The Space Between My Peers: March 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.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

What The Moms Wore

After all that, I'm happy to report ... it just didn't matter.

Holey Jeans

This post comes at the request of a concerned young lady.

Picture this: Youth Pastor has all the students turn around, facing their chairs, and kneel on the floor to pray. Young man has worn out his jeans at the pocket corners; young ladies' eyes are now directed down, in that general vicinity. He's commando!

Conclusion: this is not a turn-on, but a gross-out.

If you must wear jeans with holes in delicate places, for style, here's a sensible suggestion: Wear something really obvious underneath. Black leggings, magenta shorts, or even bright red boxers will do. Now, go back and read my post about wearing sheer to work.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Single Dress

In many of our lives, it simply doesn't make sense to own alot of dresses. Considering cost per wear, you may, like me, be motivated to get by with as few as possible. I do think it can be done with one; but maybe not the one you think.

I realize there are geographical differences of opinion, certainly if you live in New York feel free to use black, but in many areas you still risk hurting a bride's feelings if you wear black to her wedding. (I'm looking for a little back-up from you southern belles; most people around here look at me strangely when I suggest black is not appropriate wedding guest apparel.)

In any case, there are options. For a one-dress wardrobe, a seasonless dark, solid or print, with a summer sleeve (for me that is none) is ideal. Something simple and elegant, to be worn with pumps and a jacket in the winter and with sandals in the summer.

Having one go-everywhere dress on-hand doesn't mean I'm required to wear it to every event, it simply means I am not required to do emergency shopping.

You may also be interested in: A Single Pair of Shoes

Contemplating Understanding Each Other

I want to be open to suggestion, but certain suggestions on what to wear tend to make me cranky. As in the example in yesterday's post, the suggestion usually comes from one of my very favorite people. Maybe it's a communication thing.

You say: "Have you ever considered wearing foundation?"

I hear: "Your face is so ugly, why don't you do us all a favor and cover it up?"

My husband used to suggest jeans and sweatshirt all the time . Then I would get frustrated, because sweatshirts just don't work with my figure.

What I did: I resolved to hear "sweater" everytime he says "sweatshirt". It works, since what he really means is that functional, aka sporty, mantra: "dress in layers".

Further reading:
When Styles Collide
Skinny Jeans & the 6 Figure Types
A Pre-School Geometry Lesson

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Levels of Embellishment

Clearly foundational to the individual idiom, but not necessarily part of fashion personality, is one's preferred level of embellishment. How much detail do you like? Jewelry, accessories, and embroidery are all varieties of embellishment.

Because I am a big-picture person, I am sincerely mystified by people's affinity for bling, bags, and other such wearable money-drains that do nothing to cover a person's nakedness. Yes, I realize I'm in the minority among the fashion-savvy.

Consider the following from the comments on yesterday's post:

Beth: "A little make up and jewelry complete the outfit and show that you cared enough to 'dress' for them."

Me: "Jewelry ~ You may be right about showing that I care enough to dress for them, but the suggestion still makes me cranky. Earrings, watch, and anniversary ring will have to be enough."

I prefer to let the big pieces do all the work.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

What to Wear: Nightlife?

A casual evening out with a bunch of ladies. Why is that such a challenge to my idiom?

First, do I even own a shirt that's not crew-neck? With my sporty/menswear accent, crewneck T's are my staple.

Second, if I wear heels with jeans will I look like a poseur? If I don't, will I look like a "mom in tennis shoes"? (I promise, I won't be wearing tennis shoes.)

Last, but not least, if I wear a blazer, how do I keep from seeming all business? I want to seem approachable. And fun.

What say you wonderful people?

My Spring Template Project

I need to go back to the personal idiom kick-off project and consider my uniform templates for this spring.

The short version: sit down at the dining room table with a piece of scratch paper and at least one other family member. Brainstorm.

Racing through this project, it became obvious that I don't need much. I already have 3 pairs of jeans, 3-mile everyday shoes, and a crew-neck tee-shirt in just about every color I wear. Topped with a cotton sweater (or equivalent) for leisure or a blazer for casual, that will be my uniform this spring.

What's missing is a coat. Because of the variability of the weather (it's likely to be sunny and 60 when I leave here at noon and then raining and windy when I arrive downtown 7 minutes later for my walk), I end up wearing my wool "city coat" quite a ways into the spring. But the color isn't right.

So, while I am shopping for the perfect spring coat that I can afford, I am going to try this: a hooded windbreaker, topped with a fleece vest, with my washable suede jean jacket over the whole thing. Sounds crazy, but it just might work.

