Nov 162010

In connection with a project for school, some friends and I went to the most upscale mall in Spokane dressed as street people, to see if we’d be acknowledged in the nice stores. imgp6806.JPGCertainly we were not given the respect we were later when we went back shopping in our regular clothes; however, the most disturbing aspect of the experience for me was how creepy I felt about acting like that. Because, of course, my body language and character of interaction had to change in order for me to become a bag lady.

The humor in this outfit is the knit hat:  The knit hat I actually bought new at Banana Republic last year.  BR was actually one of the stores I went into dressed like this.  To make it look worn, because it hasn’t been, I lint-brushed it backwards!  lol

In discussing this project with one of our classes, the group concluded that many of us are denied the service needed to accomplish the purchases we are planning to make – even if we have the money.

My advice to those who can’t get waited on is two-fold:

  1. Carry a prop.  A bag from an expensive store in the same mall, filled with tissue, works really well.
  2. If that fails, shop online.

My advice to retailers:  Customer service can overcome nearly every customer objection.  The only one I think it really can’t overcome is not having what the customer wants.  If you want to compete with online shopping and come out on top, you need to make the shopping experience pleasant!

The winner of the (imaginary) customer service award for this experiment was Macy’s.

Sep 172009

My theory on the principle behind “mom jeans”:

high and/or small pockets make whatever is below or around them look bigger

(Christopher Hopkins recommends pocketless, but they kinda make me feel naked.) 


I know lower pockets are supposedly a no-no for me, with my shorter legs, but I’d rather look like I have my legs look shorter than make my butt look bigger.  Or wear high heels. 

When buying jeans, what do you look for in back pockets?  Besides money.  😉

Sep 102009

Next week I’m going to be talking about how to develop a personal color palette.  In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about what I consider the Great Northwest casual uniform:  black top, army green pants, slip-on shoes.  Or some variant thereof.  And how, while I’m not so crazy about the ubiquitous black top, it is a good formula for some.  Especially those who are curvier on top.

Which leads me to the general principle of wearing lighter colors where you are smaller and darker colors where you are larger.  Let’s play with that using Gap cords, currently $15 off.

Women: Boot cut cords - chipmunkWomen: Boot cut cords - bordeaux

Women: Real straight cords - carbon blueWomen: Real straight cords - fawn

Women: Real straight cords - anthraciteWomen: Real straight cords - bright peony pink

(I threw that last set in just for fun, but I’d love to know if you have any thoughts on neutral vs bright also.)

Speaking of cords (or perhaps I should say “speaking of body image“), I normally avoid them simply because they always made me feel fat, but when Spokane Discount had a deal where any pair of brown pants in size 6, 8, or 10 was so cheap it was almost free, I bought a pair of dark brown, trouser style, corduroy Dockers.  For $3.

Application principle:  aside from monochromatic outfits, I am focusing on darker bottoms with lighter tops.  How do you employ color value placement?

Jul 102009

Mom wondered what we’d tell Sarah Palin about the length of her skirts.

Did anyone watch the resignation speech? We couldn’t find a good picture; Mom, I think, thinks her skirt was much too short; I think, at minimum, her ensemble offended the golden mean proportion, looking boxy (as explained by Imogen at this link).


What would you like to tell Palin about the length of her skirts?  Which of the four shown here do you like best?

I’ll leave my answer in the comment section.

Jun 262009

All week I’ve been ruminating on topics related to aging:  the (Biblical) role of the empty nester, relationships between generations, my mom’s wardrobe, and more.  Yet, when faced with the desire to produce a Friday Fashion Lab, I once again ran up against my most persistent blogging frustration:  I have words, you all want pictures.  But where to get them?

Perhaps in the not-so-distant future, I will be able to produce them myself.  🙂  (Which thought came to me sometime in the 24 hours following my first drawing class.)  Why not?  If I learn to draw, I could just draw pictures of the ideas which are very clear in my mind, scan them, and upload them to the blog.  Much less time-consuming than finding them on the internet (which gives great pictures, but takes forever), or taking them myself (yeah, you’ve seen my pictures, and now that I mostly blog when I’m home alone, the clothes must generally be pictured uninhabited, which is less satisfactory).

In the meantime, links!

And finally, in lieu of a fashion lab, a question:

Would an 80 year old be fabulous or frumpy in this Boden dress? What about you? (What about me?)

Jun 122009

Two summers ago, after Creationfest, I proved scientifically that a black shirt is up to 11 degrees hotter in the sun than a white shirt.  Read on …

Why Superchick Looked Smarter Than the Average Band. They wore all white.

