At Target yesterday, I was in the dressing room near a teenager buying her first day of school outfit with her grandmother. They debated the pros and cons of dresses versus pants, shorts versus pants, sandals versus shoes, and the different styles of shirts she had in her pile.
Do you remember those days? I'd pick my outfit at least a month before school started, and I'd keep going back to my closet to look at it. I remember imagining what my first day would be like-- where I'd sit, what we'd do, and what my classmates would think of my outfit. I actually still remember a few of my first day outfits (I had a striped skirt with suspenders for the first day of fourth grade. I LOVED that outfit). I also know I wore jeans and an Abercrombie olive green tank the day I moved into college.
Why were those outfits such a big deal? Why have they stuck in my head all these years later? I think it has to do with the symbolism of the outfit (here comes the English teacher...). Each school year is a fresh start, and the outfit you choose for that day sets the tone-- not just for how others might perceive you, but how you perceive you. I wanted to be a little more laid back in college than I was in high school. Clearly, wearing a ribbed tank would accomplish that.
What's neat about my job is that I can get that fresh start every year. Tomorrow is the first day back with the kids, and it's my first opportunity to present myself the way I'd like to present myself at this stage of life. I want to look like I've got my act together, but I'm past needing to wear a suit (which never felt comfortable anyway). I don't have to prove to the students that I'm a grown up. I want an outfit that says I care about myself, I'm comfortable in my skin, and I'm approachable. Now to choose which dress in my closet says all of that.... And to play around on Nordstrom to look for more pretty things that give that same message...
I have a confession. When I started my clothing blog, I said I was ready to start buying clothing that made me feel pretty. I wanted to go apple picking with the family in some cute outfit and feel happy when I looked at myself in the pictures. I did a big purge, I made it sound like I got rid of all the clothes no longer worked for me. I lied. Deep in the pile of sweaters I kept was this brown sweater. It was a hand-me-down, so it's probably ten years old, and pilled, and it shrunk a little funny, but it didn't make it into the purge. Why? It's my last article of maternity clothes.
My sister was pregnant last year, and I gave her most of my things. I "forgot" to give her this. I've talked to my friends who are moms, and most confess to wearing some maternity clothing long after the baby stage is over. What keeps us hanging on to those elastic pants and tent shirts? I've identified four reasons:
Reason 1. They stretch. Seriously, all pants should have that waistband. That's a perfectly good reason.
Reason 2. When we have babies, we often go into martyr mode. "The baby seems fussy; I'll buy myself pants some other time." We're left wearing the last things we bought for ourselves.
Reason 3. Maternity clothes are EXPENSIVE. When you know you spent a fortune on an article of clothing, you want to get your use out of it.
Reason 4. This reason is the hardest to define, but I think it explains the brown sweater. I wore that sweater about once a week during the times in my life when I was the most excited, the most hopeful. Then, I wore it when I was newly in love with my perfect tiny people. I swear, half the pictures I have of me with my daughter as a newborn were in that sweater. I wore it many times on those days when all I did was in wonder. Then I washed it, over and over again, because, well, babies spit up. That sweater looked a little beat up because of those days. It was a reminder of that sweet time, so I clung to it.
It's hard to accept when you know you won't be having any more babies, when that time in your life has passed. It's tempting to cling to a symbol of those days, and it's ok if you do. No one should judge you for what you hide in the back of your sweater chest. I, however, decided it's time to donate my last maternity sweater. There's someone out there now who can wear it as she anticipates her little baby, and when she first takes that baby home. And I can look for a new sweater to wear to go apple picking.
This tee shirt was a springtime gift from my mom. I love Life is Good and can certainly wear casual tee shirts in the summer, yet come August, it still had tags on it. Why? Well, it is a very casual tee shirt, and when I'm having very casual days (hanging at home, going to the playground, etc), I dress like I'm going to do yard work. I guess I feel like new stuff is too nice for a casual day, but I still feel frumpy all day in worn out old clothes.
