The Space Between My Peers: February 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, February 28, 2006

Vogue March 2006 Cover: Natalie Portman as Art

So perfectly refreshing that it stopped me in my tracks, was that really a magazine cover without cleavage? Closer examination revealed a composition of simplicity and beauty.

What elements make this arrangement so aesthetically appealing?

Clothing selection: Natalie Portman's pixieish crop significantly decreases the visual weight of the star's hair. Thus, with her fair-skinned luminosity, the painted linen Prada balances her visual lightness.

Photography: Balance is not all about symmetry. Note how the neckline acts as a frame for the face.

Color: The overall beauty of the composition includes the background (matching the dress and framing the face) and the surrounding print layout (the black enhancing her hair and eyes, the pink bringing out her cheeks and lips).

Rip it off and take it home (not the magazine cover, the artistic concepts):

Visual weight: Choose clothing that harmonizes with your personal presence. Volume, texture, and depth of color all add visual weight.

Balance points: Simply stated, a neckline that is deeper than the face is long is a distraction.

Color: Try a neutral that is the same color value (dark or light), but not the same color, as your skin; accent with colors from your own personal coloring (eye, cheek, hair, or lip color).

Natalie Portman is a work of art, but so are you!

A Note to My Face-to-Face Friends

Just a few little things on my mind today, concerning this blog. First of all, I submitted yesterday's post for publication on At 8 am PST, it was featured on the front page of the fashion section, with a great picture added. Currently my post is the top feature on the "at work" page. (Ironic that the editor initially approached me about sharing my content because she thought it fit her professional section well!)

Presumably this move should increase traffic. Hence, the ads. So far, however, I can still pretty much identify each individual who has visited The Space Between My Peers today.

Clicking on my own ads or encouraging you all to do so would be in violation of my agreement with Google, so I will not know what exactly is behind those links. Please feel free to notify me, however, if you notice something that I would not want; I do retain veto power.

Secondly, as this opportunity has caused me to again examine my motives for blogging, I encourage you to participate with me in considering the big picture. Is the information presented here of value to anyone beyond us? That would be the real motive for wanting to increase traffic. The mercenary aspect is just because I am praying for a laptop.

Last, but not least, I confess that I'm mystified by blog-itics (the politics of getting noticed in the blogosphere). The notion that value is measured by the number of other bloggers linking to you puzzles me; does that mean that because my sister and my husband own the only blogs that link to mine, my content is of little value? Still, I would blog, if only for them.

Monday, February 27, 2006

See-through at Work? Maybe

With the current popularity of knitting, it should come as no surprise that crochet is one of this year's big spring looks. So why does that idea prompt groans from both men and teenagers? Because they're sick already of seeing mature women's undergarments.

So, if you have see-through garments (crochet, sheer, or peekaboo) you would like to wear and still be viewed as professional, try this principle:

Wear a see-through garment as an accessory, like a scarf, not as an article of clothing.

For example, a sheer blouse in teal could be worn in many professional settings as long as it topped a matching teal, or black, long-sleeved tee-shirt. And, for Casual Friday, a crocheted sweater in a neutral could layer over something bright.

Do's and don'ts:

  • Do wear a tee-shirt under a knit or crocheted sweater. A camisole in a color normally associated with underwear doesn't cut it.
  • Do wear a sheer tailored blouse, with a matching shirt under. A blouse has the advantage, over a scarf, of offering camouflage to the less slim.
  • Don't choose a skin-toned garment to wear under something sheer. People will have to look closely to see whether you really are properly clothed.
  • Don't wear black underwear with a white shirt. That look has passed, and it now just looks tacky.
  • Do approach the wearing of lace with caution. At best, it is associated with romance or considered a little old-fashioned. At worst, it looks like lingerie.

It's up to you to protect your professional presentation. When in doubt, don't.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Shop Your Closet

Here in the Great Northwest, winter is far from over. I will be wearing wool sweaters until at least the official first day of Spring. Back when this was a baby blog, I described the formula I use to calculate the number of sweaters I need. But, even if I have enough, about this time of year I start to get tired of them.

So, for the past several days, I have been seeking new combinations. Yes, I know, I shouldn't have any that I haven't already discovered; after all, I did recommend that we all style in each new item when it enters our wardrobe. But, I have either been too lazy or (should I offer you the opportunity to vote?) spending too much time blogging.

Enter closet shopping. Even if you don't have any new items, you may have combinations you have never tried. Because of the warmth afforded by extra layers, late winter is the perfect time for this project.

Wonder what I have been finding?

  • Spring and summer t-shirts to wear under winter sweaters for a flash of color at the neckline.
  • Sweaters that will fit under a tailored jacket.
  • Sweaters and jackets that can be topped with a belt.

