The Space Between My Peers: January 2006

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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Social Insecurity

Perennially, probably related to the dark days of winter, I experience social insecurity remembering that most of my social supports are contingent upon the age of my children. Our Bible-study is limited to couples with children through high-school age. I could remain a member of my home-schooling support group when I am no longer home-schooling, but do I want to? Seems somehow grasping. In MOPS leadership, I am but a guest as it is.

This summer, I will not even be needed to drive the ladies to the free movies. It isn't so much that I need to be needed, although you task-oriented people may choose to believe that. No, I will be losing my opportunities for fun. Being shy, or maybe just slow to warm up, I am most comfortable where I can belong simply by showing up.

How sad to be excluded merely on the basis of having completed this season of life. It's going to be a long time before I am 55.

The Shape of Jeans to Come

The advantage of blogging versus writing an actual book is that I can comment on current styles in real time. Most fashion-related books are dated by the time they are out in paperback.

Today, I feel obliged to inform you, my household is currently buying straight leg jeans (although they are generally labelled boot-cut). Do you care?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Some Trends Should Never Be

Some trends just should never be. Like sagging. What guy goes for the dirty diaper look? (Probably one who doesn't have kids.)

Seen recently, another trend to skip: long necklaces draped around bosoms ... for once, I'm speechless. Retain your dignity, give this look a pass.

Let's all say no.

How a Blonde Can Wear All Black

We all know one: a blonde who insists she looks good in black, but she really looks like a "head sticking out of a choir robe"; metaphorically speaking, her all-black ensemble enters the room five minutes before she does.

Allegedly chic in every situation, at times many of us want to wear a black outfit. Here's how to do it:

  • Good: Wear jewelry/accessories that support your coloring. Pearls, ivory, or even pale wood, when worn near the face, will lighten the heavyness of the expanse of black. Choosing a neckline which balances the head will keep the focus on your face.

  • Better: Frame the face with something, a scarf or collar, a teen could even use a hooded sweatshirt, that repeats the haircolor. Basically, this reverses the concept I proposed in my post Beauty is in the Eye.

  • Best: Repeating the black near your face as an accent, wear a jacket or sweater in a color that supports your coloring. Use your hair, eye, or skin color, but make sure it is the same in value (lightness) as either your hair or skin. Length balancing is the key to dodging the frump factor: 50/50 is boring.

There's one more trick, but I don't really recommend it. You can always wear more makeup.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Fashion Train

What's your position on the fashion train? A few years ago I had a lovely lady, whom I always thought of as well-dressed, tell me that she considered herself the caboose. Adjusting to new styles just takes her longer.

The fashion personality types adopt new styles in a predictable order. The Engine, Alternative, is not usually in style, only because she (or he) is way out ahead of it. Glamorous is next, although she will compromise on currentness in order to look great. Contemporary won't. Timeless follows, the Caboose, and Nostalgic is tossing flower petals off the rear platform, while waving her hanky.

What about Functional, you ask? Not even on the train. This person is on a horse galloping alongside. (Whether just for fun or because she missed the train, I can't say.)

Fashion Personality Types

Don't touch that dial! You are not seeing things, dreaming, or experiencing technical difficulties. What you are about to see is a revision of a previous post. The old is gone, what you see is what you get.

Welcome to the debut of my new and improved system for naming fashion personalities. Based on the system originally published in Fabulous You, by Tori Hartman, I have been working on adapting the vocabulary to be intuitive. I want you to be able to have an idea what your fashion personality is based just on its name.

Can you find yourself on this list?

1) Alternative
2) Glamorous
3) Contemporary
4) Timeless
5) Nostalgic
6) Functional

The great thing about blogging is the interactive editing. When I come up with something I think works, like in my original post on fashion personalities, I can test-drive it here. Then, when I discover that I'm not really as brilliant as I had hoped, the post can be edited, or even deleted.