It reminds me of Danielle's question ("Just wondering, do the current colours of the blog match the colours you wear?") when I asked if the blog needed a makeover.

The windbreaker is pink, the fleece black, and the jean jacket is a chamois color.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Carnivale of Couture: Most Significant Fashion Purchase

Style Tribe's invitation:
I want to invite everyone to write about their most significant fashion purchase. Not the most expensive or most exciting, but the one that was somehow pivotal, or meaningful to you personally.

I've always been kind of a contemporary dresser, with a strong practical streak. But for a time, I let my practical (functional, sporty) side get out of control. Which led to one embarrassing evening.

It was in 1998. My husband worked for an engineering company, and the annual company Christmas party was held at the country club (that's about as upscale as it gets here in the Great Northwest). I had this great dress from Goodwill (do you hear the rising sounds of impending disaster?): velvet top, full polka-dot skirt, puff sleeves. Positively Deb! I realized my mistake, but too late. Thankfully, I'm pretty sure my husband still doesn't realize it.

The pivot point: I did not want to repeat that scene the following year!

Not sure how my friend knew I badly needed help, since she hadn't seen me in that get-up, but she offered to take me shopping. After questioning me over coffee, I agreed with her that I wanted something more elegant. We prayed and then we hit the stores.

My friend is one fast shopper. (It helps that there aren't that many stores here.) We found the ubiquitous bell-shaped long skirt at JCPenney, at a price I could afford, but we had to go to the other mall to get my size. Still, no top. Then, at one of those prom-dress stores, I spotted a possibility on the mannequin in the window. Sparkly, sleeveless and boatneck, believe it or not, it matched the skirt. Together they look like a two-piece dress.

The pivotal purchase: It was just a simple skirt and top. I didn't spend even $100 or more than half a day shopping. But I promise you, there was not a woman at that 1999 company Christmas dinner who was dressed more appropriately.

The following summer I wore the dress again as hostess at my sister's wedding. By then I had regained my fashion footing. Throughout the several days of festivities, varying levels of formality, I was never under-dressed.

Now, later this week I will be attending an event that challenges my idiom: dessert and coffee at a new restaurant, with sort of a dramatic interior, in a group with a bunch of young moms. What do I wear?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Mid-Year Crisis

Here in the mountains of the Great Northwest, it has turned suddenly spring. Currently raining, but most of this week has been sunny and close to 60. Rain is on the way, but for now we are feeling spring fever; I call it a "Mid-Year Crisis".

How do I know for sure? Aside from the fact that I heard it declared yesterday as I was walking down the sidewalk at noon (no coat, no silk skivvies, just wool sweater and jeans) ; the men are beginning to shave. Not just losing their winter facial covering; conservative office-types are turning up in gotees. (Who was it that said the '80s are calling and they want all the gotees back?) Guys, please don't start taking your shirts off.

For me, spring is always difficult in the what-to-wear category. After five long months in wool, the weather is still too cool and too variable for bare arms and legs. I need to go back to the personal idiom kick-off project and consider my uniform templates for this spring. Better late than never.

But my best advice for this weekend is to buy a girly dress. Stores have more stock before Easter, and you'll be prepared for those summer weddings and other social events. Mine is yellow, with a rose and brown floral print. And ruffles.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I am a Free-Wheeling Architect

Click here for the detailed report.

I love personality tests!

Skinny Jeans & The 6 Figure Types

Is there a pun in that title? I think I'll keep it.

Yesterday almost girl was grumping about skinny jeans being in for another year. (Be ye entertained -- go read the comments!)

Fashion cycles aside, here's a little rundown on how each of the six basic figure types works with the skinny jean silhouette:

Hourglass ~ With square shoulders and a nipped-in waist, the trick to wearing skinny jeans is to have a definite flair from the waist to the hips. As long as the hourglass shape is maintained in the upper body, the legs can taper (as in tucked into boots) or be straight (same width at knee and at ankle).

Rectangle ~ Essentially a vertical look, with shoulders and hips (and waist) equally wide, balance is maintained by keeping a straight shape. Only the skinniest rectangles (what I call a pencil) will be tucking their jeans into their boots.

Oval ~ Loose, drapy top over skinny jeans tucked into boots; that is an oval silhouette. Keep the shoulders narrow and the waist filled in.

Figure-eight ~ Because the shoulders are sloped in both figure-eight and oval, a narrower hem is natural. Figure-eight needs waist definition. Curvy thighs? Leave the legs out of the boots.

Triangle ~ Boot-cut is your skinny jean.

Wedge ~ Wider shoulders and skinnier legs are a natural with skinny jeans. Be careful to keep things close to the body around the middle, or your legs may end up looking like toothpicks.

