Resolutions for 2016 - Part One, The Fluffy Stuff

I always want to roll my eyes at New Year's Resolutions.  I like to think I'm above all that frantic, frenzied, inescapable  "I'm gonna change everything about me and be a whole new different person" babbling that makes me look forward mid-January and its inevitable die-down.

Haha, I'm not.   Five weeks of orgiastic feasting and partying is done.  Everybody's packed up their toys and headed home.  What else is there to do?

I did a post on the You Look Fab forums last year, outlining my style resolutions for 2015.  They were pretty good, and I mostly stuck to them, so I'm keeping them for 2016.

In a nutshell, these were/are my style goals:

1.  My overarching goal is to continue culling and simplifying my wardrobe - CHECK! 

I did a massive closet purge this year (thanks, Marie Kondo!).   I'm going to continue this process in 2016:  go back through my closet, and tackle the other closet, which houses theatrical costumes, and formalwear.

2.   To be impeccably groomed - hair cut and color, nails, mascara, lip gloss, and perfume - CHECK!

I was very good about this, even on most days spent working from home.  Gonna keep up the good work.

3.   To keep my wardrobe in good condition, visiting the tailor and the cobbler as needed - CHECK!

I had half a dozen pairs of beloved shoes re-soled and repaired, and a handful of items altered.   I did clothing repairs myself:  darning holes, fixing ripped seams, re-sewing buttons.

Of the items I had professionally altered, I found that I wore skirts and pants that were altered, but ended up getting rid of altered dresses after one, or no wears.   I had three leather skirts repaired or taken in by a tailor, and I wear those regularly, so I can see where getting leather separates altered is well worth the money.

For 2016, I mean to take on some simple alterations myself, including shortening hems, slimming skirts and tops, and adding lace or beading to certain items.

4.  To stay true to my personal style, as outlined on my Pinterest boards - KIND OF.  

Until recently, I was still struggling to define and express my style.   That nut cracked open for me this past month, when I was introduced to Betony Vernon's jewelry line.   For 2016, I want to pursue Betony's theme of 'Sado Chic', expanded to an all-encompassing wardrobe concept.  

Under this umbrella of Sado Chic, I want to include a bit of safari + dieselpunk (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), Chinoiserie motifs, and an Italian retro look.  Dolce and Gabbana best sums up my idea of Italian Retro, in their A/W 2015 line.

My other challenge for 2016, will be translating these ideas into hot-weather clothing.  Last year was difficult because JC bought a convertible, and I took up swimming.   I spent more time outdoors than I ever have, since childhood.  I have fair, freckly skin that burns fast.   I want clothing that will allow me to stay cool and covered, and resists damage and staining from sunscreen - AND aligns with my Sado Chic style concept.

5.   To take more photos of the outfits I wear, and to track these outfits in my Excel spreadsheet - KIND OF.

In my spreadsheet, I note the date, what I did that day, what I wore, my happiness factor, and idea tweaks for the next time I wear the outfit.   I do this for reference, so that if I need an outfit and I'm stuck, I can say 'Oh yeah, I wore this one outfit and LOVED it'.   It's pretty useful.

The only thing is, I haven't regularly notated these outfits, the way I have in previous years.  

I also tried on everything in my closet, back in August, and photographed myself, which helped me purge a LOT of items.   I also took photos of many of my outfits, but again, it was kind of sporadic.

And as it turned out, I lost all of those photos, because my built-in mouse on my laptop started failing and I somehow dragged and 'lost' the folder, either on my laptop, or in our shared network.  Which  is a compelling argument for why one should never allow someone to take naked pictures of oneself.

For 2016, I want to try and keep documenting my outfits in Excel and photographing, but I'm not going to make it priority.

I also have a few more things to add to my list for 2016:

6.   I want to build up a better dancewear/loungewear wardrobe.

7.   I want to learn to do more advanced sewing alterations.

8.  I want to design and sew three types of bras for myself:  

  •     A convertible front-plunge bra, that allows for a plunge-back dress or top.
  •     A strapless bra that actually lifts, instead of squashing my boobs downwards.
  •     A compression bra to sleep in, that looks like lingerie, instead of being sporty.   

