Fat Woman at a Tweed Ride

A friend of ours has convinced us that we need to go to the Quad Cities Tweed Ride this year. It’s lots of fun, she said. It’s super laid back, she said.

I looked at photos from the website. They’re looking pretty seriously tweed. In most cases, they’re looking pretty seriously vintage and tweed in their attire. Yes, I realize they pick out the best-looking riders for photo opportunities to show off on the website, as the roommate reminded me, but I’ve been down the vintage costume path before and what it taught me is that there is a hierarchy to acceptance based on the perceived accuracy and beauty of your attire.

The roommate will be pretty easy to outfit. She’s tall and lean and looks fabulous in menswear. We’ve already sourced tweed knickers for her and a potential source for a vintage style wool jersey that she wants anyway. A newsboy cap and kneesocks and she’ll be too gorgeously tweed.

Me? I know I don’t have much (okay, any) budget for costuming, so I need to start building from what I already have.

Turns out, a toss of the closet yielded a not horrible starting point. I have a lovely A-line midi-length charcoal wool skirt with sky blue and tan plaid that’s very classic and could work with either the 1940s or 1950s as style inspiration.

I also have a black wool jacket with denim patches on the elbow. It has a more modern menswear vibe, so I don’t normally wear it with my skirt, but I think it will work with the skirt if I add a jacket cinch clip to the back to better define the waist. It would work with knickers if I decide to try to go that route.

I can wear either my white linen shirt or my white button up blouse and the overall look will be timeless blend in. My gut says that the blouse will work better because it’s got princess seaming which will give the illusion of being more tailored and body conscious.

black wool jacket next to plaid wool skirt

It’s amazing how much dust wool picks up in the closet.

Let’s leave off for a moment that I don’t have a step through frame bike and that I’ll need to practice mounting and dismounting in a ladylike way with this skirt. We’ll get back to that because I already have to do a modified tilt mount to get on my bike in the first place because of my hip. It just doesn’t move certain ways anymore. (Thanks, arthritis!) We’re going to pretend this is all just going to work for purposes of discussion.

That leaves the matter of accessories. I think I still have a pair of black leather Isotoner gloves that I can wear. If not, I’ll put “crochet gloves” on my list of things to do. Hat or head scarf for wearing when I’m not in my helmet also needs to happen, but that’s actually pretty trivial for me to find.

Where I’m really falling down is shoes. Normally I wear knee boots with this skirt and call it a day, but if I’m going for a more vintage look (as appropriate for a Tweed Ride), a pair of spectator pumps would probably be prettiest, if a little lousy to ride in. If I can find a lightweight twinset or sweater to replace the jacket, I could easily wear my a pair of coordinating crew socks and my loafers, like this picture. That’s currently a higher probability option.

The crazy part of me says “You have yarn. Knit a fair isle vest to go over your white blouse.” I call that part of me crazy because I’ve never managed to make a sweater I like for myself. Making something like this in the timeframe I have seems crazy pants, but if I did, I’d probably want to go completely crazy pants and make a Great Horn-rimmed vest.

Alternately, I need to find shorts like this picture from Life Magazine. That’s probably not a “find” option. It’s probably a “make” option, which is its own expense. Fabric. Pattern. Muslin. Time. Time. Also, it wants a short sleeved blouse, so I’d probably have to make that, too. More time.

Otherwise, I may have to search for a pair of larger men’s charcoal tweed pants at thrift to remake into knickers. If I get lucky and find the right pants to refashion, that solves both my shoes and my “how do I mount my bike” problems. It’s my preferred option. My jacket would work. I could wear a cute cloche for a hat. It would be super comfortable. It’s also my closest to least likely to happen option. I just never get that lucky thrifting.

If I could find a proper ’49er style jacket or pattern in my size, I’d throw it all out and start from there. I’d know my beloved loafers would be exactly the right thing to wear and I’d pair it with jeans and casual gloves and a 40’s style hairdo. That’s a total pipe dream. Pendleton still makes the ’49er in my size once in a blue moon, but I’ll have better luck if I track down a pattern with similar features and make one for myself and that’s well beyond my sewing ability.

