Crafting a Wardrobe: Washday Lace Scarf

When I saw the New Edition Scarf I knew I had to make one. The multi-color yarn and zig-zag pattern scream Missoni inspired style, which I love (and which is out of both my price range and my size range for the most part.) The modeled shot couldn’t have been tailored to encourage me to buy the pattern unless they had put it on a plus-sized model.

Missoni inspired style? Check. A curly-haired woman on a bike? Check. An accessory that’s actually one size fits all? Triple check! Sold to the curly-haired, bike riding, fat girl.

My strong temptation was to make this scarf exactly as it was modeled, in colorway Englischer Garten (English Garden). I’d like to say that cooler heads prevailed, which is why I picked Waschtag (Washday) instead. I’d be lying. Englischer Garten was out of stock everywhere I looked to order the yarn.

The universe was looking after me. Waschtag is a much better colorway for my wardrobe, though I wasn’t certain of it when I opened the package. It seemed too emerald green in the ball. Never one to let a little thing like doubt keep me from trying something to see if it works, I set out to swatch.

That is also a lie. I started hooking the pattern straight away.

Once I had a good four inches of pattern done, I decided I should do a color test. Completly untrue. I decided that I needed to post to Instagram to show off how lovely this pattern looks even before blocking. The idea of color testing against my wardrobe snuck in as a secondary point since I was going to Instagram this anyway – and bonus, it gave me pictures to post to my Ravelry project for this.

Double bonus: First Ravelry project for the pattern!

The combination of yarn weight (heavy laceweight/light fingering) and crochet hook size (3.5 mm) give this fabric fabulous drape. It’s super fun to crochet and easy to remember. I think it would make a reasonably good travel project. I love the way the long slow color changes flow and the feel of the 100% merino in my hands is delightful. I’d give this project two thumbs up so far, but I’d have to stop crocheting long enough to do that.

Charcoal gray t-shirt

Olive green t-shirt

Turquoise t-shirt

After I tested it against my three favorite t-shirts to wear to work, my fears were laid to rest. Against the Charcoal shirt, the swatch (read: the first part of the scarf) appeared very blue. The dark teal took on an almost denim tone when paired with the charcoal. The effect was very sophisticated and classic, much like some of the more subdued Missoni prints. I would wear the combination together without hesitation, but it was my least favorite of the shirt color tests.

The greens looked much more yellow against the Olive shirt, to the point where the olive row actually almost looked yellow and the purple really popped. This shirt color test is probably the way I’ll wear the scarf most often, simply because I have more Olive green in my wardrobe and it may affect what I wear to the Tweed Ride because I like this color combination so much.

Interestingly, the colorway looked the truest to the color in the ball against the light Turquoise shirt. This was also my favorite color test. Like the Olive color test, the purple in the colorway really popped. I’ll have to figure out how to get a little more turquoise in the wardrobe if I want to play around more with pairing the scarf with turquoise shirts.

Of course, this is all a tiny bit premature given that I haven’t actually finished the scarf yet, but I’m not ready to be bothered with such trifels yet.

The Suit

Once, when I was a sophomore, I wore clothing to school that had come from one of the charity shops.

Okay, I think friends of my parents may have stolen a box of donations from a Salvation Army drop box and given them to us. I don’t really know the story of all of it, but Dad had been off and on work for some time and there was no money for everyone to have new clothes for school.

I hadn’t really changed in size since the year before. My sisters needed new clothing more than I did. There just weren’t enough hand-me-downs to cover them because there had been too many years between me and my closest in age sister.

I volunteered to make do because of the box and because my sisters needed things and we all had to make sacrifices.

There were all kinds of adult sized things in that box and I was an adult sized person. I picked out things that fit that I could have fun wearing, pretending that I was like the Sex Pistols I secretly listened to on the radio. Fuck the man! Fuck the strictures of fashion! Fuck the popularity police that roamed the halls of JFK High!

None of it was the Preppy style that was popular then, the style I really desperately wanted to fit in with the popular kids at school. What it was, however, was the right price and my size. Some of it was kind of hippie chic. Most of it was pretty generic. Oxford shirts, t-shirts, and some old jeans I was lucky enough to fit into.

