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!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Lady-Like Romantics ... Age Appropriate or Just Dowdy on Us?

The photos above come from the always fun and instructive site "Who What Wear" and the trend report "The New Romantics".

See it here:

My first thought; "Ah! A trend that we can easily fit our aging persons easily into." But the more I look at them, I'm wondering if there is a tipping point where this version of lady-like becomes matronly on women of a certain age.

Try this ... mentally replace the face of the model actually wearing the clothes with the face of Helen Mirren, Angelica Huston, Susan Sarandon or Meryl Streep. Then, if you are small and/or not reed-slim, try on the face of Kathy Bates ... or pick your own role-model from your age group.  For best effect, try using your own face and figure.

What I see is that most of these looks seem fresher and much more modern on younger faces. As older women, we are expected always to cover up and adopt lady-like behaviors and styles. The expected and predictable can look dated. And in most of these examples, a little dowdy if you dress some of the above great dames in this mode.

(Exception: I can absolutely see Ms. Mirren and Ms. Huston in the black Gucci dress the sort of stunned looking model is wearing.  I can't, however see anyone looking good in dress number 3.)

Just musing here and, of course, I hate to see anyone overexposed and trending too young. But "romantic" is absolutely appropriate for the grown woman, and I'm sure there are ways to keep it looking fresh and modern rather than predictable.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Why It Matters What You Wear (...with no pictures today lest I offend...)

A woman with whom I used to be close friends once told me in a rather nasty tone that she despised "people who just want to be seen." She was waiting for me to finish dressing and putting on my make-up so we could attend an event together, so I get it that she might have been annoyed that I was being slower than she wished in my despicable process. We're still friends (sort of ) so she shall remain nameless here. Not that I need to worry about her seeing this ... she would never be caught dead reading a style blog. She is one of those really, truly admirable folks who spend the majority of their time striving for a better world, and I love her for that. But frankly, she'd be more successful in her efforts if she stepped up her own personal presentation a notch or ten. She spends a substantial amount of Facebook time complaining that she is under-employed in spite of her fabulous talents. She can also afford to step it up a bit. Just saying.

We are both from old-school feminist roots, but one of the strongest feminist platform planks has always been in support of the freedom of all women to choose ... not just in reproductive issues ... but in how they choose to dress to face the world each day. How they choose to be seen in response to that freedom. If you don't think that matters, then imagine for a moment that you could not wear pants in public or were forbidden to leave your house without covering your head for modesty.

And all this is important because if you step out into the world at all, you will be seen. So, in a long overdue response to her comment, I contend that, since it is inevitable that you will be seen, it is basic civility and a sign of respect for those who will see you to give them at least something interesting to look at.

What you wear makes a difference. Some days, it's only a minuscule difference; putting on a cute cardigan on a day at home alone will keep you warm and cheer you up if it's a cardigan that you really like. But your appearance can also inspire others if your confident (or elegant, or minimal, or edgy, or charming) turnout matches your competence in professional and personal activities. You can support and flatter a friend if you show up at her social event looking like you give a flip about her success as a hostess. She didn't put all that effort into putting together a nice time for friends for you to arrive looking like you just finished cleaning your bathroom and decided to honor her with your ultra casual presence. She should love you any way you look, right? Sort of. How you dress or don't dress says something about your respect for her.

We all have those buds who are so invested in being the one who is so busy with grave and thoughty matters that, year after year, they show up in mom-jeans, running shoes and tee shirts with pictures of precious pets or socially relevant (but invariably trite) slogans on them. The message is that we must never, ever think that they waste time on anything so trivial as dressing up. The other message that they put out is, whether they know it or not, that they are not fully present in the world we all live in together. And that they are just not bothering to pay attention to the people and events that are shaping the era we live in right now. Whether they know it or not, they have made a style choice, and reflectively, a deeper life choice. Yikes.