxedo-ish, peplum-ish jacket.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Grandmother, the Tailor

Just like almost everyone else, I'm thinking about seasonal food a lot. (You're NOT? Really? ) And the memories of Seasonal Festivities Past take me directly to memories of the the women who cooked those huge, savory-sweet, nap-inducing feasts. One of those was my paternal grandmother, who was a professional tailor and dressmaker for decades. My memories of her are relevant here because because she was also the orchestrator of some of my best holiday outfits. She was the one who introduced me to the discipline and joys of dressing up. And that not only beautiful women were entitled to wear wonderful clothes.

In a previous post, I briefly mentioned my mother's mother, the delicate, purple haired one. She didn't work outside the home after building bombers during WWII. My other grandmother was the tallest of all the women in our family, and farm wife, block-sturdy with some physical heft and size. She was short-waisted (a trait I inherited) and severe faced (some of this, as well.) She had not an ounce of the swan-like beauty so admired in the time, or the voluptuous movie star curves that were also popular, but she loved and wore beautifully made clothes. I don't know when exactly she learned to love the higher elements of fashion in the New Look era, but she must have taught herself a lot as she made clothes for her daughters, son and husband as a young farm wife in Dust Bowl era West Texas.

I spent a lot of my little girl years in her alterations and tailoring shop in Southern California, waiting for parents to pick me up after one or the other finished work. There I saw my first fashion magazines, Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. There were always the new editions on an old coffee table she had placed in a little waiting area at the front of her shop, as well as several months of well worn, previous issues. But the best things were the out-of-date pattern books. Butterick, McCall's and Vogue pattern books came my way after everyone was finished with them, and I had an eternity of paper-dolls to cut out, paste on cardboard and cast in little dramas.

I wasn't her favorite grandchild, but her only granddaughter and dress me she did. From special dresses for the first day of elementary school, to a prom dress and pink bouclé suit copied whole from Jackie Kennedy's pictures in Life magazines, she saw that I had what was appropriate. Every Christmas brought another dress especially for family holiday festivities. I'm now desolated that I didn't keep a single one. We were a lower-middle class family economically, but the way I was often able to dress taught me a lot about the value of personal presentation and how effective it is in bridging class issues.

She was not a cuddly sort of grandmother, but she was always willing to teach. I learned less than I could have or wish I had, but I can alter my own pants and put up a hem, size a pattern, and (if I absolutely have to) set a sleeve and replace a zipper.

In retrospect, though, it was her own wardrobe that was most amazing . She often wore the standard, shirtwaist house dress that was so ubiquitous in the 50's and 60's. They looked practical, somewhat dowdy but ladylike even then. They shared her regular closet with the gabardine suits she wore to work. But she had a closet in her extra bedroom-sewing room that was devoted to her "formals", and it was fairy-land for a little girl. I never touched them, never played dress-up in them. They were way too precious for that. I only looked.
This is not my grandmother.  This is Mamie Eisenhower.  But 
same period and in a dress, bag and gloves a little less grand than
my grandmother's formals ...

She was an officer in the Eastern Star (a fraternal organization related to the Masons) and as such, she had occasion to dress in ways most of the women I knew never did. Her dresses were full length ball gowns, mostly in pastel colors, in amazing fabrics; satins, chiffons, netting, silks and brocades. She had a jewelry box full of elaborate costume jewels that went with each dress. She kept the empty bottle from Schiaparelli "Shocking" on her dresser ... but this special closet smelled of the lush-but-much-cheaper "Tabu" while her everyday clothes closet smelled more like mothballs and Tide. All this was so much at odds with her otherwise tailored and severe personality. I can't prove but can imagine that she participated in Eastern Star primarily because it was the one place a woman in her position could ever hope to wear such dresses.