I remember how chic tapered pants seemed when they became fashionable in the 80s. With this trend to skinny jeans, I'm keeping my jacket with shoulder pads. It's only a matter of time.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What is Smaller Than Zero?

As most of you know, I am not that small. But recently I have been frustrated with stores catering to the vanity of the unhealthy by size-shifting. Read what Old MD Girl has to say in I have officially vanished: "But what was going on? I was now a size 0????? What is going to happen when they re-inflate the sizes once more? Will I have to shop in stores for little girls? Will they come out with a size -2? Or perhaps the square root of -1? What exactly would that mean? That I occupy negative space? That I am an imaginary person, much like i is an imaginary number? Maybe it means that I exist outside the plane of of the real and imaginable. What are the existential implications of this, I wonder?"

I have also wondered about the future of being able to buy clothes. Will I have to wait for people to shrink their stuff and then buy it used? What about the (many) people who are smaller than me? How far can this trend go?

Sustainability Tea Party

Jill says it's really more of a tea party than a carnival, and I kinda like that idea (being both extroverted and shy, tea party sounds warm and cozy to me). Here it is, my first time entry in a blog carnival. I have been enjoying considering the whole sustainability question as it pertains to wardrobe; the entries are quite intriguing. Incidentally, a member of my household has a pop tab belt.

Perhaps I should reconsider what I would do with a greater budget, in light of what's the best use of resources. After all, caring for this planet was mankind's original job.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Combining Colors

Gone are the Color Me Beautiful days, when color temperature was queen and color swatches were prime minister. Want a color philosophy that is timelessly flattering to you? Learn to mimic the way your personal coloring combines colors.

Color characteristics:

What hues are present in your coloring? How do they relate to each other on the color wheel? You may want to wear color schemes that use the same color harmonies.

Is your coloring dark, medium, or light, or a combination? Basic color value combining repeats the darkness of the hair and skin in the garments, and accents with the color value of the eyes.

Finally, which elements of your coloring are clear and which are muted? Is your skin or hair visually textured or patterned? Wearing heathered colors is very attractive with muted skin tones, and vertical stripes enhance streaked hair. Again, repetition is the concept.

Does this seem elementary to you? More sophisticated color combining takes the concept of repetition and adds drama with contrast. Just add black or white.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

When Losing Weight

Designer Ella mentioned, in the comments on my Walmart post, that she was losing weight. It got me thinking about wardrobe strategies for those who are losing weight, which is just about everybody these days. A few random thoughts:
  1. When hitting the thrift stores, each item doesn't need to be perfectly current. Remember you are buying what you would have bought in the past few years, if you had been your current size. But don't spend much, you won't be wearing it long.
  2. You don't need much. I have several friends who wear the same few things over and over and look great. Remember this isn't going to be your wardrobe forever, it's okay if you get tired of it. You are going to be able to buy new!
  3. Since the fit is unlikely to be perfect, make sure all the other elements work: color, style, whatever makes you feel like yourself.
  4. Although it is easy to overlook under garments, a well-fitting bra makes a big difference in how slim and trim you look to the world.

When it's all over, remember eBay!

Spring Cleaning

Getting back on track, after mixing alot of turkey into my dressing lately. I'm declaring a Spring Cleaning!

Of course, if you reside in the southern hemisphere, you would now be working with what we call "transition" (the change from summer to fall), I think, but my calendar announces the coming Monday as the first day of spring. Here in the mountains of the Great Northwest, where we actually experience four distinct seasons, I change my wardrobe over according to the calendar.

What I will be doing, I hope this Sunday:
  1. Putting away my wool sweaters. I will probably keep anything pastel and cashmere handy.
  2. Spring colors will move forward in my closet; charcoal grey and aubergine will move back.
  3. Biffing a few items. Some things are not in good enough condition to store for next year.
  4. Making sure I have enough socks. For spring everyday socks I prefer knee-high cotton, at least three pairs to match each pair of pants, and I love argyle!
  5. Identifying a few outfits to wear to church.

Closet organizing advice is everywhere. If you need it, find it and use it. My point is: pick a day and do it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Comments Deleted

Just a quick note to let you know that I have deleted a couple of comments that contained both first and last names. The comments can show up on Google searches now, so it was a protective move. So sorry to lose what you said, though.



Something to Think About

I guess I've really been dwelling on the cost per wear concept. As my husband and I were looking at a pair of $300 shoes, the following thought occurred to us: If I bought those shoes and wore them everyday for a year, they would still cost me a dollar a day. According to this Newsweek article, 300 million people in India live on that much money.