I wear a 30-32DD or E-cup, and have not found anything that fits any of these categories for me.  I anticipate that this resolution will stretch into 2017.

What I'm not planning to do in early 2016:   Another capsule wardrobe.  I enjoyed the experiment this fall, learned a lot, but it took up a good bit of time in planning/agonizing.   I have other things to focus on right now, but I may repeat the experience later this year.

So what about you?   Have you made any resolutions for 2016?

Things I've learned with the passing of the year....

1. Not taking a cough suppressant made my cough go away. I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and tell Four-Days-Ago-Me this.

2. Drinking nearly an entire bottle of cheap Champagne for New Year's 1992, did not go well. Drinking nearly an entire bottle's worth of cheap Prosecco (in Kir Royales) for New Year's 2016, is similarly not.going.well. I wish I had a time machine, so I could go back and tell 21-Year-Old-Me to write a note, telling 45-Year-Old-Me this.

3.  Those little pink Pepto-Bismol tablets are nasty, then magical, in equal measure.

Happy New Year, y'all.

The Power Pause: How I decided whether to pull the trigger.


The Schutz "Nildy" pump in action.

This fall, I've been quite good about shopping deliberately and specifically, for my wardrobe. I've been very happy with my purchases, most of which have enjoyed immediate and repeated wearings.  

I would love to say my wardrobe is complete, but really, does that ever happen? I can't think of anything I need.

But I can think of many things I desire.

These shoes, for example.  

They are the "Nildy" pumps, by Schutz - one of my favorite shoe brands. I've been watching these shoes on a sales site for the past 7 or 8 months. I've never pulled the trigger because they were pricey. I knew that if the price came down, I would seriously consider buying these shoes.

The seller recently brought the price down.  

These are the actual shoes - all black leather, no patent or suede.

I want these shoes. I crave these shoes. I desire these shoes.

Do I need these shoes?  


Why would I buy them?

1. They fit in well with my current cool weather uniforms of jeans or pencil skirt + knit top and sleek topper. 

2. The ankle cuff, straps and hardware give them a very Sado-Chic vibe.

3. They are made by Schutz, which leads me to expect that they will be superlative, in terms of materials and craftsmanship.

4. With the shipping, they come in under $40.  If they don't work out, I'm reasonably certain I can sell them and make back those costs.

Why am I hesitating?

1. They have a 4.5" heel, and the platform is about .25", which kind of makes it not a platform at all. I can wear a 4" heel comfortably, but anything higher puts them into 'special event' wear, i.e., anything where JC and a valet pick me up and drop me off at doors, and I don't have to do quite so much walking. Whereas, I envision these more for regular going out, i.e. wear with jeans and a turtleneck while I down alcoholic root beer and shoot down older gents who fancy themselves 'playahs'.

You know, proper bitch shoes.

2. I have half-a-dozen pairs of black leather heels that fit the 'going-out' bill. But I like to split wears, because that's what keeps my feet and ankles in good, stilettos-sporting shape.

What to do... what to do...

I'm taking a Power Pause, where I take a specific amount of time and consider, dispassionately whether to buy an item. This can last anywhere from 12 hours, to a year or more.

Here is what I'm asking myself...

1. Do I already have something similar to these shoes? Not really. I have one other pair of ankle strap pumps, my Schutz Ellas. The Ellas are patent leather, and have a daintier, and more formal vibe. I feel that the Nildys can be dressed down into a more casual look.

2. Can I express myself fully in these shoes? Black leather, Sado-Chic, Stiletto Bitch Shoes. YES.

3. Do they compare in quality to a benchmark item? Compared to my Schutz Ellas and Gilbertas, and my Tom Ford tassel pumps, I would say very likely, although I have not yet seen them in person.

4. Are they multi-seasonal? Can they be worn with or without hosiery? This is very important, because May to October can be pretty hot in the south.

I believe I can wear these in the summer with skinny jeans or pencil skirt + casual tee. I think they will work equally well with or without hosiery.