I've often thought of her precious closet, and more often still as I grow older. That she had the mad skills that allowed her to dress way beyond what she could afford to buy ready- made is a constant lesson to me. I don't pretend that I make any of my own clothes, but I learned a lot about how to make things happen by sharpening and then using the talents I have. And I learned how clothing often defines social ritual and occasion, and can elevate events beyond their intrinsic meaning. And that it's way more than permissible to spend time, effort and whatever treasure you can muster to dress yourself for the holidays or special occasions (or any occasion, really.)

But the most important thing I learned from her is this: one doesn't have to be pretty, or fashionably shaped, or rich or young to be and feel beautiful in her clothes. Every woman should know this feeling deep in her bones at least a few times in her life. And in this case, more is really better.


I was completely blown away to find that her shop, Kay's Alterations is still there, in one of what I understand is one of several incarnations since the late 1960's when she retired. I'm told by the very nice woman who owns it now that all the previous owners kept the original name because it has always meant high quality to the community.

Her old shop, as it is as of January, 2012

Wow. I bet she'd be happy to know that. Maybe she does.

Even though I'm not quite ready for prime time this week, I'm linking up with Patti's Visible Monday  anyway!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Trends and Me, Part Three ( Yes, Yes ... YES !)

Quoting Yoda ( as one does ... ) "Do or do not, there is no try." If I were a Fashion-Jedi, that might be practical advice, but I'm not. The last two posts reflect how much trying I do in my process of weeding through trends. As do all of us who pay attention to them, in an effort to look like we're paying attention to the larger world around us. Mad trend-chasing is not the point of trend awareness. I want to know what's going on so when I shop, I can do it knowledgeably. And more effectively.  All while trying to do it without looking like I tried very much at all.

Now that I've shared with you all the flimsy rationalizations that I use to excuse my fall obsession with wardrobe, here are some of the trends I'll take seriously this year.

Minimalist Black
One of the nice things about being a very mature stylista is that you get a useful epiphany once in a while. (And the embarrassing thing about proclaiming personal epiphanies in public is the chorus of "duhhhhh" that you hear from all the women who got this a long time ago. I can hear it now ...) Head to toe black is easier and more interesting than ever with mixed textures (lace and wool, leather and chiffon) or black with formerly taboo colors like navy, cobalt and brown. I'm finding new ways to put together old items from items I already own, and that makes being financially challenged this fall feel a lot less pitiful.

Do I have to do the hair, or can I just do the dress, boots and jacket?

Leather and Leather Accents
While I will buy leather-look items more often than real leather in trendy-as-opposed-to-classic items, even this looks fresh and very cool this year. I particularly like leather trimmed, floaty blouses.

A recent purchase.  Bisou-Bisou at JCP.

... the back.  I love wearing this blouse.

And while we're at it, oxblood leather. Or oxblood anything. I'm so happy that these deep, warm reds and shades of burgundy are back. Here, again, are shopping-my-closet opportunities.

Another recent purchase.  Outrageous value from dressbarn.

More back closet shopping. I retrieved a classic gray-blue velvet blazer that I had put away because I was having trouble putting it together with anything. This is the year for this little blazer! It will go with ... almost everything! Went a little farther back into the archives and found a little OXBLOOD velvet shirt-jacket that I've had for a few years and had forgotten. Looks like this year's buy. I should go down the rabbit hole more often it seems.

High-Low Sweaters
With leather-like leggings, coated jeans, metallic jeans, any straight leg or skinny jeans at all. Short sweaters to layer or longer ones. I've never gotten so much use out of my collections of camisoles. I love, love, love this very modern-feeling cut.

Oversize ...

... tissue light layers.  Love this.

Pointy-toe Pumps
These never really went away. Nothing dresses up an outfit faster than these, and while I love me some platforms, I never feel more womanly than in this classic shoe.

Having a Carrie Bradshaw moment here .... 'scuse me.

I hope you got just a little sartorial camaraderie from this little three-parter. 

What are your current must-haves for this fall and winter?

Speaking of sartorial camaraderie, I'm joining Patti at Visible Monday !  

Hard to see here, but the back has a lovely chiffon panel in back.

