W2015 7: 3 Ways to Avoid Office Frump

W2015 7: Moody Reds

Inspiration Image Source

Despite my fondness for the "business casual" style, the idea of dressing in actual office clothes makes me uncomfortable. For one thing, I've been spoiled by Seattle (the casual-ist of all casual cities) and by the company I work for, which is fairly forgiving in the dress code department.

Secondly, I just can't help associating traditional office clothing with middle-aged frumpiness. In America, it seems only elite businesspersons seem to wear corporate clothing that actually suits them. The majority of office employees stick themselves in frumpy cardigans, tacky ties, hopeful-but-badly-tailored blazers, and cheap ballet flats. When I visited London, I was shocked (and frankly delighted) to see commuting professionals in classic black coats, leather shoes, and beautifully tailored business suits. Maybe it's a different story somewhere like New York, but my point is this: Honor your capable, ambitious soul by putting a bit of thought into your professional image!

Here are three starter tricks, illustrated in today's capsule outfit:
   -Wide Leg, Tall Shoe.   Don't even think about pairing ballet flats with a wide-legged pant. Ever. I don't care how tall you are, your feet will look shrunken and weird and totally undignified. Leave ballet flats for cropped trousers and straight-leg pants. Trust me.
   -Rock a Power Color.   Neutrals are great, but they don't offer much personality. Keep things alive and kicking with camisoles and shells in your favorite colors, then knock yourself out on neutral blazers and cardigans.
   -Showcase Interesting Jewelry.   Now, by my standards, this necklace is hardly interesting. Still, it adds a level of contrast to the outfit. Determine what your version of "interesting" is, then run with it. Statement jewels, boutique finds, vintage pearls, initial pendants... Whatever your style, show it off!


W2015 6: A Patterned Scarf and A Question

W2015 6: City Chic
Inspiration Image Source

Pretty straightforward outfit, this one. Perfect for a pretty straightforward Thursday. 

I'm having a (surprisingly) fun time working with shades of black, white, and gray this winter. Usually I'm longing for color by this time. Not this year. I guess I've finally grown into the Seattle grays!

Will someone riddle me this: What's with all the models sporting these winter outfits with ankle skin showing? It's not a modesty concern, it's a HOLY-JEBEEZUS-HOW-DO-YOUR-FEET-NOT-FREEZE-IN-THIS-SCENARIO??? thing. But seriously, are my ankles just inferior? Was I not endowed with the superhuman warmness that protects these leg-bearing ladies? If I were this model, I would be wrapping that scarf around shoes where it could actually do some good.

Anyway, happy Thursday everyone.


Winspirsession 2015

It may seem a little silly to backtrack through this winter's inspirsessions. After all, I've already defined my capsule and we're nearly a month into the season. Still, some of these photos are too beautiful not to share, and I love being able to look back on what was informing my tastes, behaviors, and styles.

Finding creative, new ways to express your style isn't always easy. I tend to have flashes of inspiration and am always making lists on my phone, scraps of paper, or in my journal(s). Take, for example this list of concepts I jotted down on my flight home for Christmas. Some of these ideas were realized and some of them weren't. The important thing is, they got my gears turning.

What things are you loving this winter?

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W2015 5: Nifty Thrift Store Tips

W2015 5: Take It Easy

Inspiration Image Source

It's no great secret that I'm a huge fan of thrift stores. I've been frequenting them since I was a wee lass of thirteen. On my very first adventure, at Drop Yer Drawers in Spokane, I had just enough spending money to buy a pair of gently used supremely trashed knockoff Converse and some marvelously high-waisted bell-bottom jeans. Sadly, this meant abandoning a fierce yellow sweatshirt with a fetching red rose on the front -- not to mention all the 80s concert tees begging to go home with me. However does one make up their mind in such a secondhand haven?

First things first: the best* items to pounce on at thrift stores are accessories and shoes -- accessories because they're normally not very used, and shoes because they are. Some people are unsettled by putting their feet where someone else's have been. I ask those people to consider this:

    - Buying pre-worn shoes eliminates awful break-in periods. Goodbye, blisters!
    - You can filter out (and brazenly judge) cheaply-made footwear with a quick glance at the sole or the vamp.
    - You won't cry when you scuff them because some fool's already gone and done that.

The heeled booties represented above were discovered at a Buffalo Exchange for $15. The leather belt cost $5 at Value Village. Both have given me zero sass.

Know thy supplier. Consider your city; Where do the rich people live? When are they likely to get rid of stuff? I found this Banana Republic pinstripe blouse at the Bellevue Goodwill just after spring cleaning time. It was personally tailored (another pre-worn advantage!), but it looked as though it had never been worn since. For $8, it was a fantastic steal.

That said...