I recently purged a pair of black 'summer' stiletto sandals, that started squeaking. These could fill in for those sandals.

5. If they don't work out, can I re-sell them and recoup my losses? I'm certain I can.

So far, this is looking pretty good. But here is the big-money question:

How can I make these wearable for the six-block walk from condo to car, and car to venue?

These shoes are half a size larger than my regular size. My cobbler carries really good ball-of-foot pads in his shop. I feel I can pad these up another quarter inch. As mentioned already, if they don't work out, I can always resell them.

I have not yet pulled the trigger, but I plan to sit down and make the purchase later today. I will keep you posted!

The Nildys, in grey, multi-media

Do you ever pause, before deciding on a wardrobe purchase?

What I'm Trying to Say, Is...

I have recently finished a remarkable book, "Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling American Style", by Cintra Wilson.  

Amongst a wealth of fascinating observations and ideas, is this singular notion:   what we put on our bodies, every day, provides a very intimate snapshot of our inner selves - warts and all - to anyone who knows to look.

Mind = Blown.

In the book's introduction, Ms. Wilson notes, 

"Your style is your visual interface with the rest of the world... The way you dress reveals both what you know about yourself... and also what you don't.   When you compose an outfit, you are creating a statement that is, essentially, a shorthand mini-autobiography."

She goes on to add, 

"Your outfit can give the clothing-attuned eye a flood of semi-impressions - a peek into your bank account, an up-to-the-minute self-esteem update, and a periscope into your bedroom (to name a few). ....  an outfit can sum up a human being like a two-sentence TV Guide film synopsis".

I'm absolutely enthralled with this book.   I finished it about ten days ago, and I'm already re-reading it.  This book has changed how I look at people and what I notice about them, via their sartorial choices.   It is an exciting new language that I suddenly comprehend.

This book also prompted me look more closely at myself.  What am I trying to say to the world?  I've never quite thought of it in this way.   I knew that I wanted to 'appear' a certain way, but this goes so much farther - it is active, unspoken communication, via clothing and shoes.

Over the past two months, I have been wearing the same 'uniforms', over and over again:

1)  High-necked, fitted knit top + wiggle skirt + stiletto heels
2)  High-neck, very fitted knit top + skinny jeans + stiletto heels/low-heeled equestrian boots/low-heeled pumps

My topper is either a leather moto, a black knit jacket or a black zip cardigan.
Jewelry is simple:  pearl or diamond studs, a few matching bracelets.   
Hats are either cadet caps, a faux-fur Russian cossack, or a wool beret.
My bags are either large black handbags, or small colorful cross-body bags.
I always wear hosiery with the skirts, in the fall and winter.

The common denominators for my outfits, is that everything is covered up and very fitted.  Clothing is stretchy, for ease of movement.   Dark.  Sleek.  Spiky.    I think my love for sci-fi uniforms and sado-chic fetish is clearly presented.

What am I saying with my sartorial choices?    I was astonished at how clearly and quickly the answer presented itself...

"It's all here for you to see - but it is veiled, wrapped up, because I am a sacred mystery.   I'm not here for you to gawk at.   You're going to have to look me in the eye, smile, and speak clearly.    If you want to see more, you're going to have to 'see' me first, for who I am:  an intelligent, reasonable, human being, and you are going to accord me the time, attention, and respect that I deserve".

There is a societal trend to 'overshare'.   On social media, in conversation, on television, and in our collective manner of dress.   This trend makes me uneasy and uncomfortable.   I'm not that conservative, and I don't dress to hide my body.   Even though I am fully covered, my body is clearly outlined within the clothes.   I am happy with my figure, even with my weight gain this year.   However, I have a large bust, and I dislike that being the focus of attention when I first meet people.   I also dislike that many people - men and women both - seem to want to judge my intellect by my bra size, or the shape of my behind.

I go out frequently with friends and colleagues, in social situations.   Sometimes I know everyone in the room, but more often, there is a sea of strangers standing between me and the friends I'm meeting up with.