Have a great week, and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trends and Me, Part Two ... "Wear Me Maybe"

After sorting through and deciding which trends are definitely not for me, I'm looking at trends that might be workable. Maybe. These are some of the most tempting of the season's fashion ideas, but they are also the ones that come with warning stickers all over them.

Asian Inspiration
This trend has the potential to be one of the most beautiful of the year, but the danger is that it can become too literal and costumey very quickly. And inexpensive versions of the concept can look very cheap. Personally, this kind of exotic could look a little strange on this round little redhead if not handled with care.

Black and White Graphic Prints
No other look of the season is so clean and modern to my eye, even thought black and white combos have been around for at least a couple of seasons. But the big personal warning sticker on this one is about scale. Too small a print or graphic in scale can look prissy and too large a print could overwhelm instantly.

Yes. Be still, my heart. But a moment's overconfidence on my part could result in the tricky job of avoiding the appearance of an odd looking little ersatz matador. Boy, is this a referential style. It might also could look cheap if it fell within my budget, so this may be a trend where I can look but not touch. Unless, of course, I can find a clutch or shoes for just a touch of Baroque opulence.

Evening Goth
So tempting, but so dangerous. It's hard to wear head to toe black without looking too severe, particularly with lots of leather. And speaking of referential, this style refers to some tough and edgy ideas. Lux fabrics can soften, but it's still a risky look if the approach is too literal. My guess is that gentle makeup and hair would make a big difference.

Cropped or Flared Pants
I tried the cropped pant this summer against Tim Gunn's best advice for petite people. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. A very good fit on a cigarette-slim pant with same slimming dark color bootie and hosiery, with attention to a balanced top might work. That's a lot to ask from my wardrobe and my own styling skills. 

The little bit of bare skin at the ankle looks drafty-shivery to me!

I have a pair of lined chiffon flares for evening in black that I did not wear last year. At our restaurant, these can sometimes be work clothes, so I may be able to use these with a modern jacket. But for causal wear, I think I'll skip flares in fabric with no drape.

Thanks for listening while I think out loud. Stay tuned for the last installation, Part 3 ... trends I really want to try.

Do you have "maybe-trends" that tempt, haunt or intrigue you? Do tell !

Late, but present! I'm going to join Patti and all the very fancy ladies at Visible Monday  , and declare my current weakness for pink gold rings and watches. Yes, the ring is just vermeil, and the watch is only pink gold-toned, but if you don't tell, I won't.

(Photo editing inspired by Bella Q at her wonderful The Citizen Rosebud blog. Thanks, Bella, you for pointing us all to Pic Monkey ... very satisfying toy. Free makes it even better!)

Hang in there, East Coast ... after Sandy

We are thinking about you all, and sending our best wishes for a quick return to normal.  It was good to hear from some favorite East Coast bloggers this morning, and from areas further to the west that were affected.
Special wishes to Ari Seth Cohen and all the amazing ladies at Advanced Style. Hope you are all safe on this morning after.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Trends and Me, Part One ... Trends I'm Probably NOT going to try

Please note the quote that I keep at the bottom of my homepage. So you don't have to scroll down, here it is:

"Women always try to tame themselves as they get older, but the ones who look best are often a bit wilder. Thinking abut age all the time is the biggest prison women can make for themselves."
Miuccia Prada

It is this second half of the quote that I have kept and vowed to read, repeat, then read and repeat until internalized. That has inspired a decision to ignore age appropriateness (or at least not make it my first concern) when considering a trend. I've decided to use my own best taste (there's a concept heavily laced with landmines!) and whether I am intrigued, tickled, or completely seduced by the trend in consideration.

And since I'm bucking the force of my own habits, I'm going to start with trends I am pretty much rejecting out of hand.

Flat boots
(This applies to just about all forms of footwear except athletic and bunny-slippers)
Besides gender, this is about the only thing I have in common with Victoria Beckham, who said, "I can't concentrate in flats." I include "smoking sippers." They belong with silky pajamas, which I also will probably not opt for public wear.

