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Layer It

layer black white navy green vest flannel buffalo plaid check stripe pattern mix ootd

Brrrr . . . it’s cold outside! Even in Sacramento, we’re reaching for our long underwear and puffy coats. Layers are a must at this time of year, but they don’t have to be a drag. Done right, layers will keep you toasty and add interest to your ensemble. Layering adds color and texture to an outfit. Layering can change your silhouette. Layering can make an awkward piece work. And, of course, it can keep you warm.

I’ve pulled together a few of my guiding principles when it comes to layering.


Highlight the Best (and Hide the Rest)
It seems everyone has some clothing item in their closet that would be just right except that it’s too short, it doesn’t fasten properly, it has an ink-stain, etc. Layering is a perfect way to highlight the parts of that garment that you like, and hide those you don’t. For example, I “made” the silk top pictured above by cutting it from a dress that didn’t fit my hips. I love the pattern and fabric, but the bottom is ragged and awkward with the original side zip. By layering it under a dress, I get to show off the pattern and color I like so much and cover my hack job.


Keep it Legal
As much as you may love your decolletage or legs, sometimes, it isn’t appropriate to have them exposed. Layers to the rescue! I hide the cleavage of deep, v-neck dresses (like the, honestly too small, wrap dress above) with a collared shirt beneath and make miniskirts less scandalous with thick leggings.


Short over Long, Small over Large
Traditionally, one thinks of layering so that the outer piece is the largest (e.g. longest arms, longest length, etc.) But if you want to show off that bottom layer, think of putting short over long and small over large. I wore a longer (and longer-sleeved) dress as a slip under an itty bitty silk wrap dress for both modesty and interest. Consider a short sleeved jacket over a longer sleeved top or dress. It may not be your first instinct, but it looks fresh.


Do the Vest Thing
I’m a vest fan from way back. When I worked in a corporate setting, a suiting vest was my favorite way to formalize an outfit as simple as a skirt and blouse. Nowadays, I’m obsessed with denim vests. Whatever your vest type, they are perfect to define the waist and even hide any midsection awkwardness. A cropped vest, fastened over an otherwise somewhat shapeless outfit, is my favorite way to create the illusion of legs for days.


Great Lays
Some pieces are better for layering than others. My favorite layering items are lace blouses, collared shirts, and sleeveless dresses. I love lace tops. They add dimension when worn over a dress and modesty when worn under. Collared shirts can be worn as a lightweight jacket or worn underneath another layer with just the collar and cuffs exposed. Sleeveless dresses are especially versatile. They can be worn a la carte for summer and with a turtleneck, thick tights, and boots for winter.


Dress over Jeans?
This has been a fringe trend for the past ten years. Layering skinny jeans under a short dress is the “safest” way to do this trend. Anything bulkier and longer verges on lagenlook. The effect should be similar to a tunic over leggings, only a bit more structured. I plan on using this layering trick (albeit with skinny trousers) to wear my shorter dresses to teach and speak. I bought a pair of black, Sloan pants from Banana Republic just for this purpose.


Watch your Waistline
When piling on the layers you can easily end up looking like the Michelin Man. To avoid over-bulking, keep an eye on your waistline. Where on your waistline do your layers hit? Do they compete or do they complement one another? Be sure that you keep some definition. If you wear a boxy top and a baggy bottom, add a belt or leave some space between the two items so that you don’t lose your shape. Sometimes buttoning or unbuttoning your top layer can help define your waist.

As always, have fun! If you’re new to layering, try it with casual outfits before you wear a layered confection out to dinner with your future in-laws. Only by experimenting will you come up with novel combinations. You’ll find that your wardrobe seems much bigger, rather than smaller, as you find ways to wear things that have long sat neglected. You’ll have hits and you’ll have misses, but you will also be learning what works for you and your clothing inventory. If anyone gives you grief, tell them you’re just being practical – you wanted to be prepared for any climate eventuality!

This post is an updated version of Layer It, originally published 10/5/2007 at whatiwore2day.blogspot.com/2007/10/layer-it.html

Storing and Displaying Accessories

jewelry display rings bracelets pins

It’s been eight and a half years since I shared how I stored my accessories. Things have changed since spring of 2008. My style has evolved, trends have come and gone, and I moved to California.


May 2008 and November 2016

How am I storing and displaying my accessories, now?