One of the things was this brown pantsuit and vest. It had a very Mary Tyler Moore vibe with flared bottom pants. It was amazing. I wanted to be Mary Tyler Moore. Mary Tyler Moore was always so confident and smart and beautiful. No one called her a freak because she knew the capital of Syria is Damascus. More importantly, I needed a suit for debate, so I asked to keep it.

I loved debate. In debate, people who argued logically and presented more evidence from better sources actually won. Mostly, though, debate tended to happen during the school week and I didn’t have to beg for rides to participate. At least no one expected your mom and dad to show up to debate tournaments so I didn’t have to make excuses why they weren’t there.

Dad, when he had work in the on again off again iron industry of the 80s, worked during the day. Mom worked nights so the family didn’t have to pay for child care. They couldn’t go to my orchestra concerts. At the time, I thought it was because they secretly didn’t love me. Now I know they were doing the best they could with what they had to give. Also, neither one really liked orchestral music, so it worked out for them.

Dress nicely, the coach said. Wear a suit if you have one. I wore the amazing brown pantsuit because it was the only suit I had. For about half the day I felt powerful and beautiful.

Then someone recognized their mom’s old suit and called me out for it in the middle of the hallway during passing time. It was important at the time, but I don’t remember who now.

There was laughing and pointing and name calling. Salvation Army Shopper wearing hand-me-down clothes that weren’t good enough for her mother anymore. Someone called me a dumpster diver. Someone else said that Oscar the Grouch lived in my closet full of garbage clothing. I was the Garbage Girl and I dressed in other people’s garbage.

If embarrassment could kill, I would have died right then. At the very least I wanted to crawl into my closet and shut the door. This wasn’t the most embarrassing part of this story, though. Not by half.

The thing is, I really admired the punk music movement as much as I admired the hippies. I loved the idea that there were these iconoclasts out there who weren’t going to bow to a craven system. They were going to break it and make it better, or at the very least just live like they wanted to live. I wanted to pretend I was like Allison from the Breakfast Club and that I didn’t care what anyone thought of me.

But I wasn’t. I was like Claire. I didn’t fit in with my family. I didn’t fit in with my friends. All I wanted was to fit in. I cared very deeply about the opinions of people who ultimately meant nothing to me.

I came home crying, but I tried not to talk about what happened. It was always something. If I wasn’t being torn down because I was one of “the brains” and who wants to know all the answers anyway, I was teased by boys and girls alike for being busty (or later for being fat and busty). Or someone was telling me how ugly I am. It really never ended.

All of those things bothered me, but being called Garbage Girl got to me more than any of it. When Mama finally got out of me what had happened at school, I think she cried, too. Not in front of me. She tried never to cry in front of me. She told me not to worry about it, that teenagers were ugly and mean. I think it resonated very much with her and getting teased because she literally had only one dress to wear to school. Then we folded the amazing brown suit up and donated it.

Somehow Mama came up with money to buy me my own brand new navy blue suit.

We were getting food from the food bank. I think we might have been getting additional food assistance as well. I’m sure that Dad’s unemployment checks weren’t covering the bills. I know that in part she gave eating lunch to save the money she spent on it. I know that everyone lost out to some degree so I could have the suit. I knew it then, too. I pretended not to know what it really cost, but I did.

My pride caused my family to struggle even more that year. Everyone in my family sacrificed something that year so I could have a brand new navy blue suit.

That was the most embarrassing thing to me: My weakness. My inability to suck it up.

Bright Sunshiny Day

I wore glasses in my youth, but my vision changed by the time I hit junior high school. I didn’t need them anymore – or rather, lenses couldn’t be ground finely enough to correct the minor flaw in my distance vision. Since we didn’t have the cash to throw around on that sort of thing and having me wear stronger glasses than I needed was deemed detrimental to my vision, I stopped wearing glasses then.

I started wearing computer glasses in my 30s because of the constant eye strain from being on the computer all the time. Over time, it got to where I needed glasses for fine print and reading, so I bought some cheap readers and went on with my life at the recommendation of my optometrist.