It's not like when you were a kid and your mom said, "Clean your plate, there's starving kids in India." We all knew the food sitting on your plate wasn't going to help them. But the money you save on clothes could.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sustainable Style Carnival

(Yes, I realize this outfit looks sort of boring. The reason is that my face isn't in the picture. Like pretty much everything I wear, the focal point of this outfit is my face.)

My entry to the Sustainable Style Carnival at fiftyRX3:

The jeans: I love these jeans. I bought them a few weeks ago, for $1, at Value Village. Now that I have been working with them for awhile, I find that what I thought initially was a compromise has actually turned out to be an advantage. You see, they are a long. So, they cover high heels nicely, or I wear them cuffed, or I just let them "puddle" or whatever that is called.

The tee-shirt: Also Value Village, but I think I paid $2 for this one. The great thing about it, though, is that I can wear it 11 months out of the year. I won't wear it in July, because of the dark color; but it is sleeveless, so I will pull it out again in August. The brown is a very usable accent color for me.

The jacket: Okay, I bought this new. But I didn't pay much for it (about $12 on clearance, with a coupon or something, at the Gap), it is usable year-round because of the color pattern, and it is 100% cotton (and washable). The funny thing is the receipt called it a "greaser jacket". What's up with that?

The boots: Truly vintage, my parents bought me these suede Clarks in England when I was in Junior High. A few years ago, I noticed them collecting dust in my mom's laundry room and have worn them about once a week for the past three winters. I did have them re-heeled and waterproofed.

One final thought about the recycle, reduce, re-use theme: much of our clothing consumption can be reduced simply by knowing more about what works for us individually. That is what this blog is about.

Walmart: Love It or Hate It

Knowing that I will be making at least a few people unhappy, I confess that I was in Walmart, shopping, yesterday. A daughter wanting a specific kind of gum, for a specific price, was the impetus. I wasn't on a mission to get anything and I wasn't driving. I was along for the ride.

Normally I avoid Walmart. But my reasons are not so noble as many of yours. I simply find the place too confusing! Nothing is ever in the first place I look for it. Sometimes, simply out of necessity, I end up shopping there anyway. Like the time I needed a new printer before tomorrow, and it was already after 9 pm. Where else would have been open?

I'm afraid, though, that if my life were different , I would be buying some of my clothes there. I loved some of the cotton sateen jackets I saw there; and for $40 American one could have an entire suit.

And then I woke up. And remembered Target.

Monday, March 13, 2006

And The Winner Is ...

The Glamour stiletto run was held last week and, based on the number of visits to this blog resulting from Google searches "stiletto + run", it is still big news. So, without further ado, the results: click here. Can anybody read it?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Time For a Makeover?

Sorry. I'm not even considering making myself over. But ever since Danielle at final fashion (you may remember her from the bug vs the burger question) announced she was giving herself a makeover and invited everyone to play, I have had the makeover concept simmering on the back burner. How about you? Anyone going to a reunion this summer, recently lost alot of weight, or just generally feeling in need of a new look? Or should I open it up to nominations, What-Not-to-Wear-style? I would love to host a makeover at The Space Between My Peers .

Speaking of The Space Between My Peers , is the blog itself in need of a makeover? Does its appearance reflect my personality? Does it enhance the information that is presented here? Does it make you want to read it?

I'm putting on my thick skin. Let's hear your ideas.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

What I Would Do With a Greater Budget

Sometimes I worry (aaah! worrying again!) that you all think I am so frugal I am not fun. Or that I think everyone should be as frugal as I. Or that someday I'll no longer have to be so frugal, and then maybe I'll forget what it was like. I certainly hope not!

So I thought I'd give you a peek into what would change and what wouldn't change with my shopping habits, if I had a larger budget. As it is now, I don't spend all the money available to me in the clothing category. The reason? I'm trying to save enough to go furniture shopping. Usually I end up spending my extra on a gift for someone. (That's fun too.)

What would change is that I would feel free to go into any respectable store and buy anything I needed that was reasonably priced. I would still do the same deliberate, sequential wardrobe planning that I do now. But the acquisition of each necessary garment would be quicker. Every few months I would hit the upscale mall, pay for parking, and buy what I needed.

Maybe I'd even go with a friend. Any takers?

ShoeSense: Shoes for March

Hey, I'm over here at ShoeSense, a blog the scope of which is to fight for every woman's right to stylish AND comfortable footwear. Thinking that, since we thoroughly hashed over the moral implications of stilettos, some of you might be interested in this blogger's perspective. Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Rule Number 3

Rule Number 3: Never wear anything that takes constant attention in order for you to be able to function. Tugging on your clothes is never elegant.