Rings
I have about 20 rings, now, including four engagement/wedding rings from Beefy. I store most of them on a glass or wooden hand form on my dresser. Some of the larger rings (like the mushroom ring) are in a small dish.

Pins and Brooches
My brooch collection is much smaller than it used to be, and I no longer store them pinned to a strip of fabric on the back of a closet door. Instead, the brooches nestle in a woven box and the pins (mostly Disney) rest in a silver dish on top of my dresser.


Bracelets
My closet tour video was made in January 2010, at the height of the arm party trend. I stored my large bracelet collection on the points of a set of antlers, as seen in the video. Eventually, the weight of the jewelry started to separate the antlers from their mounting, so I moved the bracelets to a glass jar. Now, I mostly find bracelets annoying, so only a few remain in the jar and the rest of the space is filled with string lights. A couple of the nicer pieces rest in a tray near the hand forms.

Earrings
I used to store my earrings in a box with an internal divider, but I prefer to have them on display. Now, they hang on two pieces of metal and wire art. The birds and flowers pictured in the art needed a little flair.


I still store small, post-style earrings in the box. Larger, dangly earrings that do not have hook backs have a home in a silver dish next to the box.

Necklaces
My pearl and faux pearl necklaces are displayed in a carnival glass dish on my dresser. The rest hang from three key hook bars, hung in a row, inside my closet.


Belts
I hung a double towel rack in my closet, below the necklace hooks, to hold most of my belt collection. (Some of the chunkier pieces hang from hat hooks elsewhere in the closet.)


Scarves
My lighter, more fashiony scarves hang on the back of my closet door. The larger, more wintry wraps share hangers with the coats in the hall closet (not pictured).


My accessories are an important part of my completed looks, so I like to have them on display, where I can easily scan for just the right element. My system makes it simple to find items while also adding a decorative touch to my dressing area. I’m most pleased with the earring display, even though I say bad words when I attempt to hang an earring and end up knocking two more pairs to the ground.

What innovative ways do you have of storing and displaying your accessories?

Wear a Poncho

pattern mix poncho how to style fashion ootd whatiwore2day


Winter is coming and, with it, all the eatin’ holidays. We’ll kick off the season of gluttony with Thanksgiving. Soon after, offices fill with treats: homemade fudge, peanut brittle, peppermint bark.  You’ll “win” that giant bucket with three types of popcorn at a gift exchange. Time off for the holidays means time for grazing on the leftover ham in the fridge, chocolates from your aunt, and cookies from the cookie exchange you didn’t really want to attend. We’ll all go on diets January 1st, but, if you want to look good in the meantime, you need a plan to conceal the growing food baby. My recommendation: the poncho.

Whatever you call it, a cape, a ruana, or a poncho, draping your upper body in swaths of fabric is both elegant and practical. You’ll make a statement as you swirl in from the frosty outdoors and every gesture is magnified by dramatic drape. The loose fit balanced with a warm fabrication is the perfect solution for inconsistent indoor heating. Just use caution when reaching for the cheese dip.

The Basics
I love ponchos, but they can go all wrong if they aren’t styled just right. Consider the following guidelines when dressing for a poncho.

Bottoms. Unless you’re a fan of lagenlook, you’ll want to balance the volume of a poncho on top with less volume on the bottom. Skinny jeans (or their food-baby-friendly cousin, leggings) are the obvious option. I also love a mini-skirt with tights or leggings. For the truly daring, try shorts and tights. Add a pair of knee-high boots and you’ve got a trendy, seasonal outfit. The goal is to clearly delineate the legs. Wide-legged pants or long skirts are tricky to wear with a poncho unless you’re tall and slender.


Bags. Once upon a time, I thought the only bag to carry with a poncho was a clutch. With a clutch, there are no straps to interrupt the drape of fabric. However, a crossbody bag can be very flattering as the strap highlights the shape beneath the poncho. I’ve tried both a shoulder bag and a tote with a poncho and they were terribly inconvenient and ruined the look of the outfit. A top-handle bag works, but can be annoying if the bag is heavy and you have far to carry it.