  • Silk, cashmere, and cotton tops that can be layered three deep.

As an example, an uncommon color combo I wore yesterday: light taupe crewneck tee ( my hair color), topped by dark brown longsleeve thermal knit (my eye color), plus light blue cashmere cardigan (the complement of my light orange skin) with silver + crystal buttons (again, my haircolor). It works for me.

Results may vary. Some restrictions apply. See your closet for details.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Glamour Stiletto Run

In the Truth is Stranger Than Fiction category, the perfect punctuation to our stiletto discussion: Glamour Stiletto Run.

Any takers?

Uniform Thoughts

Most of us, when we consider the concept of wearing a uniform, find it somewhat restrictive. A few, however, would be relieved. If you are one of those few, pay close attention now. I am going to make your life easier.

When I was growing up, my mom wore a uniform. Not a company logo polo shirt, or fatigues, or navy shirt and shorts; she had a certain formula for dressing that just worked for her; a template, if you will. Wearing a suit everyday in my former professional life was the same concept. Easy, but with variety not afforded by a traditional uniform.

My early post Facing Tomorrow Without Trauma struck a chord with some of you. In it, I chronicle my development of a personal template for what to wear to church.

The project (this should be fun):

  • Get out your collages (or envelopes or piles) from the Sunday project I previously suggested. You should have one for each lifestyle segment.
  • Work on one season at a time. Depending on where you live, you may choose to work on Winter or Spring, or even Summer at this time of year.
  • Identify a "template" you would like to use for the season you are working on, in each category.
  • "Bottoms up": Start with pants or skirt, add shirt, top with jacket or sweater. To be very thorough, plan also for shoes, coats, accessories, and even undergarments.

Here's a fictional Winter template plan:

Leisure = jeans + cotton tee-shirt + wool sweater
Casual = wool trousers + dress shirt + blazer or cardigan
Business = pant or skirt suit + silk blouse
Social = dark sleeveless dress

Enormously helpful in my life, this concept adds structure to our thinking about what to wear. Comments, suggestions, snide remarks?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Return of the Salty Jacket

If you've been with me since the beginning, you will remember that in my early post A Salty Fashion Tip I prescribed wearing a blazer the color of your hair. Then, in Complementary Colors, I offered the option of using the complement of your haircolor instead. Now, I would like to further develop the theme.

First, a clarification or two:

  • Read the word "blazer" to mean any jacket or sweater.
  • Most of the color combinations I suggest can be inverted, the jacket color becoming the shirt color.

Using a personal coloring-based wardrobe plan, you would expect to be able to wear a jacket in any color present in your own coloring. You would be right. But here's the trick to wearing your skin color next to your skin:

  • Separate the garment from your face with a swath of contrasting fabric.
  • Choose an accent color from Beauty is in the Eye ... or use your lipstick color.

Would you like an illustration? How about a tan-skinned person in a camel jacket? Now picture that person wearing a crisp white shirt with the collar outside the jacket, separating the jacket from the face. A look both comfortable and chic.

And salty!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Remedy for a Bad Hair Day


(Also works for puffy eyes, spots and wrinkles, and various sorts of wardrobe trauma. Not recommended for use with bad breath or bad teeth; definitely effective against bad attitudes.)

Recipe for a Bad Hair Day

What's the secret to the uncooperative hair that distinguishes our most high profile days? In order to bring you the answer, I tested the following at a recent teen event.

12 weeks since last haircut
7 degrees fahrenheit
35 miles per hour winds
1 fleece hat

6 hours in ponytail and visor (best if started while hair is still damp)

If starting the day before: add hairspray to touch.

My conclusion? Truly bad hair is most reliably attained in conjunction with the certainty of being photographed. Make sure there's going to be a videographer present.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Parents, Teach Your Children

Here's a concrete reason for parents to teach their children the skills that enable them to be considered attractive in our society. Sure, it shouldn't matter, but since it does, let's do what we can. We all know of people who are widely considered attractive but, if only their natural physical attributes were considered, unadorned, it would be otherwise.

Ugly Kids More Likely to Become Criminals

The Space I'm Staring at Today

Part of the space I'm staring at today is the question: is there a compelling reason for me to spend so much of my life sitting at the keyboard,trying to persuasively blog the art and science of getting dressed?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Final Fashion: Time to be Wacky

Check this out; it's hilarious. Let me know which one you pick. Are you the bug or the burger?

final fashion: time to be wacky

The Pie Chart

Recently the trend in fashion advice books has been to draw yourself a pie chart, based on some form of lifestyle segmentation, in order to visualize the level of need in each category. What I found for you: a web-site that will do your pie chart for free. You can even choose the colors!