Always ask yourself why this item (especially a new-ish one) is here in the first place. Someone donated it for a reason. While one person's trash may very well be your treasure, beware buyer's remorse.
     - Spend enough time with/in the item to make sure it's comfortable.
     - Check seams for fraying. Hold the fabric up to a light to reveal holes or stains.
     - Give everything a sniff test for smoke or weird-house odors.
     - If it seduced you with its uniqueness, question whether it would complement at least three items in your current wardrobe.

When all decision-making power fails you, sleep on it. Thrift stores have this weird fate surround them; if it was meant to be yours, it will await your return.

* "The best" being herein synonymous with "my personal favorite."


W2015 4: Sleet Sleek

W2015 4 - Sleet Sleek

Inspiration Image Source

It's a sad truth that the representation I picked out for my light gray cowl-neck sweater totally reminds me of slush. Bona fide, street-dirt-infused, snow melt slush. Not exactly the most inspiring of concepts. I guess there's something to be said for finding beauty in the mundane, though, because there's no denying the tremendous pairing of silver and black (or slush and asphalt!)

I'm seeing more and more pairings of midi-length skirts with heeled booties, and I particularly love how the inspiration source worked this look. My own pencil skirt is more of a mini length, but with the simple addition of black tights the pairing works to make it more practical for cold weather -- and an office environment.

The question I faced was: to tuck or not to tuck? The sweaters pictured above are cropped quite short, and look fine great over the skirt's high waist. My own sweater, I was dismayed to find, fell just over my pencil skirt's waistband (or I was just short enough to make it do so.) For this reason, I chose to tuck in the bottom of the sweater, creating more of a natural waist. The cowl neck served to lengthen things out, but it's probably not a look I'll be returning to very often.

Still worth featuring for the taller ladies out there! Happy Thursday!


Winter Paylist 2015

 Listen Here: Winter Playlist 2015 from lgpq on 8tracks Radio.

Winter playlists tend to be my most surprising. And maybe that's because my winters tend to be full of surprises. My birthday falls mid-way through this season, and big life changes always seem to coincide with it. I wonder what this year will bring? It's never quite predictable, but it's always something fascinating.
 In true Aquarian fashion, my music taste is likewise unpredictable (unless, of course, you know me -- in which case this playlist is probably just what you expected!) Still, it's not everyday that you'll find Cyndi Lauper, Mumford & Sons, and the cast of Jersey Boys vying for space in one lady's heart. I like to think this indicates my tolerance of all different kinds of music; in truth, it probably just goes to show I like songs, not bands.

Whatever the case, I hope you enjoy bopping along to this grab-bag -- taking a sugar-hit of 80s pop anthem, bopping along to an uplifting love song, then winding down with my folksy nostalgic favorites (yes, I'm still navigating through fall's nostalgia leftovers...)

What's coming through your headphones this winter?


W2014 3: Sunset Soft

W2015 3: Sunset Soft

Please don't spoil my day,
I'm miles away, 
and after all,
I'm only sleeping.
-The Beatles

When I wake up on a Monday (or Tuesday, as it is today) I have two main thoughts: 

1) This bed is warm and cozy and I refuse to get out of it.
2) Is the sun up yet?

Tragically, if the sun isn't up, usually I'll roll over with a smirk, tuck the covers under my chin and doze away the final blessed minutes of life before work. What I ought to do is put on my shoes, take a walk, and watch the sunrise. It's something I haven't experienced much since the winter months of high school -- the days when my bus would arrive just as the light crested the horizon.

I do try to make time for sunsets, however, and if I had a better window for it, I'd probably watch them every evening. Something about the routine of the warmth fading from the earth and the colors splashing across the sky and the sun sinking slowly away is bittersweet and beautiful to me. It always reminds me how quickly life moves.

For the sunrises I've missed, for the bed covers I'll miss once I'm out from under them, and for those reminiscent sunsets, I've collected the coziest things in my wardrobe: broken-in jeans, a waffle-knit shirt, soft leather Danskos, and thick wool socks.

It's a security blanket of an outfit, this one.


W2015 2: A Bold, Gold Scarf

W2015 2: A Bold, Gold Scarf

Inspiration Image Source

The ultra-long scarf in this inspiration photo is really a much better representation of the one I own than that in the outfit collage. Like mine, it has a loose knit, wide spread, and no fringe. Still, both shades of gold pair wonderfully with neutrals, as you see here.

Scarves are a great resource for introducing color to your wardrobe. If you're a capsuler who's stuck in neutral land, go out on a limb and buy one in a tone or pattern you're interested in, but not quite sure about. It's fairly easy to tell if something isn't working for you when it's that close to your face, and your budget won't suffer much for the risk. Just avoid buying anything brand-label or cashmere until you've settled on a winner.

