The Space Between My Peers: December 2005

The Space Between My Peers

From the bottom of the fashion food chain ...

Location: The Great Northwest

I'm a home-schooling, bible-believing SAHM with an annual clothing budget of about $500 American. The Space Between My Peers reveals my secret passion: analysis of the art and science of what to wear.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Closing Thoughts on Christmas: Speaking of Joseph

I'm closing out 2005 with some leftover Christmas thoughts. For some reason, I found myself more interested than usual in re-reading the familiar Biblical passages this Christmas season. Two things struck me:

When Mary was found to be pregnant, a young unwed mother, it was a much bigger deal than those circumstances would be today. We sometimes overlook the fact that God could have provided for her and her child in many ways: through her relatives Zachariah & Elizabeth, her extended family, or through the provision of the Magi. Instead, He chose to provide for them in a way that is often sneered at in today's feminist society. Jesus was raised by a mother and father (although not His own), in what appears to have been a large family. Imagine that!

Then, after the visit from the Magi, God spoke to Joseph, instructing him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to preserve Jesus from the murderous Herod. I will refrain from commenting on the symbolism of the whole Egypt thing and just note that it appears the newlyweds had a season to bond as a couple, albeit with a small child, before returning to Nazareth and their extended family.

Just a couple of thoughts I had never really considered before.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Demise of Retail as Therapy

Retail therapy. Supposedly that's when people go shopping to make themselves feel better. In the real world, where most of us live, shopping just can't do that anymore. It's confusing, depressing, exhausting and, as often as not, futile. Who hasn't spent hours looking for something that should be easy to find, only to find rack after rack of the same old not-gonna-do-it garbage?

Yesterday I stumbled across this post, detailing one shoppers frustrations. Although the author speaks from the point of view of a large woman, most of us can relate.

Which brings up an important question: Where would you shop if money were no object?

(Consider that question now, and find out when to expect the lowest prices in those stores. Maybe the first week of February you can afford to shop there.)

More and more women say they seriously hate shopping for clothes. What about you? Is retail therapy or does it make you need it?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Your Spending Plan

With Christmas behind us, and I trust that you have your new garments "styled in" to your wardrobe, it's time to prepare for the biggest clearance-shopping season of the year. And who goes shopping without knowing how much they have to spend (Luke 14:28)?

(Collective gasp!) Does she mean budget?

Have you ever wondered what the "experts" believe you should spend on your wardrobe? I checked for you. Actually I expected a range, but the numbers from both sides, fashion and finance, are the same: about 5% of net spendable income. For more help with your "spending plan" (euphemism for budget), see the excellent resources available from Crown Financial Ministries.

Just in case you were wondering, I do not use the 5% formula. (I spend less.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Style It Yourself

Welcome back to reality, after a wonderful Christmas break. Okay, some parts weren't so wonderful: the runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, and swollen glands. Ever wonder about statistics for being sick on Christmas and/or the day after compared to any other day of the year?

But now that Christmas is behind us and most of you lovely ladies received new clothes as gifts, what next? You must "style them in" to your current wardrobe. To "style it in" is a term that I made up (this is my blog, I can invent vocabulary as I see fit) based on what professional stylists do in the fashion industry. In other words, you must create great-looking outfits combining your new clothing and accessories with your existing ones.

The goal is to be sure that the outfits you envision in your mind actually work on your body. Try on every possibility. If you have a new sweater, you should try it on with each pair of pants and every skirt it might go with. Carefully recording combinations that work will save you time and trouble on mornings when wardrobe trauma threatens to overwhelm artistic inspiration.

Have fun with this project. Turn the heat up in your dressing room (for me that's my bedroom), so you don't mind repeatedly changing your clothes. Crank up some perky tunes. Older girl children may want to "play dress-up" with you, and pre-schoolers can sit on the bed and keep you company. (I don't recommend inviting your husband, he's likely to be too distracted by the sight of you dressing and undressing to be of any help.)

The downside to blogging about clothes is that now everyone is afraid to buy me any. On the upside, I don't blog about fine jewelry.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Stuck in My Head This Christmas

Stuck in my head this Christmas, from We Three Kings of Orient Are:

Glorious now behold Him arise,
King and God and Sacrifice,

(Now are you thinking about trying to smoke a rubber cigar? Sorry. Sticky tune, isn't it?)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Length Balancing Challenge

For the past few days I have been blogging about employing the Golden Mean principle in assembling great-looking (or, at the very least, normal-looking) everyday outfits. Now I will illustrate another combination of lengths in the same proportion, using a jacket I own which is a harder length to wear.