Now, I am painfully aware that I am not so computer-savvy. I quickly built a model to share with you, tried several ways to upload the graph to this post, and it didn't work. Here's the link.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to build your own pie chart, based on your own lifestyle. Decide first whether you need to split any of my suggested categories into two or more; say, if your office has Casual Friday every week and you want to add a business casual segment. For the value of each segment, enter the number of times per week you dress for that lifestyle. I mean, each time you get dressed (every time the baby spits up or ... ). That's really all there is to it!

Help Wanted: Geek

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

When Styles Collide

No doubt some of you ladies have been wondering about your husband's fashion personality. Does it clash with yours?

My friend, who shall remain anonymous according to proper blog etiquette, made functional look exceedingly elegant prior to marrying a genuine alternative dresser. Adding zany socks and trendy hair to contemporary clothes, she has crafted a personal style idiom which ties them together as a couple. Very romantic!

Go back and read my previous post What Not to Wear ... Casual Friday and its comments. Can you guess my husband's fashion perspective? Purely functional! (He has taken the quiz, but he especially enjoyed the descriptions in my post The Fashion Train.)

So, a few years ago, when I had my traumatic moment of realization that we did not look like a couple, I took action. I wish I could say I did it as smoothly and effortlessly as my friend. Alas, such was not the case. Swinging too far first one way, then the other, my pendulum is finally gently swaying inside my comfort zone: primarily contemporary, but with alot of functional.

Stop two on the road to your personal style idiom is optional, but likely to pay domestic dividends. Take your fashion personality and add a nod to his.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Space I'm Staring At

From this evening's dinner conversation:

"Sometimes the space I'm staring at is the Big Picture."

A statement that's destined to catch on.

Help Wanted: Personal Chef

What's for dinner? Sadly, I have no idea. I keep thinking about garlic and butter, but remain perplexed.

But consider this: yesterday, in one hour, I bought a navy blazer (brand name) and lined wool skirt (also brand name) for myself, a cotton jacket for a friend and a t-shirt for a daughter, all of it in like-new condition, for $6.

WILL SHOP (for your clothes, in exchange) FOR FOOD. Any takers?

National Singles Awareness Day?

Most holidays I really dislike. Maybe it's all the hoop-la, traditions, and expectations, always leading to disappointments. Maybe it's just that I like my everyday life. Valentine's Day, however, is different.

Being married to a guy who lives his Christian faith (John 15:13), I have no need of Valentine's Day expectations. For us, every day is like Valentine's Day. So, no matter how we celebrate it, Valentine's Day is never a disappointment.

This year he gets to buy me a crown.

Monday, February 13, 2006

How Not to Use the Quiz

Don't use my quiz to cause trauma in another's life.

From "I Don't Have a Thing to Wear" The Psychology of Your Closet, by Judie Taggart and Jackie Walker:

Guessing another person's persona can be a slippery slope, so don't turn it into a parlor game. After reading or hearing these descriptions, most women know in their deepest being exactly what fashion persona or mix of personas they possess. Woe be unto friends who tell them, "I'm sure you are a ______".
People can become testy when identified incorrectly ...

In my own life, some of my most traumatic moments have come from being misunderstood. Like the time my husband and I were buying a pregnancy test and the checker was shocked that we were a couple. (I'll tell you another day how my wardrobe changed as a result.)

Or when I took a DISC test with a group I work with and was the lone "I". Even more distressing, the "boss" had a hard time seeing me that way. He has, however, graciously kept me around and adjusted my assignments accordingly.

Categorizing people into fashion personalities, learning styles, personality models, or any other similitudes, is merely a tool. As a tool, it's utility is primarily to the individual, in understanding self. Remember, there are not four different kinds of people in the world, or six, but many.

I prescribe a personal idiom. Be yourself. And be gentle with one another.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Sunday Project

In honor of today being MOPS (Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers) Friday, and to kick-off the trek from fashion personality identification to personal idiom development: a Sunday project that you can do with your kids.

As you read the Sunday ads, pull out pictures of any outfits that you feel really express your personal style. Sort them into four piles: leisure, casual, business, and social (the four lifestyle segments). Make yourself a collage for each.

Clearly, you may need to supplement the ads. Catalogs are my favorite. I just don't recommend using magazines, they are full of crazy stuff that I never see in the stores. Not that I want to.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

My 15 Minutes of Fame

Around 10 p.m. Tuesday I published the quiz . Around 7 a.m. today I received a message from Quizilla telling that my creation was ranked #49 on their top 50 list. I think it got all the way to #45, before dropping off sometime midday.

Oh well.

Now What?

So, you've taken the fashion personality quiz, Which Kind of Elegant Are You?, and gotten a little one-liner like:

Hippie: Your elegance is the most colorful and least respected. Right On! (Not a real answer. Take the quiz.)

