Browsing Category

Essays

Excerpts from WhatIWore2Day’s archives

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

How This Blog Has Changed My Life


Pretty grand title, huh? Well, it’s true; I’m a different person than I was when I started this blog, ten years ago. I’ve changed in lots of the little ways you’d expect: I’m more conscious of trends, I visit thrift stores more often, I dress more creatively and I shop more than before WIW2D. The biggest change I’ve seen, though, has been in my attitude towards others’ dress. I’m much more accepting of other people’s style choices than I used to be.

I used to delight in the criticism of other people’s clothing. My favorite part of What Not to Wear was the snarky comments Stacy and Clinton made about the “before” wardrobe. In the checkout line, I’d flip directly to the back of Glamour magazine and the infamous “black bar” page. Next, I’d grab a tabloid off the rack and see what witty things the rag had to say about badly dressed celebrities. Throughout the day, I’d note what other people were wearing and I’d think: too tight, too short, too loud, too tacky, too sloppy, too wild. I constantly judged what others were wearing and usually found them lacking.

There’s nothing like living in a glass house to teach one not to throw rocks.

The nasty comments started in the forums. I’d notice traffic coming to my blog from a message board and check out the thread. For every nice comment (if there were any!), I’d find ten hurtful remarks. Then, “anonymous” started leaving cruel comments directly on my blog. I was cut to the quick. Each unkind remark left me with a hollow feeling in my chest, a hitch in my throat, and a buzzing in my head. I’m not confrontational, so I did not engage the commenters, but I was busily justifying myself in my head and venting to my friends. I felt victimized and misunderstood. I contemplated giving up the blog on more than one occasion.

One day, it all just clicked and I realized that every time I judged others harshly, I was behaving exactly like the trolls. Even if my thoughts were left unshared, I was ashamed to be associated with them. I changed my attitude.

Instead of curling my lip in disgust at a woman’s outfit, I’d imagine what the offender was thinking when she got dressed. Was she in a hurry to get her child off to school? Does she dress to identify herself with a particular subculture? Is she expressing her mood with her dress? I also found things to admire in outfits that I would have previously snubbed. What a great pair of shoes! Look how she picked up that particular shade of green in multiple places. And, the number one attitude-changer of all, I admire her confidence!

Confidence is just what I gained from this exercise. As I accepted others around me and their fashion choices, I became bolder with my own. The new confidence inspired me to wear what I want, without worrying about whether it “went” or was too dressy or impractical. I adopted a more carefree attitude about my appearance. Why not take a risk today? I can play it safe tomorrow. Fuck the detractors. They only WISH they had the courage to try this.

There are always going to be nasty people in the world and they are probably always going to say nasty things, but I feel better in knowing that there is one less. I admit, the world would be a boring place if we were all winners and no one was better than anyone else (a la Harrison Bergeron), but maybe we could all cut each other some slack when it comes to style. There are so many ways we can express ourselves through our clothing. I’d like nothing better than to watch the parade go by and appreciate your choices.

This post is an updated version of How This Blog Has Changed My Life, originally published 3/24/2010 at whatiwore2day.blogspot.com. I still need to remind myself, even more than six years later, to be kind, empathetic, and understanding.

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.