Wardrobe Architect week #2

The Wardrobe Architect

By Emily

What styles feel like me?
Historically, I am most drawn to the 1930s. The sinuous lines, the drape of the fabric, the new freedom of clothing with shorter hems and pants, the glamorous details of collars, cuffs, buttons, and the hats. And the hair. And the makeup.

How do I feel in my favorite clothes?
I feel confident. Happy. Colorful. Striking.

How do I feel in something not right?
Itchy, like a tag that needs to be cut out. Uncomfortable, as if I had forgotten an important detail.

Who are my style icons and why?
Schiaparelli, for her quirky sense of humor and practicality. Audrey Hepburn, for her classic elegance.

What styles do I like in theory and why are they not for me?
I love the idea of preppy clothes, or classic styles, like Jackie O. But they are too structured for me. Too formal.

15 words that sum up my answers from week #1:
1. Purple
2. Comfortable
3. Costume/dress up
4. Stylish
5. Casual
6. Colorful
7. Striking
8. Flowing
9. Drapery
10. Layers
11. Statement pieces
12. Costume jewelry
13. Happy
14. Skirts
15. Elegant

Other words I would use to describe me:
Creative, edgy, open minded, artistic

3-5 words that define ME:
1. Colorful/purple
2. Stylish
3. Comfortable/casual
4. Elegant
5. Creative

Stay tuned: up next will be a minor detour as I lay out the most common style names and definitions. Hopefully it will help with searching for images.

Wardrobe Architect #1

By Emily

The Wardrobe Architect

History: how has personal history informed my dress? When did my tastes crystallize? How have they changed?
When I was four, my favorite dress was purple gingham with purple rosettes. Today I have purple hair. Purple still ignites a passion in me. It makes me happy. (Hence, the purple hair!) I also spent all of my formative years in skirts and avoiding pants. I spent a number of years in high school and college trying to both fit in and wear what I wanted. Fortunately, today’s styles of maxi skirts, leggings with tunics, etc, fits the bill as far as I am concerned.

Philosophy: how does philosophy, spirituality or religion affect aesthetics & buying habits?
Errr… I don’t wear nylons to church if I can help it ever since my friends mom yelled at us for not wearing nylons to church when we were in our early teens. Hehe. Otherwise, I can’t really think of anything that has shaped my style philosophically or spiritually.

Culture: how has cultural background shape they way I look? How did the aesthetics & values from growing up affect my taste today?
There was a great deal of dressing up, pretending to be from a different era. It instilled a sense of stealing the best of whatever era I like best.

Community: how does community affect me, including friends, family or other communities?
I teach sewing and drawing and do fittings often. I want to find a happy medium between comfortable enough to sit on the floor, and still stylish. I am lucky in that most of my activities call for outfits that fall in similar dressy-casual ranges. I rarely need an outfit that is excessively formal or excessively casual. Although I do fall in the evil mom trap of yoga pants. But I’m trying to stop that habit. Not that I think yoga pants are bad. I just think they should be saved for yoga class. Just like I really don’t wear swimsuits unless I’m planning on getting wet.

Activities: how do my daily activities influence my choices?
Well, I’m a mom. I have a 3.5 and 1.5 year old boys. I’m lucky to get through breakfast without being covered in yogurt. Need I say more?

Location: how does location & climate factor in?
Winters are cooooolllllld around here. And summers are warm, but the temperature changes can be drastic for air conditioning to outdoors. Layering is very important for all seasons. I’m trying to find and layer pieces that can cross over multiple seasons. Like a medium to lightweight cardigan that could be worn over a tank for summer, or over a long sleeve shirt and tank for a winter day.

Body: what clothes make me feel good about my body? What clothes make me feel uncomfortable or alienated from my body?
Clothes that move well, flowy, drapey, or have a nice hand (i.e., the fabric feels nice) make me feel beautiful. Picking one amazing statement piece (shoes, earrings, jewelry, etc) makes me feel sexy, but not over the top. Short skirts and shorts make me self-conscious, and I feel like I am suffocating if I wear a turtleneck.

Ok, there is my homework. Anyone else complete week one? Did anything jump,out at you as you thought through the questions? I would love to hear your thoughts if you want to share.