Or added to, now that I have completed building my quiz, Which Kind of Elegant Are You?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Begin to Define Your Idiom

Three arenas concern us when selecting our clothes: self, others, and the demands of the day. Rank the following statements, two representing each arena, and begin to define your idiom:

1) Looking fabulous is the chief aim of every ensemble.
2) I love comfortable clothes and want to feel good in whatever I wear.
3) Preferably I should not stand out in a crowd.
4) I gotta be unique!
5) Appropriately and stylishly dressed is how I wish to be perceived.
6) What are we going to be doing? I can't get dressed without knowing first.

How'd you do? Can you select one or two of the statements as reflecting your philosophy of dressing? Stick to your priorities and avoid looking like a three-ring circus.

Friday, January 27, 2006

What's My Idiom?

idiom: A style of artistic expression characteristic of a given individual ...

So much more individual than a style type designation, your personal idiom expresses the inner you to the outer world. Daily demands, personal coloring and silhouette, your lifestyle, even your budget, all combine with your fashion personality and many other variables to form a style of artistic expression all your own.

Congruence is the name of the game. If you express yourself consistently within your own idiom, people will naturally be drawn to your personality, as it will be showing, and you will be easier to be around.

Back to Rule Number 2: Wherever you go, dress like yourself in that situation. Wherever you go, there you are.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

What Not to Wear ... Casual Friday

What are you going to wear tomorrow? For some of us, that question takes us back to high school, when we wouldn't wear a dress without a friend doing the same. But that's not my reason for asking. Tomorrow is "Casual Friday".

In my previous post on lifestyle segmentation, I declined to define the casual lifestyle segment with too much precision. Now I'll get more technical.

The following should never be seen in a professional context:

1) White tennis shoes (I prefer the Canadian term runners). Exceptions for work-related athletic events, of course, or moves, building projects, etc.
2) Message t-shirts. If you are out of college, these are purely weekend wear. Over 55 and still wearing them? Try the applique and embroidery look instead.
3) Jeans with holes or seriously discolored knees. No blood, bleach, or motor oil, either.
4) Sweats. Would anybody really think about it anyway?

Be thankful, people. In my former professional life, men wore suits everyday and women were not allowed to wear pants at all. Casual Friday is an opportunity for people who work in formal business environments to relax a little, say to wear khakis and a button-down or slacks and a sweater. Let's not throw all professionalism out the window.

Morning Trip to the Well

Here's an idea from my sister, a mother of two pre-schoolers. If you live within walking distance of a coffee shop, and don't meet your husband everyday during the noon hour, this is a fabulous idea:

I've started an early morning walking club for moms who want to knock out some exercise before their maternal and/or professional responsibilities kick in for the day. Although this was not my intent, it has completely replaced my running program. I meet whomever shows up at 6:30am in front of a coffee shop near my house, and we hoof three miles in 48 minutes. On Saturdays we sleep in; we meet at 7am. My schedule calls for Mon/Wed/Fri/Sat which gives me a good number of work outs but does not feel too onerous to maintain. If I were to miss a day, there are others who only go on Tues/Thurs so I could go then. The social aspect is very enriching. We pair off differently each time, so there is always an opportunity to chat with someone I may not get to chat with very often, especially without kids as a distraction. It has been really great so far, and I hope it continues.

Clearly social interaction is a valuable commodity in today's culture. Once upon a time, women connected with each other when they came to draw water for their households. Now it's a challenge. Of course, back then they didn't need to schedule their exercise.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Resolving the Stiletto Question

The question that I posed, albeit indirectly, in my original post Stiletto Heels was, "Do you readers think I should add stiletto heels to my list of what not to wear to church?" It's been tremendous fun discussing this topic, but I'm sure you're ready for me to move on. Frankly, I am too.

So, without further ado, my conclusion: choose for yourself. If you've been here and followed the controversy as it developed, you have lots of good input to make that decision. One of my daughters made the comment that most, if not all, outfits that would be inappropriate with stilettos would still be inappropriate with different shoes. Interestingly, the Purity modesty survey didn't even have a category for what shoes guys considered immodest.

