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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dancing Like The Stars

Day 59
Dancing Like the Stars!

As a confessed reality television competition junkie, I admit I was on the edge of my seat as the new cast of Dancing with the Stars was announced. Looks like another wonderful season of costumes, spray tans and celebrity meltdowns. I love it! The talented professional dancers make it seem like anything is possible. If they could turn the likes of Rob Kardashian and Kirstie Alley into dancers, perhaps there is hope for me.

In January, my husband and I decided to enroll in dance class with our good friends. Going in as couples in the informative-yet-fun community education setting, we thought we could learn a few steps and not get too stressed over it. As it turned out, neither husband was available week one. Us gals decided we would check it out sans-husbands. We decided that fitness attire was required since dancing is a physical activity. There were several couples in the class and it turned out that most of the ladies felt the same about the attire. Except out instructor, Cindy, who wore a pretty dress with heels. She mentioned that to really feel the dance, we had to act like we were wearing heels, not our fitness shoes.

Hey! I have a closet full of heels. And dresses! Always the good sport, my friend agreed and we decided we were going for it-- wearing a dress and heels every class. I pulled out my suitable dresses and found eight. My friend picked up a few to round out her collection (yes, I was jealous). What started out as dance lessons has turned into a weekly “date.” We dress up and I am positive we dance better. Our husbands love it and now take us out for dinner and dancing!

I don’t think we will ever look like the Stars dancing on television but we feel like stars. It’s been fun to embrace the whole dancing idea and make it a really great part of our week. Next session, we are hoping some of our other couple friends will join in. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Who Are You Wearing (that for)?

Day 56
Who Are You Wearing (that for)?

Ahhhh ... awards season! The glamour, the fashion, the red carpet! Often referred to as the Super Bowl Sunday of Fashion, I really couldn’t choose between the two. The question asked over and over again, “Who are you wearing?” This got me to thinking …

The red carpet has become a designer showcase. In many cases, the gown gets more attention that the poor gal wearing it. And, according to my recent special issue of People Style, it takes an entire team to get someone ready for a red carpet moment. Heaven forbid there is any flaw in the package, the fashion reporters pounce like me at a final clearance sale (before challenge, of course)! Still, I watch.  What I want to ask is, “who are you wearing that for?” Are you trying to placate the reporters? Outshine the competition? Woo Hollywood moguls? Become a designer darling? 
Is there any chance you are dressing for yourself?

There is no denying that clothes contribute to how we feel about ourselves. They are our outer packaging, interpreted as a snapshot as to what lies within. Not to say we have to be “red carpet ready” at all times, but it’s a fact. If you want to create an impression, you have to dress the part. The trick is: don’t try to dress the way you think someone else thinks you should. It’s about how you feel.

A recent conversation with my nephew Eric put my entire philosophy in a nutshell. 

 After you get dressed, take a look in the mirror. If you don’t feel a little sassy, a little smug, a little “oh yeah, I got this…” – change your clothes. You know what you feel good in. And when you feel good, feel sassy, feel confident, you will act confident. No team required.  

If my newly limited wardrobe has taught me anything, it is that you don’t need a designer dress, the latest fashion or anything new. Wear what you feel good in. So far this year, I have worn my favorite dress at least 6 times. My best boots at least a dozen times. I feel sassy every time.

I will still be camped out on my sofa Sunday to revel in the red carpet and the entire award show. And, you can bet I’ll be putting my opinions out there on Monday!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Feel Like Your Life is Flying By?

Day 53
Feel Like Your Life is Flying By?

During a recent visit with my sister for a haircut, we updated each other on our kids. My nephews are in high school and middle school. They both excel in school and sports which leads to a very busy family life. It’s difficult for many moms to see that as our kids get older, they need us less and less, and they inevitably (most of them, anyway) leave to begin a life of their own. She was really feeling that and wondered aloud, “How can I slow it down? It’s going by so quickly.”
No problem. Days flying by? Don’t know where the time goes? Stop shopping and go on a diet. Days become very, very long.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Museum of Lovely Things

Day 51
Museum of Lovely Things

I was thumbing through one of my newly delivered fashion magazines last Sunday, doing the initial once-over before delving deeper. On a page titled “The Best and Brightest for Spring,” my eye was immediately drawn to a pair of sandals. My pulse quickened as I searched for the source of these lovely coral and lime wedges. The physical reaction is still automatic. I hoped they were a fancy-schmancy designer brand sandal costing $400, thereby ending the issue quickly. But, no. These sandals were from the designer collection at Payless, the super-inexpensive mall shoe store. Payless features designer styles by Christian Siriano (Project Runway Season 4 winner), Lela Rose, Isabel Toledo and Silvia Tcherassi. They are a step up in style, quality and price from the typical Payless collection but still very affordable. At a regular price of $54.99, I would normally dash right out and buy these shoes. Oh, the pain!!!