Updated: The sweater list

As I’ve been cleaning out the sweater queue, I’ve started putting together the sweater list: things that I absolutely want to wear and thus find worthy to make. As I’ve been putting together this list, I’m following a few rules:

  1. The pattern must be one already in my collection, custom-fit (since I have the subscription) or available for free. I’m watching my budget and I have the blessing of an extensive library of things to knit.
  2. The yarn must be something already in my stash. This is in part because I’m watching my budget, but it’s also because I have lots of great yarn just waiting to be sweaters. I’m worthy of using it now.
  3. It must be a realistic style for me to wear. This is both a style and a weight of the sweater issue. If it’s not my thing, I won’t wear it. If it’s too heavy and I could only wear it as a coat, I won’t wear it, either.

It’s proving more difficult than I originally thought it would be. I’m doing a great deal of searching through both my stash on Ravelry and my Ravelry library. So far it’s not going well, at least from the “something to blog about” standpoint. I have a lot of “I didn’t understand my most usual colors” and a lot of “that’s a cool pattern, but not practical/flattering/reasonable to think I’ll actually make” to sort through.

It leaves me with a lot of questions about what I’m going to do with this yarn if I’m not going to make a sweater with it, too. I need to get serious about figuring out that problem, too. Some of the yarn I have, I still want to make other things with. Some of it, however, would be put to better use sold to another knitter/crocheter or potentially donated to somewhere that could do some good.

Some of the yarn I have, I still want to make other things with. Some of it, however, would be put to better use sold to another knitter/crocheter. Some other skeins I have would be better donated to somewhere that could do some good and I have a venue in mind for that.

I’ve been questioning my lists a lot lately. I keep looking at the time available after I leave the Day Job all the things I have on my lists. This blog. The knitting. The stack of books on my nightstand. The Craftsy classes I own and haven’t taken. The gym I’m not going to enough. The story writing that goes in fits and starts at best. Each of them silently judging me because I have so much on my plate and so little progress on any of them, especially the gym and the story writing.

I’m just wondering, is doing it all unrealistic for me at this stage in my life? Do I need to let go of a few things? Or do I just need better priorities and more efficient use of my time?

I can’t listen to an audio book when I’m at The Day Job due to the nature of my work. There are too many interruptions. What if I go to the gym and walk on the track and listen to a book on Audible, will that let me do more?

Should I knit and watch TV when I get home from The Day Job to unpack my brain after a long day?

Do I give up the blogging time and trade it for time directly on my novel? Is this even worth doing? If it is, do my general ramblings make the most entertaining reading or should I put a timer on my blog time and use a writing prompt related to what I’m trying to write about in my stories to help prime the pump?

Idea Log: Norwegian Star

Fueled by my relative success at wardrobe curating, I’ve started cleaning out my Ravelry queue of things that I will never make, either because they don’t fit my style (Classic with a Twist) or they just aren’t practical. That practicality thing is killing me.

It absolutely pains me to throw  Winter Traveller Sweater by Julie Farwell-Clay, but I will never wear it. That enormous graphic Norwegian star speaks to me. I love the graphic quality of the huge star dominating the background. I want this sweater in my life, but it’s just not practical for me, even in Iowa. I find I’m too warm in pullovers on all but the coldest of days.

A big plain Norwegian Star motif, very much like this one I found on Gripping Yarns.

Cardigans are the best way to go for me. I can unbutton or unzip them as needed when I get too warm. I can button them up when I’m cold. A nice cardigan is what I need. Maybe something with a zipper, so I can minimize interrupting the motif and just let it flow across the field of the sweater. More thought is needed.

Hanten Mantra

an older progress picture of my Hanten by Cheryl Oberle.

One of the hardest parts knitting for me is sustaining interest in projects. As a product knitter, I want the result of my knitting. Unless the knitting itself is engaging, I have difficulty maintaining my focus and dedication on the work until the end.

I want this sweater.

I know my Hanten will be a favorite once I finish it. I can already tell that I will reach for it again and again because I like its organic nature. I like its imperfections, and it’s simple shape.

I want this sweater.

It’s the right color. It fits my aesthetic. It fits my style, Classics with a Twist. In this case, two twists: It’s kimono – traditional Japanse clothing vs. a straight up western piece -, and it’s knit, which is not usual for this kind of piece at all. (I’m not sure that it’s actually a hanten in the strictest sense of the word, but it was inspired by the shape of the hanten, and that’s the name of the pattern, so that’s what I’m calling it.)