Outerwear. In most of California, we can get away with just a poncho as outerwear, but, when I lived in Ohio, I needed another layer. Coats, with their tricky sleeves, can be difficult to wear over a poncho. If the poncho is thin enough, I push all the fabric up to my neck and then most of it down my chest like a giant infinity scarf. Then, I can get my arms in the coat sleeves, but sometimes can’t fasten the front. The best outerwear option I’ve tried is a cape over the poncho. It isn’t the warmest solution, as icy winds can easily find their way into a cape, but suitable for a short trip. In the future, I may try layering a puffy vest under the poncho for wintry excursions. Or just never go outside if it’s really cold.


The Extras
Granted, there are a few pesky “rules” to wearing a poncho, but, besides the beauty and elegance of a poncho, there are also a few special styling moves you can only make with a poncho.

Necklines. A poncho gives you a chance to do some interesting layering at the neckline. Consider a cowl neck sweater exposed by the wide neck opening of a poncho. Try double turtlenecks. How about a preppy collar peeking out of a rustic drape? One of my favorite neckline combinations was the hood of a sweatshirt emerging from a wide-necked poncho.


Jewelry. The vast expanse of a poncho is the perfect setting for a statement necklace. I also like the 70’s vibe of long, beaded earrings dusting poncho-covered shoulders.


Legs. You’ve all heard the rule that if the boobs are out, the legs are put away, right? Don a poncho and it’s time to bring the legs out. A poncho is a conservative top, so it gives you license to wear a shorter skirt or higher heels (or both). If you love your legs, a poncho is a great excuse to flaunt them.


Ponchos are one of the oldest and simplest garments. This is the time of year to take advantage of their easy grace. And they also make a great gift since they’re usually “one size fits all.”

How to Look Old

I’m so pleased to be in my fifth decade, because, if you haven’t heard, old is the new young! It’s the granny chic zeitgeist. 20-year-olds are so passé. And while you might fool people with your silver hair and cat eye glasses and smile lines at a quick glance, the real secret to looking old is attitude. As an old person, myself, I’ve got some tips for you:

Say “No” More. Once you’re old, you’ve done it all and you’ve found that most of it is not worth doing. Anytime you’re asked to do something new, say, “No.” Usually, if it’s new, it’s going to be uncomfortable and old age is all about comfort! Don’t waste your few, remaining, precious years on a new experience that might be a waste of time. Thai food? Too spicy. Ballroom dancing? You tried that once and you sucked. Befriend the neighbor? She’s crazy and has too many cats. Rest, content, that you are wise enough to know what you like.

Show Me Your Grump Face. The movie is Grumpy Old Men. Not Cheerful Old Men. Cultivate a sourpuss attitude. Begin with the weather on the morning news. Is the forecast sunny? Complain about the drought. Is rain predicted? Now the roads are going to be a mess. Continue this attitude through the day. If your neighbor brings you freshly baked, chocolate-chip cookies, accept them with a scowl and mention that you’d prefer brownies. The glass is half empty, people!

Trust No One. It’s true: everyone is out to get you. And it’s personal. The kid that littered in your yard did it just to piss you off. The a-hole that tailgated you in heavy traffic doesn’t like your bumper sticker. The man that cut in front of you in line thinks he’s better than you. The surest way to suss out the hostiles is to answer every question with a question. When the clerk at the grocery store asks, “Did you find everything you were looking for today,” answer, suspiciously, with “Why do you ask?” Because what he probably means is: “Do you really need a bag of clearance Halloween candy, Terra chips, and a box of wine, you big fat drunk? Did you have trouble finding the SlimFast and the AA meeting?” Confrontation will usually get to the true, nasty, intention of others’ actions.

Sure, you can try for “old” by wearing the same hairstyle and clothes you wore in highschool, but you’re just a poseur unless you incorporate age into your mental state. Wrinkles and saggy eyelids aren’t enough. Joie de vivre will out you as a young person, every time. No one will believe you’re old when you spend the evenings pushing your boundaries and the weekends making new friends. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off practice my cranky face in the mirror. Gotta work on those frown lines!

Add Color to Your Wardrobe

When I lived in Cincinnati, Londyn and I got together once or twice a month. We inevitably ended up dishing on fashion – what we liked, what we wanted, what we bought, and what other people said to us about the clothes we wore. Oddly enough, we both heard a similar comment from our coworkers (and we worked at different companies): “You wear so much color!” One could interpret the comment a couple different ways. It could mean, “My God, are you color blind? My eyes are bleeding.” Or it could mean, “I wish I could introduce more color into my wardrobe.” I prefer the latter. There is nothing wrong with an all black wardrobe, but if you are interested in raising your color quotient, these are a few of my color mantras.


