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Posts from the ‘ways to wear’ Category

black september

Two months ago, my husband opened a couple bills and saw evidence of what I spend on clothes.  A black day for all involved.  Before that day, when we got bills, I paid them, and he was none the wiser.  Under that system, I had managed to successfully conceal my spending habits for the better part of our ten-year marriage.

Overnight, I was placed on a “suggested monthly budget” of $150.  As a bonus, the budget came with a lot of blame and acrimony from Tom, plus annoying and irrelevant commentary like “Yoona, the kids will need money someday for college.”  Don’t get me wrong, $150 is not an insignificant sum, but it’s downright insane when you have to buy shoes, workout clothing, socks, and underwear from the same pot.  Tom even had the balls to suggest with a straight face that the $150 should also cover my LUNCHES.  I remember pausing in the midst of my sobbing to feel genuine alarm that my husband was stuck, price-wise, in 1983.

I successfully kept to Tom’s suggested budget for exactly one pious month: September.  For the record, I’d like to note that the worst month of the year to be placed on a mandated clothing budget is September.  September is the beginning of sweater and boot season.  In today’s currency, $150 will buy you approximately one-half of a pair of boots.  Which is why, since October 1, I’ve been reduced to stealing from our joint checking account to make my fashion ends meet.  But, for better or worse, thanks to Tom’s intervention, I have become more mindful of overspending.

The benefits of my newfound enlightenment are many.  For starters, I don’t wake up in a cold sweat worrying about how to intercept my Amex bill in the mail before Tom makes it home.  I don’t spend as much time at the mall returning things.  Well, okay, in September I did a lot of returning, but only because Tom said any money I made on returns, I could add to my monthly budget.  But since October 1, I have spent far less time at the mall.

Pre-mindfulness, I could afford a shopping mistake or two.  Now, I get one shot.  Which means I only get one try to land that perfect pair of red pants that will take me through to the spring.  Red is a great color for fall.  It adds vibrancy and interest to the browns, greens, and denim we often wrap ourselves in when the weather gets cold.  But red is tricky too, because the wrong red will torture you like nothing else.  Too blue, and it won’t go with neutrals.  Too orange, and it can seem jokey.  Both pairs of red pants in the photo at top are red.  But I wish I’d saved my money and taken a pass on the pair on the left.  That shade of red, it turns out, doesn’t go with anything.  The pants on the right, on the other hand, go with all sorts of stuff, as evidenced below.  So, when shopping for reds, try taking the item home and pairing with different colors under different lights before you cut off the tags.

Below, a few ideas on what to pair with a good red.

Silk shirt, J. Crew ($58); skinny corduroy pant, J Brand Mid-Rise Skinny Style 811 (black cherry, $171) (same pair throughout post); faux suede wedge boots, ASOS ($48)

Red and magenta: a killer combo, unless you are a redhead. When the colors are this bright, balance things with a neutral, like olive.

Sometimes stores push a trend that seems generally ill-advised and flattering to no one, but refuses to die.  I’d put capes, leggings, and mid-calf boots in this category.  I fought fake fur for a couple years but finally gave into this number below a couple weeks ago, because it was on sale.  I’m now a believer.  It is soft, warm, and totally a blast to wear.  I’ve tried on a lot of fake fur vests, and the most flattering and seemingly versatile are the longer ones.  The volume and length of this particular vest also pairs well with maxi skirts, but keep the skirt tight on the hips so people can tell that there is indeed a body under your clothing.

Faux fur vest, Sanctuary (Nordstrom, $64.90, on sale); cotton burnout top with thumbholes, Juicy Couture ($60); leather clog boots, Hasbeens ($400, but mine were $149 on sale)

I have a soft spot for ugly sweaters that fit right.  I couldn’t resist the cheesy ladder sleeve on this cotton space-dyed number below.  I think of it as my Alexander Wang, except I got it on clearance last year from ASOS for $19.  Its price per wear at this point is probably something like six cents, a price that even Tom could probably live with.