I don’t really need a pair of coral and lime wedge sandals. I would probably buy additional outfits to specifically match them. They may not even be comfortable. But I still want them because they are so pretty. I even toyed with the idea of declaring my challenge a failure. I will not be taken down by a pair of fabulous shoes. So, I share the picture of these shoes (and the pair in an additional color choice) below. Going forward, this is where I will display a “Museum of Lovely Things.” It will feature things too pleasing to overlook but for me, unattainable. Although I can’t touch, I will definitely continue to look. (if you need some really pretty sandals, though, …)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Challenging Valentine’s Day

Day 46

Okay, I’ll admit it-- I’m getting a bit whiney. This challenge to refrain from all purchases of clothing, shoes and accessories is getting more difficult. The spring fashions are emerging like fresh green buds; I’m looking into my closet and to me, it looks like a pile of dead leaves. I knew it would become more difficult and I think it’s okay to be a little crabby about it.

My family does not like to see me crabby. You know the saying, “when the mom is unhappy …” As Valentine’s Day approached my husband and I decided that an evening out would be a wonderful gift to each other. Last Saturday, we joined our good friends for dinner and salsa dancing. It was fun and lively and romantic all at the same time. Much better than a box of chocolates.

My daughter continues to search for a loophole in my challenge. Can she buy me a gift, loan me something or sneak something into my closet? I try to explain that it’s not about the thing, I am finding that I really need to learn to be happy with what I have. She doesn’t really get it. She still wants to buy me a phone case. What a gal!

On Valentine’s Day morning, I left a card out for my husband. I am purchasing as little as possible, and I guess I really should have made the card but it’s a crazy week, so I bought the card. I returned home that evening from a very full day to a gift bag, one I recognized from my stash of gift bags, on the counter. “I thought we already had Valentine’s Day!” I said (maybe whined). “Just look inside,” my husband said. Wrapped in the (previously used) tissue was my hairbrush and body and foot lotion from my personal supply. The offer was to brush my hair, massage my back and rub my feet. It was perfect. I luxuriated in the special treatment and just glowed knowing that my husband is so supportive and really “gets it.” Who needs a loophole? Happy Valentine’s Day, indeed!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The More Things Stay the Same

Day 45
The More Things Stay the Same

I rely on fashion magazines to keep me up to date on trends and fashion advice. The day that a big, fat, glossy issue arrives, I do a happy dance at my mailbox. Looks like I’m picking up a roasted chicken for dinner because I’ve got a magazine to read! Sitting quietly, taking in each and every page puts me in a meditative state. How would I look in this? Where do I get that? How many weeks worth of groceries does that cost? I get nearly the same thrill from organizing, gossip and homemaking publications; I love magazines.

Once the initial thrill of a new magazine wears off, I keep the best issues for reference. How can you just toss an issue with “the 10 best fashion tips ever” or “how to dress ten pounds thinner”? Inevitably, the magazines stack up and collect dust. Somehow, it is more of a chore to go through the magazines later. The thrill is gone. In our re-organizing and downsizing efforts at home, I found stacks of those invaluable publications. I had to decide, keep or recycle …

Big idea! (Again, not completely original but still a great idea.) I sat myself down with Mount Magazine, a collection spanning about 5 years, and an Exacto knife and starting slicing out the valuable pages. I organized into groups: fashion tips, inspirations, decorating ideas, craft ideas, etc. Then I took the pages, used my three-hole punch, and organized into a binder! Need an inspiration for a look? Check the binder. Recall an interesting craft? Check the binder. Mount Magazine was reduced to a tidy, glossy binder over the course of a few days. The recycle bin was overflowing.

