Sunday, April 6, 2014

Announcing the Minimalist Wardrobe Resources Page

i made a slouchy, stripey tee

Hello Dear Readers!  I've been thinking about adding a new feature to my blog the last few months, and finally decided to take the leap today. As you have no doubt observed, my wardrobe has been consolidating and getting tinier, with more repeats of items and looks, so that OOTD posts can get a bit repetitive. At the same time, i've become more interested in clothing minimalism and capsule wardrobes - in style, in aesthetic, in exact number and type of items in the closet. I find the idea and reality of an aesthetically cohesive, well thought out practically, and beautifully curated wardrobe simply captivating. Over the last couple of years, i've been wearing more and more outfits whose look i love, pieces which fit and flatter and don't itch or bind or ride up in drool worthy colors and luxurious fibers and it is just as wonderful as it sounds. More, please!

It's a bit concerning to realize the amount of time i've spent searching for information on this topic. But it's because there's not a lot out there! Fortunately that is changing, especially in the last six months, but it occurred to me that if finding all this information is hard for me it could be hard for other people to find as well.

So i've added a new page to my blog, the Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe Resources Page. (The title certainly clunks along the esophagus, but i wanted people to be able to find it easily with search engines. Prepare yourself for an infelicitous insertion of the word "French" in future.) Just click on the title up there at the top of the blog to go to the new page. I'm starting off with some example minimalist wardrobes. For me it's so much easier to envision something with examples! And they can be hard to find through internet searches, especially if it's a one-off type of post in a blog or website not typically concerned with style or wardrobe planning.

Edited to add:  Pam from over50feeling40 left a comment which has led me to realize i've not been clear - the resources page is live, just click on the title "Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe Resources" at the top of the page, right under 'not all who wander are lost', to view the page at any time. So far i have six authors/blogs profiled, with nine+ example minimal wardrobes. Thank you Pam!

I also wanted to include notes on all these links so it's easier for people to hone in on what resonates with them and skip the (to them) chaff. These wardrobes vary considerably in size, budget, practical considerations, and aesthetic viewpoints. The Minimalist Mom gets down to basics with 14 jeans + tee + cardi pieces in dark blue, black and grey in order to get dressing accomplished with the least amount of fuss, and on to life. Dawn Michelle scours the thrift and consignment shops, brick and mortar and online, to find the perfect pieces for her artistic life in sunny California. Dawn does not balk at spending as much time and thought as she requires in order to craft a collections which is exquisitely 'her'.

In future i plan to include more resources on planning and theory as well as example wardrobes, and of course anything else which doesn't fit into a particular category but seems helpful. I hope you find this helpful as well, and please do not hesitate to contact me with any links you'd like to see included at pygmyowl (at) sbcglobal (dot) net or to leave a note in the comments.

I'm excited to have started this project! I truly hope it will be a help to other minimalist closet afficionados out there to have many disparate resources in one place. I'm linking up with Patti's Visible Monday, of course starting an idea makes a gal feel visible but also i want to get the word out if other people are interested in this topic. Go visit Patti's Not Dead Yet Style blog and check out the other bloggers. Then, come back here and let me know what you think of my new page!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ultra Violet Made Visible

I've always loved this shade of violet - not too cool, a slight undertone of ultra-violet, not super concentrated but neither washed out at all. It tastes delicious (i'm a synaesthete***) and flatters my coloring and eyeballs. Yet i struggle so to wear it happily! Even with this turgid history, when i saw this beautiful linen on sale at Stone Mountain and Daughters i decided to chance it. I made it up into Marcy Tilton's 'Vintage French Housedress' pattern (Vogue 8813) last summer.

Since then i've worn it fairly often. It's very comfy, especially in the heat, and i do love the color. The neckline (which i didn't take a picture of) is very flattering and i think i've come up with a way to modify the top half of this dress in a kind of slouchy tee/top. But the color still felt a bit flat to me when the dress was worn more or less on it's own.

