Throwback Thursday: The Long Summer

The first summer I really dug into my personal style was one of my hardest to date. It was in college, between a difficult breakup and a summer crush. It seemed to never stop raining. I was working half the day and in class the rest. I was feeling blue. Luckily I had my two best friends to keep me company, but with different study schedules, it was rare to see one another on weekday afternoons.

So I found other ways to entertain myself. I started putting together outfits for a "new me." A me who would return from my painful summer studies as a new woman. Maneater. Free Spirit. Feminist Fighting the Good Fight.

As those who know me are aware, this version of myself never quite came to fruition. But it was certainly fun to entertain the fantasy whilst hoveled away in my dorm room. Here's a peek at some of my (sometimes questionable) fashion experiments from that era.



Ingenue Blue

I'm a big believer in the little blue dress. People always talk up the little black dress, but I can't help thinking of all the fabulous females who rocked it in blue: Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy Gale, Wendy Darling, Summer (of 500 Days fame), Lea Michelle's Wendla, Princess Belle...  To me, it is the quintessential piece of girlishness and adventure.

For years, I lived in deep navy blue. Only in the past few years have I discovered its lighter cousin, hyacinth. Since it's technically the same hue as navy, hyacinth functions equally well as a neutral, and brings an air of fresh sophistication to any look.

This lovely lace number from American Rag has been my go-to audition dress for some time now. Its empire waist and subtle florals recall the youthful innocence of an ingenue, but the lace and low-cut neckline also work to showcase a more flirtatious character. I'm delighted to see my dress against a bright spring background -- I could've spent all day fine-tuning the glorious colors brought to life in the setting sun!

I finished my editing today with some Earl Gray and a slice of leftover funfetti cake, which I made from scratch last weekend for my brother's graduation. Turns out you don't need Pillsbury or Betty C for this amazing crack-snack; you just need a ton of sprinkles. Thanks to Sally for the incredible recipe!

Dress: American Rag
Tights: Hue
Betsey Johnson - "Natasha"
Earrings: unknown


The Girl Next Door

I almost feel like I need another week to process this haircut before I blog about it. That's how bizarrely it has impacted me.

As a vivid example, last night I had stress dreams that involved various people throughout my life -- childhood friends, college professors, past crushes -- approaching me as though I was a completely different person. My boyfriend even seemed to not recognize me. At one point a director I've worked with before entered my dream, regarded me in disgust and spat: "They've told me about you... how difficult you are to work with. We all know you've got something wrong in the head." I was crying, asking who'd told her those things, pleading with her to hear me out; "You know me! You know how I work! There's nothing wrong with me!" She walked away, and I was left in a room full of school children, desperately trying to find a script I'd left behind.

This dream, and all the other emotions surrounding my change of appearance, can only be explained by the sense of self I have always associated with my hair. For years I was the classmate with the long, silky locks everyone wanted to play with. Through puberty, when I felt chubby and awkward, my mane was my saving grace -- the one thing I felt made me pretty and interesting. There are plenty of embarrassing photos from these years which challenge that notion: The Middle-Parted, The Kinked From Too-Tight Hairbands, The Horrendously Dowdy Post-Dance-Class Bun... But it was still "me." It was something I had created all by myself... with the help of Pantene and some gracious genes, anyway.

I'm now practical enough to realize I have far more going for myself inside my head than on it, but I do think the take-away from the dream is a definite fear of people judging me by my appearance. "Something wrong in the head" is surely my brain's odd interpretation of the haircut's immediate effect on other people. It exposes a worry that, because I altered my trademark feature, everyone will suddenly think I'm no longer me, and therefore no longer capable of what I was before.

Isn't that absurd??! Isn't it just mad that we can think all these things on a subconscious (or otherwise) level over something as inconsequential as a haircut? In the midst of donating to a marvelous cause? In the midst of pride, even? And yet, it is the reason I felt a sudden need to cry when I no longer had enough hair to pull into a messy bun. It's why I still feel something hanging against my back, like a phantom limb.*

When it comes down to it, I think we all assume we'll get a haircut (or buy a new dress or redecorate our bedroom or take a year abroad) and the world will go topsy turvy. We all live out this fantasy lead role, creating an audience out of those around us, imagining everyone's just waiting to see what we'll do next. We assume that when we change our appearance -- whether we experience a loss-of-self or the regenerative effect of a new personality -- that everyone will notice. But all that's left, after the hair has fallen to the floor and the scissors have silenced and the mousse has been washed out, is us.

A small part of me always dreamed that the day I cut my hair would be the day I became a "real woman." Something like a loss of virginity. I imagined I would suddenly feel sophisticated and sexy, carefree and confident with my place in the world. It's not so much that I don't feel those things. It's that I still feel the awkward/cute/ridiculous/nervous stuff too. Oddly enough, I'm taking tremendous comfort in that fact. It means I'm still me. I'm still the girl next door.

*Is it also the reason I'm freezing right now, or is that just Seattle?