Sometime within the last two years, my eyes have actually gotten bad enough to need glasses for distance vision. Now, when I say “bad enough,” I mean actually able to be corrected. I still need correction for reading, but now the difference is only +.5 between distance and reading glasses, vs “you see distance well enough, but you need actual correction for your near vision.”

So yes, I now wear glasses full time and have progressive lenses so I don’t have to constantly swap my glasses. Clear for inside and prescription sunglasses for outside, thanks to Costco Optical (it’s listed in the “things to buy at Costco” section), after all was said and done, including optical insurance coverage (which I’m lucky to have), I got two pairs for what I would have expected to pay for a single pair at my previous optometrist’s office. (My ophthalmologist’s office doesn’t actually have an optical center and I have to see an ophthalmologist now because of my other health issues, which put me at higher risk of even more wackiness going on with my eyes than I already have.)

In some ways, I’m a little sad. My readers have become something of a fashion statement for me, especially my Lydias. I’m very tempted to save up and have them re-lensed with my prescription so that I can still wear them when the mood strikes. It’s silly, especially since I picked some nice sensible frames that I can wear pretty much with everything.

Okay, sensible for me. They’re semi-rimless with pink and purple temples which may not be sensible for everyone. They work with my face shape, my coloring, and my wardrobe. I made the choice like I was picking makeup colors, not clothing colors. Makeup works on a whole different set of rules than clothing.

I have to admit, I was a little sad at first. Progressive lenses are a definite sign that “you’re not as young as you once were.” I had a brief flash of the “I’m so old” pity party right up until the moment when I put on my new glasses. Yes, I am a full-time glasses wearer and that is something that comes with age for many, if not most, people. I could feel sad about it, but I don’t because I now see with clarity everywhere I look.

The seeing with clarity pretty much wherever I’m looking (as long as I’m using the right part of the lens)? That’s amazing. I love actually feeling like the world is clear again, even though that means that I’m also seeing my wrinkles and stray hairs more clearly. If that’s the cost of admission to being able to see whatever I’m looking at and not fighting with blurriness or depending on people with better vision to read to me, it’s well worth it. If anything, I feel less old because I can see clearly now.

I haven’t sat down to try to selfie them yet because I suck at selfies about as much as anyone can suck at a selfie and they’re kind of an ordeal. Take 52 pictures, maybe more. Find one where I don’t look like something from a Hieronymous Bosch painting. Repeat as required.

The Last Judgement (detail of a man being eaten by a monster) c.1504 | Hieronymous Bosch

Ah, Hieronymous Bosch. How I love thee! But not looking like I was imagined up by thee.

Plus, if I take the picture, I have to acknowledge that I’ve gained 50 pounds (thanks, Hormone based IUD), and I don’t really want to immortalize that in photos. Once the IUD is out (a side effect of the hysterectomy I’m having) and I’ve recovered from surgery, I’ll get a nice picture. By nice, I mean one that my vanity can stand for other people to look at.

No delusions of hotness here.

Wardrobe: Fall 2017

So, after living with my “improved” minimalist wardrobe for the better part of two seasons (spring and summer), I’ve decided I need to make a few tweaks to things as I’m heading into fall and winter planning season, also known as “August” for everyone else, especially if I’m going to try to make some pieces for my wardrobe during autumn and winter.

While actually making the graphic for this post I realized that on some level, I’d rejected at least part of The Curated Closet, which stresses minimizing and removing things and keeping to a very limited color range for maximum mix-and-match potential. The author’s own aesthetic, as shown in the book, centered around soft peach, gentle blue, and soft neutrals. The photography in the book looked clean, feminine, and beautiful.

I loved it. I sort of hoped to emulate it. Using the author’s suggestions and my own preferences, I built a rainbow of colors. Yes, I emphasize my focus colors and liberally use my neutrals. The rainbow is still there because I’m drawn to color in general. Every time I try to leave out a color (I’m talking to you, yellow, orange, and red) it ends up back in my closet.

What can I say? I’m drawn to whimsy. Whimsy is often colorful. I should have named my style “Classics with a whimsical twist” instead of just “classics with a twist.”