Elegance, on $1 a Day

Elegance: a) Refinement and grace in movement, appearance, or manners. b) Tasteful opulence in form, decoration, or presentation.

Yesterday, a melancholy day, I popped over to visit the Bargain Queen, only to find she was blogging about $1000 handbags. I admit that handbags are not the most elegant part of my personal presentation; at present I am lugging around a $5 (from Goodwill) black fabric Tommy Hilfiger with more than a few scuffs and a silk scarf tied around it. Feeling sort of scruffy, I headed off to the mall for an errand or two. Scruffiness was soon replaced by the scent of the hunt, though, when I happened upon a clearance rack signed "$3.77".

What I bought: a sweater in my personal color pattern. $1.77 American.

What I didn't buy: a green print silk skirt. One of my daughters tried it on, but she wasn't happy with the fit. I loved it, but never would have been able to work with the color. At $3.77 American, it still wasn't a bargain.

Today, I feel much more like myself. I had coffee with my most glamorous friend this morning and even she doesn't believe in $1000 handbags. And when she noticed the snow falling outside (we both came in wearing sunglasses), I was even more pleased with my sweater. Only 7 more wearings and I will have gotten my money's worth out of it.

Hidden Messages

Ladies, what would it mean to you to never again have bra straps slipping off your shoulders? Join us in the comments on this previous post for ideas and discussion.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Investment Strategies

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Luke 12:34

So that's why when I made myself smile at people I didn't like in junior high, my feelings toward them always improved.

Sometimes I worry (ugh! not supposed to worry) that I have too much invested in my wardrobe in terms of affection. But here are some practical ways that I make my wardrobe bow down to my greater priorities:

Sharing, however, can get complicated. Life with people is messy. If I loan you something, it is just a temporal item. A pile of threads. If it is ruined in the course of life, oh well.

[This portion has been removed by the author, due to the fact that it revealed a bad attitude.]

Monday, March 06, 2006

Calculating Cost Per Wear

At some point, most "What to Wear" type books introduce the topic of cost per wear. I'm sure the celebrities, models, and personal shoppers who write these books mean to be encouraging, but I'm wondering what reality they live in. It sure isn't mine. Consider an example:

A jacket you want is $350. You figure out that you'll wear it 5 times a month. Multiply the 5 by 12 months (it usually evens out, since you may wear it more some months thant others) which equals 60. Now, divide 350 by 60. $5.80.

That's what your new jacket will cost per wearing in the first year. Consider, too, that it will be even less expensive as the years pass.

First off, if I had 5% of my family's income to spend on clothing and bought the $350 jacket, the rest of my family would all be naked and I would be wearing nothing but the jacket. Not very practical in the mountains of the Great Northwest.

Second problem, if I purchased the $350 jacket, is that I would be stuck with it for a really long time. Since I prefer to wear more current items, I would tire of the jacket long before it earned its keep.

Breaking down my total spending plan a few years ago, I calculated that I need to achieve a cost per wear of about $1 for dresses, $.25 for separates, and $.10 for everything else (shoes, coats, undergarments, etc). I leverage my occasional oops by frequenting $1 day at Value Village. Here's what I got today:

  • A pair of cotton & linen khaki capris. I will wear them once or twice a week this summer and then sell them or throw them away. Estimated cost per wear = $.05.

  • A knee-length black sleeveless dress. While it wasn't $1, it is a quality garment. Occasionally necessary, dresses are not the easiest for me to find. I will have to wear it 20 times, or 4 times per year for 5 years, but it beats crisis shopping.

  • Instead of using cost per wear to justify expensive purchases, I discipline myself in the heat of the buying decision. Is it really worth it?

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    Creating the Spring Shopping List

    Next up -- creating the Spring 2006 shopping list. For each segment of your life you should have a uniform template, a certain combination of pieces that expresses your idiom and makes you feel like yourself.

    Starting with your dominant lifestyle segment (that is, what you get dressed for most often), create a spreadsheet (or just a list on a 3 x 5 card, whatever works for you) with a column for each major piece in your uniform. Estimate, based on your lifestyle and laundry cycle, how many of each you need. Now here's the tricky part: identify what you have and list them, starting at the bottom with the one you hope to biff next and working up to your favorite, leaving room at the top for new pieces you need. Work through each segment.

    Once you see where the gaps in your wardrobe are, you can create a prioritized shopping list. First is anything completely lacking. Second, those staple items in your wardrobe, things worn daily. Depending on your budget, that may be as far as you get.

    Armed with your list, approach your shopping trip(s) with reason. Shopping is a business endeavor. You have my permission to take as many coffee breaks as you need. Save your feet, your pocketbook, and your sanity!

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