The other day i paired this dress with my digital print leggings and a jean jacket. I can't believe how much more i love the color worn this way! The clear denim blue and the greyed peach tones in the leggings just set this off perfectly, in my view. This success has given me a couple of ideas about how to style this dress in the hotter months with an aim to achieving a similar effect. I'm on the lookout for some brass snaps to replace the silver ones on the pockets, and i may restitch the pocket edges with a merlot color instead of the current navy so that i bring these salubrious tones into the dress itself.

I also have a small silk square scarf with lots of apricot and coral tones which i'm thinking of tying to my purse or in my hair to spark the violet a bit.

While i can't say that this individual dress came out exactly the way i'd like for a piece in my ideal wardrobe, i'm very glad i made it. I've learned how to wear a color i really like, i've discovered and grown to love a new, very flattering and practical neckline, and i'm on the trail of a wardrobe workhorse hot weather top. I also now have enough confidence in this pattern to keep an eye out for a ultra-drapey matte black knit so i can make it into an LBD with the coolest hemline in town.

In the meantime, i wear it and it makes me happy!
*** i wanted to link to the wikipedia entry on synaesthesia just in case some readers weren't familiar with the term. Upon reading the entry i discovered there's a term for my dominant form:
"Auditory-tactile: A type of synesthesia in which certain sounds can induce sensations in parts of the body. Auditory-tactile synesthesia may originate from birth or be acquired sometime in life. It is one of the rarest forms of synesthesia."

Friday, March 28, 2014

Another Signature Look Variation

A signature look for when i feel like wearing pants. Pretty much just switch out the skirt for a pair of pants and leave off the hat - easy enough to remember.

No one has commented on it, even my mother, but a couple of months ago i cut my hair short again. I'd become absolutely frustrated with it about nine months ago and had just been letting it grow. I'd been trying bangs, which were okay but required too much maintenance for me to commit to them.

Defining my signature look formula has been so helpful in answering vexing style questions. For example, as soon as i consciously 'got' my signature look, the hair question popped into clear focus.  Two aspects of my signature look bear on the hair issue: 1) my look is very practical/utilitarian and has a rugged, 'ready for anything' vibe 2) a hat (structure and focus on my head/face) is a core item in this look. Combined with my previous identification of Amelia Earhardt as a style icon, my choice became ridiculously obvious.

I understand people who feel that this type of style and closet analysis is boring, too prescriptive and restrictive. But, if you have issues or trouble with certain areas of dressing or developing your style, taking the time and focus to work through these exercises can really be worth it. Once you develop a vision which is true to you and which fits your lifestyle, you can confidently pass on all the thousands of items of clothing, shoes, accessories, etc. which don't fit into your particular structure. These statements and structures make it possible for you to laser in on what will excite and work for you, without distractions and second guesses.

This silk blouse came to me by a bit of kismet. Nordstrom opened a Rack near our house a few months ago, which has me pretty stoked. Unfortunately, given how much free time we spend together, Mr. E had been there once and was not impressed. I've been pestering him to stop on by but he was dead set agin' it. Well, following my endo/colonosco/combo-py we went out for dinner and afterwards i asked to stop by the nordies' Rack. Taking pity on my evil experience, Mr. E agreed.

Of course once he spent some serious time at the Rack my spouse found a very nice coat. And i found a tantalizing flock of  Equipment silk blouses at 60% off. I've been on the yen for these blouses for two or three years now. I'd fantasized about the standard double flapped pockets in a lipsticky coral. Which was exactly what they had in stock! This heavier silk crepe is just divine on the skin, i'm almost impatient for it to get threadbare so i can justify wearing it to sleep in. I'm not a fan of many colors, but i simply lurve me some coral.

Nailing down a signature look has also made my closet population strategies and priorities very clear. My third layers play a defining role, so focusing my sewing energies on these pieces is the smart move at this time. And i feel more sensible about buying things like slouchy tees or little camis when i find ones i like. My outfits usually focus more on the third piece and accessories, with many tees, tops, skirts and pants playing a supporting role. I also sew fairly slowly, i always have more projects in mind than i can complete, so having a clear method for prioritizing calms the scattered feeling.