My favorite places to scarf-shop are affordable retailers with great variety like Forever 21 and H&M, market stands, and (most recently) thrift stores! While capsule shopping in December, I popped into Value Village and happened across a brown striped cashmere and a fringed houndstooth for under $10. The secret, it seems, is to shop in the men's section. It seems to be less picked-over, and scarves are unisex, after all.

For minimalists, I'd suggest having one cozy knit scarf in a color that complements your winter coat, one bright scarf in a cotton or silky fabric, and another medium-weight patterned scarf in neutral tones. These will get you through the seasons and keep your outfits interesting!


W2015 1: Berries & Cream

W2015 1: Berries & Cream

Inspiration Image Source

Does anyone remember the Berries & Cream lad? That weird British fellow with the pageboy haircut who danced through Starburst commercials? It was just about the most WTF commercial of 2007. Anyway, he always comes to mind whenever someone mentions berries and/or cream.

From this inspiration image of blouse-and-skirt combos* in berry and cream shades, my first winter capsule outfit translated easily enough. Still, I might just as easily have taken inspiration from an image of whipped-cream-topped raspberries on a silver spoon! It just goes to show how many sources can offer up ideas when you're on the hunt for outfit-fodder.

It's worth re-mentioning that an a-line skirt with tights and boots has been a favorite uniform of mine since college. When I first embraced it, I tended to pair these items with basic tees or cardi-cami combos. In recent years, I've updated the look with a more sophisticated button-down blouse. This swap adds polish to what might elsewise be perceived as a casual silhouette. It also lends an air of authority -- after all, the collared shirt has long been associated with the male-dominated workforce. It never hurts to remind the world of this simple truth: "a skirt does not an inferior person make."

Happy Wednesday!

* "Yes, I'll take the blouse and skirt combo with a side of tights."


Winter 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

2015 Winter Capsule Wardrobe

“Surely everyone is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a wintry fireside; 
candles at four o'clock, warm hearthrugs, tea...
whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.” 
 -Thomas de Quincey

I've been so excited to get started on winter capsule outfit creation. Next to fall, winter is probably my favorite season. It gets a bad rap -- especially from Seattleites, who love to hate the cloudy curtain of gloom that envelopes the city around this time. As tired of rain as I'll inevitably be in March, for now I'm enjoying the solemn energy -- for peace, relaxation, and self-reflection.

... Not that any of those words describe my lifestyle right now. Since Pride & Prejudice closed, my schedule has certainly shifted gears, but I still feel busy as ever. The mental alarm bells that used to clang "Carpool!", "Showtime!", and "That's your cue!" have merely been reoriented to signal other duties of my life.

The inconvenient truth of this season is that most of my wardrobe needs are back in the "office" category. For the sake of budgeting, I pulled mainly from storage and my preexisting fall capsule. This (unfortunately) meant keeping a pencil skirt in the mix, along with a few collared blouses and my two blazers. With any luck, these items will all be worn out within a year or so, and I can invest in some better-quality blazers (not polyester-lined, for the love of Jehoshaphat!) and skirts that don't necessitate heels.

Day job obligations aside, there are many reasons I'm jazzed for outfitting from this stock:

      1) This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius. January marks the start of my fabulous sun sign, baby, and that can only mean one thing: electric blues -- in the weird spirit of the Uranian water-bearer. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, that's okay. Just appreciate that little leftward pocket of cerulean dresses & tops up yonder.

     2) Sweater Weather! Every excuse I have to wear a sweater this season, I'm gonna take it. I felt a little ridiculous when I realized I'd included four gray sweaters in one wardrobe, but I'm certain that sense of ridiculousness will be swiftly trumped by my enjoying knitted coziness for FOUR DAYS STRAIGHT without the slightest reservation toward hygiene. Hello Netflix, tea, and salted popcorn. We have a date. All winter long.

    3) The ankle boot strikes back. Once, what now seems like a very long time ago, I had a pair of dearly beloved combat-style gray ankle boots.* They were gifted to me by my mom (bless her timeless fashion sense), and arrived in the mail during a particularly burdensome evening in London. I walked everywhere in them during my travels, and continued to do so when I returned to the states. After two years of use and abuse, I was finally forced to take them to a cobbler, who first reprimanded me for not investing in higher-quality shoes, then fixed them for $35. As he predicted, they fell apart again by the end of the season. For a full year, they've been sitting in a corner of our apartment, collecting dust like some kind of monument to past adventure. Well, my friends, the time has come for more adventure.

(Side note: I've never had brown boots before and am also kind of excited to scale this new frontier.)