I want this sweater.

I just need to finish knitting this sweater, and that’s what’s proving problematic. My subversive instinct isn’t working in my favor for self-motivation. I need to kick it in on myself. I’m bucking “The Man” by finishing this sweater. Big Fashion doesn’t want me to succeed. They want me to give them money for a sweater that’s their vision, not mine. This is my sweater, my vision.

I want this sweater.

I just really kind of want it to knit itself and be magically finished already. Oh, for a pair of self-knitting needles, like Mrs. Weasley had in the Harry Potter books and movies! Now that would be an excellent gift.

Five Questions | Skincare/Makeup edition

I saw this over at Gretchen’s Closet and desperately needed a writing prompt for today, so here it goes.

  1. Why do you (or don’t you) wear makeup?

    I’m okay the way I look without makeup, but makeup makes me feel more like myself, and makeup can be fun. I can experiment with different looks without the permanency of new hair color, for example. My current red hair is going to be something of a pain to get back to my natural blondish shade, and I’m going to start that process on my next trip to the hair stylist.

  2. When do you wear makeup? Do you put it on every day, no matter if you’re just going to be at home or going to the grocery store, just for yourself? Or do you save it for special occasions?

    I should wear it every day and not save it for special occasions. I like wearing it. I just tend not to most days, probably due to the perception of fuss that I sometimes associate with it.

  3. What are your 2-3 can’t-do-without skincare/makeup items?

    Lipstick and a moisturizing foundation. That’s it. Eyeliner, if you push me. I’d say Mascara, but finding the right mascara that stays put and doesn’t make my eyes tear up is always a challenge, so I go with eyeliner instead and often skip the mascara.

  4. How have you changed your routine over the years? Or haven’t you?

    Mostly I’ve been bolder with lipstick colors. When I first started wearing makeup in my teens, my mother was adamant that all I could wear was pale pink or nude shades. Since Mama was providing the makeup, I wore what I had.

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve branched out and tried more colors. Coral, plum, rose, and red, even black back in the day, though that didn’t work for me.
    I’m an unabashed fan of red lipstick. It has a punch that can bring you up when the world is trying to bring you down. Nothing says confidence quite like a bold red lip. There’s a red lip for every occasion, even work. You just need to experiment with color a bit to find the right shades for you.

  5. Do you do your own nails? Or have manicures? What products do you use if you do them at home?

    I do my own nails. I’ve always been very utilitarian about what I need to do with my hands, and the fact of the matter is that I admire glorious long nails, but they’re just not practical or practicable for my life. I am for neat, nicely kept nails for every day, and paint my nails or use Jamberry wraps for special occasions. I count special occasions as things like “Ooh. Look. Today is National Pizza Day. I should have pretty nails.”

    No, really. Today is National Pizza Day.

    I tried red nails for the first time this year. I really liked them, but it’s a look for when my nails are at their best. Currently, I’m regrowing from a batch of breaking, which happens with clock-like regularity. Sadly, my nails peel and split or shatter outright which makes wanting to do more than the most basic care difficult to muster.

Minimalism and wardrobe

I have a love of Minimalist blogs, especially Minimalist Wardrobe blogs. The aesthetic of Less Is More and William Morris’s admonition to “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” appeals to me on a deep level despite the fact that minimalism can be seen by some to be classist.

After all, it’s easy to say it’s pride to have fewer things when it’s a choice.

When I was first starting out, I was living far enough under the poverty level to qualify for the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit as a single person with no children. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not having cable TV, or for that matter a television. I took my lunch to work every day. I went for walks, read, and wrote to entertain myself. Other than wanting to be able to have money in the bank for things like car repairs, health care expenses, and emergency expenses, I didn’t think my life was lacking.

I’d like to take some of that simplicity back into my life.

I have several things on my list for doing that. Cut back Facebook time to no more than half an hour daily. Eliminate mindless surfing. Find time sinks and reclaiming time. Root out bad habits and replace them with better ones.

This weekend I took on the task of going through my wardrobe and figuring out why I consistently believe I have nothing to wear. I did it first because getting dressed in the morning is one of my most hated chores because I’ve tended to feel like I dress in the manner of a potato wearing a feed sack to the opera. Also because when I’m feeling depressed, I tend to use the floor of my bedroom as a closet, which is counterproductive to my room being a space of zen-like calm where I can decompress and hide from the world when I need to recharge.