That's it from here. I've been pretty diligent about taking OOTD pictures and finding them helpful, looking at what i'm wearing through this new lens of the signature look. I'm also getting to a point where my day to day looks maintain a level of consistency which has always been a major goal of mine, though more of a dream than a reality until recently.

How important is style consistency to you? I know many fashion and style bloggers tend towards more of a concern with getting in a rut, and the internet medium rewards the new, so i'm curious about your thoughts on this. Paradoxically, one of my main motivations in starting and keeping up with this blog is for me to obtain that consistency, which gives me hope that more of you may be out there. Let us know in the comments!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Are Subtle Variations Satisfying to You?

Hi everybody! I thought i'd show you some looks i wore over the course of two or three days (it wasn't a week, honest!). I really like the basic formula of skirt/blouse/structured jacket, even more these particular pieces. The warmth in the washed-out khakis really pops the denim blue, everything's comfy and eminently practical for my life.

So i get to play with accessories, wearing different pieces and the same pieces different ways to create little varieties. I'm continually fiddling with what i wear, buttoning and unbuttoning, switching up scarves and so on. I'm actually very sensitive to subtle changes and differences - to me, that skirt is actually a COLOR, not a neutral; so this amount of variety and difference feels just right to me. I get to maintain a very cohesive style identity (one of my highest priorities) whilst still feeling my look is fresh.

This whole question of what is enough, how much variety do you enjoy and what type seems to be a major stumbling block in many style plans. My only advice is to simply pay attention as you experiment, keeping these issues in mind and making some kind of notes on how you feel as you try different scenarios. 

I don't see this idea addressed in much depth these days on the style blogosphere, though those 30 for 30 challenges were hot a couple of years ago. That idea was to choose 30 pieces, wear only them for 30 days and to create a new look every day. This is awesome for exercising your remixin' chops, but here i'm thinking about how to structure your wardrobe in a way that gives you pleasure and satisfaction, that gives you enough without overwhelming.In other words, a more personal and long term strategy and/or structure.

 I'm thinking it would be fantastically helpful (to folks like myself who need things spelled out letter by letter, slowly....) to have a few examples of sample closets and how they play out in terms of a three month season. You could have the bare bones minimal, the 250 item maximal, and a couple of spots in between. But what a project!!! The logistics!  I'm really bad at keeping up with the blogosphere, so if anyone knows of any good resources along these lines please be kind and share in the comments :)

Now, a couple of follow ups to last post. helenko left some great ideas about mending and copying jeans you love in the comments section. Happily for me, i obtained a pair of sxy byfrnd jeans in a medium denim wash at over half off regular price and have been wearing them since. I'm keeping an eye out for a good deal on a light wash as well as a good ivory (hello summer!). I have nothing against sewing one's own jeans, i've done it myself, i just don't enjoy it and would rather sew other things - especially since i'm such a slow sempstress :) Thank you Helen!

And in defense of Dr. B's 'little skirt' comment. He only saw me wearing a hospital 'gown', not in the dress i'd worn to the ER, so he didn't have that context. And current fashion, especially among the young and especially around these parts, features a lot of lingerie-inspired elements.  A lot of people, even our age (which he was), think of a slip as being of beige or black nylon, not baby-blue silk.

And frankly he sounded so charmed he could have called it a little spacesuit and still put a smile on my face.  So, do any of you feel like you have a good handle on how much variety you really do well with, and how to reflect this in your wardrobe? I am all ears!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Truly Visible Monday

Well i just had to post this look on one of Patti's Visible Mondays. First, i wore it last Monday. Second, i wore it to the mall to get a jean jacket (previously scoped) and try on some jeans. And i got a lot of appreciative looks -

- but only from men. My feel is that it had to do with the outfit being so ladylike - dress, heels, hat. The mall is more for sexy-style ladies, not necessarily lady-style ladies, so my anomalous outfit attracted attention.