Again, I am following the Wardrobe Architect project here: http://www.coletterie.com/wardrobe-architect/week-1-making-style-more-personal

Week #1 assignment is right here: http://media.coletterie.com/projects/wardrobe-architect-worksheet-01.pdf

And the bride wore…. Blue?

By Emily

I so often hear brides tell me: “I know I should wear a white wedding dress, but white just isn’t very flattering on me.” Or my other favorite: “What color should I wear for my wedding, since I’m really not that…pure?” (Pandora: People actually say this?! Emily: I’ve had someone say it to me. Sad.) Because as we all know, white is the universal symbol of purity…right? Wrong!

Historically, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, blue has been the color of purity and faithfulness. In America, we have morphed the color blue to mean loyalty (e.g., true-blue American). So it should come as no surprise that blue was often a first pick for wedding finery (something old, new, borrowed and blue, anyone?). When you couldn’t run out to Target to grab a new outfit, or have the expendable income to spend on a lavish wedding, women would wear their best dress to get married in, with favored colors being blue, gold, and/or silver. White was incredible expensive. Because fibers were natural, they were actually closer to ivory, so the process to create white fabrics was both labor and cost intensive. In addition, white was horribly impractical. Life and white clothing are NOT friends, even today.

Engraving of Queen Victoria's wedding to Prince Albert, February 10, 1840

Engraving of Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert, February 10, 1840

We can really thank big business, the inustrial revolution, and the media for white wedding dresses. About 150 years ago, Queen Victoria rocked the western world by wearing a white dress for her wedding. (She’s not the first! I actually found a reference to Queen Mary of Scots wearing a white trimmed gown with grey fur, but that was a bit more political perhaps. She was marrying into French royalty and at the time in France, white was the color of mourning. Although she claimed it was her favorite color.) Ok, back to 1840. The industrial revolution was in full swing, and Victoria decided to be a responsible regent, and promote handmade arts. She chose to use handmade lace on her skirt, and lots of it. White was chosen to compliment the lace. Then, the media published an engraving of her wedding (this was big news, kind of like Prince Charles & Diana’s televised wedding).

So, here is the most powerful woman in the world, wearing the most impractical, and one of the most expensive colors at the time. And, thanks to the growing media, everyone could see it for themselves. White became a highly prized color for weddings, not to show purity, but to show how wealthy you were, that you could afford a “throw away” dress, a dress that would only see one or two uses. The color waxed and waned in popularity for wedding apparel through out second half of the 19th century. With the emergence of the wedding industry in the first half of the 20th century, white became more de rigueur.

So, if you want a “traditional” (traditional here meaning a tradition of conspicuous consumption about 100 years old), wear white. If you want a sign of purity, you could always try using your bloody bed sheets as a banner on your house. That is a much older tradition. Personally, I find the conspicuous consumption white dress to be less offensive, though!

Wardrobe Architect Project

Perhaps it’s my education*, perhaps it’s just me. It seems like once every couple years, I do a major overhaul on my closet, hyper analyzing everything I own. Then I try for a dramatically “new” look, which seems to be a variation on the last wardrobe, with different colors.

So, now I’m trying something new. Instead of overhauling and fixing what isn’t broke, I’m actually going to try to define my own style. I’m following the lead of this lady over here: http://www.coletterie.com/wardrobe-architect/wardrobe-architect-2015. She has a fabulous blog (especially if you like to sew). She did the wardrobe architect project last year, and I looked at it then. But I felt too overwhelmed/tired/unmotivated to do anything about it. This year, she added a twist: a challenge to make your own clothes.

At this point, I’m sure you have tuned me out. What the…? Did she say MAKE her own clothes? How much free time does she think she has?

Well, not much. But I have been thinking so much about how much of our lives rest on the backs of the less fortunate in third world countries. That cute top you got for $30? Someone just got paid pennies to make it, and some rich dude put $29 in his pocket (give or take. I’m no accountant.) Granted, if I’m buying fabric, someone (probably in a third world country) made that. But I don’t see myself growing cotton, raising sheep, and learning to spin and weave. But I can sew.