Coming soon: fashion personalities?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Can Stilettos Make You Look Fat?

Since we are still somewhat on the subject of stiletto heels, a few quotes from the book Does This Make Me Look Fat?, by Leah Feldon:


If you have heavyish legs you can get in trouble with ultra-pointy toed stiletto heels and other ultra-delicate styles. The contrast in proportion can actually make your legs look heavier. Even slingbacks are risky if your heel is the least bit pudgy. Your best bets are styles that are neither too delicate nor too clunky.

The fact is, stiletto heels are a questionable style for most everybody, regardless of leg shape. True, they elongate the leg and make for terrific Vogue pictures-where would Helmut Newton be without them-but you have to wonder exactly where they fit in the context of an average woman's life. They're inappropriate for the office, debilitating on public transportation, crippling on the streets, laughable for recreation, incapacitating on errands, and suicidal when dealing with kids. Let's face it, stilettos are only suited for limousine-chauffeured dressy evenings, or maybe, if one is to believe Jerry Springer and Cosmo, underdressed evenings in one's boudoir-but I'm not going near that one.

Missed Matches-Wearing The Right Shoes With The Wrong Outfits

You've probably heard that bad food combining can give you indigestion. Well, so can bad shoe/outfit combining--metaphorically speaking of course. It's a sort of aesthetic indigestion. Pumps and Bermuda shorts, for instance, can invite instantaneous heartburn. Stilettos with jeans are more of a squeamishness thing. Shoes should connect organically with your outfit: Sexy strappy sandals are lovely with a bare evening dress, ballet slippers are perfect with a long flowing skirt, sophisticated pumps a natural with a chic suit, loafers terrific with slacks and a blazer, boots great with jeans, sneakers with sweats, etc.

One last thing: Shoes have more attitude than almost any other accessory. They affect not only on the way you look, but how you feel and move. So make sure your shoes are not only flattering, but also allow you to move with grace and ease. Also consider if they are conveying the message you want them to. If you want to proclaim yourself competent and brainy, for instance, sexy stilettos are probably not the way to go.

You can read the book excerpt this was taken from on her website.

Does This Make Me Look Fat?

At one time or another we've all asked the question. Does this make me look fat? It might. Is it:

1) The wrong silhouette, or shapeless altogether? See A Pre-School Geometry Lesson.

2) Too small? See Would You Like Another Roll ... .

3) Put together in such a way that it creates a focal point where you would rather not have one? Like the wannabe glamourous young lady in black pants and black sweater, swath of white lace encircling her hips & derriere?

(A friend of mine used one of these long shirts with the lace hem to create a much more flattering look: matching the lace to the color of her skirt, she created the effect of a coordinating lace belt, and wore a contrasting top over.)

If creating a slimmer appearance is your foremost fashion concern, the book Does This Make Me Look Fat?, by Leah Feldon, may be worth investing in. Read a lengthy excerpt at her website.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Prelude to Answering the Stiletto Heel Question: a Disclaimer

Last week, I asked readers to comment on whether I should add stiletto heels to my list of "what not to wear to church". Many thanks to those who played. Before I give you my conclusion, though, I want to clarify one thing: the reason for being careful about what you wear to church is not to gain "points" with God.

My post Second Opinion explains why I believe what you wear is important. It's about impact on others.

What Not to Wear ... Downtown

As wives, we invariably reflect on our husbands either positively or negatively. Do you ever visit him at his place of employment? If he works in a professional or business setting, you should not be there wearing leisure-wear.

This restriction challenges me on a daily basis. You see, I visit my husband at his office most days, or at least on the sidewalk outside. We spend his lunch walking. Being busy like you and everyone else these days, it takes discipline not to just show up in whatever.

Hey. If I can get my husband a little bit more respect in the marketplace by dressing nicely (see Proverbs 31:22-23), well, I call that a good reason to go shopping.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Color Me Simple

I bring my personal color palette with me everywhere I go. Actually, I am my personal color palette. Each color I wear is chosen for how it relates to my own personal coloring and my personality. This keeps my wardrobe simple and coordinated.