I am so sorry I couldn’t get more pictures of well-dressed music festival goers. As the event wore on, the outfits seemed to get worse. Since when is ordinary beige bra + spaghetti strap top acceptable to wear in public?

Almost without exception, they violated my sense of propriety on one or more of three points:

  1. Visible lingerie straps.
  2. Pants with no (arms and no) legs.
  3. Dark colors.

Yes, one of these offenses is not like the others.

However, when dressing to be outdoors all day in 100 degree temperatures, it would be useful to know exactly how much difference the heat absorbancy properties of the color black makes. So I tested it for you.

First I bought two identical thermometers. I then put them side by side in the shade of my front yard to make sure they read the same. They did (86). But when I moved them into my south-facing side yard (“the hot-spot of the universe”), they varied a little. One went up to 106.5, the other to 104.2.

Using shirts which I bought at around the same time, Gap Short-sleeved favorite T – white and black, I set the white one over the thermometer which read higher and the black one over the other and went away for 15 or 20 minutes.

The results: the temperature of the thermometer covered by the white tee actually dropped a degree, to 105.4. The black? That thermometer read 109.2!

Today I repeated the experiment. My hero suggested that I try angling the thermometers toward the sun to get them to read more similarly, an idea which worked. Today, at around noon, when the temperature started out at 96, the results were even more dramatic: 103.8 vs 114.3! (BTW, msn weather says it’s 91 here today.)

How about you? I am totally convinced! And just in time, too, it’s great white hunting out there right now.

Behind me is the bathroom.


Mar 122009

Accepting Imogen’s assertion that wearing black is aging has taken some thinking.  But not only do I see the light now (stealth pun!), I also see an exception to the rule, and perhaps a corollary.

For the person who wears black well – one with coloring cool, deep, and bright – heather gray may be that dangerously aging neutral. 

Some pictures to illustrate (but I really wish I could have used pictures with 60 year old models):




On the other hand, it strikes me that alot of the reason for young ladies preferring black is the aging effect.  It makes them feel sophisticated.

In which of these pairs of pictures does the model look younger to you in the black?

Mar 032009

My mom requested that I update this post, listing y’alls comments next to each outfit.  This may take awhile … 

Because this is a conversation, I like to let you know what I’m thinking.  And right now I’m still thinking about personas and perceptions, so I thought it would be fun to do another fashion lab like last week’s, only this time concerning office attire.

Here’s what I was thinking we’d do.  For each look presented, please tell us

if you saw this person in your office (or your husband’s, mother’s, or whomever’s office), for what purpose would you think she was there?

He hee.  This should be fun! (If you want to specify what kind of office, feel free.)

  1. icon
    In a word:  unambitious.
    Is there because she thinks it her duty to contribute to her family’s income, Newly hired perky Midwesterner working in an entry-level job in an accounting division, underpaid catalog model secretly yearning to wear something better in the next shoot, applicant for an accounting job, “I’m not conventionally ambitious – never after your corner office but liks to look ‘nice’”, 30+ individual contributor, who doesn’t particularly care to get ahead, Administrative assistant, probably a temp.

  2. icon
    iconOverall impression:  productive, persuasive, and professional.
    A producer (as in, a professional who does whatever work her business casual industry does), Mid-level sales representative who often has to take clients out for lunch and a round of golf, also an underpaid catalog model secretly yearning to wear something better on the next shoot , the only female in a sales presentation team, “I’m friendly and have an ‘open door’ policy”, Friendly manager-level or director-level professional, works in marketing.

  3. iconicon
    Impression: Fashionable, but possibly immature.
    Intern, Fashion magazine intern, (yet another) underpaid catalog model secretly yearning to wear something better in the next shoot, counselor, (what she means to communicate by this outfit is) “I’m modern and fashion conscious, but trying to get ahead at work”, Sales/marketing/communications – not taken seriously and doesn’t know why, someone whose outfit just needs a minor tweak or two to make it more appropriate for the office.

  4. icon
    iconOverall impression given by this outfit:  creative and necessarily functional (or funky?)
    Single or divorced woman in her 50s who works because she has to, Works on a movie set or shoots street photography, delivering requested media material, “I’m creative and funky and you need to appreciate this”, Physician with administrative duties, someone working in a creative industry.  This is one look, in my opinion, which could easily be misunderstood, although that is less likely in black.