Now, I have no intention of making 30-some articles of clothing for myself. But I can make some statement pieces that I may not be able to find in a store. And I want to be more conscientious about what I do buy. I’m sure I will be buying stuff, but I am hoping for it to be minimal (tank tops, under garments, jeans, all the stuff I HATE sewing) And maybe I can be more conscientious about where I shop. If my goal is to only purchase a few random pieces, maybe I can afford to pay a bit more, and get it more ethically.** As for the sewing projects, my goal is to either repurpose stuff I don’t like, or alter stuff that doesn’t fit (if it’s at all reasonable), and then maybe sew one or two big statement pieces each season.

So, that’s the plan. The first step is to organize my thoughts in regards to what my style really is. Then, weed through my current wardrobe and see what fits, what fits my style, and what has to go. Then, I will plan out where my wardrobe is lacking, and what pieces I might need. Anyone care to join me? I’d love company on this journey.***

*I went to Kent State University Fashion School for my bachelors. I did part of my masters in theatre costume. I can (and have) sewn all kinds of crazy shit.

**this presupposes that I have done the research on where to purchase things more ethically. I haven’t. And I don’t really know where to start with that. So if you have a good idea, let me know!!!!

***YOU don’t have to sew if you want to join me on this journey. Unless you want to. But I would challenge you to think about reusing, repurposing, altering, or thrift store shopping if you can. Or see the note about, and do the research on where to buy ethical clothes.

UPDATED: How a table cloth saved my life

by Emily (and Trista)

So, I posted this earlier, and then realized to make this post a more honest opinion, I needed to get my awesome friend, Dr. Trista Carr, to add her two cents. Trista is a psychologist, and a super wise, insightful woman. On matters of mental and emotional health, she as an excellent person to talk with (see her full bio below)

Not too long ago, I was severely depressed. Life had handed me more lemons than I could make lemonade out of, and I was falling apart at the seams. It was almost more than I could handle to put clothes on in the morning, or brush my hair. One of my dearest friends (hi, Abra!!) came to visit. The house was a disaster. Dishes piled high in the sink. Toys cluttering the floor. My boys still in pajamas (at 4pm). Myself still in pajamas. (Dr. Trista Carr: This is actually a very common presentation of depressive symptoms, Emily. A lot of people who are experiencing depression lose the desire to do things they used to enjoy or keep up their appearances. Hygiene and enjoyment tend to be some of the first things to go when we are depressed.) I could feel how sorry she was for me by looking at her face as she walked through my house. Quietly, she walked into my kitchen, cleared a space on one of the chairs, and sat down.

“Do you know what you need?” Not a lecture, I thought to myself. (Trista: Definitely not! And it wouldn’t have worked either!) “You need a tablecloth. You need to have beautiful things around you, and if you put a tablecloth on the table, it will give you something beautiful to look at. Your soul needs to see beauty.” (Trista: Abra is right. When we feel apathetic about appearances due to depression or dysthymia—mild depression—it helps kick our brains back in gear when we take even the smallest step toward something that represents the opposite of how negatively we feel. In this case toward beauty!)

I bought a tablecloth. A deep purple one (no surprise to anyone who has seen my hair or glasses.) And slowly, the dishes disappeared, the toys started getting put away, clothes started being worn. Deep inside, I could feel my heart take a deep breath, and scream: “YES! I need beauty!!” (Trista: Yes, you do! Even the smallest gesture toward “normalcy” helps us start feeling a little better one small step at a time.)

Many years ago, (10, if you want to be exact), I was torn because I was expected to attend the womens’ Bible study at my church, but it was at the same time as the show, So You Think You Can Dance. Bewailing my fate to my mother about how I needed to be at Bible study, but wanted to be home watching the show, my mom asked why I liked SYTYCD so much. “It’s because part of me feels alive when I watch it,” I told her. My mom promptly demanded that I stop going to Bible study and watch SYTYCD instead. “God can speak to you more if you feel alive, than if you are doing something because you think you “have” to.” (Trista: Mom is spot on! When we do things out of obligation we can easily become resentful of the activity or the people who encourage us to take part in the activity, even if it is supposed to be a life-giving event like a Bible study. It is not giving life if we are resenting it. In reality what is happening is we are allowing our boundaries to be compromised and we are not allowing our true selves the opportunity to do and experience what really brings us life. And for many of us, what brings us to life are the things our souls find beautiful. And it is often in those things, and when we are open to beauty and life, that the God of love and life can speak most clearly to us.)