"How boring!", you may be thinking. But I assure you, it is not. My friends never notice that I wear the same colors all the time, until I point it out to them. Admittedly, my kids consider my wardrobe both small and formulaic, however both girls have seen the advantages and adopted their own limited wardrobe color palette.

No longer do I bring home a new article of clothing and wonder whether it will go with anything. When I style in my new pieces, they always go with something and most often they go with everything.

So, there you have it ... I just gave you my absolute best fashion and frugal-living and sanity-saving tip.

Monday, January 16, 2006

What's Wrong With This Outfit, Mom?

Admittedly this is a lengthy article, originally from the Washington Post and then condensed for the Spokesman Review. But I think it especially worth reading for parents (both fathers and mothers) of young ladies. Allow me to rephrase that, I mean girls. When you still have control over what they wear is the time to help them develop their own discretion.

I have found it helpful in training two young ladies, who are actually more modest than I am, to give them the tools to enhance their natural beauty artistically, rather than provocatively. My daughters truly exhibit a quiet confidence, a different kind of glamour (1 Peter 3:3-4). Sharing those tools is part of my mission in this blog.

For those of you who may be new to the whole blog thing, the little envelope icon below is for email. Please feel free to email this post, or any, to your friends.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Rejected My First Comment

I've gotten the impression that some think it odd that I preview all the comments. I just rejected one.

Yesterday I received a comment that was nothing more than a greeting from another blogger, 'hi from so-and-so'. Had this other blogger actually read my post and left a comment on the topic, I would gladly have published it. However, the comment showed up so quickly after I published that I seriously doubt she even read my post.

My reaction was that someone is posturing to be "top blog". I prefer not to be used to pump up some puppy's popularity.

So, dear readers, don't be afraid I will censor you for not agreeing with me. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Complementary Colors

Two fabulous uses for complementary colors:

1) Substitution. For example, instead of shopping for a blazer the color of your hair, as mentioned in my previous post A Salty Fashion Tip, try the complement (the color opposite on a color wheel).

Dark brown = navy blue
Auburn = teal
Yellow-blonde = lavender
Black = white

2) Contrast. Bring out the rosy color in your skin by wearing a color that is the complement of your hemoglobin (the reds, purples, and oranges visible in the skin and lips). For example, peach skin is flattered by blue and pink skin by green.

Now you have two more tools for making your face the focal point of every outfit. Remember Rule Number 1?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Would You Like Another Roll ...

Back in "my day" we didn't want anybody to see that we had rolls. It caused one to feel somehow ... fat. These days they're everywhere.

(A related fashion faux pas is the chub. "What are chubs?", you may wonder. "Chubs", another bit of vocabulary I invented, are the rolls of flesh squeezed out over the top of low-rise pants.)

If people can add up the number of rolls in your basket, your clothes are too small.

To Disagree Without Being Disagreeable

Recently I have found myself in conversations with some of my favorite people in which one or the other of us, always women, was concerned that something we had said had offended someone. (See my post from last Friday, Woke Up in the Center of My Universe.) I guess it's nice that we all want to be nice, but as one of these lovely ladies put it, "We can disagree without being disagreeable."

Where do we come up with the idea that we can't express ourselves on anything controversial? Expressing opinion gives others opportunity to think through an issue, possibly in light of something they hadn't considered before.(Proverbs 27:17) We're all different. We need each other's input. We need each other.

Variety in lots of other things is good, why not in opinions? Just because I don't like your shoes, doesn't mean I don't like you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Stiletto Defined

Definition: The term "stiletto" refers to a type of shoe heel that is pointy, thin and high. Also called "spike" or "spiked" heels.

For the source of this definition and a picture, click on the title of this post.

To join this blog's discussion of the topic, visit my post Stiletto Heels.

Stiletto Heels

Heretofore I have not been morally opposed to stiletto heels, anymore than I have been to flip-flops (which my husband claims are evidence that our society is in irrevocable decline). I may change my mind.