The task took the better part of the weekend, partly because I needed to do laundry too, partly because I have too many clothes, and partly because I’m still operating on under-powered lungs. (Note to self: the fact that a Mucinex made breathing easier this evening suggests that maybe the tail end of that cold is still hanging on.)

I started by reading The Curated Closet to put everything I knew into my mind. I decided on my color palette for my wardrobe using the author’s advice.

Yes, I know I maxed out my choices. I like colors.

I ended up settling on Olive, Navy, Plum, and Charcoal Gray as my focus colors, mostly because I had the most items in those colors. I find myself drawn to things in Plum and Olive, so discovering that I’ve got enough things in those colors to build a solid wardrobe around isn’t surprising. Charcoal Gray has always been my “See? I’m not wearing black.” color, so the number items I own in this color is also unsurprising. Navy is a bit aspirational in this list if I’m not counting my denim items in this category, so I’m counting them.

White, Khaki, and Black became my neutrals due to the number of basics I own in those colors. In theory, Navy and Charcoal Gray are neutrals, too, but since they’re counted under Main Colors, they don’t count here. They do give me more options for mixing the other colors. White is mostly blouses (worn with scarves in colors that make me not dead looking like white does). Khaki is chinos and cardigans. Black is everything because Everything Comes In Black For Fat Girls.

Tomato red, Robin’s egg blue, Teal, Orange, and Dark Periwinkle serve as accents because I adore the items I have in those colors. I love how I look in those colors. Those colors mix well with my main colors and my neutrals. Also, for those into the seasonal color theory thing, they’re very firmly Autumn colors (except for black and white, which are pretty much inescapable in clothing, especially plus sized clothing.)

Anything not one of those colors was evaluated for re-usability and either thrown out or donated. That put me down to a more manageable closet. I understood what I like, what I don’t like, and what works for me, but it still didn’t feel like I had style.

I had clothes – the same clothes (kind of boring) clothes that I had before I started this exercise, only fewer of them. Still, I set to the task of giving my personal style a name with the hope that naming the collection of clothes in my closet. I told the roommate my dilemma (no actual style) and that I was jealous of her style.

She said she believed the same thing about herself that I thought about myself: that she had no style. The roommate? She’s got style, and it surprised me that she thought she didn’t. She rocks sporty menswear inspired classics, and I told her so.

“You’re kind of artsy. You can’t do anything straight. You have to put your spin on it,” she said and dubbed my style “Classics with a Twist,” which is good enough for me. That covers my little denim Japanese style inspired jacket or the A-line skirt with the paper airplane print, or the artist made scarves I love as much as it includes the small skull necklaces I wear or my fun narwhal socks that match one of my work polos.

I had a neat closet. I had a name for how I dress. I was reading “classic” as “kind of boring” and “comfortable” as “slouchy,” which is not at all what I do. I was also reading “I like interesting and artistic things” as “I dress kind of weird,” which is also not the case. I just wear what I like and needed to edit what I had for maximum effect.

I looked through my closet to see if I had any holes in my wardrobe.

I do, actually, despite having two full kitchen garbage sacks of clothing to donate. I tend to over buy for work and underbuy for non-working hours. Work’s dress code is “dress for your day” which for me ranges from business casual to smart casual with the occasional full business day thrown in for good measure. I don’t need as many purely work clothes as I think I do.

Because I over buy for work and under buy for non-working hours, I end up thinking I don’t have enough clothing because I’m missing a couple of key pieces of weekend wear. I like to wear button front shirts layered over t-shirts or tanks as my weekend uniform. Specifically, I need an additional collared long sleeve button front shirt to wear over t-shirts like a jacket or by itself (I currently have a chambray shirt), a linen button front casual shirt, and a short sleeve button front shirt. A band collar shirt might be an excellent add-in if I can find the right one.

I also need to assign a few items as double duty items between my work and weekend wardrobes. My store-bought cardigans and sweaters are fair game, as are my leggings. I hesitate to put any of my dress shirts in that category, though my striped dress shirt might make a good weekend shirt/jacket. This needs some careful consideration, so I don’t end up making myself feel like I have no clothes to wear to the day job after all this work curating my closet.