Well, it's a theory. I'm wearing an adorable Coldwater Creek silk dress, which is cut across above the bust with that little embroidered bow and has a couple of straps, over a vee neck tee. Doreen next door picked this dress for me from her thrift shop volunteering swag, it's a gem.  I've come to terms with princess seamed dresses and tops. My minimalist side always loves the idea of a straight cut crew neck tee or dress, but in real life it's just fussy and too bulky here and too tight there and my shoulders are straining against the sleeve caps and the crew neck is bothering my it looks a jumble, not the clean easy lines i want in my head.

But princess seams allow the fabric to skim over my particular bod, and vee necks break up my upper body and are more comfortable to boot. It's constantly a question of "how does this inspired idea manifest in my individual circumstances?" I try not to get stuck on the exact visual of any particular inspiration image, but i still get tripped up.

During my shopping trip, i tried on the Gap's Sexy Boyfriend jeans. (Lord, what a ridiculous name).  As soon as i spotted them, online somewhere i think, i realized they could be a great replacement for my Faconnables. They're real big old men jeans which also came thru my fairy godmother. I knew i'd keep them, if only for the juicy mango labels, yum! But i tried them on as a hoot, and now they're a workhorse.

Thus, i've been on the lookout for a replacement, and a possibly more refined look. I didn't have much hope, getting jeans that fit off the rack has been a major bane of my style existence. But i was at the mall anyways, and my Faconnables are really ripping through the knees, and the thighs are thinning badly too.

Be still my heart! Those sxy byfrnd jeans even look great under a dress!!! List price is $70, as nice as these fit and how much i love them i'd happily pay that amount.....

....unless of course by a little patience and research i can find them on significant discount. Keeping my fingers crossed, there's some likely looking markdowns online. That's all from here, have a great week!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Signs You May be Happy in Uniform: A Quiz Eccentrique

Reader Vildy left another of her thought-provoking comments on my last post: "I remember when you had been making a point of never wearing the same exact outfit twice - so this has been a real reversal for you."  It's true, starting around age 16 or 17 i developed the habit of not repeating. Not entirely sure why (ha! of course i probably have some detailed explanation elsewhere on the blog, just can't recall at the moment), but maybe something to do with nerves over my small, neutral based closet getting too boring.  In any event, i have been exploring the idea of repeats the last year or so, mostly because i have certain looks that i enjoy exponentially more than others. Ergo, why not wear the most bestest ones the most or all the time.

new denim jacket from American Eagle - in other words, the mall

But getting to the quiz portion of the post. While i've developed a habit of a 'no repeats' approach to dressing, in all honesty it's wildly at variance with the rest of my life. Here's the quiz:

Do you eat the same breakfast every day, down to brand and specific type of apple, for years on end?

Do you take walks along the same route to the extent you've walked certain routes over one thousand times, still enjoying it immensely?

Do you consistently order the same items at restaurants, to the point where family and friends literally create scenes as they are so bored with you? (hmmm, pry doesn't help that it still takes me ages to decide on what to order.....)

Do you still check in with your favorite online forum daily even though the administrator deleted your account (at your own request) over five years ago? (Hi RigInters - lunarose here :)

Do you still have potted plants from twenty five years ago, in their original pots?

Are your favorite shoes over two (four, five, twelve.....) years old?

Do you consistently drive the exact same route to errands, work, standing appointments, etc.?

Do friends, family, roommates complain about the one CD you listen to over and over and over and's not like you're trying to be irritating, but seriously what is better than Pirate's Choice?

Would you send your DH off to work with the same exact lunch, every work day, for fourteen months in a row - not out of some passive aggressive torture scenario, but because hey why mess with perfection?

No scoring system here. I'll leave the reader to draw her own conclusions.