For you graph nerds, here's a visual of where these capsule items came from:

I'm pretty proud of myself for continuing to build off what I already own. With each season's passing, my storage container becomes more and more compact. I even managed to clear an entire dresser drawer this month by nixing a grocery bag's worth of unneeded pajamas and workout gear (which I don't include in my capsule count, for the record.) It was exciting to see my old favorites come out of storage -- some of them feel brand new again! As for shopping: having just one or two things to focus on and setting a clear budget made decisions easy & regret-free. Whee!

How about you, pumpkins? Have you tried the capsule process yet? What have been your findings? What are you still struggling with? What items are you looking forward to incorporating this winter? Please tell me in the comments!

*Exhibit A, B, and C.


Fall 2014 Capsule Reflection

Whew! What an adventure I've had with my closet this season. As this was my first capsule wardrobe for fall and only my second attempt overall, there was much to discover along the way.

Here are some general lessons I learned this time around:

Not Shopping 

This was perhaps the most surprising thing to not bother me. It's true I'm a window-shopper by nature; a true perfectionist/maximizer, I will suffer from buyer's regret the instant I spot a similar-yet-superior item in the next store. Not buying new clothes for three months allowed me to focus on what I actually needed vs. what I wanted.

To ease my occasional cravings, I kept a running list of trends to incorporate in my next wardrobe, once reassessing time came in December. And guess what? Almost everything I'd listed -- everything I would've been 100 times more tempted to buy without the shopping restriction -- lost its charm. Throughout most of fall I had it bad for a pair of sequin-covered dress pants. I'd seen some featured on Sidewalk Ready, and when I found a similar pair at Nordstrom, I started drooling. The seasonal interim awoke me to the following facts: a) I'm never invited to holiday parties that warrant anything this fancy and b) My legs would benefit not at all from a pelt of glittery plastic. While shopping for my winter capsule yesterday, I happily bypassed the same pants.

The Replacements 

To me, the most delicious aspect of capsule wardrobes (aside from the opportunity to create endless lists and spreadsheets) is the concept of actually wearing out clothes. To often in our society we buy, get bored, buy again, get bored again, buy again... until finally we discover we own eleven pairs of only slightly different black heels.

When both my navy and black skinny jeans (purchased at the same time, about 2 years ago) started to look stretched and faded, I decided it was worth it to invest in a higher-quality pair of each.*

Also, for the record:

    F2014 Winner of Best Wear Through Most Washes: Chambray Blouse (The Gap)
         Looking good after two seasons -- which is more than I can say for most Gap items. This one is likely to become a year-rounder!
    F2014 Loser of the same category: Pink Waffle-Knit Top (The Gap)
         Purchased toward the end of September. I loved the color and softness so much, I wore it twice between each laundering, babied it in a pillowcase during the wash cycle, and always laid it flat to dry. It's soft as ever, but it's also starting to pill and fade.

Embracing Uniformity 

Five years ago I would have been ashamed to be associated with the word "uniform." Uniform equaled common, basic, and uninspired -- everything I considered myself against, creatively-speaking. Now I'm starting to recognize the benefit of having an outfit blueprint. It dissolves one less distraction on the road to style-creation. If I know I like a natural waist, comfy top, and sturdy shoe, for instance, I can basically ignore hiphuggers, restrictive jackets, and stiletto heels.

The pencil skirt I included in the fall capsule is an excellent example of this: Though I love the idea of pencil skirts (sex appeal, curve-enhancing, smart-looking), actually wearing them in a sit-down office situation drives me crazy. They wrinkle. They require complicated shirt-tucking. They make crossing your legs extremely difficult. I wouldn't rule them out for parties, but I know I can avoid them on future shopping expeditions.

Finally, if you have any recommendations, questions, or requests for next season, don't hesitate to comment below! I'd love to incorporate them into next season's posts.

Check back on Thursday for my 2015 Winter Capsule Wardrobe!

*Confession: I did shop for these two items in mid-season, stored them for a bit, and eventually swapped them out for their deteriorating counterparts, which are now in the donation pile. This is upkeep shopping, not cheating.


F2014 17: Fair Isle Ski Style

F14 - 20 (Fair Isle Ski Style)

Inspiration Image Source

Search "vintage fair isle ads" and pretty much everyone looks happy. Except this lady here. Maybe it's the goggles.

I'm here in snow-covered central Oregon looking out on a truly beautiful cover of white stuff. It's wonderful to be in a place where wearing northern knits actually makes sense. Cable knit sweaters, thermals, and wool headbands are cute fashion accessories in Seattle, but they're actually essential here. It reminds me of winters growing up, and as a Februbaby, I'm very much in my element!

As usual, I pulled from my capsule for this one; you'll notice it's still part of my fall wardrobe, because I'm still finalizing my choices for winter. With all the carry-over that seems to be happening, though, this outfit will likely still be an option next season. (Yay!)

Stay tuned for the W2015 reveal -- coming soon!