As humans, we need beauty. It makes us “alive”. Beauty may mean something different to everyone. It could be a sunset. A perfectly cooked meal. A clever puzzle. A car. A… (Trista: A view of the ocean…or even a piece of dark chocolate raspberry ganache!) You get the idea. Fill in the blank. You know you have found something beautiful, when your soul inside feels like it might crack open inside you, and you can suddenly breath deeper than you thought you could. You come alive.

Never underestimate the power of beauty. It can save your life. It can make you alive. (Trista: Hear, hear! Well said, my friend!)

Pandora: I really can’t think of anything to add to this. It’s perfect!

Trista L. Carr, Psy.D., is a Clinical Psychologist for a state prison in the Central Valley of CA, a consultant for individuals and organizations, and a conference speaker. She completed her master’s and doctorate in clinical psychology at Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA, where she was a research assistant for the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity. Dr. Carr also obtained a master’s degree in Community Counseling from The University of Akron in Ohio. Her research and clinical interests are in the integration of Christian faith, psychology, and sexual and gender identity concerns. Dr. Carr can be found at http://www.tristacarr.com.

Somewhere over the rainbow

by Emily

A while back, some one told my son, A-rod, that purple was a girl color. That statement made me see red (so to speak). Aside from the fact that colors don’t have a gender, let’s take a little trip down history lane, and see what’s behind the meaning of colors.

Purple – if it had a gender, it would be a masculine color. Purple dye was discovered by the ancient Phoenicians around 2000-1500 BC. It was made from snails, and was literally worth it’s weight in silver. It was the single most expensive dye in the world, and was worn only by male aristocracy – specifically kings. It was referred to as “imperial purple”. In some places, it was illegal to wear purple if you were not the king. Around 1850 (AD), someone invented a synthetic purple dye. From that point on, women wore purple as a sign of (secondary) mourning, although men continued to wear purples, plums and mauves.

Blue – is currently thought of as a “male” or “masculine” color. Historically though, blue symbolized innocence, daintiness, and most importantly, purity. That’s why so many images of the Virgin Mary portray her wearing blue. This dates back to the Middle Ages. (Emily: Pandora, is this why you wear blue so often? Pandora: You bet! Maintaining my pure rep is particularly important at an advanced age. Bonus points if people equate me with the Virgin. My husband also loves this.)

Pink – since pink is a pastel version of red, pink was considered a strong, passionate and aggressive color. This was true even 100 years ago. In 1918, a Ladies’ Home Journal article stated: “There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” (Although it was also recommended for blue to be worn by blonde and/or blue-eyed babies, and pink worn by brunette/brown-eyed babies). Pink was introduced as a feminine color around World War II. My favorite designer, Elsa Schiaparelli, was partially responsible for this. She introduced a color called “shocking pink”. “Genderized” clothes started becoming fashionable in the 1950s, as a sign that families had enough wealth to buy new clothes for all their children.

Do I dress my boys in pink because it’s a historically appropriate color for the little warriors, or do I buy them blue because our society today tells us it’s the “boy” color? Neither. Most people develop a favorite early in their life, and actually tend to keep it as they get older. It may not be the most prevalent color in your wardrobe or in your house decor, but almost instinctively most people will gravitate towards a particular color. My favorite color is purple. My fifth birthday party theme was: PURPLE. Today, my kitchen, bathroom, glasses and hair are purple. A-rod has decided his favorite color is green. He is most emphatic about it, and although he is open minded about color choices (he DID ask me to make him a hot pink suit of armor) (Pandora: Um, I want a pink suit of armor!! How much would that cost me?), at the end of the day, he is a “green” boy.

At our house, we enjoy colors because they are beautiful, and they inspire us, regardless of what society says about that color. At my house, we are a “rainbow” house – all colors are appropriate for all people.