  5. icon
    iconSomehow this outfit manages to convey upscale leisure
    Top boss’s stay at home wife who stopped by for lunch or whatever; Country club administrative person, receptionist or similar job; daughter of co-worker, coming for $; “I’m doing this to fill in time, I don’t need money (we have so much already)”; Art director / creative director; another person whose outfit just needs a minor tweak or two to make it more appropriate for the office or yet another underpaid catalog model. This could be an effective look for a business casual office.

  6. icon
    iconNever, ever wear something which could be mistaken for pajamas to the office (with the possible exception of the case where appropriate office attire is scrubs)
    In the office because they haven’t figure out how to make her retire, Model on shoot for a mattress/sleep-number ad, canvasing for social cause, “I hate suits and dressing up for work”, Boss’s wife (SAHM) meeting him for lunch, Confused telecommuter, since these are clearly pajamas. There’s a fine line between a casual matched set and sleepwear.

  7. icon
    iconNot advisable.
  8. If, in your understanding, this outfit constitutes real clothes, you might think the wearer in the office for something like: Fund-raising for the arts, PR agency designer or architect (has to work late several times a week), some other worker in a creative-type industry, a dental hygienist, or bringing pizza. On the other hand, this outfit has huge potential to not be understood AT ALL, as evidenced by the statement, “I slept at my boyfriends last night, my life is wild!” and my sister’s total inability to imagine who would wear that.

  9. icon
    iconNot respected (or respectable)
    Receptionist, or perhaps low-level marketing assistant, Sales person in an auto showroom, counselor headed out for date night, “Hold onto your husband at the office christmas party”, Marketing manager on her way out for a hot date, someone in a creative industry who isn’t necessarily communicating her value through her appearance. Or another underpaid catalog model secretly (embarrassed and) yearning to wear something better for the next shoot. This look is for nightlife.

  10. icon
    iconImpression: inexperienced and boring (not your best look if you’re serious about your career).
    Is there to get the boring job done in the most proficient way possible, Technical sales representative with significant bargaining power, counseling or psychology intern, “Not sure why I don’t get promoted, even though I dress really well, people don’t take me seriously”, boring director level or wanna be, Interviewing for entry-level professional position, since nobody with an actual income should be caught dead in such a cheap looking suit.

  11. icon
    iconArtistic, stylish, and powerful

    Fashion consultant brought in to train the office how to dress business casual; owns her business, maybe a caterer or an event organizer; happy, but underpaid catalog model, secretly hoping to be able to keep the outfit (okay, I made that up); secretary/receptionist in a counseling office; “I want to be a curator at a gallery”; Fashion executive, another professional whose outfit just needs a minor tweak or two to make it perfect.

  12. All outfits from, simply because their system is easy for me to use.

Feb 122009

Updated to add:  Duchesse at Passage des Perles has scoured the internet for tasteful mother of the bride styles.  See her picks at Rebelling against Mother of the Bride drag.

Here are your instructions:

For each dress you may offer an estimate of the age of the wearer, personality trait(s), and perhaps also how she relates to the bride (mother, grandmother, stepmother, or other). And any other comments.

Dresses from

  1. icon

  2. icon

  3. icon

  4. icon

  5. icon

  6. icon

  7. icon

  8. icon

  9. icon

  10. icon

Do you like any of these looks for me?

Nov 072008

imgp5938.JPG The background on this dress: back a year or two ago, when I was picking up stuff for a dollar at Value Village and then trying to sell it on eBay, I picked up this dress, but never sold it. It’s French Connection, tags still on it. The reason I have never worn it? I have never been sure whether it was elegantly drapy or sloppy big.

Until today. With Peter Pan opening tonight, of course I wanted to wear something elegant. And I have a peculiar preference for thematic theatre dressing. Hence, the green is ideal.

(And, as some of you may have picked up, I am positively smitten with this color this year!)

What makes the fit work:

  1. pulling the belt firmly across the high hip, effectively changing the silhouette from baggy dress to drapy shirt and A-line skirt.
  2. cuffing the sleeves.  Nothing makes something look too big faster than sleeves that are too long.  I actually think they are supposed to be worn cuffed. 
  3. Wearing it with heels.  This is probably a proportion thing; with flats boots, I would have needed to be able to push the sleeves up to 3/4.

So, here’s my problem: I have only one belt which fits through the mini belt-loops, and its color will not work.  No time to shop.  Do you prefer the brown sash belt or the print?  One consideration:  I definitely look better in smaller belts at the hip (and if only I understood why).  Or do you have another improvisational belt suggestion?

If I don’t hate this dress by the end of tonight, I will probably wear it to the office Christmas party this year.  But with dressier shoes.