There is a clothing trend out there, that I see on women of all ages, where their 'going-out' outfit consists of a dress that is low-cut, strapless, strappy or sleeveless, and very short.   These little lampshades are inevitably paired with ridiculously high platform sandals, held precariously to their feet with inadequate straps.   There is usually a lack of hosiery.

I want to say there is nothing wrong with this outfit, but I cannot.   In my opinion, there are several things that are glaringly wrong.   In the absence of large amounts of alcohol, none of these women ever seem fully at-ease with themselves, in this attire.   Also, this is a chilly protoype to wear when it's below 65 degrees outside.   And this type of stiletto platform seems exceptionally heavy and awkward to walk in.

And need I say it?   Men don't seem to know how to behave or talk to women dressed in this manner.

What response do I get, in my fully-covered get-up?   With strangers, it's mixed.   For some people, how I dress is off-putting or intimidating.   On the surface, this isn't an open, friendly look.   For the person whose gaze goes past the outfit, to my eyes, the outfit doesn't matter, because I am an open, friendly person, and I wear that on my face.

For the people who know me, they are either complimentary, or non-committal, and we move on with our lives and have fun.

Have you ever considered your clothing in this manner?   If so, what is your message?   What would you like your message to be?    Do your choices reflect this?

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!   I wish you a season full of magic...

... and glamour!

... may you always be the center of attention...

Here is hoping you have a lenient boss, when you stagger into work the morning after...

Bob Cratchit's Raise
"I am very sorry, sir, I am behind my time... It shall not be repeated.  I'm afraid I was making rather merry."

Crack open a cold one...

It's root beer, AND it's alcoholic.   MAGIC!

Have a wonderful, wonderful day today - and every day!  Whatever celebration you choose for your festivities, I wish you much love and joy this season!

In my world, every day is Festivus.

On Wardrobe Editing

I'm always searching for that Holy Grail of wardrobe editing articles - that magical, perfectly written post full of curating tips, that will open up the Cave of Wonders, and behold!   I will have a shiny closet full of precisely styled clothing, and everyone will bow down and worship me as the Queen of Super-Fierce-Awesomeness.

Turns out, the Holy Grail is elusive.

I find that most of these closet-purge articles say the same thing:   Pull everything out of your closet.  Try it on.  Does it fit?  Do you like it?   Does it need to be tailored/mended/deloused? What can be chucked out, because of fit, or wear or whim?

Most of them mention having wine while you do this.

I can't think of a single instance in which alcohol has led to me making a better decision.

Fools! I think to myself as I read these articles, You do not know who you are dealing with!  I'm bigger, better, craftier than that.   I am a Fourth-Generation Hoarder of Unnecessary Things.  I can rattle off seventeen reasons to keep everything, and drink a latte all in the same breath.  

Until the inevitable day, when I have to pull together something specific, and I'm frantically digging my way through a lot of crap.   I always swear, That's it!   I'm going to get my closets sorted, once and for all.   It's only recently that I've made any headway, when pondering what it would take to edit down my wardrobe.

I've come up with a specific list of questions to edit my closet:

1.   Am I expressing myself fully in this?

2.  Do I feel energized when I wear this?

3.   Does this item express what I want to 'say', when I wear it?

4.  Is this a benchmark item?   Does this match the quality of my other benchmark items?

5.   If I were going overseas to live for six months, would I bring this item?  (Okay, it's Paris.  This scenario is always 'going overseas to Paris'.   Yes.  I am a cliche').   I go with the assumption that I would have to take the stairs everywhere - as was really the case on previous visits to The City of Lights and Out-of-Order Elevators-  so I would have to be willing to haul the item around.

Not all of the questions are touchy-feely.   I have a list of practical considerations as well:

6.   High heels or no, can I hike six blocks in these shoes, from wherever I parked, to wherever I'm going?

7.   Does this item require shapewear?  (It does?   Then, BYE!)

8.   Can I sit down and eat a full meal in this?

9.   Am I going to have a meltdown when I inevitably spill something down the front?

I've had great results with theses questions, so far.   In the past six months, I have purged at least 75 items from my closet, and my purchases have been fewer, and more in-keeping with what remains.   Which is still a LOT of stuff.