The length of the troublesome jacket is almost to the middle of my thigh, making it half of my total (head to toe) length. Worn with a knee-length skirt, the look would be about 75/25, causing the skirt to appear inappropriately short. With trousers the proportion is a little better, but ...

What I really need to complete this outfit is a skirt in that fabulously flattering length that women all over are resisting, the riding skirt. Designed to hit just below the large calf muscle, the length below my (buttoned) jacket would be just about 62% of the length of the jacket.

Incidentally, when putting together a look which incorporates your entire body, from head to toe, your "unit" will be approximately a head-length, measured from visual top of head to chin.

No doubt I will revisit this topic when the weather starts to warm up (and we pull out our crops, capris, shorts, etc.). In the meantime, I keep wondering why I can't just find some on-line fashion authority who I can link to, borrowing her explanations of these very basic concepts (1 Cor 1:27).

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Length Balancing: Pant Outfits

Previously I explained employing the Golden Mean principle of pleasing proportion when wearing a dress. After clarifying a point or two today, I hope to show how the same principle works when wearing pants.

1) See yesterday's post for a way to test a monochromatic look. If the color works for you, feel free to wear a monochromatic look of any length.

2) A 3 to 5 ratio is close to the same thing as 60/40. It is okay to vary proportions a few inches from the ideal, it makes things more interesting.

Two easy ways to make a pant outfit appear balanced:

1) Wear a top which approximates the colors and contrast level in your head, with a different color trousers. Tuck the top in at the waist.

2) Pair low-rise jeans with a colored top, untucked, and a belt.

In the first example, the 3 "Cuisennaire Rods" are measured from the top of the head to the waist; the 5 are from waist to sole. This is the same concept as a skirt and hose and shoes, all the same color, with a tucked in blouse. In the second, the head is not included in the calculation; the 3 units are from collar to shirt-tail and the 5 are measured from the bottom of the belt to the hem of the jeans. (I have short legs so I always incorporate my shoe color into the bottom portion of my outfit.)

Have I totally lost all of you wonderful people? Cast your vote here. Should I keep on explaining this topic, or just move on?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Length Balancing: Cuisennaire Rods and the Golden Mean

...Phew! I'm back. I've been running my little fingers off, searching the blogosphere, indeed the entire world wide web, looking for a simple explanation and illustration of the Golden Mean. With about as much success as I generally have, and minus more minutes of my life than I would like to admit, I have this to offer you. Hopefully most of you already get it. The Golden Mean is the principle, originating in nature,which governs proportion and it has application in all areas of art and architecture. Unfortunately, it seems we have mostly missed it when it comes to getting dressed. But who among us wouldn't like our daily appearance to be an artistic composition?

The easy way to apply the Golden Mean to getting dressed = imaginary Cuisennaire Rods! Cuisennaire Rods, for you non-homeschoolers/teachers, are math manipulatives for primary students.

How it works: for each composition you are given 8 total (imaginary) units. In order to create a pleasing and interesting balance, 3 to 5 is the ideal ratio. Previously I proposed using shoes the color of your hair. Worn with a just-below-the-knee dress (a look both contemporary and classic) and skin-tone stockings, the head and legs/shoes add up to the 3 units and the dress is the 5. Does that make sense?

I spent many hours in front of a full-length mirror with a tape measure and calculator before mastering this concept. Then I realized it really doesn't have to be that complicated. Sometime soon I hope to explain how to use this concept to help you decide whether or not to tuck your shirt in.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Single Pair of Shoes

If you could only have one pair of shoes, what color should they be? Whatever color your hair is. Of course, I don't want to become some sort of shoe nazi. The principle I'm suggesting is balance. Simply put, your hair is always part of your ensemble, the very top part. Your shoes can repeat the color, like bookends, without necessarily becoming part of what's in between.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Second Opinion

After posting my previous, What Not To Wear ... To Church, I found this article. Christian ladies, you should all read it in its entirety. Is it speaking to you?