A few days ago, the kids and I planned on going to the park, getting icees from Cumbie's, and having a picnic. A hang out day. My husband was golfing after work, so he wouldn't see my outfit, either. Until recently, that would have been a dumpy-tee-shirt day. Instead, I took the darn tags off. Thanks for the tee shirt, Mom!
Oh, also, if you want to see how far I can take this outfit-martyrdom, mom also bought me these amazing Penelope Chilvers boots for Christmas last year (there's a link to a similar pair below-- they're super-cute, too!), but I think I only wore them three times the whole winter. I didn't want to wear them on hang out days, rainy days, snowy days... so I barely wore the awesomest pair of boots I owned. So silly. If you wear clothes to make you happy, you should be wearing your best stuff every day. See? I'm starting to change my thinking :)
I've never taken a selfie of just myself until this week. I've never made a picture of just me, alone, my profile picture on Facebook. I don't think it came from a place of insecurity... but I have noticed one of my eyes is noticeably bigger than the other. Perhaps I was avoiding filling your computer screen with my disproportionate eyes. Then I started this project, and I had to get over it. That's also good for me because I plan on practicing my selfie skills with the kids, and I'd like to have more pictures of me with them.
Lastly, I think I need to take selfies to get a real view of how I present myself every day. Like those brief glimpses in the bathroom mirror, they allow me to see what others see every day. Do I look happy? Do I look pulled together? I think it will be easier to evaluate if I take pictures.
So, today was my first real attempt at taking selfies in the Target dressing room. Not as easy as it looks! I was so consumed with figuring out angles that I'm not sure I paid much attention to the clothes, and I look charmingly perplexed in almost every shot.
But I did it.
And now, to be brave since I clearly have to share pictures to have this blog, here are some outtakes from my first "photo shoot" :)
In case you're wondering, I bought:
And now that I'm looking at my outtakes, I wish I'd also brought home:
I've always been a Gap girl, so I'm not really going outside of my comfort zone looking there. That said, I have Style Cash coming up the 17th-20th at Gap Factory AND credit there from using my Gap credit card, so I'm playing around on ShopStyle looking to spend my money. Trying to decide what makes a "statement," because my five year old told me it's good to make a fashion statement :)
As I begin this project, It makes sense to ask the most honest and fashion-forward person I know, my five-year old daughter Ginny, for advice. How do I find clothes that will make me happy? I asked Ginny which of her outfits made her the happiest. She said, "My green leaf outfit," which surprised me since she's been Lady In Pink since she was old enough to talk. I asked why, and she said, "Because it's a fashion statement."
What does that mean? "It's different," she explained, which made me feel bad about all those times I've gone wild stocking up on shades of pink teeshirts at Children's Place sales. I got that leaf outfit rather by accident. I joined Fab Kids last Black Friday to get these amazing $9 pink sparkle boots, and I kept forgetting to skip my subscription. I ended up needing to spend a lot of money at Fab Kids, and in an effort to clear out my account so I could cancel the subscription, I bought a bunch of stuff on a whim. That leaf outfit was part of that order.
My lesson of the day from Ginny? Think outside the box. Explore new places to find things that will make me happy. Experiment. Get excited about making a statement. Hopefully, this project (and sharing it and getting suggestions-- hint, hint) will help me to do that.
You can go anywhere in Ginny's leaf outfit!
So I sat down to put together my grown-up shopping cart widgets... and before I knew it, I was in kid-clothes-heaven over at Mini Boden. It's definitely not a regular shopping spot for me (we do pay for childcare for two!), but I love, love, love their kid stuff. So cute, so well-made, & unique.
As I've been thinking about this next phase in my wardrobe life, I've been virtually shopping. A lot. I try to think through my decisions though, so I've found it best to put things in carts and walk away for a few days. Sometimes things get sold out, but sometimes they go on sale! I tell myself I break even. Here are two of my current clothing carts. Decisions, decisions.