Left with just pages, it was difficult to know what magazine or month any page came from. Then it hit me. I couldn’t tell when or where it came from. The Super-New Must-Have Trend could have been today, last month or two years ago. The tips for Dressing Thin really don’t change. The hair styles, the make-up, the skirt length, everything is reduced to this: if it works for you, wear it. The skirt length that works for you is always in. The billow-y, mid-calf dirndl works for almost no one. It’s spring? Wear pastels! Fall? Rich jewel tones. The point is: most of us have a pretty good idea what works for us. There really is no urgency to copy the latest magazine look, because it is very likely not new. And, if it works for you, you probably have something like it in your closet anyway. I am keeping the binder; there are some great things in it. I am, however, re-thinking my magazine subscriptions.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Let's Get Physical

Day 43
Let’s Get Physical

Once upon a time, shorts and any t-shirt were considered acceptable workout wear. I don’t think there was even a category called “fitness wear”. I believe that changed when Olivia Newton John invited us to “Get Physical” in 1981. Leotards, leg warmers and sweat bands were the new “fashion do!” Flashdance inspired us to rip our sweatshirts. Bicycle shorts made it into everyday fashion in the 90s.

Today, entire stores are dedicated to fitness attire. High tech, breathable fabrics keep us comfortable and supported. And stylish. Stores like Athleta offer outfits for every fitness occasion from yoga to marathon running. Colorful, fashionable and functional, the fitness wear available today makes it pretty tough to show up in gym shorts and t-shirt. In return for this addition our wardrobe needs, we have been given the gift of all clothing gifts: the yoga pant.

I personally don’t know anyone who doesn’t own at least one pair of yoga pants, the high stretch, ultra comfortable, boot-cut leg pull-on pant available everywhere. The vast majority of the people I know, myself included, don’t even do yoga. We wear them to walk, jog, stretch, clean, shop, do errands and lounge. They are forgiving when you cheat on your diet, accepting when you want to lie around and gracious enough to match many types of tops and jackets. Long live the yoga pant!

Fitness wear was the latest category of my wardrobe to be scrutinized. I have yoga pants in several lengths and a variety of color combinations, but there is real potential for this to be the area of my wardrobe to be depleted before my year is up. I have plenty of supportive tops and shorts. The pants, though, tend to wear out … from overuse. And I don’t mean overuse from exercise. To make it through the remainder of this year, I think I am going to have to reserve my yoga pants for fitness only and depend on other parts of my wardrobe for day to day wear. Perhaps I will be inspired to exercise more. Let’s get physical!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Compliments and Criticism

Day 41
Compliments and Criticism

Both compliments and criticism can be hard to accept. Many of us gals are conditioned to brush compliments away so as to appear demure. I find that compliments are often showered out of politeness. This is delicious! You look nice! New dress? How pretty! Compliments sometimes feel less than genuine. Criticism, on the other hand, is rarely easy to take. My least favorite: the “constructive criticism” which actually means, “I am going to criticize you but you can’t be offended because I am calling it constructive, which it probably is not, but you can’t be mad anyway.” Both compliments and criticism can become diluted.

Occasionally we find people in our lives who are (excuse the expression) brutally honest. Those people who don’t waste the time or words to tell you anything other than their unequivocal opinion. And this is a gift. I am writing about this because we recently lost a family member who could always be counted on to give his uninhibited opinion. If he said, “delicious dinner,” I believed it really was. When he complimented my shoes, I knew I had some pretty special shoes. When he told me how valuable a family member I was, I believed it. The opinions and criticism were always genuine.

Our nephew dedicated himself to teaching and counseling. He valued family. We’ll miss him for many reasons. I will miss him because I could always count on having an honest opinion.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cinderella, Cinderella!

Day 38
Cinderella, Cinderella!

I don’t know too many gals who would decline an invitation to a ball, or Black Tie Event. Who wouldn’t want to get dressed up for a lovely evening of fine food, drinks and music, all for a good cause? I have been very fortunate to be invited to said events several times over the past 10 years. Back in December when this challenge was conceived, I assumed there would be no ball on my social calendar for 2012. In some kind of karmic super-test, there is not one, but now two black tie events on my horizon and NO new gown. And that spells S-T-R-E-S-S.

I am in the habit of purchasing a new gown for each black tie event. Why? It’s a ball, why not? And, what would a fellow ball-goer think of a repeat gown? There are problems, though. Surprisingly, there are really not that many stores that carry formal gowns in late winter. This leads to an increased possibility that someone else will have the same gown leading to the inevitable “who wore it best” comparison. (It happened to me once and I lost. Not fun.) Additionally, gowns that are perfect for prom gals are not as perfect on a seasoned woman. Foundation garments required. Finally, by the time I add up the cost of the gown, shoes, accessories and required beauty treatments, this complimentary evening out costs several hundred dollars.