I believe that the way we women are dressed (or undressed) when we go out in public is an important issue, and that several biblical principles support this viewpoint. The first is 1 Corinthians 10:32, which says, "Do not cause anyone to stumble." Pretty simple. What it basically proves is that it is our problem if men in our church have trouble keeping their minds on God because of our choice in fashions. Our feminine desire to be thought attractive must come second to helping men keep their thoughts pure.

That's love. Putting the interests of "other" before the interests of "me". And in no way does that necessitate being unattractive. In most cases, immodest apparel is not the most artistic presentation; but the female form is intrinsically beautiful and can always be used to get attention. Is that the kind of attention you want?

Stay tuned for more on the art and science of dressing.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Toddler's Creed

Elisa Morgan, president of MOPS International (Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers), shared this insight into a child's view of the world:

Toddler's Creed
If I want it, it's mine.
If I give it to you and change my mind later, it's mine.
If I can take it away from you,it's mine.
If I had it a little while ago,it's mine.
If it's mine, it will never belong to anyone else, no matter what.
If we are building something together,all the pieces are mine.
If it looks just like mine, it is mine.

Borrowed from Our Daily Bread devotional, October 27th, 2005.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Flashback to last Thursday, that is. I just can't get over how slim and elegant some of the ladies looked at the event I attended. How they did it:

  • Each one created an outfit with unbroken lines within her natural silhouette. (See A Pre-school Geometry Lesson.)
  • The ubiquitous notion that dark colors make everyone look slimmer really works for dimly lit evening affairs- but NOT for swimsuits!
  • Obvious reflective elements, like glued on little mirrors or glitter, caused their outlines to be less distinct.
Something else about this event that was fun: it was ladies only! No flashbacks to the high school dance, when you were all decked out and your date arrived in a sweater.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Focus on the Face

Rule number one states simply that the face should be the focal point of every outfit. That seems obvious. Focal point = the point which the eyes are drawn to. But, have you wondered how that is accomplished?

A primary tool in directing attention to your face is the use of balance points. There are two measurable points that determine how far down the upper body the neckline should go. In addition, the collar or neckline should be at least as wide as the face. For additional information on this topic, I recommend The Triumph of Individual Style, by Carla Mason Mathis and Helen Villa Connor. Bridgette Raes illustrates this concept in her blog, with reference to accessorizing.

Ladies, if you choose to wear necklines which exceed either of your balance points, know that you are causing attention to be directed down, away from your face. It's your choice.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Frugal Fashionista

What does fashionista mean, anyway? I just think it sounds cool.

Last week, in my "hourglass" moment, I went to an exceptionally elegant event in a $7 dress. That is, a two-piece dress which I put together: a long, bell-shaped taffeta skirt ($1, with the tags still on, from Value Village) and a sparkly silk- and metallic- blend knit top ($6 at BJ's, the upscale division of Goodwill). I am not so much a label girl, but both were brands that I would not be embarrassed to name, if asked. Now, just so you don't think you have to shop thrift to be thrifty, my daughter was wearing a similar two-piece dress which I bought a few years ago, new at the mall, for about $65. Contrast that to the "same look, lower budget" stuff you see on TV! I have one fashion magazine (if you enjoy looking at the pretty pictures in fashion magazines, check this out) in my house with a "one look, three budgets" lay-out where the low budget outfit costs as much as I spend on clothes in a year!

It is never fashionable to spend more money than you have.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Christmas Wars

I've been wondering: why do non-Christians celebrate at Christmas-time?

Friday, December 09, 2005

What Not to Wear ... to Church

Things that I've heard some nice guys (and we all want to encourage guys to be nice, right?) don't really care to see at church (or at the office):
  1. cleavage
  2. thighs
  3. any part of an undergarment, including a bra visible through a shirt
  4. clothing that resembles lingerie
  5. boots with short skirts
  6. fishnet, or other provocative-type, stockings
  7. "more than they want to see" when you sit down

Are there any female readers left that I have not offended? If so, please stay tuned. I'm sure there will be additions to the list.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Pre-school Geometry Lesson

I'm going out tonight, dressed as an hourglass. Not in an hourglass costume, I'm talking about one of the six basic silhouettes. Most advice in how-to-dress books would be unnecessary if women learned to dress in the silhouette that most closely matches their own body-type. The six basic shapes are hourglass, rectangle, oval, figure-eight, triangle, and wedge (inverted triangle); they are determined by the line of the shoulders (straight or sloped), how the width of the shoulders relates to the width of the hips, and whether or not the waist is visibly smaller. Sketch it out.