As for the goal of making some sweaters for myself, I have some ideas. A lighter weight, more fitted, pullover sweater is a needed addition to the work wardrobe. Something like the sleeved version of Atlantique appeals to me. Making myself a cardigan or two would also be a good and useful addition. Pedal Pusher or Gearhead are on my short list because I need early spring biking gear. Replacing my two pullover sweaters with hand knit sweaters is also a goal. They’re already starting to show signs of wear. Turning something like Winter Doldrums into a sweater coat is also appealing. I’ll be putting some further thought into this before I finalize the list.

Overall, I’m pleased with the results of this project. It’s not a minimalist wardrobe in the pure capsule wardrobe sense or the Project 333 sense, nor are either what I was going for. It is, however, appropriate to my life and well curated. I have nothing in my wardrobe that I do not know to be functional or believe to be beautiful. I can pull pretty much anything out of my closet and feel assured of having something appropriate to wear that I feel happy about putting on.

That’s exactly what I wanted.

To minimalise or not to minimalise

Minimalism is a difficult topic for me. On the one hand, it’s aspired to as an ideal. People quote William Morris “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” We read books on decluttering, like Marie Kondo’s “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” I loved it when I read it and yet I remember feeling a distinctly odd combination of pride and guilt while reading it.

I didn’t have words for it until I saw an opinion piece in the  New York Times which put my internal conflict into sharp light: 

(M)inimalism is a virtue only when it’s a choice, and it’s telling that its fan base is clustered in the well-off middle class. 

No one wants to admit they’re anything other than middle class. There are articles on the phenomenon of believing you’re middle class when you’re not (whether you’re poor or rich), but it basically seems to come down to being Middle Class is as much a virtue to aspire to in the United States as the vision of the  founding fathers that all men are created equal, the ideal of the self made man,  or the aspirational rugged individualism of the Old West.

If we’re all middle class, we’re all equal, and yet admitting that I might need to declutter and downsize is admitting that despite my perceptions of my bills and financial obligations that I’m in a different category than I care to admit. I have clawed my way into not just the middle class, but the well-off middle class. 

I don’t feel that way, though.

I still feel like the little girl getting teased at school for not having name brand tennis shoes, designer jeans, and Alligator shirts. I feel like the girl who took my lunch in a bag so I didn’t have to go through the lunch line with the highly identifiable Free School Lunch Ticket – grateful that we still had enough money to afford me that little bit of dignity. 

I feel like the girl who was told to be careful in my school clothes, because my sisters were going to have to wear them when I out grew them – the girl who wore clothes some family friend stole from out of a Salvation Army collection bin – things that weren’t actually nice enough to donate in the first place, poorly made (even for the 80s), out of style, and stained, but better than clothes that didn’t fit at all. Clothes that I wore and called “punk style” because it made it feel less embarrassing to wear them when I called them that than to admit the truth of the matter: We couldn’t afford anything better. 

I felt ashamed for even wanting something more. I taught myself not to really care about what I looked like.

Fast forward to today, I don’t really know what I like or how to dress myself like an adult. I have a plethora of things from the fat girl fashion ghetto (read: black), and in theory have lots of things to wear – enough that I feel like I need to minimalise. I feel like I have almost nothing I really like. 

I know what I’m supposed to want: Classic items that never go out of style in neutral colors. Preferably black, to hide my fatness.

Fuck.

That. 

Noise.

It’s safe and boring. My closet is full of safe and boring. No wonder I’m struggling with it. Of all the things that I’ve ever aspired to, I have never aspired to be safe and boring.

Comfortable and happy? That’s a different story. But is that a style?

I know what I like on other people. I want to dress in comfortable, casual things. I want colors that I look good in, like periwinkle blue and pale amethyst, tomato red and pumpkin orange, jade green and teal blue. I want a jacket that looks at home in the office or by the fireplace. A type of Casual Chic that runs something slightly more to the casual and less to the chic than to the feminine and cozy, with just enough quirky thrown in to keep it from looking like I stepped right out of the pages of the Eddie Bauer or J Jill. 

I want to dress like me. I just need to figure out what that is and maybe I need to get rid of some things in my closet to do that.