Observed when I was shoe-shopping at The Nordstrom Rack the other day, a fashionable-looking family unit:

Grandma (with blue and pink stiletto on her foot) to pre-school boy, "Wait, I want your mom to see this!"

Mom comes around corner with baby in sling, "Mom, you look like a street-walker."

Boy, "Grandma, take it off!"

Mom, again, "It's just not right. Even (insert young boy's name) knows it."

Exit, everyone laughing. Except me that is. I stand there gaping.

I'm still thinking about it. In preparation for this post, I found a report about stiletto heels being overwhelmingly associated with sex (click on the title of this post for the link). So why should women want to wear them in public?

Before I add stiletto heels to my list of What Not to Wear to Church, I'd love to hear from a few of you readers. Do you agree with the Nordstrom Rack shoe-mockers?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

My Mental Color Wheel

Remember kindergarten? No doubt you learned that there were three primary colors: red, blue, and yellow. And that any other color could be made by mixing these. Then when you got older you learned that black (or was it white?) was really not a color, but the absence of color. It seemed so simple.

A few years ago I signed up for a painting class. I didn't know the first thing about art, so I was pumped when I realized that I could make any color that I wanted. But it really wasn't that simple.

Now we are all adults and aware that when you purchase a color cartridge for your printer it contains three primary colors: magenta, cyan, and yellow. Close to those kindergarten primary colors, but a little different. It was in exploring this concept, and trying to set up my watercolor pallette, that I developed a working model of simple color theory.

I use a (mental) color wheel with twelve hues: a "cool" and a "warm" version of each primary and each secondary color. In other words, with each color I encounter (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, or purple) I decide if it is closer to the color on one side of it, or the other. (Of course, there are all manner of tints and shades as well.) Consequently, a blue will be either a green-blue (cyan) or a purple-blue (periwinkle). Here's an image that's pretty close to my mental one.

This works for me. And I realize now, in writing this post, that I have finally moved beyond the trauma of realizing that they taught me lies in kindergarten.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Brown and Blue

4/18/2006 shoe picture added. Since you can't see the label, it says Reaction Kenneth Cole, made in Italy (kinda cool, there are R's on the heel section, my initial, you know). I paid $65.

Recently I had a shoe catastrophe. Out for a walk, in the rain, I perceived that the bottom of my foot was wet. Where'd that crack come from? Because my husband and I walk together nearly every lunch hour, I couldn't go long without replacing these shoes.

I have some serious criteria for my everyday shoes: I need to be able to walk three miles in them, I need to be able to tighten them across the instep, and they need to fit in the casual lifestyle segment. In addition, I prefer to have at least two pairs to alternate between, usually black and brown.

As you can clearly see, the kind of shoes I was looking for are not the easiest to find. No stilettos, no mules, no preppy whites. Eventually I found myself at Nordstrom Rack, in the men's shoe aisle. (Now I know where to go first!) I tried on a few brown pairs which might have been options, but then I spotted them ... but they were blue. Would that work?

Yes, for a few reasons. One, I would be wearing them with jeans for the most part, and that works well with the whole length-balancing thing. Two, blue and brown are color complements. Brown, you see, is a shade of orange. A curious idea, with many applications.

Now I am off to test-drive my new shoes. The other great thing about The Rack is that if I don't like them, they will still take them back.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Woke Up in the Center of My Universe

I woke up this morning in the center of my universe. Not a good place to be. You see, I was supposed to leave the house at 9 am, but it was 9:03 when I woke up. Groggily, I rolled out of bed and made the tough decision between calling in not-coming (but I was the one who was supposed to "open") and going, but without doing anything but brushing my teeth. And, since I don't have cup-holders in my car, I also had to choose between making coffee at home or skipping it. A real recipe for being self-focussed!