It’s time to acknowledge that I like what I like and stop trying to mold myself into someone else’s aesthetic. Other people’s style might be pretty and it might be inspiring to some level, but it’s not *my* style. It’s time to stop trying to be something I’m not. The number of times I thought “that would be gorgeous in (name any actual color)” when looking at the pictures in the Curated Closet was pretty high.

I’m sure she’d say similar things about my own sense of style. (That would be beautiful if it were pastel or gray, I imagine her saying.)

That’s the thing about style, right? All the fashion leaders say it’s about being yourself, not conforming. Why should I conform? I like putting a spider web motif scarf with a trucker jacket and tomato red skinny jeans (let’s be honest, they’re jeggings), or wearing my killer bunny socks with a red shirt and my black business slacks. I like throwing on a gray t-shirt dress with black leggings and adding a crochet rainbow scarf or a hand knit orange cashmere lace shawl. I like simple shapes and unusual details or unexpected colors. That is my “twist.”

Tell me to limit my colors and I build a rainbow. Sigh.

I shifted the colors I consider to be my Focus Colors from Olive, Navy, Plum, and Charcoal Gray, to Light Khaki, Dark Olive, Navy, and Violet.

Interestingly, while many people consider Khaki a neutral, I’m so sensitive to it (possibly because beige was one of Mama’s favorite colors and for a very long time I resisted anything remotely beige) that I consider it a color unto itself and specifically “light Khaki” (aka the most common color of Khaki trousers in the USA.) Olive has become Dark Olive for the sake of specificity. Plum has become Violet because the purple in my wardrobe is a more neutral purple and doesn’t skew red.

Charcoal gray shifted down into my Neutrals in part to give Khaki a spot up in the focus colors and in part because I read charcoal and black as interchangeable. Since they’re interchangeable, they must both be neutrals. White remains unchanged.

My Accents shifted slightly. The new Accent colors are Turquoise, School Gold (Gold Yellow), Orange, and Tomato Red, which is a change from Robin’s Egg Blue/Teal, Dark Periwinkle, Orange, and Tomato Red. Robin’s Egg Blue/Teal became Turquoise because I’m always matching to my Turquoise jewelry. School Gold (Gold Yellow) got added to the list because I keep wanting things that color despite the fact that it’s not my greatest color. I’m giving into the golden yellow. Dark Periwinkle got bumped out of the accent list. Mentally, I lump this with denim, which is “navy” in my book (other people’s mileage may vary), so it doesn’t deserve its own spot. Orange and Tomato Red remain constant.

The real problem becomes figuring out what to make.

Atlantique is still really high on my list of things to make. I like it with the elbow length sleeves and I think the neckline is clever. I even have the right yarn to make it (read: the yarn called for in the pattern) in a color that’s basically khaki (read: the same color as the sample.) This seems like a winner to me, assuming I can actually manage to get it to come out. It’s a season spanning piece that will work year round in the office or for a night out. I may need to light a candle to the patron saint of sweaters to break my sweater curse. I’ve never managed to make a sweater that fits nicely enough to actually wear outside the house.

I’m also sorely tempted by the Wonder Woman Wrap. It appeals to my whimsical side. I’m sure I’ve got colors I could make it from that would work with my palette (a tomato-y red and a golden yellow). Who am I kidding? I have colors to go with almost any palette. I am very close to being a yarn hoarder. Alternately, I may say to heck with it and go ahead with colors more like those in the Wonder Woman movie armor because a little whimsy is not a bad thing and it would look great with the olive and khaki in my wardrobe, not to mention the black and charcoal, even if it isn’t 100% my color story.

I’ve also been tempted by celebrating my knitter-versary by finally knitting the pattern I saw that made me want to learn to knit in the first place, Muir. The yarn I originally got for it is Dark Olive (the now discontinued color, Moss), which tells you how much I love olive green. Even 10 years ago, it was undeniably “Sabie’s Green.”

Obviously, the list is still very much a work in progress. Hopefully, I’ll have it more settled in the next few days so I can move forward with more preparations.

 

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.