In other news, I was rocking my signature look last Tuesday, at John Muir ER. I've not felt well since a respiratory bug around Christmas, and started feeling really bad the end of January. Mostly evil fatigue (drag out of bed at 7:30am, crawl back in at 9am) but some chest/arm pain made me suspect a recurrence of clot and pulmonary embolism....angel ma drove me out to the ER, turns out i'm 'profoundly anemic' (feh, i'd prefer shallow in this instance). Cause of the anemia is still undiagnosed, so test-o-rama in my future. In the meantime, iron pills provide significant relief .

Doc "B" also admired my new Johnny F's - Adriane Lois. Incredibly sturdy and comfy walking shoes.

I've written about my next point before, and here it comes again. It's times like this when all the wardrobe planning, style identifying, challenges, checklists, shopping trips, sewing and etc. becomes so worth it.  I really hate feeling uncomfortable in my clothes (physically as well as aesthetically). While i truly appreciate medical technology and deeply admire so many medical people i've been fortunate enough to work with over the years, I also hate with a passion having to interact with the medical industry. Simply because of all the painful experiences i've had over the decades.

I suspect for many of you, otherwise why would you be reading here, it's the same. Clothes make a difference for you. And during a really nasty, stressful situation it's a true comfort and touchstone to be clothed how you like, looking true to yourself.  This concept ended up being illustrated in a uniquely wacky way during my time in the ER. I had a great, professional, thorough, communicative Doctor "B" assigned to me. After a couple of hours in the ER, he popped in the (thankfully private) room and piped up, "I'd like to do a rectal exam!" "aaiieeeeee!" 

So we got it sorted, i turned on my side and he set to exposing the area of interest. I don't like my legwear sticking to my skirts, so i make and wear half slips - generally of silk crepe de chine with 2" wide lace trim and a small elastic in a casing at the waist. The one i wore last Tuesday was powder blue with royal blue lace trim. I'd stripped down to the waist, donned the gown, but still wore my leggings, socks, shoes, and half slip. I hear the Doc say, "hmm, this is interesting....." then, in a truly delighted tone of voice, "Oh! A little skirt!" I explained it was a slip, and before i knew it the exam had come to an end.

the little skirt

The Doc's remark stuck with me, as it's the kind of thing that's extremely difficult to say in those circumstances without sounding condescending or pervy. But he managed it, with an ease that conveyed he appreciated seeing something fun and individual about me as a person. During a situation where one participant pretty much wants to pretend it's not happening, it's risky to emphasize that you're actually two real live people involved in this (well, ma was there too, so - but i think she was pretending to look at her crossword puzzle).  At the same time, if you can pull it off or if it just happens spontaneously as a result of how you view the people in your care, it's an enormous relief. I'm a person, and the people who're helping me with this crappy situation think i'm a person too. yay!

I apologize if that's waaaaaay TMI. However, this blog resides in a corner of the fashion web where people harbor much interest in the philosophy, sociology, theory and such of clothing and i feel this little anecdote fits right in. Let me know what you think, and feel free to contribute more questions and your answers to our "Uniforms - Right for You?" quiz!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hard Core: Taking Stock

signature look

Hi all! I've not been blogging, but have been faithfully plugging away at some serious wardrobe evaluation, taking stock and planning. For those newer readers, let me present a brief recap of my style journey in this blog. I realized in about 2009 that my childhood dream of having 'the perfect wardrobe' was not that far out of reach, given my circumstances. I began this blog as a tool to use in working towards that goal. The first year or two largely focused on finding out very specifically what shapes, materials, colors and style signifiers i loved enough to commit to and how this would work given my lifestyle and climate.  I also explored different ways of populating my wardrobe niches, and realized that i wanted to have a big focus on sewing while also cultivating some shopping resources for pieces i don't want to sew (shoes, lingerie, layering tees and tanks, coats, accessories).

I've always preferred a smaller, more edited wardrobe. Yet i also liked variety, so many of my wardrobe building strategies involved getting the maximum remixeability out of a small number of clothes (through very focused color and silhouette in every piece). I always felt a nagging tension between wanting a very strong, consistent style prescence and a stripped down closet but needing to feel i had "enough" variety.