Black and white accented with hot pink

Punch It Up. The simplest way to add color to a neutral wardrobe is to add a single, bright accent color. Adding red shoes to a black and white outfit is probably the first example that comes to mind. Don’t feel limited to red though. Try hot pink, instead, with black and white. Add bright turquoise to browns. Carry a purple bag with your all gray outfit. If you find a color you love, buy many accessories in that color. Then, sprinkle them liberally through your neutral outfits.


Red and green are opposites, but choosing an olive green keeps the outfit from looking Christmas-y

Opposites Attract. The surest way to create a “get noticed” color combo is to wear opposing colors from the color wheel. However, I’d stay away from purely primary mixes (like red/green), and, instead, mix tomato and olive or persimmon and turquoise. Pairing opposites looks fresh, bold, and fun.


Pastel perfection

Watch Your Saturation. Nope, this isn’t an admonition against drunk dressing. (Heck, a little wine may be just what you need to get your inspiration on.) Saturation refers to the intensity of the color. Ever read about jewel tones or pastels being the season’s “look”? These are colloquial terms that refer to saturation. A pulled together look consists of color combinations that are matched in saturation. Hot pink looks great with leaf green (at least I think so), while pale pink looks better with light green or even soft gray. You can mix colors that may one may not normally think of as “going together” (like yellow and purple), if you keep the saturation the same (mustard and amethyst). While you can create a unique look by mixing saturation, it’s an advanced skill.


Pink shirt, pink dress, pink shoes!

Be Matchy-Matchy. Or not. If you’re wearing your hot pink dress, should you wear your hot pink shoes? I say, “Go for it!” (And I have.) It isn’t the most sophisticated look, but it’s fun and will garner you attention. But you don’t need to be overly color coordinated. If you pay any attention to the In Style spreads, you’ll notice that while the whole outfit goes together, it isn’t entirely color matched. For example, adding red pumps to an outfit mostly in shades of blue and neutrals is unexpected and sophisticated (check out this example from Londyn). If you don’t want to match, don’t, but try not to add more than one “unmatched” color into the mix and be sure to Watch Your Saturation.


Leopard print (and a patterned handbag) bridge black and brown

Black and Brown Go Together. And so do black and navy. I don’t recommend wearing just a navy dress and black shoes, but if you throw a matching black belt and perhaps a black purse into the mix, the look is chic. The key is to mix these colors as if you meant to do it, not as if you got dressed in the dark. I find this trick especially useful to incorporate navy items into my wardrobe. I already own black and brown footwear. Who wants to maintain navy as well? By incorporating black into my navy ensembles, I don’t need navy pumps. If you’re feeling gun-shy about combining black and brown, try using leopard print as a bridging piece, as pictured above.

Are you ready to add color to your wardrobe? I’ve recapped some of the above advice and grouped it by difficulty.

Beginner. The beginner has a wardrobe of mostly neutrals (black, brown, gray, white). Pick your favorite color and use that as your guide to purchasing colorful items. Add one colorful piece to a neutral outfit to Punch It Up. Be Matchy Matchy. People will think your style is sharp!

Intermediate. Pair opposite colors, but Watch Your Saturation. Try incorporating two colors (other than neutrals) into an outfit. Add an accessory in a third color to be not Matchy Matchy. You’ll hear the words “chic” and “sophisticated” used to describe you by folks at the water cooler.

Advanced. Mix black and brown or black and navy. Mix saturations. Wear an outfit composed of three or more colors (but don’t turn into Rainbow Brite). You’ll notice people giving you double and third takes as they struggle to digest your outfit. Some people won’t get it, but true fashionistas will.


Turquoise and mint and persimmon, oh my!

Most importantly have fun and wear your colors proudly. You can carry almost anything off with the right attitude. If you are truly happy with a wardrobe of neutrals, don’t change. But if you’re longing for more color in your life, don’t think it’s only for those “fashion-y” people. Wear what you love, and others will love it too.

This post is an updated version of Color Yourself Happy, originally published 9/9/2007 at http://whatiwore2day.blogspot.com.