Moto boots
Besides the fact that they're usually flat, this is a trend that I'm better off without. Some of you gamines out there wear them well. This look just doesn't say anything about me that I want repeated.

Cloaks, certain ponchos and capes, yes. But despite my vow not to consider age too heavily, this wrap-around-the-shoulders just screams elderly to me. Even on the 13-year-olds in the fashion mags.

(This illustrates another trend I'm avoiding ... Big Floppy Hats.)

Big Square Boxy Coats
Ew. No. Not on me, anyway. Even on tall women, these transform the wearer into a walking cereal box.

Print Pantsuits
A similar objection my rejection of the boxy coats. Perhaps not all suits with a print, but the ones like these. (This is, in part, a memory of a nightmarish, black and white plaid pantsuits that I was given in 1967. PTFashionSD flashbacks.)

Floppy Bow Blouses
Just as dowdy as ever. Never flattering on me, particularly with my very short neck and ample bust. This applies to turtlenecks, although I envy women who can look cool in them.


Thank you, Negative Jan, for your guest post. Watch this space for Part 2, Trends and Me, Wear Me Maybe ....

Have a great week.  Drop a line, if so moved!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Considered or Contrived?

Patti, the author of the "Not Dead Yet Style" blog, has a genius for bringing up subjects that we're all thinking about right this minute. She's posted some astute, on-the-fly notes about achieving effortless style. Click here to see her encouraging thoughts.

I've been thinking about that too, as have lots of the women who made comments on Patti's post. There's a little article in the October issue of "Lucky" magazine featuring real women (admittedly, real pretty young women.) One of them, Simona Ternblom  (creative director at Createthe Group digital agency) made an insightful comment that resonates with me.

She said, " I like my outfits to look considered but never contrived." 

That's what I want.

I think.

You'll find magazine advice everywhere on how to achieve effortless chic. You'd think that the easiest way to achieve effortlessness would be to not put any effort into it. 
So wrong! The next time you see one of the how-to articles, please note how many steps it takes to get to effortless. Scads of photos of willowy young things, running through the city with glowing skin and precisely curved strands of hair show us how perfect one can look in boyfriend jeans, a blazer, tissue-tee and moto-booties. I've tried my own version of this look, and on my short, sexagenarian (only means age 60-69, nothing to do with sexy) body and face it doesn't work the same way at all. I can still stride down the street with the best of them, but I look more like I'm heading off to pick through the landfill than heading to a romantic, urban assignation.

So, I've come to the understanding that the desired effortless effect must sometimes be achieved by at least some consideration. I'm only just figuring out how to make this concept work for me. Here are some style elements that I'm trying to take from contrived to merely considered.

Right now, I'm tired of my string-straight hair, which only needs a smoothing to look finished. So ... for the sake of looking effortless, I'm spending more time forcing it into loose waves. Hmmmm.

I cannot wear red lipstick. I've tried for years to no avail, and to those of you who wear it easily, I blow an affectionate but envious raspberry. So, low effort consideration for me results in what I know works most often: a warm or cool not-quite-nude lipstick. And generally less foundation and eye. However, too much effortlessness here makes me look like I don't give a flip what I look like. 

Clothing and Silhouettes
Fewer elements. I'm trying to stay with the most minimal versions of my go-to outfits, but my taste runs toward the polished. (Or what I think of as polished ... is that the same as considered? Is polished always trying too hard? I'm not sure ... I have to consider that. ) And while I am sometimes tempted to just throw together an outfit of mixed prints, I know darned well it takes some effort to do that well.

My considering here consists of being more vigilant in avoiding what I think of as one of my generational vices. If I don't watch myself, I'll match my shoes and handbag. It takes more effort for me to successfully pair non-matching items, all for the sake of
artlessness.  I'm not saying it isn't a good idea, only that it takes some effort to grow past an old habit.