On to you:   what helps you move forward, when you're curating your closet?

Use Benchmark Items to Curate Your Wardrobe

Schutz "Ella" Pumps, in Eclipse

There are certain items in my closet that are 'benchmark' items.   They are the exemplary pieces that I use to decide whether to keep, purge, or purchase other items for my wardrobe.

This is an idea I discovered on my own, a few years ago - although I have since seen other people talk about this same idea.    

The photos below are of the shoes that first sparked the idea for me:  my first pair of Schutz shoes.   Schutz makes some glorious shoes, and as of this writing, I own four pairs by this brand:  two pairs of pumps, a pair of flat boots, and a pair of flat casual sandals.    (Please note that I receive no compensation by saying this.   I really just love these shoes).  

These shoes are the 'Ella' pumps, and the color is called 'Eclipse'.   They are truly breathtaking!  The front part of the shoe is a dusky grey-blue, and the back of the shoe looks either charcoal or pure black, depending on the light.   The shoes are all-leather, including the soles.

These shoes make me feel fierce and amazing when I wear them, and I quickly realized, I wanted all of my shoes to make me feel this way.   

So when I look at adding a pair of shoes to my closet, or keeping a current pair, I ask myself...

Are those shoes as awesome as my Ella's?

'Ella' pumps, by Schutz

If the answer is 'yes', then the other shoes stay in my closet/are purchased.   Provided, of course, that the new shoes aren't a close duplicate of the Ella's.   I do split my wears in shoes, because I find it keeps my feet in good shape.

I started with shoes, but found that this idea could be applied to other clothing.   I compared other pieces - bottoms, tops, jackets - that I brought into my closet, to the Ella shoes, asking myself:

Are these on a similar plane of 'awesome', as the Schutz shoes?

Would I wear this with the Schutz shoes?

Rear view of the 'Ella' pumps

Not long after that, I realized there were other benchmark pieces in my closet, and new questions came out of this realization...

Norma Kamali for Everlast Skirt

This skirt, for example.   I've had this skirt, I don't know, at least five years now.    I've taken it around the world with me, and I pack it every time I travel, even if it's for a weekend.   It's my go-to skirt for everything.  It's Norma Kamali for Everlast, and I bought it new, with the tags still attached, for $29 on eBay.   This skirt is a chameleon:   whatever I wear it with, immediately looks great.   Fancy tops, bodysuits, jackets, heels, tee shirts, casual sandals, with a belt, or without.   I've worn this skirt to everything:  receptions, business dinners, cocktail parties, and BBQs.  

After five+ years, it's starting to show wear.   When it dies, I'm going to buy fabric and have something similar made for me.  

When I look at other skirts or dresses or tops, I ask myself:

Is this as versatile as the Kamali-Everlast skirt?   
Does it flatter me on a similar level to the Kamali-Everlast skirt?
Does this item look like it will have the same longevity as the Kamali-Everlast skirt?

Schutz 'Gilberta' pump, in black.

This is my other pair of Schutz pumps.   I stalked many pairs of these online, before scoring a new pair on eBay for $29 (I did a 'best offer', and was astounded when the seller accepted).

I wear these shoes to just about everything:  with ripped jeans and a turtleneck or tee for everyday casual, and I wore them last night to a huge holiday gala.     Like the Ellas, these shoes are leather, with leather soles.   They are lightweight, and very durable.

When I look at other shoes, or clothing items, to keep, purge, or purchase, I ask myself:

Are these as versatile as the Gilbertas?   
Are they as streamlined?
Are they as durable and easy to wear?

Using this 'benchmark' technique over the past several years, I've gradually introduced better quality pieces into my closet, and purged lesser-quality items as they have worn out.   

I feel I should mention... a benchmark piece needn't be expensive.   Several of my benchmark pieces (a St. John jacket I wear everywhere, a silk turtleneck sweater, a pair of coated jeans) were thrifted  or bought on eBay and cost under $30 each.

I hope you found this article useful!   So on to you... do you have benchmark pieces in your closet, that you use to help curate your wardrobe?

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