Cardigan: Target
Tank: Loft  
Jeans: Lucky - "Sophia Boot"  
Booties: thrifted  
Earrings: American Eagle
Haircut: Vain Hair Salon


Sprummer Inspirsession

I've been holding off on starting my summer inspirsession post, since it doesn't really feel like summer in Seattle until July. It's hard to get into the groove of cutoffs, crop tops, and bikinis when I still feel the need to don a jacket in the morning!

Still, it doesn't mean I'm not finding plenty of between-season inspiration. Here's a peep at what's been blowing my mind and bending my wardrobe lately.

I'm not quite sure what ties these pieces together... Obviously there's a lot of vintage (40s, 60s, 80s) influence going on, though most of the styles are startlingly in vogue right now. Recently I asked my boyfriend how he would describe my personal style and the answer he gave me was "offbeat business casual." So the above might be my take on that.

In other news: today is haircut day, and I'm a bit nervous! I always get somewhat panicky about trims -- even though I really can't remember any bad ones. If it manages turns out anything like these celeb 'dos below, I'll rest easy. I think mid-length hair is so sophisticated!


Life in Technicolor

Last week's post featured my first ever shoot out in "the real world" (aka: beyond my front porch.) Since I'm still working solo and without a remote, the photography process is tricky enough in my own home. Today, however, I encountered a whole new speedbump on my quest for natural light.

I wouldn't call myself a "people person." I can talk with friends for hours and hours over coffee, but making small chat with strangers is right up there with vacuuming as one of my least favorite pastimes. Unfortunately for me, when people see someone setting up a tripod on their sidewalk, then racing around to the other side of the camera to pose, they tend to get curious. Then they tend to do one of three things: a) ask what you're taking pictures of or (bizarrely) if you're taking pictures of them; b) comment to their friend: "She's taking pictures."; or c) say nothing and just stare at you. ?!?! It's nerve-wracking enough taking public selfies (not to mention leaving a pricey camera unattended in the meantime), but enduring this additional scrutiny while trying to focus on the task at hand makes me flustered and generally annoyed at all people, regardless of their best intentions.

How interesting I should feel this way when the very art of self photography is rooted in a desire to be viewed/studied/noticed by others. “Don’t look at me while I take a picture of myself.” -- The phrase could almost be considered paradoxical. The difference, I suppose, is that we wish it to be through the direction of our own lens.  

Anyway, this is all to explain the shoe/body shots from today's post. Before I got a chance to capture my complete outfit, I noticed some dude staring at me through his window, and that was the end of the fun & games for me. (For the record, on my feet are the Betsey Johnson booties you saw in this post.)

About the outfit:

With summer right around the corner, it will soon be time to pack up to my transition pieces and bid them farewell until autumn. This silk Chinese jacket has been my go-to statement piece since I thrifted it last Christmas. The black skinny jeans are a favorite year-round staple, but I'll be swapping them for some lighter bottoms come July. Likewise, the leather boots will quickly make way for sandals & sneakers. I also wanted to get one last shot of my freakishly long hair before I update with a summer cut. I think I finally have enough to donate to Locks for Love (or a similar organization), and I can't wait to try out my Remington hot rollers on shorter curls!

Bittersweet goodbyes aside, spring has already brought some much needed color to my wardrobe. I've gone totally batty for the hyacinth shade of this lace-trimmed tee! Never would I have thought to pair it with such a bright, firetruck red, but the two ended up hanging side-by-side in my closet, just begging to be paired. As it happens, the same shade of blue runs right through part of the jacket embroidery. Surprises like this make fashion an ever-engaging puzzle for me. I just love the challenge of bringing it all together!

Jacket: Squirrel Hangzhou 
Jeans: a.n.a.
Tee: Loft
Boots: Betsey Johnson - "Natasha"
Sunglasses: Ray-Ban - "Wayfarer 2140"

Lipstick: Clinique - "Red Red Red
Belt: unknown

Earrings: unknown


Wildwood Flower

Maybe it was the onset of festival season or maybe it was due to Waylon Jennings plunking around in my head (thanks, Mad Men), but something compelled me to slip my boyfriend's cowboy hat off the wall today and hightail it to this field of daisies for an afternoon in the sun.

As I was putting this outfit together, I never thought it would fly. How do you dress a cowboy hat without looking like, well, a cowboy? As it turned out, most of these items are things I dearly love the look of, but have proven to be remarkably finicky in wearing. This Calvin Klein dress, for example, has slightly-too-long shoulder straps which always wind up introducing the world to my bra. Coincidentally, I have a favorite psychedelic-patterned, beaded & sequined softcup which I lovingly refer to as "The Rogue Mermaid," because you can't take her anywhere. (The beading makes t-shirt pairings useless.) I've had equal difficulty with the front-clasping belt and wrap bracelet.

But then I put them all together and it was like The Breakfast Club.

This week, I challenge you to see how many "trouble items" you can bring together in one outfit. Who knows? You might just start the next festival trend.

(Side note: Can anyone tell me where to find an actual wide-brim fedora? I've lusting for one since George Harrison cannon-balled into my fashion radar....)

Dress: Calvin Klein
Bra: Victoria's Secret Shoes: Josef Seibel
Hat: Eddy Bros
Bracelet: unknown
Wide Belt: thrifted
Narrow Belt: vintage