So I found myself at the church (I was the first one there), with my coffee, and more than a bit of mental confusion. Then I launched into a diatribe on the evils of short skirts, without really looking around first. Honestly, the issue of skirt length is complex and a few off-the-cuff comments can't really cover the whole subject. (Is there a stealth pun in that sentence?)

Just one more evidence that I'm destined to be someone's annoying person. Nobody's perfect.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Combining Cool and Warm Colors

I'm beginning to suspect that not everyone is obsessed with all the minute and mathematical considerations involved in deciding what to want and wear. (What do you suppose ... the eyes glazed over? the nervous laughter? no comments in my in-box?) So, in case anyone still reads this, this one's for you: try combining cool colors with warm ones, rather than wearing all one or the other.

I realize this runs counter to the 1980s, Color Me Beautiful era, advice. But because most people have both cool and warm colors in their personal coloring, it works.

Some good cool/warm color combos:

  • White with Brown (my current favorite)
  • Charcoal Grey and Ivory
  • Navy and Orange
  • Black and Camel
  • Red, White, and Blue

P.S. I've been blogging for over a month now, 35 total posts. A Salty Fashion Tip and Beauty is in the Eye are both about colors also.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Who's Teaching Your Kids?

Anybody who is reading this likely knows that we homeschool. So, you are probably wondering what we think about all the homeschool/public school hybrid programs that are popping up. After looking into the hybrid in our school district, we decided it isn't for us (not now, anyway).

Considering the option, however, brought up some important issues which have been rattling around in my brain since then. Who is influencing the kids, and what do those influencers think about the things that are important to me? What jokes do they laugh at? What segments of society do they make fun of? Ideas are important.

Do your kids get more of their ideas from you or:

1) The TV? See my previous post TV or Not TV
2) Their peers?
3) Teachers? Sunday School teachers or youth leaders?
4) Siblings or other relatives?
5) Books or magazines?
6) Internet?
7) Music, what kinds of ideas are they absorbing from their favorite music?

Parents, you are the only one who thinks like you. You are the parent. Step up to the challenge and be your child's primary influence. Kids are worth it.

Lifestyle Segmentation

Picking up the thread I let dangle in the comments to my recent post,The Demise of Retail as Therapy, I will define what I mean by "lifestyle segment". Simply put, different activities demand different clothes. Lifestyle segmentation breaks them down into four categories: leisure, casual, business, and social.

Leisure = The least formal. Includes all athletic-wear and shorts. Jeans are usually leisure, and always when worn with athletic shoes, message t-shirts, and sweatshirts (including polar fleece).

Casual = Nicer, but still fairly relaxed. Due to geographical variations, I prefer to not define this category too precisely. Lunch with your boss, your pastor, or your grandma requires casual clothing. Business casual fits here.

Business = Formal business clothing is mostly suits and "jacket outfits", sometimes tailored skirts or dresses.

Social = Clothing for social occasions includes floral dresses such as those worn by wedding guests, cocktail dresses, and ball gowns.

At times, especially out here in the Great Northwest, I have been known to lament the lack of opportunities to get dressed up (see my previous post,Flashback). When I ask you what I should wear, I don't want to know if I can wear my jeans. Can I wear my ball gown?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Eat Fat, Stay Thin

The following statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration:

Yesterday I was at the grocery outlet, buying alot of ice cream, when the subject of fat came up. Just in case you think I am joking when I talk about eating fat (something I have been known to do in person, although this is the first time I've brought it up here), I am not. Admittedly, my weight hasn't been my biggest struggle in life, however, I am now a firm believer in adding fat, rather than restricting it, for weight loss. Natural, healthy fat seems to favor fat-burning.

Click here to read an e-interview of Sally Fallon, author of my favorite cookbook, Nourishing Traditions.

This post is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Monday, January 02, 2006

That Talbots Ad

(I consider myself on a mini blog-vacation today, but) I found the ad that Beth and I were discussing in Comments for my previous post, The Demise of Retail as Therapy. Click on the title of this post to take a look.

The question I posed in that post is still open: Is retail therapy or does it make you need it?

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