The upshot of the above and the whole truth is this; I give up trying to look like I put no effort into my turnout. This fall, I am doing a lot of considering, a lot more editing and more simplifying, and that means that truly effortless style will be beyond me.

Whether I'll look like I tried too hard to appear considered will have to be up to the beholder.

On another subject entirely: Hanging on just a little longer ....

There are a few things from my summer wardrobe that I just don't want to stop wearing yet. I'm glad to see there's a trend toward taking summer sheers into fall with layers. The little high-low, sleeveless dress below is a particular favorite of mine, and I'm trying it with boots, tights and a little jacket. I'm showing it to you so I can come out and play with everyone on Visible Monday at Patti's !

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Aging or ... Arrival!

Today, this post is brought to you because of inspiration provided by:
Chicatanyage and her post "Coming of Age"
Une Femme and her post "Who Do You Think You Are?"   
and Michellebeth and her post "Women We Love: Christine Lagarde"

If you have not yet, please pop over to their sites and read their posts. And don't miss the comments, especially those for "Who Do You Think You Are?" Seems lots of us are thinking about these very subjects. That makes sense as we move into this most introspective time of the year.

And I'm happy to report that I've found that, after all these years, I'm wrong about one of my most cherished misconceptions about aging.

I always thought, when I reached the age I am now, I would look a little like Helen Hayes.

If I was lucky. There weren't that many role models for our most mature years around in those days. My maternal grandmother had that soft look. She wore purple, real pearls, and kept her gray hair a very pale blue-gray or light purple, depending on how carried away she got with her "brightener". She wouldn't have completely colored her hair for fear of looking cheap or too "tough," like this scary version of the often beautiful Joan Crawford.

I was always short and round in face and figure. For a very little while, I thought I might have a chance to grow into the same phenotype as the tall, willowy girls in "Sixteen" magazine. I was soon disabused of that notion, when I learned a little more about biology and all matters genetic. But hope doesn't always die easily. Even after accepting that I'd always be short, I never gave up hope that someday I'd get it right somehow before I got too old. Before I had to start dressing like an old lady, quit wearing makeup and start wearing nothing but sensible shoes, long sleeves, even longer hems and high collars.

But to my gradual and happy surprise, old age hasn't been nearly as unkind to me as I thought it would. My cheekbones have emerged a little from the old chubby-cheeks. The slight shrinking of my jaw bones (ew!) have given me a face more oval than round. Miraculously, the same bone shrinkage has made the unattractive, slightly hawk-like curve of my nose less prominent. My general avoidance of outdoor activities that involved getting sweaty in the hot sun was once a social drawback. But a lot of those sunbathing beauties that I so envied in my youth now have a lot more wrinkles than I do. Ha! I've finally learned how to keep my weight where I want it (quick ... find some wood and knock on it!) And Sara Blakely came along and invented comfortable Spanx just in time to deal with those figure problems that weight loss won't cure. I'm not the least bit uncomfortable in admitting that I color my hair. While I will support my sisters-in-age to the bitter end defending their right to go gray beautifully, I still think it makes a woman look older.

But that's the great thing. I don't mind looking older nearly as much as I though I would, and there is no particular way I have to look. I don't suddenly have to put away all thoughts of style and act my age. And those women who don't color don't have to either.

That's not just my own positive self-talk.  The articles that I cite at the beginning of this one are just a few among many on this topic that we are beginning to see everywhere. We have generations of women behind us to thank for this current confidence, and sheer numbers of Boomer women who are no longer willing to be relegated to the cultural ice-flows that remove the elderly from sight or influence. Every day, there are more women who are speaking out and acting out in all fields of endeavor. Many of us are doing it via our own blogs, making our own contributions by creating community, showing out and showing off.

So, I admit I was wrong. I never thought I'd finally like the way I look now, in my 60s, even though I don't look young. For me, maturity has taken on the feel of an arrival. In this, I feel like I've come into my own at last.