What's next? Two things:
  1. Biff. That means purge your wardrobe of anything which you now understand why you hate.
  2. Shop. But only at places that specialize in your fashion personality type.

Oh. And perhaps one more thing. Consider it extra credit. Go back and take the quiz again, but using your second choice answers as your choices. Begin to recognize the blend.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Fashion Personality Quiz

The first stop on the way to defining your idiom is to identify your fashion personality type. To that end, I have written the quiz Which Kind of Elegant Are You?

I believe there exists elegance in every fashion personality and dignity in every individual idiom. Choose confidence and congruence over victimization and vascillation . And read my blog like you read the newspaper.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Which Kind of Elegant Are You?

How to Wear Any Color

This technique is adapted from the classic Always In Style, by Doris Pooser.

(I actually own the 1985 Color Me Beautiful version and haven't read the revised, which looks like it contains a couple of intriguing additions: wardrobe planning and hairstyles. Notably, Doris Pooser worked extensively with color analysis in Japan and includes seasonal color identification charts for those of African and Asian descent.)

As illustrated in my recent How a Blonde Can Wear All Black, one can create a harmonious and pleasing appearance even when wearing an unflattering color. To do so effectively, the color must be worn ... in combination with a color ... that will emphasize your most dominant color characteristic . (Doris Pooser)

In my studied opinion, this still represents a compromise. What could be more artistically pleasing than a wardrobe based on your own personal coloring ? But at times we have no choice. Wearing a compromise color can be done if you use the tools you have to look your best. Now you know.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Who We Are or Choose To Be

You can't choose your kids, and you can't choose your parents, but you can choose your kids' parents.

Characteristics of a Color

In applying artistic principles to one's visual appearance, it is beneficial to understand the properties of color. They are:

  • Hue: the dimension of color that defines its place on the color wheel. In other words, what we perceive as different "colors" (red, violet, blue, and so on).
  • Value: the lightness or darkness of a color.
  • Saturation (aka "chroma"): how intense or muted the color appears.

The Inter-Society Color Council at the National Bureau of Standards provides a system for standardization of color designations based on Munsell color notation. Most of us don't need to be that specific.

As a practical first step to applying these principles, determine your dominant color characteristic. Ask yourself, what is most noticeable about my coloring? A very fair-skinned blonde might be noticed first for the lightness of her personal coloring, thereby making value her most obvious color characteristic. The warm (orange) coloring of a red-head may dominate, while someone else may be most obviously muted or intense.

More later on using color to create harmony and contrast. Questions?

Friday, February 03, 2006

About Mervyn's

I had a scare last night! After sharing about a recent fabulous score, four cashmere sweaters for exactly $19.53, I was told that Mervyn's was going out of business. Permanently. Since I had just decided to make them my first-stop department store, I was not a happy camper. Happily, it appears the report was wrong.

In a press release last September, Mervyn's announced that as part of a new business strategy they would be closing 25% of their stores, including one each in Southern California, Oregon, and Utah. Read more at RetailWire. There is no reason to believe that the deal I happened on was anything other than an incredibly great seasonal clearance sale.

Clearly, it will not continue to be business as usual at Mervyn's. But for now I can go back to being delighted with my recent serendipity. And planning my strategy for selling the two sweaters I won't be adding to my wardrobe. Coming soon, to an Ebay outlet near you ...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Those Packets of 30 Colors

Maybe you had your coloring analyzed once and have a packet of fabric swatches corresponding to your "season". Considering switching to a simpler system ? Here's how you can still employ those additional colors:

  1. A colorful coat. Since we tend to select neutral color pants, our coats don't have to be neutral, they just need to be flattering.

  2. A few items for punch, especially things you find that are so cheap they're almost free.

  3. Things you sweat on everyday, like exercise t-shirts or summer tank tops.

  4. Stand alone outfits, such as dresses.

As for separates, mix and match works much better when what you want to mix will actually match.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

When to Compromise

Sometimes a deal just seems too good to pass up. Since we are right smack in the middle of one of the best clearance periods of the year, I offer the following sanity-saving tips.

When to compromise:

  • Compromise on color, as long as it looks good on you.
  • Compromise on fabric, in an item that is difficult for you to find.
  • Compromise on fit, but only by buying a little bigger.
  • Consider buying something with a minor defect, if you have the time and skills to fix it. Don't be afraid to ask for a little bit more off the price.

When not to compromise:

  • If the estimated cost-per-wear will still exceed your needs. Be honest, how much will you really wear the item?
  • If it causes you to violate Rule #1, the face as focal point.
  • If it causes you to violate Rule #2, dress so you feel like yourself.
  • If it ruins your silhouette or can't be made to work with either of your balance points.

No matter how good a deal you may think you are getting, nobody is paying you to take anything home. It's only a great deal if it works for you.

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