Do you know what this code means? It means that I've owned my fall coat for 15 years now, despite the fact that it's always fit a little funny in the armpits.
I've noticed this look Army/utility look is in, and I've always liked it, so I'm moving on. The contenders:
The above clothing is pilled, ugly, ill-fitting, and frumpy, & I distinctly remember wearing the beige Banana Republic sweater while on an otherwise forgettable random Match.com date. My husband and I have been together for over ten years now. We did not meet on Match.com.
That darn sweater’s been taunting me for several winters now. I never felt really pulled together in it, but it’s really hard to let go of a sweater I know cost good money, and it still fit… but its best days were behind it.
I think I was in the right mood the day I did this. I’d actually done a major pants purge last winter because, while I’m the same size I was pre-kids, not everything goes back to the same spot after you have kids. Some of those pants were quite uncomfortable. That made it easier to let go. So I let go.
Besides being motivated with the next phase of the project (buying new clothes!), I also found it easier to make the piles bigger because I had a plan for where everything was going. NOTHING went in the trash.
The “Tier One” clothing that I had just tired of went to an awesome consignment shop. An awesome consignment shop is one that doesn’t smell like grandma’s house. This one smells lovely, and it’s focused on a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mission, which means I can also buy my favorite earth-friendly body products there (for free!) with store credit. [Desert Essence is awesome and I've used it for the kids since they were babies. If you're interested, I linked it at the bottom.] Anything the shop didn’t want went straight to Tier Two (do not pass go, do not come back in my house).
“Tier Two” clothing (not in amazing shape, but still useful) went to the local food pantry. They have a room where families can get clothing for free, so it stays right in the community and helps people out.
“Tier Three” clothing, for me, anyway, wasn’t stained or ripped. I don’t have much trouble parting with those things. Tier Three was mostly free tee shirts. When you work in a school and do volunteer work, you find yourself swimming in free tee shirts. So hard to part with them, but not enough days in the month to wear them all… and I’m pretty sure I’ll feel frumpy looking at myself in the mirror in a “Thanks for Volunteering in 2008!" shirt. I let go of the thicker ones (they’re never as comfy), the repeats, & the awkwardly long, hugs-my-hips-‘til-it-restricts-movement tees. All of those can go to a cloth recycling bin I found. They’ll take old towels and blankets, too. Nothing goes in a landfill!
Anything to help the environment and relieve the guilt of getting rid of a Banana Republic sweater.
I’ve spent the past two months at home with my children, a five year old daughter and three year old son. If I’m lucky, I get to go to the bathroom by myself, but everyone knows that injuries and screaming battles are most likely to occur during those brief sojourns. Realistically, I get two minutes in the bathroom, and knowing all the germs floating around our little ecosystem, I do try to use some of those moments to scrub my hands.
And those are the moments when I look in the mirror. Sometimes, I can’t look past the toothpaste spray caked on (how can short people splash that high?), but when I do, my usual reaction is, “Oh. I guess that’s how I look today.” I can’t say I’ve felt pleased with what I saw very often, and half the time, I’m actually surprised by what I see because I put so little thought into putting myself together that morning. It’s not a self-esteem thing—I feel comfortable with my post-kids body. I’m just not really trying, at all, and I look like it.
Soon, I’ll be returning to work. Bathroom breaks for teachers are actually shorter than they are for moms, but again, they’re tiny little moments of respite. Under fluorescent lights. If I want those tiny breaks to raise my spirits, something’s going to change.
I’ve started reading fashion blogs and thinking about what I’d want to wear that would make me smile. Like so many other things in my mom-life, though, if I don’t find some way to really commit to it, I won’t stick to it. Thus, I just spent $96 on a website. Let the journey to pulling together my grownup look begin!
I'm an English teacher, a wife, a dog lover, a bibliophile, & a wanna-be fashionable mom. Well, I'm already a mom. Just trying to get the "fashionable" part going...