I’d love to hear about 1) your favorite ways to wear red, and 2) how to conceal your spending habits from your husband.  Discuss.

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ways to wear: stripes

There are days when the family wakes up late and we have exactly 17 minutes to get out the door.  There’s a lot of pain in that kind of morning, and it can be summed up by one image: that of my two year old, shrieking and banging on my shower door while I try to keep it closed with my foot long enough to wash the conditioner out of my hair.  I highly recommend this kind of morning to ensure a super zen day.  On such mornings, I have zero time to think out an outfit.  So I usually reach for some stripes.

Stripes almost always look right.  To me, they are shorthand for a bunch of things: ease, insouciance, pep.  Some opine that horizontal stripes can be unflattering, especially for those who aren’t stick-thin.  I tend to disagree.  I see lots of stripes on friends of different sizes and shapes, and whenever I see them, I’m charmed.  Actually, I can think of one exception: I’m not charmed by vertically striped dress shirts on my 6’4″ husband, because they make his torso look approximately five feet tall, and as if he should be walking on stilts at a circus.  But I digress.

Try playing with stripes of different thicknesses, from pinstripes to awning stripes to everything in between.  Stripes are a no-brainer with casual wear, but where they really prove their versatility is when you dress them up.  I particularly love them under suits.  Nothing says “believe me, I’m cooler than this lame job” like stripes under a suit with a bright belt and some killer shoes.

Below, a few ideas.

Starter stripes

Black/white and navy/white stripes are a basic everyone should have.  But try stripes in other colors.  Below, a button-back t-shirt I bought for $14.99 on sale at J. Crew has gotten heavy rotation in my wardrobe.  The mustard color has paired well under black or charcoal suits.  But where the mustard really comes to life is when paired with cobalt, a color that was big this summer, that I’m wearing into the fall.  By the way, as evidenced by the photos in this post, J. Crew is ground zero for stripes.  The downside to J. Crew (that their clothes look the same year after year) is an upside when you need a reliable source for the stuff you wear so regularly that it wears out.  Like stripes.

Striped button-back t-shirt, J. Crew ($14.99 on sale); twill skinny pants, J Brand ($176, bright royal); fleece blazer, Gibson (Nordstrom, $88, last season); suede desert boot, Clarks ($120)

Plays well with patterns

Stripes pair well with prints, like the batik-type skirt shown below.  When mixing with patterns, it helps to keep the stripe neutral, and to pair with a pattern that repeats in roughly the same proportion as the width of your stripe.  This barely makes sense to me, and I wrote it, but basically–if you have a medium-width stripe, stick with a medium-size print.  But there’s no science to it.  Just trust that you will know if it’s wrong.  It’s a good sign if your significant other takes issue with your outfit, because that, at least in my case, means you’re probably doing it right.  On the other hand, if you have small children who love your outfit, you may have inadvertently fallen prey to some bad mixing.  It’s never good when I come downstairs and my boys freeze, mid-play, to stare gape-mouthed at my outfit.  Also bad when I get the dreaded “Mom, are you going to a party today?” from my five-year old.  He wears his pants backwards on a regular basis.  It stresses me out when we’re seeing eye-to-eye on my clothes.

Cotton striped shirt, J. Crew ($48); cotton batik skirt, Gap ($44); leather mary janes, Chanel ($480, gift from hubby). Awesome letterpress print behind me by my friend Suzanne Hallerman at jigsaw graphics

Stripes on stripes

For those who have been wearing stripes for years and want to kick it up a notch, try pairing stripes with stripes.  A few considerations: 1) make sure your stripes are going in different directions; 2) it helps to have a visual break between the stripes, like a belt; and 3) stripe-on-stripe works best with stripes of different widths.   I wore the outfit below to my firm’s party a couple weeks ago, where it paired beautifully with my nametag and the jumbo shrimp.

Silk shirt, J. Crew ($110); wool pants, J. Crew ($108, five years ago); leather belt, J. Crew ($48); watch, Timex ($50)

How do you wear your stripes?