At past events, the men are always handsome in a tuxedo or nice suit. The ladies are dazzling but I noticed that the dresses ranged from cocktail to dinner-with-the-queen. I decided to research the current meaning of “Black Tie.” According to Emily Post, the current guidelines allow for a choice of a formal (floor-length) evening gown, a dressy cocktail dress or your dressiest “little black dress.” ( I was under the impression that only a gown was acceptable so this revelation really opened up my options. Emily post does not think a gown has to be new, which is great news! Another thing I realized was, as memorable as the past events were, I could not recount one single particular dress. I only recall that it was really nice.

I decided that the chance that anyone would remember a former dress was slim-to-none. So, for the first event, which was last Saturday, I wore a previous gown. It was flow-y and sparkly and made me feel pretty. No wonder I bought it the first time! For fun, I changed up the accessories and shoes (chunky jeweled necklace and fuchsia peep-toes instead of the basics). My daughter, the cosmetology student, styled my hair and her friend at school did my nails. I spent far less money, and far fewer hours preparing for the ball. Truthfully, I felt fabulous. Without this challenge I would have put myself through the same stressful routine again and again. The next event is four weeks away and the dress I have chosen is slightly snug. The next challenge begins…

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Super Bowl Edition

Day 33
The Super Bowl Edition

With a viewing audience of over 100 million, the Super Bowl is a super-big day for avid sports fans as well as those looking for a party. I read that the average number of guests at a Super Bowl party is 17 (I can’t confirm this but it sounds about right). Whether you are in it for the game, the commercials ($3.5 million is the cost for a 30 second ad!) or just for the party, you will still have to decide, “What do I wear to a Super Bowl party?”

The easy answer is to run out and purchase over-priced, licensed apparel featuring a team you will only support on this single day since, chances are, your favorite team is not one of the final two. This is not an option for me this year (sigh …) but it’s no reason to abandon the theme of the day. Let’s use what we already have to celebrate in style!

Professional sports teams have official colors (yay!). The New York Giants have dedicated dark blue, red, white and gray as their palette. The New England Patriots claim Nautical Blue, red, New Century Silver and white. This information is from a site called ColorWerx and I have no idea why New England is so specific with their hues. In any case, we can attend any Super Bowl function stylishly, yet non-committal-ly since the palettes are basically the same!

Jeans (blue, white or even red) will be an easy foundation. Add a festive red sweater or silver sparkle top with a red scarf. I combed through my closet and found my 4 potential Super Bowl looks for this year.  It was easy and fun! So don’t rush out and waste your money on yet another team t-shirt, shop your closet and goooooooo team!

                                                                                                          We did say SUPER, right?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Express Store Window Makes Me Sad

Day 32
The Express Store Window Makes Me Sad

I am officially 1 month into the no clothes, no shoes and no accessories challenge. It feels good, but I think the first month is the easiest for many reasons. In January I am usually pretty much "shopped-out" from Christmas. I feel like I know the inventory of every store. The clearances aren’t really “final” until late February-early March, as all good shoppers know. And, by this time in a season, I pretty much have everything I need … for now.

My challenge does not include avoiding fashion so I am continuing my bi-weekly malking sessions with my friend. (Malking =mall+walking) It’s been okay up until recently when the Express store changed their window display. Instead of the tired clearance merchandise found in most other windows, the Express store featured lovely spring frocks in pale peach and outfits in delicate florals. It made me so sad. For the first time in a month, I really felt the urge to go to those clothes, feel the fabrics, bring some home. I passed the window on at least 4 different mornings when it hit me. I NEVER wear clothes from Express. It’s far too cold to even think of any of those outfits. What I really wanted was spring. How clever they are to tap into this (it’s probably part of Retail Sales 101). If I look deep in my closet, I find plenty of lovely spring items; it’s just not time to wear them yet.

I feel like I’m getting somewhere with this challenge. As a karmic bonus, on our malk today I noticed that the Express store has a new window display. Ha! It’s color-blocking! Nothing in me right now is remotely interested in going 1980s. Been there, wore that. So upward and
onward … one month down, eleven to go. And spring is just around the corner.