To study this subject in depth, I recommend the excellent book The Triumph of Individual Style, by Carla Mason Mathis and Helen Villa Connor.

The good news: there's really no such thing as a pear-shaped woman. She's a triangle, wearing the wrong outfit.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The First Formula

There are those who think it amusing that I actually have formulas and mathematical equations that I use for shopping. Like the one I use to make sure I have the minimum of certain key pieces. Since I wear a wool sweater just about every day that it is below 40, today (7 degrees) is the day I will stop, count, and calculate whether I have enough. Just in case you weren't absolutely certain that I was nuts, here's what I do:

a) Figure out my laundry cycle. What's the longest number of days something might sit in the hamper before it's ready to be worn again?
b) Calculate the percentage of days that I need to be able to wear this type of item.
c) Estimate how many days I can wear something before washing it. (When I had babies, I would estimate how many changes of clothes I needed per day.)

The math:
Multiply a and b, and then divide by c. Or if you are a mother of preschoolers that last operation would be a multiply. I hope you get it. I need to go shopping.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Somebody Loves Me

I hate to be late. But this morning, on my way to an 8 a.m. mammogram, in 17 degree weather, it felt kinda snuggly. You see, I was four minutes late to my appointment because somebody insisted that I let him go out and warm up the car for me. Tough life, isn't it?

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Importance of Being Timeless

While many would like to deny or ignore the fact, appearance is a primary way humans communicate with one another (1 Sam 16:7). Fashion is a fast-changing dialect. The problem with being stuck in a time-warp is that, although you may be comfortable and perfectly happy, many of the people you meet no longer speak "1985". Nevertheless, I know several women who still wear their clothes from high school but do not look dated. How? Their style is timeless.

Understand, I am not advocating timeless, or traditional as I normally refer to it, as the only way to avoid misunderstanding. Contemporary works, as well. My point is, and it has happened to me, your appearance may not be accurately reflecting who you are on the inside. Especially if people don't understand what you are saying.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Closing the Space

It's a lonely world out there. Moving from strangers to acquaintances to friends is a process that takes time and effort (hopefully NOT money), but offers immense benefits. Some practical thoughts to get you started:

  • Sit by someone you don't know, when attending an event where you know most people.
  • When you run into someone you recognize, but don't necessarily remember, introduce yourself. Repeat as necessary.
  • Address people by name. Smile.
  • When selecting a seat, why leave a space between? If you like the person, just go in and sit next to them as if you were their friend.
  • Drive together, like to meetings and parties.
  • Schedule regular times with your friends, even if they aren't frequent. Make it a tradition, like coffee on the first day of school or lunch the third Friday of every month.
  • When you have enough friends, continue to watch for those who may not.

One more suggestion: if you and I are acquainted, try leaving a comment here. It's almost like real conversation.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Facing Tomorrow Without Trauma

Tomorrow is Sunday. No doubt when we leave we will all be dressed, but chances are good that someone will have had some wardrobe trauma in the process. Generally, one of us ladies is the one with the problem and one of the others is the one with the solution. Look out if two of us can't decide what to wear!

I recall a time a few years ago when my own Sunday morning wardrobe trauma was pretty much weekly. My problem: I didn't actually own a dress, but every Sunday morning I tried to select one from my closet to wear. My solution: I bought a khaki skirt that I could wear to church with my T-shirts. That skirt was one of the few items I ever paid full price for (I think it was $30 or so), but I wore it several years before selling it on consignment this past summer. In warm weather, I wore it with tanks and sandals. Come winter, it was turtlenecks and boots.

So, figure out your own formula. What do you like to wear to church? I guarantee you won't find it in your closet on Sunday morning if you don't actually have it.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Rule Number 2

Everything you wear should make you feel like yourself, going where you are going and doing what you are doing. Nothing is more distracting than feeling inappropriately dressed. Be yourself. Then focus on reaching out and making others feel comfortable.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Beauty is in the Eye ...

Three great accent colors are present in the eye: the main (iris) eye-color, a shade of white, and black (the pupil). Try one or all of them with your blazer (see A Salty Fashion Tip).

Lookup a word or passage in the Bible
Include this form on your page