The Beatrice Dress - Vogue Patterns 8876 by Marcy Tilton

Until about six months ago. It started with the Beatrice dress, which i love. I realized that i could wear it over and over without feeling at all deprived or bored. On the contrary, i felt satisfied and invigorated as it was exactly what i wanted to be wearing.   hmmm.

signature look showed up before i knew it was my signature look

The same thing happened with this chambray Hawthorne dress, which i've been wearing incessantly. I love the way both dresses look and they're infinitely practical as well - comfy for my legs, plenty of room to layer tees, tanks and leggings underneath as well as cardis, jackets, scarves on top. I look pulled together for any type of public activity while my outfit offers no impediment to walking, working, cleaning.....

eek! i should've matched my stripes on these leggings! ah well, a signature look nonetheless

I've been sewing fairly steadily over the last year and a half. Towards the end of last year i realized that i'd accumulated a fair number of 'perfect pieces' - items which are comfy and look great, pieces with their own integrity which i can see no way or need to change. I felt like i wanted to evaluate where all this sewing had gotten me and take stock before i kept on. I pulled all these perfect pieces and put them in the left side of my closet (the side i always go to, i don't know why!) and decided to wear at least one piece from this group every day for a month or so. I've been taking OOTD pictures as well so i can keep track of what's what.

signature look

Within the last two weeks a couple of major things happened which have led to a major style breakthrough. First, i came up with a couple of outfits that felt like perfect uniforms - signature looks i'd be thrilled to be known for, that worked for my life and expressed my Holy Grail of all i love about clothing, style, who i am.

Alabama Chanin Daisy Ezra Coat - a mere $4,775

Then the new Alabama Chanin collection came out. Sheer perfection for ME - in other words, the colors, silhouettes, style details, accessories and styling reflected my signature style to a tee. Love it all, especially the gorgeous new grey/blue colored fabric - divine casual color swoon! I took the above image from the website and have been using it as my desktop wallpaper to remind myself i'd be thrilled to wear this as a uniform daily.

signature look from a couple of years ago

These occurrences highlighted a particular outfit from a couple of years ago which kept popping up in my mind as one of my all time faves.

Even i could see where this was headed at this point, so i started searching terms like "chic uniform" & "minimalist chic" which led me to Anuschka Rees at into - mind. This woman is a flat out genius, and she's written a bible of wardrobe building articles. I was particularly thrilled to see this material on how to create a signature look and develop a wardrobe to support this look: How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe, Build a Solid Foundation of Basics, Balance Basics and Statement Pieces.

feline liminality - a cosmological constant

This last bit is crucial for me. I've always been great at coming up with outstanding looks which i love. But how to put that into action on a day to day, adequately closeted basis?  Ms. Rees' information could not be more pertinent and timely for me. I encourage every single one of you to head on over to her place and prepare for the blowing of your cranium!  With the concept of my signature look in mind it was a snap to look at my 'perfect pieces' and highlight the ones which support my signature look. Of 37 pieces, 29 fit right in to my signature look while only 8 don't - a pretty good ratio considering i wasn't consciously working towards a closet based on my signature look at all.  The signature look concept also helped me understand why some pieces i love intensely don't get much wear in successful outfits.

My next activities will be to dig into Anuschka Rees' material on spelling out my signature look and developing how that will translate into a specific wardrobe. I'm very excited about this, not only because i'm reaching a goal i've been actively working towards for a few years now, but also because it will make dressing much more fun, joyful, and less of a hassle. For decades i've struggled with any number of clothing troubles - hanging onto stuff i don't need or really want (but not knowing quite why), feeling perplexed about how much and what i actually need in order to have a smoothly functioning closet, being stymied at how and where to find even simple wardrobe basics like tanks and tees, having a truly fuzzy understanding about how to fill wardrobe holes in the most helpful way ......

Getting a handle on a lot of these 'closet unknowns' seems so refreshing. I'm so looking forward to streamlining these tasks so i can focus on the fun of running around, footloose, fancy free and feeling fine. And if you're not here yet - remember, if i can do it so can you.