Here's to being wrong and happily surprised.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ta-daaaaa! New boots, a Caveat and Fashion-Lag Alert!

Here's Yours Truly in the new boots. I'm even more pleased with them since they are completely comfortable. So, that's a Fall Fantasy I can check off my list.

A couple of additional notes on the last step; first, Resolene Leather Finish. Do not skip this part of the process! After drying them overnight, I gave them a good soft-rag buffing. They still stained the cloth and my fingers just a little, so it was time to apply the sealer. Resolene is a clear, acrylic lacquer that lends a professional looking shine to projects like this. Most importantly, it also seals the dye so it won't stain clothing or be damaged by the elements. I was concerned that it would be too glossy, but the result was a soft shine. I just used a very soft, 1/2" flat brush to paint the boots lightly with the finish, and it was a very easy process and easy clean-up. My boots are sealed and the color is no longer rubbing off.

Heck, I may do this again sometime! I'm thinking navy blue pumps ...

A second and local issue attendant to this process; I've been looking high and low here for Kiwi Oxblood Boot Polish. Several boot and specialty shoe places told me that they did not have Oxblood, but they had Cordovan and that would work just fine.
DON'T you believe it! Cordovan is a deep purple-brown and not even close. So, in an effort to get right to the source, I called the manufacturer. They told me that Oxblood is made only once in a while ( for them, a "specialty color,") and while they still manufacture it, it is of limited availability. That translates to "never" around here. ( Or in two years when nobody wants it anymore, there will be tons of it. On sale.) This is what I think of as Fashion-Lag, and seems to happen more in rural areas.

And since every fall fashion issue and her sister has been heavily touting Oxblood leather goods, that doesn't bode well for the ease of upkeep of these often-expensive items. I'll keep looking online, but am considering the much more common color, Tan (which should just warm up the red a bit) or plain old Neutral.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Oxblood Boots ( ... Without Harming a Single Ox ...)

In a previous post I wrote that my Fall Fashion Dreaming included fantasies of a pair of oxblood knee-high boots. Every magazine is touting the color as The color of the season (or at least One of The dominant colors of the season.) That isn't as important to me as, for the last few years, I've really missed the deep reds for my wardrobe; burgundy, wine, and oxblood. However, and as of this writing, the color in a boot or shoe is scarce online and non-existent in stores. Particularly in remote areas like ours.

So, rather than obsess over something that I can't find (although I'll probably be able to find it everywhere NEXT year ... does that happen to you?) I decided to dye a pair to suit myself. How hard could it be?

I found an inexpensive pair of leather boots, the right size and shape at JC Penny, or JCP as they seem to like to be called these days.

Then I ordered dye products from good old Amazon. I chose Fiebing's Leather Dye. The good folks in Fiebing's customer support department recommended that I first remove the factory finish from the leather with their Deglazer. I took their advice, and it didn't take long to prepare the boots to take the dye. (Deglazer requires a very well ventilated place, and I wore a mask as well ... smelly stuff.) The company also recommended 2 bottles of dye (more about that later) and a small bottle of their Resolene finish. The dyeing process itself didn't take long and it was easy to do. I haven't put the final finish on them, but here they are! I am very pleased with the way they turned out. Just what I wanted.

My big caveat about this process is that it is very, very messy. I was so glad that I ordered two bottles of the dye, not so much as they were both needed to cover the boots, but that just after I began the process I knocked one of them clean off the table and on to my concrete porch. My porch now looks like I've adopted hog butchering as a hobby. It will look that way for the foreseeable future, but I'm just grateful and amazed that I had the sense not to do the project in my living room. The good news is that one bottle easily sufficed for the two coats of dye that I wanted.

I'm very happy with my new boots, and I recommend the process if you ever wish to try it.
But take their advice and order that second bottle of dye ... just in case.

And ... Visible Monday!

I've joined the brave glamourati over at Patti's "Not Dead Yet Style." Come see how other people put it together!